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Literary Feasts: Inspired Eating from Classic Fiction by Sean Brand

Sadly for this blog, I am back at school, studying and soaking up the 76-degree California weather. However, between playing golf and my hours of homework, I managed to escape the toils of Claremont to visit Pasadena and the Huntington Gardens today. After walking around the property and appreciating the various native plants in the Desert Garden, I stopped to take a gander in the gift shop (one of my favorite parts of visiting a museum).

Much to my surprise, I stumbled upon this gem on one of the bookshelves!

As the book jacket so succinctly puts it, "Our busy twenty-first-century lifestyle doesn't allow much time for us to enjoy the pleasures of a good meal. Literary Feasts aims to change that by restoring readers' desires to eat, drink and be merry."

The book is divided into different sections. The first four sections are "Breakfast," "Lunch," "Tea" and "Dinner," highlighting meals from James Joyce's Ulysses, John Milton's Paradise Lost, Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest and even Beowulf! The other, broader sections are "Eating Outdoors," "Children's Meals" and "Special Occasions."

To give you a sampling of how each section reads, each two pages focuses on one feast in a particular literary work. The spread includes an introduction to the book, what you will need to reenact the scene and sometimes a recipe. To reenact "the splendor of one of Gatsby's famous receptions" in F. Scott Fitzgerald famous novels, you will need: champagne and claret, wine glasses bigger than finger bowls, moonlight on the lawn, banjo players and jazz signers, two suppers (five hours apart), old men dancing with young girls and an air of world-weary sophistication. Sure, it's a tall order, but you get the idea!

Saint Cupcake

Saint Cupcake makes, to this date, the best cupcakes I have ever tasted. If I had to count the number of these delectable little cakes that I have eaten over the years... well, let's just say the number would be pretty appalling.

The menu varies from day to day, but they always have their standard cupcakes available. My favorites include the toasted coconut cream, chocolate with vanilla buttercream, carrot cake and the big top (vanilla cupcake baked with chocolate chips on top). But, let's be real, I will eat any of them--including the few vegan cupcakes they offer daily! Here is a link to their menu to see today's offerings:

Not too long ago, Saint Cupcake left their original store in Northwest Portland for a much larger location in Downtown Portland, on the corner of SW 12th and Morrison. At this new location, which they call Saint Cupcake Galore, they offer other sweet and savory treats. While the new location is nice, I miss the old store. In fact, I find myself going to the new store less and less because of the distance and inability to find convenient parking (to their credit, there is a single free parking space behind the store for customers who just want to run in and pick up a few cupcakes).

Dot Cupcakes $1.50
Regular Cupcakes $3.25

Better pictures to come with future visits, but for now, here is a photo my friend Paloma took on her film camera during her visit to Portland.

Potato Champion

Potato Champion is one of the several food carts grouped together on the corner of 12th and Hawthorne. Open everyday of the week except for Monday, they have some of the best fries I have ever eaten!

While the fries are enough to make Potato Champion a worthwhile stop, they also offer an eclectic selection of dipping sauces. When I went with two of my friends visiting from college, we ordered a small cone (which was the perfect size for an afternoon snack for three people) with their Rosemary Truffle Ketchup, Chipotle Mayo and Bourbon Honey Mustard. The Rosemary Truffle Ketchup is delicious, but definitely a safer bet. The Chipotle Mayo was fine, not my favorite, but I loved the Bourbon Honey Mustard! You could definitely taste the alcohol and it was not too sweet for a honey mustard. However, I would suggest getting at least two dipping sauces if you order the Bourbon Honey Mustard because it does have a little bit of a kick to it...

Small Cone with Three Sauces $4.75

While I tend to stick to ordering a cone and the different dipping sauces, you can also order french fries with all the fixings served already on the fries. One of these specially prepared dishes that I am interested in trying is the PB&J fries, which consists of their french fries topped with their peanut satay sauce and raspberry chipotle jelly. For their full menu, you can visit or just go to the food cart itself on 1207 SE Hawthorne Boulevard.


Cacao has two stores, both located in Portland (one is attached to the Heathman Hotel on Broadway and the other is on 13th Avenue in the Pearl District). While Cacao has a wonderful supply of chocolate from around the world, they are best known for their chocolate drinks.

I have been to Cacao a few times, but only this last time was I daring enough to move away from their delicious hot chocolate and try their flight of all three drinking chocolate shots.

Flight of all Three Drinking Chocolate Shots $6.00

The flight includes a cinnamon infused drinking chocolate, a Rivoli dark drinking chocolate and a special spicy dark drinking chocolate. My least favorite was the special spicy, only because I am not a huge fan of dark chocolate and it calls for a 72% Arriba dark chocolate infused with cayenne pepper, smoked paprika and ginger. However, it was a close call between the cinnamon infused drinking chocolate, which has some milk chocolate mixed in with dark chocolate, and the Rivoli, but I think the Rivoli was actually my favorite. It is more simple than the special spicy with the same 72% Arriba dark chocolate, but without all of the spices.

I, of course, sampled these with two friends and definitely do not recommend more than one shot for one person. Next time, even though the three shots were definitely an experience, I do not think I will go for the flight again. I will instead opt for my hot chocolate, but I am definitely glad to have tried their signature item!

Masu Sushi

I went to Masu Sushi earlier this month to celebrate my dad's 59th birthday with family and friends. Tucked in next to American Apparel in the Pearl District on 13th Avenue, Masu Sushi is not well marked, but definitely worth checking out.

You can sit at a table or at the bar. We sat at a table, but apparently there are a few unique eating options exclusive to those who sit at the bar. This came up because my mom asked for the cucumber salad she had the last time she was there and the waitress explained that was only an option for those who sit at the bar. My mom, notorious for being a little fussy when her desires are not met in restaurants, was obviously a little peeved about this. In her defense, I think it is a little strange not to accommodate a simple special request like hers...

Nevertheless, one thing that is available to everyone is the St. Helen's Volcano pictured below. I highly recommend it to anyone who goes. It contains white fish, crabs, scallops, shrimp and avocado baked with their volcano cream sauce, eel sauce and smoked bonito.

St. Helen's Volcano 6-Piece $12.00

My friend Paloma was interested in the "volcano" aspect of the dish. After tasting it a few times, she asked the waitress what created the flame. "Salt and 151, so make sure not to eat it."

Other things on the menu that I do not have pictured, but are very tasty, include the Transformer (softshell crab, cucumber, spicy tuna and avocado with spicy serrano dippy sauce), and, for those reading who are not huge fans of sushi, the Tonkotsu Ramen, which consists of Kyushu-style pork bone broth with porkbelly chashu and egg.

Bijou, Café

The Bijou is one of my favorite breakfast spots in Portland. They have amazing omelettes and brioche french toast. While I usually go the sweet route when it comes to breakfast food, my family all ordered savory dishes this morning.

Fresh Northwest oysters hash dredged in cornmeal flour, sautéed with onions and potatoes $15.00

Farmer's French-style omelette with Carlton Farm bacon, Bravo cheddar cheese, onions and potatoes $13.00*

Oyster French-style omelette with fresh Northwest oysters, bacon and onions $14.75

I was so excited to start eating that, five bites into eating our meal, I realized I had not taken any pictures of our food--a true testament to the deliciousness of the Bijou's cuisine. While there is usually a bit of a wait, once you are seated and have made your order, the food comes very quickly. Parking can also be a bit tricky but, again, the food is definitely worth the time and energy.

* The Farmer's omelette is famed as being the perfect hangover-curing breakfast(definitely something to keep in mind...)

Caffè Umbria

After running some errands in the Pearl District, my parents and I decide to stop for a cup of coffee at Caffè Umbria. Now, it is a rare occasion for my parents to frequent any coffee shop other than Starbucks, but with Caffè Umbria right across the street from Design Within Reach, it simply didn't make sense to walk over to the Starbucks on NW 11th and Couch.

Located on NW 12th and Everett
While the "caffè" appears a little posh at first, the service is quick and, in my few visits there, it's never been difficult to find a nice table to sit and enjoy your coffee. I normally just stick to coffee and ignore the decadent desserts in the case, but my mother was intrigued by the minestrone soup, which ended up being quite a delicious treat for her after a rainy afternoon!

Next time, I will have to try one of their specialty drinks, which of course I only noticed after making my generic chai tea latte order.

Chai Tea Latte $3.00
Espresso $2.00
Big Bowl of Minestrone Soup $6.00

While Caffè Umbria is not necessarily my first choice for coffee in Portland, perhaps not even my first choice in the Pearl District, it serves it's purpose and always provides a lovely atmosphere.