Sok Sab Bai Cambodian Restaurant Portland

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While wandering around the Hawthorne area of Portland, I found this little gem. I know what you’ll say, “Why are you eating at a Cambodian restaurant in Portland when you are moving to Thailand next week and will be right next door to Cambodia itself?” Well, all I can say is that something drew me there and the menu looked too good and intriguing to pass up. The highlights of the various things I tried are below.

 

 

 

 

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Fish ball, Seafood, and Tamarind Soup: The noodles were fresh and perfectly cooked. The broth was gentle and delectable. And it came with a cart full of accompaniments (which I found to be typical as soon as I was out of the States and in Thailand): fish sauce, pepper sauce, dried onion flakes, Siracha, hot pepper soy sauce, and various other spicy sauces. But what was best about this dish was the fish balls. They were a pleasant surprise. The egg-like outside bursts open in your mouth to reveal an inside full of tastiness. If only my chopstick skills were better with these slippery noodles, I’d have eaten the whole large bowl!

IMG_1038Balut: a dish of slightly incubated duck  eggs served in the shell. I am not quite sure of the incubation period, but it is somewhere past that of a raw egg and a formed fetus. From what I tasted, all seemed rather moist and mushy; nothing was yet hard or formed. It is very popular and available all over Malaysia.  I had it here to give it a try before I possibly get it in some random street vendor there. And I also wanted to compare it when I get there. All in all, it was quite good. It tasted like  a mix between eating an egg and eating roasted duck or chicken. I did not drink the juice inside as is custom. It smelled like pungent duck juice, so I think I get a feel for what it might taste like -I’ll pass for now. This dish was not bad as one might think, though, and I’m glad I tired it.

 

Voodoo Doughnut Portland

IMG_1064IMG_1063As their cheeky slogan exclaims: The Magic is in the Hole. Well, I suppose there is some truth to this as these doughnuts are undeniably great (and I’m not a big doughnut fan). Though I tried only one, the maple glaze and bacon, which was delicious, I could tell that these were well made, quality doughnuts. The dough is what made it truly superb: moist, almost melting in your mouth, with a rich buttery taste both sweet and fulfilling, yet not overpowering. It tasted much like a beignet. The maple glaze was fresh made and appropriately coated as not to be too intense. The bacon on top added a nice savory component and tasted great with everything all together. It was like your morning bacon and pancakes. All in all, as I rushed off to the airport for an early morning flight, I was happy I took the extra time to squeeze in a visit to this place and get a maple and bacon doughnut, which constitutes a well rounded breakfast, right?

Jacco Gardner @ Mississippi Studios, Portland

IMG_1079Before coming to Portland I had perused the music venues and artists playing here. Despite staying at the Jupiter Hotel, which has a music venue playing Ha Ha Tonka (an unforgivable name, in my book, that I simply cannot get past in their decision to choose it), I decided to go see Jacco Gardner, a band that plays what I’d like to call New-Age Psychedelic Indie Rock. I don’t know, it was something about his face, one of those faces I speak about that is just interesting to me and I like instinctually.

I always think of people’s faces in the manner in which I’d paint them, the color palate, angle, and scope. Well, I’d decided mentally that I’d paint him like a Rembrandt or Vermeer, realistic, with contesting darks and yellow reds. (maybe the fact that he’s from the Netherlands had something to do with this, but once I saw  him in his beige coat and hat after the show, I knew this was definitely a right choice.)

At Mississippi Studios, Portland

Jacco Gardner, at Mississippi Studios, Portland

The throw-back psychedelic tunes reminded me of the music of my father’s years, the ’60’s music I listened to in my late teens and early twenties. Later , Jacco told me that he was influenced by Pink Floyd. Yes, there was that as well as a bit of The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Velvet Underground, and many other ’60’s greats. And I’m sure that is why there were so many older, ex-hippies at the show. Not dirty or degenerate hippies, but the kind that developed into something more streamlined, or else, still had a hippie flair, just clean and worn more as occasional attire.

Jacco and band are from the Netherlands. And perhaps some of their cultural leanings and laxities influence the manifestation of their trippy sound. The idiosyncrasy I like most  about them is their insistence on incorporating a projector screen playing black and white movies and various other random visuals to accompany the music. It lends a touch of art to what they are doing. And after spending several hours after the show hanging out with the band, I do believe that Jacco is an artist at heart and is doing this out of genuine need for self expression, not for girls, money, or even fame.

The band is Dutch. And thought they all spoke proper English, to each other they spoke mostly Dutch, and somehow it lent a brother camaraderie to their union. They are clearly a band just starting in the industry, especially in the states; and so, you can feel the tense energy, self-consciousness, and awareness of the audience that they possess. On stage, even, you could feel their apprehension, their eyes searching through the crowd to gauge how well they performed. And they seemed genuinely gratified when the crowd cheered or whistled. They are a band waiting for recognition and a big break.

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The audience of older hippies, along with ample young to middle age hipsters, either stood staunchly or swayed gently with the music. There was not much movement or excitement going on in general. The venue, Mississippi Studios, is a rather bohemian palce, which set the ambiance for them nicely. Large Persian rugs haphazardly adorned the floor. Chandeliers and curtains hung to further the bohemian ambiance.

After the show was over, we all clapped and then the band came off the stage, pensively, awkwardly bowing backwards, and moved through the crowd  and settled at the back corner of the room. After a slight hesitation the crowd simply dispersed, meekly eyeing the band as they passed by and out. Though some stood around talking before leaving, most of the crowd simply left; and the lights were risen.

After coming back in from outside, calling a cab to no avail, I decided to look at the wares they were selling at the front, now, near the now-empty ticket stand. Jacco was now standing there behind the table of things, greeting people who came up to buy something, or simply to say that they enjoyed the show.

He is a rather shy, awkward person, which makes him both genuine and interesting. He does not appear to have fun on stage or seem to laugh too easily. I suppose he performs more for his own self-validation than for anything else, to hear his own voice, and see his self, tangibly, in existence. He seemed to have a mind capable of understanding and engaging others around him. In brief, he had a depth if consciousness that was not blatantly apparent, but sensed in his quiet thoughtfulness.

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I came to hang out with the band by way of a girl petting a cat there in the building, who I started talking to about my own cats. She, with her quirky afghan, full-length peasant skirt, and little black hat, had another face I particularly liked, something like Winona Rider, but nicer and more genuine. She was honestly one of the nicest, most gentle people I’ve met.

I thought she just randomly takes her cat around and holds it like some do their toy dogs. I thought that’s just what some Portlanders do (which would be awesome). But the cat lives in the bar/music venue and just travels around, being held and petted by random people.

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So while I was taking to her, a freelance photographer of the band was talking to her boyfriend, a quirky fellow dressed preppily in all black, who also had a gentle, introspective, and appealing face and genuine,self-aware demeanor. So we eventually all started talking, as the photographer was very friendly and talkative, and convinced me to stay around for a bit to hang out because she said after I explained my travel plans: “You’re leaving tomorrow! You have to stay and hang out! It’s your only night here in Portland.”  And that was true. Meeting people is meeting a city. So I stayed, which I’m happy I did because I met some genuinely nice and cool people.

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As she and Jacco skateboarded through empty streets as we were leaving, it felt as if the city were ours, or else we had some secret knowledge about the place or about people in general. Yet, it was late on a Monday night, when normal people are sleeping and prepared to go to work in the morning, so perhaps simply that societal abnormality, along with openness to experience, led an unlikely mix of people to share a random Monday night in Portland.

Fifty Licks Ice Cream

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This is an awesome little ice cream shop that was suggested to me around the corner from the Cambodian restaurant at which I ate. With specialty ice creams and hand made, gluten free cones (I was told it took a long time to perfect this recipe and the result is really good).

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I spoke for quite a while with the girl working there, who allowed me to taste many of the flavors. She was a really nice and cool person who reminded me of someone I used to know.

She started by giving me the jasmine rice with sweet cream. It was delicious. You can really taste the sweet rice flavor. I actually ended up getting this with the passion fruit sorbet, to make kind of a mango and sticky rice concoction. (It was her idea and it was awesome!) I also tried the Tahitian vanilla, with a more mellow, fruity vanilla than many other strains of vanilla, like Madagascar or Chilean.

I tried also the browned milk cream. They take milk powder and cook it so that it’s slightly carmelized in the pan and then fold it into the ice cream. It was delicious. If not for the rice and sorbet mixture, I would have gotten this and the bourbon cherry. You have to be over 21 to get the bourbon cherry. There is a local brewery that makes cherry bourbon; and Fifty Licks takes the cherries left from the batches, grinds them down, and uses them in the ice cream. You could really taste both the distinct flavors of tart cherry (like mellow and sweet like rainier cherries, and sweet bourbon -more mellow, with a nonintrusive bite -kind of like the nonintrusive bite I accidentally took out of the ice cream in the photo about before I remembered to take the picture).

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This place started as one food truck, then several; and one can see why because this is probably the best ice cream I’ve tasted any where in the world thus far. Sweet, creamy and flavorful, yet not heavy or saccharine, all tasted like fresh from a cow milk and garden fresh ingredients. It’s a must to go to in Portland.