The End of Byways Cafe. Another Portland Classic Shuttered

Byways has been a classic cafe for the entire time I’ve lived in Portland. It provides solid, delicious food and a fun, kitschy setting.

The owners made the decision to close because they were unable to negotiate a new lease with their landlords. I’m guessing from this for-sale sign, the building owners would rather market a mostly empty building to potential buyers. It’s easier to tear down and put up something bigger.

There were a lot of feelings about this loss in the local newspapers (the daily and weeklies) and on social media.

I will miss this Portland institution.

Pearl Bakery, RIP

The Pearl Bakery has closed.

My heart is sad. For nine years it provided me with sandwiches when I had no lunch, rolls with pats of butter when I had the hankering, and cookies when I needed a pick-me-up.

When I switched jobs and the Pearl Bakery was no longer in the same block, I still would wander down from time to time for a treat.

I loved their chocolate chip cookies, which had chunks of chocolate, bits of pecan (I usually don’t like nuts in my chocolate chip cookies) and orange flavor (I’m usually anti-fruit flavor in cookies) and were chewy and divine.

I have a current quest to make a chocolate shortbread as good as the Pearl Bakery’s. How can I complete this quest if I can’t continue to purchase a chocolate shortbread as a test case?

They had a black pepper and walnut bread that was amazing. I loved their multigrain rolls. Their roast beef and horseradish sandwich was delicious.

I will never eat any of those things again.

Their service was, well, not outstanding. I never felt like they wanted me to buy what they were selling. But what they were selling was so good, I didn’t mind.

One time, a parent gave a teacher a $200 gift certificate to the Pearl Bakery as a gift. (This was before we clamped down on that kind of giving.) I got a few free sandwiches when she treated me.

The Pearl Bakery was always a treat. I will miss them.

My first bombe

Mom wanted a white chocolate cheesecake for her birthday so I made it. The recipe said I could make a bombe, or a regular cheesecake and I went with bombe. It involved buying a stainless steel bowl, but that was probably the hardest part of the process.

Here it is before I added the white chocolate icing.

And here it is after icing and adorning with chocolate curls.

The Orange Door’s newest appliance

I’ve owned a stovetop pressure cooker before and found it to be an appliance that was okay to use. It didn’t live up to its promises (so fast!) but did prepare food slightly faster than the conventional stovetop method. I think my stovetop pressure cooker broke, or I wandered away from it and donated it.

However, I was intrigued by the Instant Pot because it has both the pressure cooking attributes and a slow cooker function. I hadn’t replaced my slow cooker when it broke and I did, from time to time, wish I had another one.

The price was prohibitive, and I’ve been biding my time, figuring eventually someone would have theirs up for sale for cheap because it didn’t quite fit into their cooking routine. However, this weekend Fred Meyer put their 6-quart jobber on sale for $79.99 plus a $10 FM gift card and I snapped it up. It actually rang up even cheaper than that ($59.99) which I reluctantly told the cashier. She shrugged, and let me have it for the lower price.

I’ve had this for two weeks now and can report that I think this will be a permanent and well-used part of my cooking tools. Here’s the reason why: it’s a countertop appliance. Most of my cooking is done in one or two long sessions on the weekend. This means that sometimes space on the burners is at a premium. Being a countertop appliance, I can set something up, program the timer, walk away, and continue doing four other things until the Instant Pot cooking cycle is over. With a stovetop pressure cooker, not only did I lose a burner, but also I had to do a good amount of futzing with the burner setting to maintain pressure.

I love also that I can sauté in the Instant Pot. With my slow cooker, I would have to sauté in a pan and transfer the food to the slow cooker. Otherwise everything came out with the same mushy long-cooked flavor that I didn’t enjoy.

I haven’t yet used the slow cooker function, so I have no report on that, but Steam, Rice, Soup and the pressure cooking functions have worked very well for me. In fact, on Saturday I used the Instant Pot six times, making brown rice, white rice, black beans, red beans, chicken and lentil soup, and Indian butter chicken.

First-time users of pressure cookers might find the time savings to be negligible. You have to let the unit come to pressure, which takes time, and then it cooks at pressure, and then while you can quick release, for some things you have to let the pressure cooker come down naturally from full pressure, and by that time, you could have just done it on the regular stove.

But I was aware I wouldn’t win much time. And unaware of how freeing the Instant Pot would be.

Requiem: garlic smasher

Thanks to this blog, I can tell you that I’ve owned this item since November 30, 2015. Alas, it has now broken. This was the most-used item that I purchased with my going-away gift certificate, though I still use the cheese slicer a lot and the stem thing when I have herbs to deal with.  Have I made a cocktail since that post? Possibly not.

I will miss my garlic smasher.  I’m not sure if I will miss it enough to purchase another one, though.

A past way of meal planning

I had a spiral-bound recipe book and was integrating those recipes into my regular recipe 3-ring binders.  In the front were some notes from when I was pantry-style cooking and whipping things up.  I had my monthly shopping list, my regular breakfasts, my rotation of beans, and a list of things to make regularly to have on hand to assemble meals. Plus my cooking plan and a rotation so I would buy specialty oils on a regular basis.

If memory serves, this was a moderately successful venture. While I’m good at cooking from recipes, I’m not the greatest at taking prepared ingredients and making a fabulous meal, possibly because I’m not good at seasoning food. Thus, everything kind of tastes the same.

I think after this I signed up for a monthly Stonesoup subscription where she sent me six (or seven?) 5-ingredient recipes. That cost $20 per month and I did that for about a year.

Vintage Cakes: Cassata Cake

According to Vintage Cakes, this cake was brought to America at the turn of the 20th century from Sicily and has flourished in Ohio. This version is a vanilla cream cake with ricotta-cream frosting, orange zest, chocolate shavings, and blueberries. The blueberries were supposed to be strawberries, but it must have been very cold in California this spring, because strawberries were not to be found.

I didn’t love this particular flavor combination, but I knew that going in.  It was a good cake, otherwise.