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.

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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.
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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.

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

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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 Dafont.com.
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!

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*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.

Where to get Milkshakes in West Portland

My midwife told me this week to cut back on milkshakes. I think I gave her the impression that I have one every day, which is not true. I have about two per month. I eat ice cream every day. A day without ice cream is very, very sad. I really haven’t gained a grossly exaggerated amount of weight, nor do I have gestational diabetes or other sugar issues. It’s just that I was mentioning how K-Pants was a trim 6 lbs. 6 oz. when he was born (the day after his due date), and the following conversation ensued:

  • Midwife: You’ve probably got a 7-pounder in there now, so if you want him under 8 pounds, you should stop the milkshakes.
  • Me: Really?
  • Midwife: Try a fruit smoothie. Do you know what fruit is? Fruit is in season in Oregon during the summer. There are different types of fruit, and you can blend them up and pretend it’s a milkshake.

Finally I know what it’s like to be one of the contestants on the Biggest Loser. Unfortunately this was not my regular midwife, so I won’t be seeing her again (unless she’s on call when I deliver; I’ll know it’s her when I hear, “Let’s get that 8-pound hunk o’ milk fat outta there!”). In the meantime, I’ve put together descriptions of two of my favorite spots to get your cream on. Please add your own recommendations!

The Canyon GrilleSouthwest Portland, Canyon Road

I’ve passed this place for years, but my husband and I just tried it for the first time recently. It was all-out decadence: we did the bacon cheeseburger with blue cheese pecan spread, a swiss and mushroom burger, fries with Grand Canyon sauce, and a raspberry milkshake. It was the one day that week I didn’t take a nap because I was worried I might never get up again after eating this meal. The spot is tiny and it was once Portland’s first Dairy Queen—apparently they’ve had the same phone number since the 1950s. They put real fruit in their milkshakes, so I think I can call that a smoothie, right?

Cool Moon Ice CreameryPearl District

If you live in the area, I’m sure you’ve been here. They make their own ice cream and have been written up quite a bit. Get yourself a shake here. My friend Anne was in town and we went wild and got the large size so that we could each try four different flavors. A milkshake would have muddled things up, but next time… Our big taste winners were the lavender lemon and fiery chocolate. However, you at least have to try the spicy Thai peanut if you go soon. Oh, and between 4­–6 p.m. they have ice cream happy hour with pints for $4.00. What’s not to love about that?

Also try…

Burgerville

Dick’s Kitchen

Skyline Diner

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Title treatment: Graphic watercolor background from August Empress. Graphic fonts for personal use from Dafont.com. Beautiful sites: Check them out!

Our Favorite Portland Sweets

As everyone knows, a toddler and a pregnant lady are constantly in search of a treat or two. Or three. Since we eat like Hobbits, it’s hard to keep our tastes sated. In honor of K-Pants’s 2nd birthday, this post is dedicated to places that make the everyday special with sweet decadence.

Crave Bake Shop, Downtown Lake Oswego

Crave is gluten-free. Apparently no gluten ever enters their doors. I don’t have a gluten intolerance, but I’m happy to claim one if it lets me eat here more often.

The pint-sized shop puts out two kinds of cupcakes each day, as well as cake bites, and crazy cinnamon rolls that you’ve got to try! They aren’t open on Mondays yet, so be aware. Even if you are pregnant and slobbering, they won’t open the door. I tried.

Two Tarts Bake Shop, Northwest Portland

Northwest 23rd Street is full of hedonistic delights (K-Pants and I would like to organize a gelato-crawl for those who are interested). But our current favorite spot is Two Tarts Bakery that our friend Wendy introduced us to. They have a beautiful gallery case full of cookies that instantly starts your mouth watering.

At eighty cents per cookie, they’re the bite-sized way to buy a little happiness. K-Pants loves the shortbread, and I love their take on the Oreo sandwich cookie. Two Tarts has an awesome blog (link above) that leads me to believe there are also ice cream sandwiches in our future!

Saint Honoré Boulangerie, Two locations: Downtown Lake Oswego & Northwest Portland

Everything is good here, but have you had their Normandy Apple Toast? It’s like a fruity french-toast custard. Oh, heaven on earth! And it weighs about five pounds a slice, so you know there’s a lot of egg and cream in there. We approve. At over $3 it’s the most expensive treat on our list, but when you’re in the mood for some true decadence that’s worth it’s weight in gold, this is the way to go.

(Photo courtesy of http://www.sainthonorebakery.com/)

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Looking for more family-friendly food adventures? Check out…

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Title treatment: Graphic watercolor background from August Empress. Graphic fonts for personal use from Dafont.com. Beautiful sites: Check them out!

Guest Post: Toddler-Friendly Portland Brew Pubs

Do you know Mommy C? Let me introduce you. She is also the mom of one boy (Superman) with another on the way. We met pushing our strollers around at Baby Boot Camp. It turns out Mommy C is always up for adventure—a quality I am totally into. So I pressed her into action to help share Family Friendly Food Adventures in Portland. Who else could come up with a list of brew pubs you can take toddlers to? She has some other really great Portland restaurant suggestions and tips on searching out new places that you can find over at her blog Being Mom NOW.

Without further ado:

In the beginning…

When my husband and I moved to Oregon in 2008, we pretty much spent the first year eating our way through Portland.  We went out to eat at least once a week…usually to a restaurant in downtown Portland and never to a big chain restaurant.

Not giving up…

During the first few months with Superman, we were determined to try and continue to eat out as often as we could.  We believed (and continue to believe) that the more we were out and about with him, the better foundation we were setting for how to behave as he got older.  Looking back, we probably weren’t really setting a foundation for him as much in the beginning, as we were preparing ourselves for what was to come (I could do a whole post on packing for dinners out depending on the age of your child).

Where to go…

Lucky Lab

Portland: Various locations (NW, SW, NE…)

Here is a perfect example of a restaurant that doesn’t have a kids menu, but is great for kids.  The menu is pretty limited, but they don’t seem to care if you bring your food in for your toddler.  As it is my husband’s favorite causal spot to go to for a beer and some grub, Superman visited their beer hall on Quimby 5 or 6 times before he was even 3 months old.  In fact, he was kicked out of the beer hall one night because we were there after 9pm (completely zonked out).  They only knew he was there because I went to change his diaper.

Hopworks Urban Brewery

Portland: Southeast on Powell

This place is the epitome of a kid friendly restaurant that parents want to go to.  Not only do they have amazing food and great beer, but they have a play area that you can see from most of the dining area.  If this place was on the west side, we probably would be there every other weekend.

Deschutes Brewery & Public House

Portland: Downtown in the Pearl

I think this was the first restaurant we went to when Superman was born…he was about a week old.  They have one of the best burgers I have ever eaten.  When we last went there Superman loved his food, although it did take a little bit longer than I would have liked to come out.  Fortunately, there were many, many other kids there to keep him entertained.

McMenamins

Portland: Various locations across the city & the burbs!

We go to Cornelius Pass Roadhouse (CPR), Rock Creek Tavern, and Grand Lodge because it is closest, but have been to Edgefield as well.  They have a great happy hour menu (perfect timing when eating with a toddler) so a slice of pizza or hummus and pita at CPR for dinner is easy.   Service can be kind of slow, but we go early and enjoy the atmosphere (there is SO MUCH to look at).  They are an even better location when it is nice out because they have great outdoor spaces for the kids.

Laurelwood Public House

Portland: Northeast (also in Battleground, WA & at the airport…)

It saddens me that they have closed their location off 23rd.  However, their location over on the east side is also kid friendly.  They have two play areas (one in each dining room) and although it isn’t on the website, they also have a kids menu.  Their Organic Free Range Red Shredded BBQ Pork sandwich is heavenly!

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Go visit Mommy C and leave your thoughts for her below! Do you have something to contribute? Please let me know in the comments. I would love to feature your writing!

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Title treatment: Graphic watercolor background from August Empress. Graphic fonts for personal use from Dafont.com. Beautiful sites: Check them out!