Category Archives: Family-Friendly Food Adventures

Restaurant Review: Grassa PDX Handcrafted Pasta

I’m in love with Grassa, handcrafted pasta in northwest Portland.

Grassa PDX. MomsicleBlog

In fact, the food scene in general right now gives me the same enthusiasm as Will Ferrell in Elf.

Food karma is off the hook for families because what’s hot are open-kitchens, bare-bones dining rooms, a hyper-awareness of sourcing, and a focus on simple, seasonal ingredients. Delicious food. Simple dining rooms. God has answered my prayers.

(Also, yes, it’s true. In Portland you can ask about any ingredient on the menu, and it’s possible to meet the farmer and the furry friends.)

Back to Grassa. Their open seating and order-at-the-register set-up take any hint of snooty out of handmade pasta. Go early for lunch so you can get the quickest turnaround on your order, and snag a seat at the bar in front of the kitchen.

Grassa PDX. MomsicleBlog

Just look at that rigatoni with pork bolognese. I can’t look away. The pasta is so chewy, the sauce is holding on to all the rigatoni ridges, the meat is rich and shredded….

Italian restaurants are either high-end, or Olive Garden. Sometimes it’s hard to find a place to go with your family. There are Pastini and Bugatti’s family restaurants, and we do love those for a casual Friday night, but both places started with the idea of Olive Garden and notched it up. Grassa started high-end, and then took out the cloth napkins, servers, fancy decor, and reservations.

Grassa PDX handcrafted pasta. MomsicleBlog

Sitting at the bar preempted most of my questions. Like, do you make all the pasta in house?

Grassa PDX. MomsicleBlogReally, all of it?

Grassa PDX handmade pasta. MomsicleBlog

The garlic bread was like dessert for us: soaked in just enough butter and topped with crisped parmesan cheese. And I would definitely get at least two vegetable sides. The roasted squash and shaved zucchini took what I make it home and made it divine.

While we noshed, Chef Rick Gencarelli (in charge of both Grassa and Lardo) and his sous were making agnolotti in front of us.

Grassa PDX handmade pasta. MomsicleBlog

Agnolotti are little raviolis that are less labor-intensive than traditional ravioli, and have little pockets to catch sauce that are made by the pasta cutter folding over the dough. Chef Rick commented that the cook who invented agnolotti’s ingenious, simple design should probably be president. After the recent shutdown, I would totally vote foodie.

Grassa PDX handcrafted Pasta. MomsicleBlog

The boys didn’t need crayons with all the pasta-making action happening right in front of us. If I could eat here everyday, I would. But since my discretionary budget won’t allow it, I’ll settle for the pasta-porn slide show on Grassa’s home page.

Please recommend other simple, delicious spots you love!

Oh, and this pic is a gift from K-Pants.

Grassa PDX handcrafted Pasta. MomsicleBlog

Grassa PDX: 1205 SW Washington St., Portland, OR 97205, open every day.

Blue Star Donuts Knocks Voodoo Doughnuts Off the Pedestal

Bluestar Donuts Portland. MomsicleBlog

Voodoo Doughnut in Portland has been all over the Food Network and all kinds of lists of the best eats in America.

But it’s just not all that.

Voodoo’s bacon-maple bar is delicious, and I will never turn one away should it arrive on my passenger seat after a night of dancing.

But I’m not psyched by Captain Crunch or Fruit Loops on a doughnut. And Voodoo’s super-saccharine icings taste more like medicine flavors than real food.

Make way for local craft doughnut shop Blue Star Donuts.

Bluestar Donuts Portland. MomsicleBlog

Blue Star has everything an obsessive foodie wants in a donut:

  1. Dozens of all-natural ingredients you can see (vanilla beans, nut pieces, coconut shreds…).
  2. Pastry chefs who hand-make your doughnuts (while you stand to the side nonchalantly pretending you are totally friends).
  3. A classic buttermilk cake doughnut that is so dense and delicious it may have just come from the apple-cider doughnut people at your favorite farmers market.
  4. Flavor combos that make you feel smart: basil blueberry, coffee & coconut cheesecake, Meyer lemon and key lime curd… you get the idea.

Bluestar Donuts Portland. MomsicleBlog

I’m sure the coffee is kickin’, too, but I stick to tea, which–of course–is locally made about a mile away by Steven Smith Teamaker. And Steven Smith tea is divine.

Bluestar Donuts Portland. MomsicleBlog

Plus, what foodie doesn’t love some coy signage?

Bluestar Donuts Portland. MomsicleBlog

So what are you waiting for? The line at Blue Star (SW Washington & 13th) is totally manageable, and there’s probably even a lovely seat at the bright and airy bar waiting for you.


Blue Star Donuts * Facebook * Twitter @BlueStarDonuts * Instagram

The Best Hot Chocolate in Portland

The best cup of hot chocolate in Portland is from…

Pambiche! (Pam-beach-ay)

It should be noted that this was a totally subjective and unrandomized trial conducted by The Chaos Team and shenanigan partners including-but-not-limited-to Ian, Anya, Miles, Erika, Skylar, Rachell, and Marissa. Read more fine print below.

About our winner, Pambiche:

The hot chocolate in Northeast Portland’s Cuban joint Pambiche comes in a large, low mug surely manufactured at The North Pole. The milky hot chocolate is sweet (the way we like it!) and cinnamony. The whipped cream is thick, flecked with chocolate, and topped with a sprig of mint that is delightful to eat somewhere in the middle of your sipping.

Second Place, Suzette:

At Suzette creperie they top the hot chocolate with house-made marshmallows that are then bruleed. That’s right! They take a mini-blow-torch to each cup of cocoa. Two minor things knocked it off the top pedestal: the hot chocolate was perhaps too sweet, and the mug was clunky: but if I were Steven Tyler on American Idol I would still make love to it.

The Trophy Wives, Pearl Bakery & Stumptown Coffee Roasters:

Pearl Bakery and Stumptown Coffee Roasters had the most gorgeous offerings. But the hot chocolates at these two were all beauty and no brains: They lacked sweetness and depth. For a killer croissant, an amazing cup of coffee, or some super-model-style whipped cream, try these two.

Definitely Worth It, Sisters Coffee Company:

Sisters Coffee Company has a perfectly sweet cup of cocoa that really hits the spot. The whipped cream is lovely as well. There aren’t any bells and whistles to take this one to the North Pole, but it’s worth a to-go cup when you are down in The Pearl.


Please write in your own votes below. We want to do more “research” on this topic!


MORE FINE PRINT: Our passion for hot chocolate is high, and no water-based hot chocolates were allowed. We were comparing cups of hot chocolate to what we imagine one might have on any given Sunday afternoon at Mr. and Mrs. Claus’s house. We wanted the hot chocolate to be rich and sweet, fairly thick, feel delightful being cradled in your hands, and be breathtakingly beautiful.
EVEN MORE FINE PRINT: Title treatment by August Empress, font from
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Emily, thanks to you I know that hot chocolate is hot milk with real chocolate pieces whisked in, and that hot cocoa is cocoa powder mixed with milk, but I’ve taken gross liberties in jargon here. Forgive me.

Photo Adventure: Oregon Winter Family Activities

On Saturday Baby Woww and I went snowshoeing for the first time with some good friends.

Snowshoeing is the perfect snow sport for people who don’t like heights, inclines, high speeds, special car racks, feeling out of control, or going to the Olympics.*

The next day, The Chaos Team (that’s us: Baby Woww, K-Pants, and me) headed out–amidst slush flurries–to the Pearl District to try out hot chocolate at Pearl Bakery and Sisters Coffee Company.** Pearl Bakery’s motto is “Eat Bread.” Power to the carbolicious lifestyle!

These shots are from an old model iPhone using the following Apps: Photoshop for iPhone, Instagram (username: Momsicle), and Hipstamatic. Please share your favorite photo apps–I’d love to try some new ones!


*REI teaches a one-hour snowshoeing basics class. Perhaps during the first half you learn how to put on socks and shoes, and in the second half you do an energy bar tasting?
**I’m collecting hot chocolate experiences, so if you have can’t-miss Portland suggestions, let me know. I want to go to there.