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06 March 2006 — Food Day (4)

Saturday was a brilliant day. The sun shone. We worked in the yard. We listened to opera. Best of all, we indulged in some of Portland's finest food.

Sahagún
Sagahún is a tiny chocolate shop located just north of Burnside on 16th. (The actual address is 10 NW 16th Ave.) I've been hearing about this place for weeks. On our drive to pick up AmyJo, I had Kris read a doting profile of the owner to me out of a local hispanic paper. ExtraMSG, a Portland-area foodblog, recently raved about Sahagún's hot chocolate:

At $4.00 each, they aren't cheap. But they're unequivocally worth every penny. Easily the best hot chocolate in this survey and truly ruined me for the others since I had this one first.

You all know how much I love my hot chocolate. I went in prepared to be blown away.

I was disappointed.

This was not the best hot chocolate I'd ever had. It wasn't even the second best hot chocolate I'd ever had. It wasn't even close. Don't get me wrong: it's fine stuff, but it's no better than my dear-departed chantico (though it's a different kind of drinking chocolate, to be sure), and it's certainly not worth the trouble, the time, or the cost. The stuff I make for myself at home is still the best hot chocolate ever; why should I drive all the way to downtown Portland to spend $4 on an inferior cup of hot chocolate? Answer: I shouldn't, and I won't.

We also picked up some miscellaneous chocolate bits at Sahagún, including the pepitapapa, which is a candy made from bittersweet chocolate, chili peppers, and pumpkin seeds. Again, this wasn't as good as I had hoped. Nor was the cherry-cashew cluster.

Sahagún let me down; I feel deceived by the hype. My expectations were too high. I may return again, but it's not a priority.

Ken's Artisan Bakery
Ken's Artisan Bakery, on the other hand, is sure to become a regular stop for me and Kris when we're downtown. This homey little bistro is located a short walk from Sahagún, at NW 21st and Flanders. Many people seemed to be picking up bread products to go, but there are several tables available for those who would prefer to sit and chat with friends.


Ken's offers an assortment of fresh crusty breads, of course, but there's so much more to choose from: tarts, croissants, pastries, and more. (I went home with a lovely brownie.) On Monday nights they do pizza! (I've got to try that.)

Kris had a savory ham-and-cheese filled croissant. I tried a bite and wished I had ordered one, too. I contented myself with a cinnamon roll, but not a gloopy gooey cinnamon roll. (Not that there's anything wrong with gloppy gooey cinnamon rolls.) It was a light, flaky cinnamon roll with a sugary glaze. Different, but delicious.

In many ways, Ken's reminded me of Willamette's Bistro back when it was a swank little coffee house (as opposed to now). I love that the bakery's web site features little essays on baking.

Ken's Artisan Bakery is a gem.

Pix Patisserie
On a whim, we stopped by Pix Patisserie on north Williams. "This place is good," Amy Jo told us, enthusiastic. Pix seemed like a cross between Sahagún and Ken's Artisan bakery: there was a case of hand-made chocolates, but there was also a case of pastries. And behind the counter was a vast assortment of liquor. Is the place also a licensed bar?

I loved what little I saw of Pix Patisserie. I loved the gaudy red wallpaper. I loved the absurd chocolates for sale. (Buy hand-crafted chocolate chess pieces for $20 per set.) I loved the various savory croissants that were available. (I took home one embedded with chorizo sausage, which made a nice breakfast Sunday morning.)

We didn't spend much time here, but I'm sure we'll return soon.

Sinju
To cap off our evening, we joined the Gingeriches and the Proffitt-Smiths at Sinju to celebrate Jeremy's birthday. We've been to Sinju once before (with Dave and Karen), but it didn't leave any sort of impression, for good or ill. This time it did.

This time, Sinju was simply amazing.

As before, we were ushered to a private, screened room. We took off our shoes and sat at the recessed table. I ordered sake. "I'm getting better at sushi, but I still can't eat it without alcohol to grease the way," I explained. "Hey — this is hot," I said when my sake came. The rest of the party laughed. Apparently it's supposed to be served hot. And you know what? I liked it this time. (I've never liked sake before, but I've only tried it cold.)

We ordered appetizers: chicken karaage (fried chicken with garlic ginger sauce), gyoza (pan-fried dumpling filled with beef, pork and vegetables), and the ahi tower. The gyoza was outstanding. While we waited for our meals to arrive, I shared the special sake I'd brought for Jeremy: Scottish Lagavulin sake!

Dinner was alarming. The waitress kept bringing more and more food. Had we asked for all this? First she brought individual dinners for those who had ordered them. Then she brought a boat of sashimi nearly as long as the table. (Seriously: this was a boat — a stylized wooden ship.) Then, to top it all off, she delivered a heavy tray packed with sushi rolls.


The only disappointment of the evening was the salmon teriyaki portion of my combination dinner. The chicken teriyaki, on the other hand, was wonderful, sweet and smoky and cooked to perfection. The sinju steak was good, too, pungent with ginger and a little bit crispy from the bread coating.

After dinner, I joined Jeremy outside for a brief smoke. I bathed in the scent of the cloves. "You reek," Kris told me when I returned to the table, but I didn't care.

What a marvelous day for a food-lover.

(And remember: we squeezed in sod-removal, too. Amazing!)

p.s. Apparently Sinju has a second location at Bridgeport Village, the new mall in Tualatin. We may have to add that to our list of regular restaurants.

On this day at foldedspace.org

2007Where is John Galt?   In which it hurts to write checks for estimated tax payments.


Comments
On 06 March 2006 (12:14 PM), Ralf said:

Hot chocolate....

For 14 US$ I will send you guys a whole jar of 100 % pure cocoa, which in turn will give you a real taste of choclate, not only that....but also the good nutriants, Vitamins, trace elements that embodies 100 % real cocoa....So, when you go and have your hot chocolate 'round your corner, think about what you missed.
This is from the backyard of cocoa!!!

Cheers


On 06 March 2006 (12:18 PM), Amy Jo said:

It was a lovely morning. I'm glad you like Ken's as much as I do. In fact, I could go for one of his Valhrona brownies right about now . . .

We finally made it to the Simpatica Dining Hall on Sunday morning for brunch. YUM! I've been on their mailing list for a while and every single dinner they do (on the weekends) sounds heavenly. We will definitely go back for brunch and someday when we have time to think ahead, we'll schedule a dinner. Maybe next month we can meet for brunch . . .


On 06 March 2006 (04:16 PM), Betsy said:

You should have stopped by Saint Cupcake after the stop at Sahagun (they're at 17th and Flanders) - I'm betting you wouldn't have been disappointed there...!

I also keep meaning to get to Simpatica for brunch - glad to hear that it lives up to the hype!


On 08 March 2006 (11:48 AM), Josh Bennett said:

I'd like to try Saint Cupcake sometime. The male half of the couple who own the shop is also the lead singer of Portland band Jonah (formerly Dizzyfish), and he went to college with my best friend at PLU. Not that that has anything to do with his baking, but I hear the baked goods at Saint Cupcake are pretty fine, too.