Celebrating The Humble Filbert

Oregon HazelnutsWe Oregonian’s are quite fond of our local hazelnut orchards, which makes sense when you consider they bring to life our beloved state nut.  As fall wanes and Christmas approaches we’ve suddenly found ourselves in the thick of nut season, and with a whopping 99% of all U.S. hazelnuts hailing from our very Willamette Valley, that means there are a lot of the little guys to be found.  Local restaurants and food carts feature our pride and joy in seasonal dishes, chocolatiers chop and grind ‘em for truffles and treats, and shops roast and candy them before stuffing fancy packages to sell as holiday gifts.  Even the shell is precious to our northwest culture, as it can be found in many-a front yard as mulch and a protective barrier against slugs and snails.

Lucky for us – and thanks to some pretty sweet weather conditions – the 2013 hazelnut harvest brought in a record haul with production up almost 8% from last year.  What does this mean?  Why, party time, of course!  Enter Mt. Angel’s Annual Hazelnut Fest December 7th & 8th, featuring everything Oregon, including your Eat Team’s very favorite subjects: seasonal food, Willamette Valley wines, and Oregon brews!  Buy local, eat local, be local, and everybody wins!

Until next time, we are Allen Jones and Angie Johnson, and we love to EAT!

Portland Tour Guides Portland Food Tours Logo

Eat Adventures Food Tours offers culinary and sight-seeing excursions around Portland in into Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Mt. Hood, and beaches.  For additional tour information please visit our home page.

Podnah’s Pit: For the Love of BBQ

Have you ever had a run-in with food so miraculous it could pass as a near religious experience?  A meal so amazing it haunted your dreams for weeks, leaving you to wake utterly ravenous, and terrified that you may never taste it’s sweet deliciousness again?   Rest assured that you are not alone.

A friend of ours had been hassling us for weeks about this place called Podnah’s Pit up on Killingsworth, using such flowery language and exaggerated detail that we were sure he had to be embellishing his stories just a wee bit.  “Oh, the ribs are amazing,” he would say in half-trance while rubbing his belly and licking his lips.  It wasn’t hard for him to convince us to check it out (really, he had me at “ribs”) and we agreed to meet him for a late dinner last Saturday night.

It took nearly an hour to get seated – something not uncommon for Portland’s more popular restaurants – and by the time our chance to order was up the waitress almost reduced my friend to tears when she announced they were plumb out of ribs.  “That’s it”, we thought while watching our neighbors mow down on the very last order of the tender, fall-off-the-bone goodness we wouldn’t have the opportunity to taste, “our night is ruined.”

Boy, were we mistaken.  Podnah’s Pit BBQ is hands-down one of the best places I’ve ever eaten.  Everything – and I really mean everything – we ate was mind-blowing, from the two-inch thick pork loin I ordered, to the brisket on Allen’s plate that had been smoked for 10 hours.  Collards, BBQ beans, and green chili mac & cheese.  Pints of Oregon brews, slices of pecan pie, and cornbread so buttery and sweet you could eat the whole tin.  We walked out at closing with shaky knees, bulging bellies, and a full-grown infatuation with our new favorite place in town.

I could go on for pages – about how the pit crew drags their rear’s out of bed at 5:00 every morning to get the meat going, or all the press and acclaim Rodney Muirhead has received since opening the joint back in 2006 – but time is short and I only grow more hungry with every word typed.  Instead, I encourage you to try Podnah’s yourself, and then report back to us about your eating adventure!

Until next time, we are Allen Jones and Angie Johnson, and we love to EAT.

Olé Latte Coffee: A Newfound Passion and the Art of Coffee

PictureI recently had an opportunity to interview Todd Edwards, founder of the Olé Latte Coffee cart, and is sometimes one of our stops on the Portland Food Carts & Neighborhoods Tour.  Todd’s outgoing and friendly personality naturally draws people to him, and while we chatted he remained busy whipping up special drinks for his regulars and offering samples to a couple of Texan’s who were vacationing in what they called their “favorite city”.  The following is glimpse into a day in the life of a Portland food cart owner, offered from Todd’s perspective:

When did Olé Latte Coffee Begin?
We’ve been at this location for the last two months, but we originally opened last May over at NE 20th and Everett.  When we got the call to come down here we jumped.  We waited for 9 months to get into this pod, and it’s turned out to be the perfect spot for us.  How our cart fits here, it’s like the end of the rainbow; exactly where we should be.  Everything has worked out perfectly.

What made you choose a food cart?
I’m from Portland, and I originally considered doing a brick & mortar café but it can be a really tough environment.  It’s common to over commit into a 5 year lease before you establish a name for yourself, whereas the food cart is an affordable opportunity where you can get a name for yourself and build a following.

Are you interested in expanding in the future with other food cart locations or possibly even a cafe?
I am interested in both, but right now I’m more interested in opening up more food carts because I’m having a lot of fun with this type of business.  I think the next project will be to build an event cart, so I haven’t committed to any specific food pods yet.  I’ve recently been approached by a couple of other businesses who would like to partner up and open a café – which is a very intriguing idea especially as they’re already established in the Portland area – so that could be a future possibility.  I’m excited to get another mobile food cart going first though.

Have you felt any push-back from the local businesses? 
None.  Everybody has been really receptive.  The reaction has been more “we’re so thankful you’re here!” rather than “why are you here?”  The support has been such a blessing for us, and I couldn’t be more elated about being here.  At first I thought there might be a little static, but there just isn’t.  I’ve even had some of the other coffee shops come up to say “hi” and check out what we’ve got going on that’s unique and promising.

What has it been like being a part of the food cart community? 
The carts that are close to us are very community involved, because we’re all looking out for each other and making sure that we contribute to the good of the pod.  Most everyone that I’ve visited with, even at the other lots, has been extremely receptive and friendly.  We’re all in it together, and everyone has been great about helping us and promoting our cart.

About how many customers do you serve a day? 
I’ve been serving, on average, between 50-75 customers a day.  We’re just starting out at this location, only two months in, and we can already measure our success.  It isn’t just new people coming by; there are people who have become regulars that come up not just once, but two, maybe three times a day to get something from us.  It’s been exciting.

Why coffee?
Because I love wine.

Truthfully, it really was wine that drew me into the coffee business. I’ve always loved the way the grapes were grown and harvested; how the climate affects each one of the grapes every year making that wine different and unique.  You go to the wineries and get the special wine from their single vineyards, the stuff that hasn’t been blended.  That’s the same thing we’re doing here, but with coffee.  It’s the exact same concept.

I had no idea until last year in February when I was going to go open the café, and then I realized I should just start smaller.  But what could I do?  That’s when I decided I wanted to do coffee in the morning and wine in the evenings.  I asked myself if I could love coffee as much as I love wine, and I’ve discovered that I can. So I dove into it headfirst without even looking to see how deep the pool was, and I discovered that the pool was so deep.  I could go anywhere and learn about so many different things, I had no idea.  I’ve found that the more I understand, the more I want to keep discovering new coffee and trying new things.  Roasting, creating new recipes… it’s boundless.

Has that been the thing that’s surprised you the most about this journey?
How much I love coffee?  Yeah, absolutely!  I still love wine, but I’ll tell you, I have a true passion for coffee now.
Todd and his crew are available daily for smiles, samples, and downright delicious coffee.  Olé Latte Coffee is located at 1003 SW Alder Street, in Portland, and on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/OleLatteCoffee?fref=ts .

Exploring the Pacific Northwest One Bite at a Time

Portland Tour Guides Allen & AngieAs the official start of tourist season approaches, we wanted to take a moment to introduce the foodie duo responsible for bringing regional culinary tours to the Portland area.  My name is Angie, and I work alongside my husband Allen to fill peoples bellies while showing off some of the natural treasures that make this area so wonderful.  Together we act as your humble guide/driver team, cruising through the Columbia Gorge, alongside the Pacific Ocean, and around the streets of Portland, all while sampling some tasty northwestern grub.

Our love for food was fully realized during a stint abroad, where we found that the sole purpose of our daily explorations revolved around tasting anything and everything we could get our hands on.  From hand-made Chinese noodles, to Ecuadorian guinea pig roasted over an open flame, we ate our way around the globe returning to our homeland eager to share our love for food and travel.  As luck would have it, one of our favorite places in the world had become a foodie destination in its own right.

In recent years Portland has enjoyed a wealth of national admiration for a budding culinary scene, as well as a steady stream of praise from food and travel personalities who frequently feature the city’s eateries on their shows.  Amidst all this recognition, other areas in the region have quietly upped the ante, taking full advantage of the local bounty and creating menus so fresh they change daily.

Celebrating these restaurants and their chefs became our mission, and thus began the Eat Adventures Coastal and Mt. Hood regional food tours.  Additionally, we recently added the Portland Food Carts & Neighborhoods tour as a half-day option for guests with busy schedules and a curiosity for the food truck phenomenon that’s unique to our city.  So come spend a day with us, exploring the natural and culinary beauty of the Pacific Northwest, one bite at a time.