Chefs Week PDX 2016 West Coast Dinner Photo Recap

This past Sunday marked the last day of Chefs Week PDX 2016 with the finale of the 5 days of collaboration dinners, special edition maker products ranging from beer to hot sauce to ice cream, and Chef after parties. Chefs Week PDX is a time when the chefs celebrate and embody the Portland spirit of collaboration and inspiring and encouraging creativity with each other rather than competition.

And let’s face it, it is also an excuse for the chefs to organize multi-day playdates and hang out together and be friends. I’m all for a culinary version of the Justice League so more power to them.
Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner

The West Coast Dinner brings all the West Coast chefs of Oregon, California, Washington, even across the ocean into Hawaii and across the border into Canada,  into one magnificent food marathon of a meal. At the West Coast Dinner this year, hosted at Departure, they had “just enough food” for this grand finale meal at 30 courses featuring 34 chefs.
Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner

This is my first time attending as now I’ve learned that I need to be faster on the draw for the tickets before they sell out – and they always sell out. I’ve also now learned that I definitely feel uncomfortably full but can power through sample bites around the 24th course…

Here’s a look at this epic dinner, course by course, with my Chefs Week PDX 2016 West Coast Dinner recap:

Specialty Cocktails

The Panda Bear cocktail wtih Soju, Crater Lake Vodka, Lime, Bamboo Syrup, Muddled Cucumber
Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - The Panda Bear cocktail wtih Soju, Crater Lake Vodka, Lime, Bamboo Syrup, Muddled Cucumber
Apostrophe cocktail with Gin, Lemon, Wild Roots NW Raspberry Vodka, Egg Whites
Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Apostrophe cocktail with Gin, Lemon, Wild Roots NW Raspberry Vodka, Egg Whites

The Food

  1. Justin Woodward (Castagna) presents Kohlrabi, Oyster
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Justin Woodward presents Kohlrabi, Oyster Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Justin Woodward presents Kohlrabi, Oyster
    The dish really highlighted herbaceous flavors and was probably one of the few dishes that tasted like it could possibly be healthy, though I doubt it :X
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Justin Woodward presents Kohlrabi, Oyster
  2. Mei Lin presents Hiramasa, Hazelnuts, Myoga Salad, Toasted Rice Vinaigrette
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Mei Lin presents Hiramasa, Hazelnuts, Myoga Salad, Toasted Rice Vinaigrette Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Mei Lin presents Hiramasa, Hazelnuts, Myoga Salad, Toasted Rice Vinaigrette
  3. Gregory Gourdet (Departure) presents Uni, Caviar, White Ponzu, Crispy Nori Potato
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Gregory Gourdet presents Uni, Caviar, White Ponzu, Crispy Nori Potato
    Yes, that’s totally gold flaked, blinged out uni on there!
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Gregory Gourdet presents Uni, Caviar, White Ponzu, Crispy Nori Potato
  4. Angus An (Maenam) presents Spot Prawn Cracker, Crab and Prawn in Coconut Uni reduction, Lemongrass, Ikura
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Angus An presents Spot Prawn Cracker, Crab and Prawn in Coconut Uni reduction, Lemongrass, Ikura
  5. Joshua McFadden (Ava Gene’s) presents his very descriptive in name Crudite
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Joshua McFadden presents Crudite Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Joshua McFadden presents Crudite
  6. Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer (Madcapra) present White Turnip, Buttermilk, Bergamot, Chervil, Cured Scallop
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer present White Turnip, Buttermilk, Bergamot, Chervil, Cured Scallop Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer present White Turnip, Buttermilk, Bergamot, Chervil, Cured Scallop Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer present White Turnip, Buttermilk, Bergamot, Chervil, Cured Scallop
  7. Jose Chesa (Ataula) presents “Mi Desayuno”, Potatoes, Onions, Chorizo, Eggs
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Jose Chesa presents Mi Desayuno, with Potatoes, Onions, Chorizo, Eggs Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Jose Chesa presents Mi Desayuno, with Potatoes, Onions, Chorizo, Eggs
    Seriously, this was one of my top 2 favorite dishes of the night. I loved the mixture of flavors and textures, just phenomenal.
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Jose Chesa presents Mi Desayuno, with Potatoes, Onions, Chorizo, Eggs
  8. Richie Nakano (Delfina) presents Jidori Egg in Miso, Charred Negi, Matsutake, Caviar
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Richie Nakano presents Jidori Egg in Miso, Charred Negi, Matsutake, Caviar
  9. Matthew Sigler (Renata) presents Mushroom Salad, Caramelized Pear Puree, Chestnut, Watercress, Echo Mountain Breadcrumbs
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Matthew Sigler presents Mushroom Salad, Caramelized Pear Puree, Chestnut, Watercress, Echo Mountain Bread
    This dish was more acidic than the description, which I really enjoyed as a bracing cleanse of palate
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Matthew Sigler presents Mushroom Salad, Caramelized Pear Puree, Chestnut, Watercress, Echo Mountain Bread
  10. Eric Johnson (Stateside) presents Steamed and Chilled Manila Clams, Ikura, Bergamot Organic Ice, Coconut Cream Yogurt, Makrut Lime. I would like 10 more of these please.
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Eric Johnson presents Steamed and Chilled Manila Clams, Ikura, Bergamot Organic Ice, Coconut Cream Yogurt, Makrut Lime
  11. Earl Ninsom (Langbaan) presents Sockeye Salmon Salad, Avocado, Beet, Ikura
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Earl Ninsom presents Sockeye Salmon Salad, Avocado, Beet, Ikura
    Can this salmon look any more perfect? Does this really count as a “salad”?
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Earl Ninsom presents Sockeye Salmon Salad, Avocado, Beet, Ikura
  12. Joel Watanabe (Bao Bei) presents Douban Escabeche of Sablefish, Brown Butter, Compressed Green Papaya, Arima Sansho, Tokyo Negi, Umeboshi Shiso. This  dish was a favorite of most at the table.
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Joel Watanabe presents Douban Escabeche of Sablefish, Brown Butter, Compressed Green Papaya, Arima Sansho, Tokyo Negi, Umeboshi Shiso
  13. Brian McCracken and Dana Tough (Spur Gastropub, Tavern Law and more of McCracken Tough) present Smoked Sturgeon Rilette, Black Garlic Cracker, Kaffir Lime Leaf Crema, Caviar
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Brian McCracken and Dana Tough present Smoked Sturgeon Rilette, Black Garlic Cracker, Kaffir Lime Leaf Crema, Caviar Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Brian McCracken and Dana Tough present Smoked Sturgeon Rilette, Black Garlic Cracker, Kaffir Lime Leaf Crema, Caviar
  14. Justin Wills (Resturant Beck, Sorella) presents Rabbit Liver, Pine Nuts, Fermented Huckleberry, Puffed Brown Rice, Apple
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Justin Wills presents Rabbit Liver, Pine Nuts, Fermented Huckleberry, Puffed Brown Rice, Apple Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Justin Wills presents Rabbit Liver, Pine Nuts, Fermented Huckleberry, Puffed Brown Rice, Apple
    This dish got mixed reactions – my first thought is that I wanted a Belgian beer to go along with to balance it out. While some started liking the dish as they had more spoonfuls, others were overwhelmed by the build-up of that same funkiness of flavors.
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Justin Wills presents Rabbit Liver, Pine Nuts, Fermented Huckleberry, Puffed Brown Rice, Apple
  15. Doug Adams (Imperial) presents Oregon Elk Tartare, Marrow, Heart, Egg
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Doug Adams presents Oregon Elk Tartare, Marrow, Heart, Egg Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Doug Adams presents Oregon Elk Tartare, Marrow, Heart, Egg
  16. BJ Smith (Smokehouse 21 and Smokehouse Tavern) presents Smoked Lamb Tartare, Uni, Black Garlic. I liked this enough to just eat it by the spoonful without the cracker.
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - BJ Smith presents Smoked Lamb Tartare, Uni, Black Garlic Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - BJ Smith presents Smoked Lamb Tartare, Uni, Black Garlic
  17. Troy MacLarty (Bollywood Theater) presents Cauliflower, Fresh Tumeric Curry, Raisin Chutney, Garam Masala, Curry Leaves
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Troy MacLarty presents Cauliflower, Fresh Tumeric Curry, Raisin Chutney, Garam Masala, Curry Leaves Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Troy MacLarty presents Cauliflower, Fresh Tumeric Curry, Raisin Chutney, Garam Masala, Curry Leaves
  18. Javier Plascencia (Misión 19 Tijuana, Brasero Cocina San Diego) presents Kabocha Squash in Mole Negro
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Javier Plascencia presents Kabocha Squash in Mole Negro Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Javier Plascencia presents Kabocha Squash in Mole Negro
  19. Patrick McKee (Common Law, Laurelhurst Market) presents Braised Short Rib and Beef Tongue, Banh Mi Pickles, Lemongrass Beef Jus
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Patrick McKee presents Braised Short Rib and Beef Tongue, Banh Mi Pickles, Lemongrass Beef Jus
  20. Jason Stratton (Mamnoon) presents Mussels with Tamarind, Dill, Labneh, Fried Onions
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Jason Stratton presents Mussels with Tamarind, Dill, Labneh, Fried Onions Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Jason Stratton presents Mussels with Tamarind, Dill, Labneh, Fried Onions
  21. Ryan Roadhouse (Nodoguro) presents Sockeye Salmon (marinated in sake and smoked), Egg Yolk, Buckwheat, Crabkake, Mitsuba. I feel like this could be an acceptable every day breakfast for me heh heh.
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Ryan Roadhouse presents Sockeye Salmon, Egg Yolk, Buckwheat, Crabkake, Mitsuba Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Ryan Roadhouse presents Sockeye Salmon, Egg Yolk, Buckwheat, Crabkake, Mitsuba
  22. Han Hwang (Kim Jong Grillin’) presents Savory Barley and Rice, Wild Mushrooms, Scallion, Plum Soy, Parilla Leaf Kim Chee. I also really liked this dish, I enjoyed how clean it was.
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Han Hwang presents Savory Barley and Rice, Wild Mushrooms, Scallion, Plum Soy, Parilla Leaf Kim Chee Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Han Hwang presents Savory Barley and Rice, Wild Mushrooms, Scallion, Plum Soy, Parilla Leaf Kim Chee
  23. Vitaly Paley (Paley’s Place, Imperial, Portland Penny Diner, DaNet) presents Khankai Georgian Dumpling
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Vitaly Paley presents Khankai Georgian Dumpling
  24. Gabriel Rucker (Le Pigeon, Little Bird) presents Salami and Gouda Risotto, Rabbit and Pepper Salad. So rich and luxurious.
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Gabriel Rucker presents Salami and Gouda Risotto, Rabbit and Pepper Salad
  25. Jeff Scheer (Maui Tropical Plantation) presents Braised Goat, Black Garlic Sabayon, Pickled Shallot, Sunchoke
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Jeff Scheer presents Braised Goat, Black Garlic Sabayon, Pickled Shallot, Sunchoke Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Jeff Scheer presents Braised Goat, Black Garlic Sabayon, Pickled Shallot, Sunchoke
  26. Kusuma Rao (Ruchikala) presents Black Cardamom Lamb, Umpa, Citrus Pickle, Coconut and Kashmiri Chili
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Kusuma Rao presents Black Cardamom Lamb, Umpa, Citrus Pickle, Coconut and Kashmiri Chili Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Kusuma Rao presents Black Cardamom Lamb, Umpa, Citrus Pickle, Coconut and Kashmiri Chili
  27. Eve Küttemann (Sage Hen) presents Brown Bread Mille Feuille, Sorghum Cream, Charred Orange Marmalade, Malted Rye
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Eve Kuttemann presents Brown Bread Mille Feuille, Sorghum Cream, Charred Orange Marmalade, Malted Rye Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Eve Kuttemann presents Brown Bread Mille Feuille, Sorghum Cream, Charred Orange Marmalade, Malted Rye
  28. Ryan Fox and Ali Matteis (Nomad PDX) present Nest Egg with Amaretto egg and a crispy fried phyllo dough nest dusted with cacao
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Ryan Fox and Ali Matteis present Nest Egg Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Ryan Fox and Ali Matteis present Nest Egg
  29. Maya Erickson (Lazy Bear) presents Black Sesame, Cocoa, Forbidden Rice, Cassis
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Maya Erickson presents Black Sesame, Cocoa, Forbidden Rice, Cassis Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Maya Erickson presents Black Sesame, Cocoa, Forbidden Rice, Cassis
  30. Eve Küttemann (Sage Hen) presents Joel Robuchon’s Sesation Au Chocolat with Valrhona’s Three Origins
    Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Eve Kuttemann presents Joel Robuchon's Sesation Au Chocolat with Valrhona's Three Origins Chefs Week PDX 2/7/16 West Coast 2016 Dinner - Eve Kuttemann presents Joel Robuchon's Sesation Au Chocolat with Valrhona's Three Origins

Which of these 30 dishes stood out as most interesting and appealing to you?

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Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase

A photo recap of my first Nodoguro dinner for 2016 – they popped up in the back room of Renata on January 31 as they are transitioning into their space from where they were last year by Pastaworks to now sharing a space with Peter Cho as reported in Eater until they find a new home.
Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016

This night was Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase where from 7 to 10ish I enjoyed a menu that included special orders from Tsukiji and Fukuoka Municipal, California Abalone, wild aji from Nagasaki, Kohada from Kumamoto, Baby white shrimp, Wild Scallop from Miyagi, and Masaba from Toyama. 

Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016

Here’s a look at what could appear before you at one of these amazing dinners – pay attention to when they list as they sell out quickly from the Nodoguro website as soon as tickets go on sale. This is the best sushi and sashimi experience in Portland.

  1. Starter of oysters
    Oysters to start the 19 course dinner of Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  2. Scallop Somen with quail egg and Ikura (salmon eggs). Somen is noodles so in this case he sliced the Scallop into Noodle like pieces. I’m not afraid to admit I slurped every last drop from the dish.
    Scallop Somen with quail egg and Ikura, Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016Scallop Somen with quail egg and Ikura, Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  3. New Zealand Sea Bream: one thing I love about sashimi are noticing these little details about the beauty of the fish
    New Zealand Sea Bream fro Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 New Zealand Sea Bream from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  4. Aji, a Japanese Horse Mackerel with Sesame, Persimmons and Buckwheat
    Aji, a Japanese Horse Mackerel with Sesame, Persimmons and Buckwheat from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 Aji, a Japanese Horse Mackerel with Sesame, Persimmons and Buckwheat from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  5. Sake steamed abalone with sea urchin (uni)
    Sake steamed abalone with sea urchin at Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 Sake steamed abalone with sea urchin at Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  6. Fresh snow crab with rice, uni and mayo. I always love presentations in the shell
    Fresh snow crab with rice, uni and mayo from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 Fresh snow crab with rice, uni and mayo from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  7. Tai with yuzu and thyme
    Tai from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 Tai from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  8. Aji
    Aji from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 Aji from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  9. There was a Wild Scallop here that I forgot to photograph I think, but I wrote the note “Hokkaido Scallop w aged soy and yuzu juice”
  10. Baby White Shrimp
    Baby White Shrimp from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  11. Geoduck giant clam from Washington, with a touch of yuzu and Jacobsen Sea Salt
    Geoduck giant clam from Washington, with a touch of yuzu and Jacobsen Sea Salt at Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  12. Octopus
    Octopus from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 Octopus Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  13. Uni and Crab
    Uni ad Crab Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  14. Ikura on rice
    Ikura on rice at Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  15. Shimmery Kohada
    Kohada from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 Kohada at Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  16. Handroll
    Handroll from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 Handroll from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  17. Masaba. Can you tell I thought this was beautiful?
    Masaba from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 Masaba from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 Masaba from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 Masaba from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  18. Unagi
    Unagi from Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016
  19. The last course is by your request –  some went for Oysters, I prefer ending with sashimi and Ryan created this lovely medley
    Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016 Nodoguro Hardcore Sushi Omakase 1/31/2016

It might be a little time before my next Nodoguro theme dinner (you can see other Nodoguro themed dinner recaps here) since my next big dinners are the Chef’s Week PDX big 30 course West Coast 2016 dinner at Departure, of which Ryan Roadhouse is one of the 30 chefs each contributing a course to a marathon dinner.

Next week is also Dumpling Week 2016, and I am going to my first Meadowlark supper club dinner. Then it might be time for a little healthy eating to clean my system out before Portland Dining Month in March.

What are you looking forward to eating in February? Do you eat sushi/sashimi, and have a favorite sushi or sashimi?

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Portland Dumpling Week 2016

Last year, the Oregonian/OregonLive.com hosted Dumpling Week in February. Now, they have brought it back for this year. Portland Dumpling Week 2016 will be from Saturday February 6 – Saturday 13, 2016. Essentially, Dumpling Week consists of highlighting a dozen Portland restaurants and food carts offering dumplings.

For each place you visit and enjoy their dumplings, you receive a sticker to add to a Dumpling Passport – one sticker per restaurant. Based on how many stickers you collect, you are entered for different levels of prizes! 1-3 Stickers offers a chance to win a $50 gift card, 4-8 stickers $100 gift card, and 9-12 a $200 gift card. In addition, you can expect the Oregonian/OregonLive.com to also include dumpling articles, including restaurant crawls and recipes every day during the week. You can see the articles from Dumpling Week 2015 here, including a slideshow of the dumplings of last year.

I participated in Dumpling Week last year (see my 2015 Dumpling Week Recap), though I didn’t win anything… Well, I do consider enjoying so many dumplings a win. Quite a few of the places offer a special edition limited time dumpling just for Dumpling Week!

The list this year (you can also find the Dumpling Week 2016 Participanting Restaurants and Dishes list here with their location) that I have ranked based on likelihood that I will visit:

  • ImperialBeef and pork khinkali with melted butter, black pepper and dill. I actually visited Imperial TWICE to enjoy this dumpling, and I will probably do that again! I mean, look at what I enjoyed last year and how juicy it is…
    Imperial went back to Chef Paley's roots in offering Khinkali for Dumpling Week. The $8 dish were 2 palm sized Georgian pork and beef dumplings with herb yogurt Imperial went back to Chef Paley's roots in offering Khinkali for Dumpling Week. The $8 dish were 2 palm sized Georgian pork and beef dumplings with herb yogurt Imperial went back to Chef Paley's roots in offering Khinkali for Dumpling Week. The $8 dish were 2 palm sized Georgian pork and beef dumplings with herb yogurt
  • Sizzle Pie: A team-up of Sizzle Pie and Korean BBQ food cart Kim Jong Grillin’  has resulted in the most unique offering of Dumpling Week in my opinion: Korean BBQ-inspired pizza muffins served with three stone oven-baked dumplings. The three options are either Meat, Vegetarian, or Vegan to make sure everyone can enjoy, which is very thoughtful of them. These will be ONLY be available at the West Burnside location at 926 W Burnside.
    • Meat pizza dumplings: Jjajang smoked pork, Sizzle Pie cheese blend, scallions, fermented black bean paste with pickled yellow daikon and a gochujang dipping sauce.
    • Vegan pizza dumplings: Kim Jong Grillin’ housemade vegan kimchi and “Follow Your Heart” vegan mozzarella with Sizzle Pie’s housemade vegan ranch dip.
    • Vegetarian pizza dumplings: shiitake mushroom, Sizzle Pie cheese blend, spicy tofu, scallions with soy plum drizzle and dipping sauce.
  • KachkaMushroom and potato vareniki with porcini pumpernickel breadcrumbs, French onion smetana and scallions. I already love’s Kachka’s vareniki normally (see below), and this special edition version will probably be as melt in your mouth as every single time the past 12 times I’ve eaten dumplings at Kachka. Last year, their Lamb Pelmeni with adjika butter, smetana, cilantro and mint for $13 was my second favorite of all the dumplings.
    Dumpling Week - Kachka offered a Lamb Pelmeni with adjika butter, smetana, cilantro and mint
  • Ecliptic BrewingDuck liver ravioli with lamb bacon, kale and brown butter. A dumpling and beer? Yes please.
  • GrassaItalian soup dumplings. Last year they also participated and I was very pleased with their generous serving of dumplings so plan to visit them this year as well  (see my recap of last year for more details on their dumpling offering last year)
  • Bollywood TheaterDuck, sweet potato and kale momos with red chili chutney. Available at both locations. This was voted the 2nd most popular dumpling last year – and the most popular one is closed (Son of a Biscuit)
    For dumpling week Bollywood Theater's two locations offered a chicken or vegetarian momos, steamed Nepalese dumplings found in Northern India. These are the vegetarian momos
  • Mama Chow’s Kitchen: Pork, wood ear mushroom and water chestnut dumplings served with a ginger hoisin-black vinegar dipping sauce. Please be aware that Mama Chow’s is a food cart, and they make everything to order. So go early in the day because they will run out, and do expect a line.
  • SmallwaresCabeza potstickers with chipotle gochujang, sour cream, brodo and cilantro. I’ve never had anything from Smallwares that didn’t rock it.
  • ¿Por Que No?: Empanada filled with chorizo, potato, roasted poblano and queso oaxaca.
  • Viking Soul FoodCaraway-roasted cabbage and potato dumpling in meat broth with a Jarlsberg and Teutonic Wine fondue.
  • UmaiMeat and veggie gyozas. The meat dumplings will be stuffed with lamb, fennel and shiso. The veggie ones will be made with adzuki beans and chard. Both will be wrapped in Umai’s house made gyoza skins.
  • Salt & StrawBaked salted caramel apple dumplings with double fold vanilla ice cream.

I’ll be part of the crowd I’m sure Tweeting and Instagramming with the hashtag #dumplingweek. I will be definitely looking at the feed too to see if I can be convinced to have a dumpling based on pictures from other dumpling lovers.

Are you participating in Portland Dumpling Week 2016, which is coming up in only a few days? Which dumplings sound appealing to you?

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Japan Travel – Winter Illuminations

My trip to Japan occurred during Christmas and New Year’s. For the Japanese, Christmas is not seen as a religious holiday, which makes sense since they don’t share the Christian religion, with Shinto and Buddhism dominating as the national religions instead. But, they have carried over one major thing – the idea of lots of sparkling holiday lights which they call Winter Illuminations.

In the Western world not all those that celebrate Christmas are religious either of course. Nowadays Christmas often leans more towards being a cultural holiday involving family gathering together. It’s also a consumerist holiday involving a lot of shopping and holiday sales in the name of gift giving and holiday parties.

But the Japanese don’t really celebrate Christmas in either of those ways either, with the only 2 exceptions being the pushing of Kentucky Fried Chicken as a Christmas meal, and the promotion of Christmas Cake. You can reserve your KFC meal ahead of time, and there are lines! I was somehow charmed by Colonel Sanders Santa every time I saw him though.
Kentucky Fried Chicken heavily markets its fried chicken as a Christmas meal - so much that you can pre-order family meals, and there are lines for Christmas! Colonel Sanders Santa! Kentucky Fried Chicken heavily markets its fried chicken as a Christmas meal - so much that you can pre-order family meals, and there are lines for Christmas!

For the Japanese, instead it’s New Year’s that is the time for gathering with families – many people close down their shops or leave work for extended holidays to return to their hometowns. Similarly, it’s the rationale of New Year’s for their end of year holiday parties, and big New Year’s sale with heavily discounted grab bags.

As for presents, I won’t try to touch the explanation for gift giving in Japanese culture that has a whole etiquette involved in terms of presentation, social obligation, reciprocation, and the many many reasons and occasions that call for gift giving, including coming back from a trip or as thanks (or even as a thank you for a thank you…). For Christmas, only children who believe in Santa might receive gifts – Santa doesn’t give gifts to non-believers, which apparently includes all adults.
Christmas Cake and more in Japan Christmas Cake and more in Japan
At least everyone gets to eat Christmas Cake, adults and kids

Instead, Christmas Eve and Day are regular work days. Some who might celebrate Christmas view it more as a romantic holiday where a couple goes out to celebrate on Christmas Eve. This explains why when I saw Christmas decorations, hearts sometimes showed up as a motif, and there were mostly couples not families who were out for Christmas.
Heart on Tokyo Tower as part of its Winter Fantasy ~ Orange Illumination from November 23 2015 to February 29 2016
Heart on Tokyo Tower as part of its Winter Fantasy ~ Orange Illumination from November 23 2015 to February 29 2016

The holiday lights are the most noticeable way that the Japanese celebrate Christmas. Most of the holiday lights I saw were in large public areas, often by a lot of stores, often in a park area and/or down entire streets. Though I don’t know if I can really call them Christmas lights, since some of those major light installations go up in early November. Although some of the lights might go down on December 25, others light installations might stay until even mid or end of February!

Christmas Trees are conceptual rather than any real evergreens or full of lots of ornaments.
Winter Illumination of a tree and penguin friends by Shinjuku Terrace City, a version of Christmas lights Winter Illumination of a tree with light projections by Shinjuku Terrace City, a version of Christmas lights

Overall, there are several places that offer holiday lights where I often saw a lot of couples walking and enjoying it hand in hand (and of course snapping photos). During my trip, we made it to 3 Winter Illumination displays.

Shinjuku Terrace City Illumination

Shinjuku Terrace City is sort of an outdoor shopping space that has a small park between the stores. Within this park, they light up 300 globes and 235,000 LED bulbs on the trees.
Christmas lights - though really Winter Illuminations since it goes from November through February - by Shinjuku Terrace City Christmas lights - though really Winter Illuminations since it goes from November through February - by Shinjuku Terrace City

These lights are up from mid November to mid February. So even if you are visiting not in the Christmas holiday time, you might be able to catch them!
Christmas lights - though really Winter Illuminations since it goes from November through February - by Shinjuku Terrace City Christmas lights - though really Winter Illuminations since it goes from November through February - by Shinjuku Terrace City

It also included a “Christmas Tree” which is really more like a sculpture in the shape of a tree. The Penguin tree you saw earlier in this post was from this area. Also, there was another tree at the end of the park. Interestingly enough, it was all white and more of a tree shaped sculpture. It was illuminated with a projector that offered different patterns based on people putting hands on pedestal placed a bit in front of it. Each pattern was animated and used different colors, lasting for 30 seconds or so.
One of the displays at Shinjuku Terrace City Winter Illumination included a white Christmas tree like sculpture. Placing your hands on a globe, you can invoke different projections onto the sculpture with colors and animations One of the displays at Shinjuku Terrace City Winter Illumination included a white Christmas tree like sculpture. Placing your hands on a globe, you can invoke different projections onto the sculpture with colors and animations

You can see there were apparently six different possible patterns on the sign to the left. To the right you can see a globe like pedestal with outlines of two hands that people would place their hands on to start a new projection/illumination on the tree.
One of the displays at Shinjuku Terrace City Winter Illumination included a white Christmas tree like sculpture. Placing your hands on a globe, you can invoke different projections onto the sculpture with colors and animations One of the displays at Shinjuku Terrace City Winter Illumination included a white Christmas tree like sculpture. Placing your hands on a globe, you can invoke different projections onto the sculpture with colors and animations One of the displays at Shinjuku Terrace City Winter Illumination included a white Christmas tree like sculpture. Placing your hands on a globe, you can invoke different projections onto the sculpture with colors and animations One of the displays at Shinjuku Terrace City Winter Illumination included a white Christmas tree like sculpture. Placing your hands on a globe, you can invoke different projections onto the sculpture with colors and animations

Roppongi Hills

Roppongi Hills area has a “Christmas Tree” along with lights within a shopping center, and also all down the street of Keyakizaka. There are about 1,200,000 LEDs that switch from a “Snow and Blue” theme to “Candle and Red”. These lights were up from the beginning of November until Christmas Day, so given when you see Christmas stuff show up in stores here in the US, I could justify calling these holiday lights.

I liked the extra sparkle of the tree.
Roppongi Hills Christmas Tree changes lighting color from the Snow and White theme to Candle and Red theme Roppongi Hills Christmas Tree changes lighting color from the Snow and White theme to Candle and Red theme Roppongi Hills Christmas Tree changes lighting color from the Snow and White theme to Candle and Red theme The winter illuminations at Roppongi Hills - this holiday tree changes color. This is a fashionable area (a bit like Michigan Avenue) and we noticed a lot more women making up the population then usual

In the park area, the darker shady areas with the trees around the pond and which was quieter than the shopping area with the stores made for a romantic walk as couples held hands.
They don't celebrate Christmas in Japan like the west does- it's more a romantic holiday, this park in Roppongi Hills is supposed to be very romantic to walk in with these holiday lights They don't celebrate Christmas in Japan like the west does- it's more a romantic holiday, this park in Roppongi Hills is supposed to be very romantic to walk in with these holiday lights They don't celebrate Christmas in Japan like the west does - it's more a romantic holiday, this park in Roppongi Hills is supposed to be very romantic to walk in with these holiday lights

Roppongi Hills along Keyakizaka street is a fashionable area (reminds me a bit like Michigan Avenue) and we noticed a lot more women making up the population then usual who were dressed really well. The blue and white lights along the classy street were on every single tree. We were on our way to Midtown so didn’t linger long enough to see the change to the Candle and Red theme.
Every single tree on the street is lit up in blue and white lights here in Roppongi Hills along Keyakizaka street. There are about 1,200,000 LEDs turning from a Snow and Blue theme to Candle and Red theme Every single tree on the street is lit up in blue and white lights here in Roppongi Hills along Keyakizaka street. There are about 1,200,000 LEDs turning from a Snow and Blue theme to Candle and Red theme Every single tree on the street is lit up in blue and white lights here in Roppongi Hills along Keyakizaka street. There are about 1,200,000 LEDs turning from a Snow and Blue theme to Candle and Red theme Every single tree on the street is lit up in blue and white lights here in Roppongi Hills. along Keyakizaka street. There are about 1,200,000 LEDs turning from a Snow and Blue theme to Candle and Red. And you can see the hearts here reflecting how Christmas is more a romantic holiday than the US

Midtown Christmas

Similarly, the Midtown Christmas, by the Galleria shopping center, has its display from mid November to December 25 also count as holiday lights to me. You can easily walk between Roppongi Hills to Midtown in order to see both these Winter Illuminations. The ones at Midtown include 180,003 lights and a “starry sky illumination” theme that include lights that appear to be shooting stars or falling stars, all set to music in a park in the back that they call a “Starlight Garden”.

It’s very organized even though it’s extremely popular – there is only one way to enter the park and then you walk counter clockwise, with cones and security there to maintain order. Here’s a look at the Starlight Garden from a balcony to get an idea of the size!
A look back as we walk towards the street of the size of the Midtown Christmas Lights 2015 to get a look of the size of the Starlight Garden A look back as we walk towards the street of the size of the Midtown Christmas Lights 2015 to get a look of the size of the Starlight Garden

The lights – the way they slowly turn on just the blue at the time, and then adding more, the way they move with the music slowly downward while twinkling, upward like shooting into the sky, or fast horizontally on a circular track like a shooting star… it was breathtaking.
The beautiful Midtown Christmas Lights 2015 with 180,003 lights and a starry sky illumination technology light show set to music for its Starlight Garden alt=
The beautiful Midtown Christmas Lights 2015 with 180,003 lights and a starry sky illumination technology light show set to music – in the background from this view you can see Tokyo Tower and its updated lighting that changes over time during the evening

These photos just don’t do it justice. So here’s a video we took, though that still doesn’t do justice to how it looked in person.

This is where I found a listing of the Winter Illuminations:

What do you think of how the Japanese celebrate Christmas? Is there anything you’d miss, or something you like about their view on Christmas? Have you been in a foreign country during Christmas before and how did they celebrate it that was different?

If you’re one of my Portland readers, and do you know there is a FREE Winter Light Festival for us too? Check out the family friendly Portland Winter Light Festival coming February 3-6, 2016 along the East Bank Esplanade and by OMSI.

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Portland Drink and a Bite Highlight: Kachka

For Foodie Friday today, I continue my series highlighting a Portland Drink and a Bite of food that I think not only is best in class within Portland, but is a classic representation of the character of Portland. Of course, that Portland Drink and a Bite Highlight is also delicious, and unique.

When it’s chilly outside, nothing soothes and warms me more than the buttery soft comfort of Kachka and their dumplings. You could select to enjoy the meat one of the Siberian Pelmeni with Beef, Pork, Veal and Onion or the vegetarian version of Tvorog Vareniki with Farmers Cheese and Scallion. Do not miss this, it is a must order and my Portland Bite highlight. I get this every time I visit Kachka.
At Kachka PDX do not miss these Russian Dumplings of siberian pelmeni with beef, pork, veal and onion and also on the happy hour menu! Kachka's tvorog vareniki, a dish of scallion and farmer’s cheese filled dumplings that are just melt in your mouth, and also on the happy hour menu!

As for a drink, you should get a little vodka. Flavor Infused Vodka especially. You can order it at the sizes of 30, 60, or 100 grams, so it’s possible to get a taste of that Russian tradition of drinking and eating without going overboard. After all, a 30 gram serving is only an ounce.

The vodkas infused with flavors vary from chamomile vodka, horseradish vodka, earl grey, cocoa nib vodka and a few others which seem to consistently be on the menu. And there’s then additional other flavors that rotate seasonally, varying from strawberry, lemon to charred rosemary, matsutake mushroom and more. My personal favorite is the horseradish vodka, which I will usually get with a flavored sweet infused vodka flavor too and a seasonal one.

Vodka, 30 grams from Kachka Kachka PDX Vodka Flights: 30 grams x 3 of curated vodka. This one is the Mother Russia flight with from right to left, green mark, hammer + sickle, and imperia

For a cocktail with a flavored vodka, you could also consider their tart and refreshing Baba Yaga, which features their chamomile vodka, liquore strega, and lemon.

Kachka PDX Happy Hour drink of the Baba Yaga with chamomile vodka, liquore strega, lemon

If you’d like, you can also get (in addition to the dumplings of course) the much raved about “Herring Under a Fur Coat” cold zakuski. This dish is beautiful, and it seems to be the glamour shot that represents Kachka.
The famous Kachka PDX dish of the Herring Under a Fur Coat, a 7 layer dip but russian. and actually a salad, with herring, potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, mayo, eggs. The famous Kachka PDX dish of the Herring Under a Fur Coat, a 7 layer dip but russian. and actually a salad, with herring, potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, mayo, eggs.

You just remember that you can’t go wrong with any of the zakuski, whether cold or hot. You can’t go wrong.

The reason that I love Kachka, besides the incredible food, and the nice service, is that it’s so very Portland that a restaurant like this can be so successful and loved by foodies. Despite visiting many cities that are considered “Best Food Cities”, it’s only someplace like Portland where food lovers are willing support the unknown just as long as it’s good. Who knew Russian food can be such a hot commodity that it was named 2014 Restaurant of the Year by Willamette Week, and 2015 Rising Star Restaurant of the Year by the Oregonian. Co-owners Bonnie Morales and Chris Israel took a risk that I’m not sure would have paid off in most other cities.

The fact that Portland loves food, and that we embrace all kinds of good food even and especially the unfamiliar, makes me proud to be a Portland citizen. I love how Kachka highlights Soviet era food that just a few decades ago, embarrassed the immigrant kids and was hidden. No, Kachka does more than highlights – it really embraces it and successfully makes everyone embrace it too.

Have you been to Kachka? What is your favorite dish or drink if you have?

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