Review: St. Jack. Portland, OR.

St. Jack
2039 SE Clinton St
Portland, OR 97202

I love french food. I know it’s cliche, but that doesn’t matter to me. I credit the french bistros in Manhattan with a large chunk  of my obsession with food. I loved food before, but those places really opened my eyes with regards to food.

St. Jack in Portland is a great example of a well done traditional french bistro. It takes me back a few years to a place where amazing food was completely new to me.

Rolling up on a Tuesday after work, I ended up sitting outside (for picture-taking purposes, you’re welcome). The service was really great and the weather was even better.

Starting off, I had escargots with ham, mushrooms and gruyere croutons. They were nothing spectacular, but enjoyable none the less.

For the entree, I ordered the ubiquitous steak frites. Similar to the escargot, the dish was nothing amazing, but a solid play on a standard french dish. The steak was nicely cooked, though a bit under seasoned. The fries were okay, nothing to write home about.

For dessert I had baked to order madeleines. These were the best part of the meal. Hot and fresh out of the oven, they had a light lemon flavor which combined nicely with the thin layer of powdered sugar. If you go here, get these.

Overall, I’d say this place is the go to for traditional french bistro fare in Portland. If that is what you’re after and you’re in the area, this place is a can’t miss.

RATING: ***
Patisserie St. Jack on Urbanspoon

Review: Laurelhurst Market. Portland, OR.

Laurelhurst Market is the place in Portland that I’ve eaten at more than any other. It’s good and I love steak. It’s probably my favorite steak house I’ve eaten at in a long time. It isn’t fussy, quite casual actually. That doesn’t mean the meat isn’t superb local/grass fed cuts.

The place is a butcher during the day (super cool right?), offering sandwiches and the like. It’s got a very artisan feel. Very Portland.

The interior is nice and open. The decor is meat-centric. A high quality steak house like this is honestly refreshing compared to the larger-than-life types that are so prominent in my home town.

I always start off my meal with mussels/clams frites (whichever is on the menu at the time). You guys, these are awesome. The fries are seriously the best I’ve had in Portland and all the different preparations I’ve had are wonderful. These were prepared with dijon creme fraiche, scallions and preserved lemons. Another winner.

At laurelhurst, I’ve had the ribeye, the strip and multiple preparations of the the flank steak. The flank is the one I keep coming back to. I think it’s just my favorite cut of meat right now. This night they prepared it with fresno harissa, queso fresco and charred scallions. The harissa provided as nice amount of heat and the whole dish was simply prepared and wonderfully executed.

I’ve never ordered dessert here, so I thought I would for the purpose of the review. I ordered a chocolate banana cream pie with candied walnuts. They served a french press of stumptown coffee to accompany. It was a nice finish, but I do have an inherit problem with paying $8 for a slice of pie.

Overall, this place is the one I’ve eaten at more than any other in my travels (not including Chipotle). It’s a fantastic restaurant and if you’re in the area looking for a great steak there is no better choice.

RATING: *****

Laurelhurst Market on Urbanspoon
 

Review: Luce. Portland, OR.

Rolling up to Luce the week after Bon Appetit named it a top 10 restaurant in america last month, I was fully prepared to bombarded by a hipster apocalypse. To my surprise the crowd was surpisingly, even hilariously, geriatric (it was right at 5 afterall, who else eats that early?). The patrons were quite aware of the recent accolades garned by the restaurant. One older gentleman went so far as to read the BA the article to his wife in complete AD Club Sauce style. Hilarious.

The restaurant is really small and I arrived expecting a 3hr wait. It turned out to only be 45mins-1hr before I was sat, so that was nice. The meal however, took forever. About 3 hours in total. (That’s a 4 hour dinner experience folks, 4 HOURS! Ain’t Nobody got time for that)

The staff was super friendly, so I hate to say anything negative about the experience. But it’s not like they’re  hurting for praise these days. So let’s, as they say, keep it real.

The antipasti and charcuterie came out first. The charcuterie was absolutely nothing special. Let’s get that out the way. Out of the antipasti, the clams were really good. The potato salad was okay and the mozzarella with anchovies were not good.

The Salt Foccacia was good, but not as good as I expected it to be (I was really excited for this meal).

 For pasta, I got the spaghetti with hot peppers and clams. Since this recipe actually appears in the issue, I was expected a lot. Like a lot of the meal, it was just OK.

The hanger steak was definitely the best part of the meal in my opinion. This recipe appears in the magazine as well. The steak is cooked and served in a garlic rosemary olive oil. It was both simple and delicious.

I had a hazelnut chocolate cake for dessert, which I don’t have the photo of. It was good, definitely worth getting if you’re there.

Overall, I would say this is a good meal, but no way is it a top 10 new restaurant in america. Based on the comments of Andrew Knowlton I expected to be blown away by the quality of the ingredients and I just wasn’t. If you’re expecting to be wowed like I was, steer clear. If you want a simple, solid italian meal that takes 3-4hrs to get through, then give it a shot.

RATING: ***
Luce on Urbanspoon

Notes from the Road: The Farm Cafe. Portland, OR.

After the Bon Appetit top 10 New Restaurants in America was released last month, I rushed over to Luce to give it a try. Unfortunately, it was a Tuesday and Luce was closed. Disheveled and disappointed I staggered into The Farm Cafe for a self-pity filled dinner.

I didn’t take pics, though I should have. I ordered the Lamb dish that night and it turned out to be one of the best (possible the best) lamb dishes I’ve ever had. If you’re ever in the area, you should give this place a try.

Farm Cafe on Urbanspoon

Review: Dexter’s. Orlando, FL.

Dexter’s
808 East Washington Street
Orlando, FL 32801

After spending a day at Disney World, we woke up with a lot of time before our flight and one goal in mind….. find some good brunch. I had done a little research, but not a ton. It seemed when people talked about brunch in Orlando, Dexter’s was a common theme. We decided to pack up and head into downtown to give it a try.

The neighborhood was nice and when we got in we were immediately seating (Side Note: generally I get scared not having to wait to eat brunch but I had walked all day the day before and was happy to be seated quickly).

The first plate we ordered was a skirt steak burrito. Steak and eggs with sour cream and guacamole on the side. It wasn’t spectacular, but wasn’t bad either.

The French toast came with vanilla glaze, fresh fruit compote and marnier glaze. I felt the same way about it as I did the burrito, good but not great.

The winner of this meal and probably the best thing I ate in Florida was the Eggs benedict with smoked turkey,tomato and honey hollandaise on french bread. This thing was outstanding. Simple, no frills, but outstanding. If you go here, please get this.

Overall, we definitely felt like this meal was worth the jaunt from Disney to Downtown. If you’re in the area and looking for a good brunch, this place gets the roadrunner seal of approval.

RATING:***

Dexter's on Urbanspoon

 

 

Review: The Floridian. St. Augustine, FL.

The Floridian
39 Cordova St.
St Augustine, FL 32084

I remember in grad school one of my economics professors loved to talk about the economic principles behind restaurant placement. One paper that he referred to often spoke of how the worst food was always found where there was the most foot traffic (read: touristy areas). Much to our delight, St. Augustine seems to buck that trend.

The Floridian was the restaurant we chose to eat at for Mrs. Roadrunner’s birthday. It came recommended by a hipster working at Hyppo (Side note: Hipsters are always reliable when it comes to local recommendations. When you need something good to eat, find the dude with the skinniest jeans in the area and ask him). We went there a bit late and it doesn’t get a ton of natural light, so the pics suck.

The first appetizer (yes, first. we were celebrating) was a golden summer scallop ceviche. It had nice bits of corn and some mango for sweetness and it was served with chips for sipping. It was a nice start.

The next appetizer was fried green tomatoe bruschetta. It was topped with basil, goat cheese and chili-cumin aioli and put on artisan bread. This was our favorite dish of the night. Super good.

 My main course was the “Southern Gentleman.” It was a burger on french bread, topped with goat cheese, house made bacon, chipotle mayo and peaches. It actually didn’t do a ton for me and was the low point of the meal.

East meets West was our other entree. It was  a tenderloin and shrimp with mango salsa, quinoa and fried zucchini. A solid dish. We were both stuffed by now and we didn’t want to skip on dessert (we were celebrating, remember?), so we didn’t quite finish this dish.

The dessert we split (we were watching our portions and we had just had a popsicle) was a coconut chocolate chip pecan pie. It was outstanding. Highly recommended if you like pecan pie.

Overall, a solid meal and a great suggestion from a local hipster. When he threw out that they were using local, organic ingredients, I knew that we were headed in the right direction. What we got was a nice little birthday dinner in the middle of a great town to spend the weekend in.

RATING: ***

The Floridian on Urbanspoon

Review: Hyppo. St. Augustine, Fl.

The Hyppo
48 Charlotte St
St Augustine, FL 32084

When you travel a lot for a living (or just for fun), you find that the places you visit that stick with you most are the ones that you stumble upon by happenstance.You can research as much as you want, but the ones that resonate most deeply with you are the ones that just kind of sneak up on you.

I walked by Hyppo the first time I had ever been to St. Augustine on my way to dinner. When I saw the sign said “gourmet popsicles”, I knew that we would soon cross paths. Sure enough, immediately after dinner I bee-lined there. That night I tried the Elvis (Peanut Butter, Honey & Banana) dipped in chocolate. One word: AWESOME.

On a recent weekend family vacation to St. Augustine, I got to introduce my girls to Hyppo. We downed about 20 popsicles over the course of the weekend, looking for any excuse to stop in again. All of them are made with local and organic (when they can) ingredients, all of them are awesome. They are flash frozen, meaning they’re not too hard or too soft. Above is my first of about 8 from the weekend (Vanilla Banana).

RATING: ****

The Hyppo on Urbanspoon