Dining Out For Life Portland

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Today is Portland’s Dine Out For Life campaign, for which many local restaurants are donating a portion of their proceeds (up to 30% in some cases!). Since I will be glued to the TV for tonight’s NBA playoffs game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the (booo!) Dallas Mavericks, I made a point to go out for lunch and support this great Portland cause. I ambled over to the Division Street Noshery, an outdoor Food Truck nook that I was relieved to find has Heat Lamps and covered outdoor seating (Surprise! It’s raining in Portland!).

For lunch, I visited Fuego De Lotus. Here, I tried the Green Chile Chicken “Revolutionaries Plate,” which is a Venezuelan dish served with Arepa (like a cornbread), succulent Chicken, black beans and cabbage, then topped with Cotija (hard, Mexican cow’s milk cheese). Absolutely scrumptious.

Fuego De Lotus' Green Chile Chicken Portland Food Truck
Fuego De Lotus' Green Chile Chicken

For dessert, I popped over to the next cart, Oregon Ice Works (new Web site is in development, but they are on Twitter). Proprietor Kevin Bell served up a mouth-watering “Sundae” using Vanilla-Coconut Ice, Honey, Cinnamon, Honey, Corn Tortillas and topped with a single, chewy, Italian Amaretto cherry. “You have to use Juanita’s Corn Tortilla Chips,” Kevin insisted without a hint of sarcasm. “These are the best tortilla chips!” He wasn’t kidding, either. They are fantastic.

Oregon Ice Works' Scrumptious Sundae Portland Food Truck
Oregon Ice Works' Scrumptious Sundae

I hope you can make it out to support such a great cause for Portlanders. I highly recommend you check out all of the amazing Food Carts at the Division Street Noshery (view on Google Places).

Have fun, and GO BLAZERS!

Cupping at Kobos Coffee | NW Portland

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Kobos Coffee Portland Restaurant
Kobos Coffee

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of experiencing my first “Coffee Cupping” at Kobos Coffee in Portland. The “practice of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee,” (Wiki) Coffee Cupping is a professional practice, generally done by professionals known as “Master Tasters”.

The friendly Master Tasters at Kobos Coffee – including co-owner Brian Dibble, his son Kevin and venerable Coffee expert Ed Menashe – are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about all things Coffee. Excitement caused by the ritualistic act of Cupping transcends caffeine intoxication; this is an experience!

Kobos Coffee NW Portland Restaurant
Kobos Coffee in NW Portland

I won’t reveal the entire affair, as Coffee Cupping truly should be experienced in person, but the Kobos aficionados lay out an impressive (immersive!) spread, and clearly enjoy themselves… even with a Noobie like me.

Coffee Cupping at Kobos Coffee in NW Portland restaurant
Coffee Cupping at Kobos Coffee in NW PDX

Founded in 1973 by David and Susan Kobos, Kobos Coffee has enjoyed a long and fascinating history in regional Roasting and community involvement. Kobos’ staff really is a family, one who clearly love each other, coffee… and Portland. Guests are invited to visit the retail store at 2355 NW Vaughn, or stop by the Market Street shop (200 SW Market). I visited their NW Vaughn location, and enjoyed shopping their high-end kitchen and coffee wares.

From institutional food service and Private Label roasting to wholesale services, Kobos Coffee encompasses nearly the entire gamut of caffeinating Portlanders and all Pacific Northwesterners. One may enjoy Kobos Coffee at Hawthorne Street Café, at Legacy Mt. Hood Medical Center, or hundreds of other local destinations.

I encourage one and all to experience this exquisitely roasted coffee, and (if you’re so inclined) consider requesting your own Coffee Cupping. I guarantee it is a Foodie experience you won’t forget. Visit:

Kobos Coffee NW Vaughn (Google Maps)
2355 NW Vaughn Street
Portland OR 97210
(503) 222-2302

OR:

Kobos Coffee Market Street (Google Maps)
200 SW Market Street
Portland OR 97201
(503) 221-0418

OR visit Kobos Coffee online: Web site | Twitter | Facebook

Special thanks to Kevin, Brian and Ed for a unique and lovely experience. I am a fan for life.

Best Coffee in Portland?

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Mmmm Coffee!
Mmmm Portland Coffee!

I love me some Stumptown Coffee, but this town has a serious reputation for coffee excellence. So, since my wife and I are new to PDX, I used Twitter to ask some seasoned Portlanders for their opinions of must-try baristas. Here are the cafés my friends and colleagues Tweeted back:

Garrett Ira (@GarrettIra) supported:

Barista (baristapdx.com)
Twitter: @baristapdx
539 NW 13th Ave
Portland Oregon 97209

Kelly Feller (@kellyrfeller) suggested two destinations:

Urban Grind (urbangrindcoffee.com)
Twitter: @diancrawford
911 NW 14th Ave
Portland Oregon, 97209

Albina Press
4637 N. Albina
Portland, Oregon 97217

Jeffrey J Kingman (@JeffreyJKingman) also loves two particular PDX Coffee Houses:

Water Avenue Coffee (wateravenuecoffee.com)
Twitter: @wateravecoffee
1028 SE Water Ave, Portland OR

Public Domain (publicdomaincoffee.com)
Twitter: @pdcoffee
603 SW Broadway
Portland, OR 97205

Jeffrey was quick to point out there are “many other good coffee shops in PDX.” I cannot wait to try them all! What other Casas De Caffeine are we missing? Please Tweet me your faves!

– Benjamin

Updated Monday April 25, 2011

This morning, some Twitter Pals sent in a few more great PDX Coffee places to add to the list:

Kobos Coffee (www.kobos.com) shouted, “Heard u were looking for the best coffee in Portland, why not try one of the first!” And try it I will. 🙂

Twitter: @KobosCoffee
2355 NW Vaughn St.
Portland, OR 97210

Marcus Hecht (@cosmos503) threw out some great additions:

Citizen Coffee (www.citizencoffeepdx.com)
721 NW 9th Ave
Portland, OR 97209

Ristretto Roasters (www.ristrettoroasters.com)
3520 Northeast 42nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97213

Woodlawn Coffee & Bakery (www.woodlawncoffee.com)
808 NE Dekum St
Portland, OR 97211

Marcus added, “Try beans from Batdorf & Bronson and Trailhead Coffee Roasters.” While Batdorf Coffee appears to be from Olympia, Washington, I will keep my eyes peeled for their products in Portland, Marcus. Thanks for the great tips! Here’s the 411 on these roastin’ recommendations:

Batdorf & Bronson (www.batdorfcoffee.com)
Twitter: (@BatdorfCoffee)

Trailhead Coffee Roasters (www.trailheadcoffeeroasters.com)*
Twitter (@TrailheadPDX)

*According to their Facebook page, Trailhead Coffee and Espresso is available at: Warehouse Cafe (3434 SE Milwaukie Ave), Florio Bakery (Rosa Parks/MLK) and Cafe Velo (W Burnside/Broadway). Whole Bean Coffee is available at Whole Foods, Food Front, Market of Choice, Pastaworks & New Seasons (I love this store!).

Ate-Oh-Ate: Dine Out For Japan

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Mercy Corps' Dine Out for Japanese Earthquake Relief Ate-Oh-Ate, an authentic Hawaiian restaurant on East Burnside, is owned and operated by the same passionate food-masters who brought Laurelhurst Market and Simpatica Dining Hall to Portland.

I love this place so much, I had visited twice before I could even post this Blog to discuss my first visit. During that first outing, I indulged in the classic “Saimin,” a savory noodle soup with Fish Cake, Crispy Roasted Pork Belly and Egg (YUM!), as well as a single piece of SPAM Musubi (AKA SPAM Sushi).

On my next visit, I opted for the Teriyai Chicken plate, which was char-grilled to mouth-watering perfection. And, of course, I had another piece of SPAM Musubi. As a former SMAP-mocker, I know what you may be thinking. But don’t knock it until you try it… delicious!

I am already planning my next visit to Ate-Oh-Ate. Think I’ll try the “Poke of the Day.” Pronounced “po-kay,” this is apparently a unique fish-based Hawaiian salad.

If you are able to visit during the day, I highly recommend you sit at the bar adjacent to the kitchen, where you’ll be able to watch – and chat with – proprietor Ben, who is incredibly friendly and entertaining.

Ate-Oh-Ate Restaurant, East Burnside, Portland

Iconic Hawaiian Dish, yummy SPAM Musubi
Iconic Hawaiian Dish, yummy SPAM Musubi

Ate-Oh-Ate (on Yelp | Urbanspoon)
2454 E. Burnside Street
Portland, OR 97214 | (503) 445-6101
Follow them: Online | Facebook

ABOUT THIS BLOG SERIES:
On Tuesday, March 29th 2011 over 50 PDX restaurants donated a portion of their sales to Mercy Corps to help survivors of the earthquakes in Japan. Since I am new to Portland restaurants, I have decided to patronize and Blog every participating restaurant. For every restaurant I Blog, I will donate $1 to Mercy Corps (the charity organizer) and their Japanese Earthquake Relief Effort. This way, I can support the cause while supporting the supporters. 🙂

(Source and inspiration)

Portland Restaurant Checklist:
23hoyt, Aalto Lounge, Apizza Scholls, Aquariva, Ate– Oh–Ate, Bar Avignon, Beaker and Flask, BEAST, Biwa, Bluehour, Broder, Bunk Bar, Bunk Sandwiches, Castagna Café, Central, clarklewis, Clyde Common, Country Cat, Dick’s Kitchen, DOC, Fratelli, Gilt Club, Gruner, Jade Teahouse, Kenny and Zuke’s, Ken’s Artisan Bakery, Ken’s Artisan pizza, Kir, Laurlehurst Market, Laughing Planet Café (all locations), Lincoln, Little Big Burger, Little Bird, Meat Cheese Bread, Masu, Mee Sen, Miho, Mississippi Studios, Navarre, Nostrana, Olympic Provisions, Park Kitchen, Podnah’s Pit Barbecue, Pok Pok, Produce Row, Saphire Hotel, Saucebox, Savoy Tavern+Bistro, Spirit of ‘77, Stumptown Coffee (all locations), Tanuki, Tasty and Sons, The Aviary, The Observatory, Toro Bravo, Vita Cafe, Whiskey Soda Lounge, Yoko’s, Zilla

Why Restaurants Shouldn’t GROUPON

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Cold Food. Lousy Service. Welcome!
What does your Welcome Mat say?

I have a client who is a very successful Restaurateur in California. Serving happy diners for nearly three decades, he has never “couponed” or offered discounts to his guests.

While that might seem counter intuitive – certainly uncommon – he has very good reasons: First, there is significant evidence that the consumer, once she has received goods or services at a reduced rate, is highly unlikely to ever pay ‘retail’ again. She will not return to your restaurant unless and until you offer another special.

Secondly – and this is slightly subjective – couponing devalues your product. If you tell your guest, “This sandwich is actually worth half of what you normally pay,” guess what? She thinks your sandwich is worth half the price, and you have devalued your product.

So what’s the problem with Groupon? Groupon, which Forbes dubbed, “The Fastest Growing Business Ever,” is a brilliant concept: Consumers are invited to a 40-50% off coupon to a business (restaurants, gyms and spas among the most popular business arenas). When enough consumers commit, the deal is a ‘go’ and it’s a free-for-all. Let’s face it, Groupon sounds like a win-win-win: Groupon wins, the consumer wins and the local business wins. Right?

Not so. In reality, Groupon is a win-win-maybe win. Why?

Sure, Groupon wins (they take the vig right off the top) and the consumer wins (they get your product for half price), but what about YOU? Groupon essentially guarantees a short-term windfall. Without getting into the particulars of when Groupon actually pays their vendors, let’s just assume it’s reasonably fast. Presuming you get ten or twenty (some businesses see hundreds!) new customers via Groupon, you just made some quick bucks. You also gained an opportunity to convert some new customers into returning guests.

But therein lies the rub.

A lot of participating businesses – smaller restaurants in particular – report that they are unable to handle the rush of business the Groupon creates. During the week your restaurant’s promotion hits, will your staff be prepared? That Friday night, when your crew is already in the weeds, can you handle another twenty guests demanding you honor their Groupon?

Before you answer, “Of course,” let me re-phrase the question: Will those twenty guests receive the same level of care, service and quality they would on a relatively slow Tuesday?

Remember the vital axiom in any service business, “It takes just one bad experience to lose a customer for life.”

Let me be clear: Groupon has plenty of “Success Stories” to tell. Truly, some businesses do well enough to warrant running additional Groupon promotions.

But before you go for the short-term grab, ask yourself some hard questions:

  1. Can we handle the rush?
  2. Do I really value short-term cash-flow over long-term customer building?
  3. Will these “new” customers – whom I am couponing through a middle-man – become repeat visitors, willing to pay full price?

This is just… ahem… food for thought, of course. Whatever you decide, I wish the best for you and your small business!

Stumptown Coffee: Dine Out For Japan

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Mercy Corps' Dine Out for Japanese Earthquake Relief In anticipation of my family moving to Portland, no local restaurant or destination garnered nearly as much hype as Stumptown Coffee. Friends who have lived in – or even just visited – PDX all told us: “Go to Stumptown. You won’t be disappointed.”

And I was not disappointed.

It took me three weeks after relocating to visit the beloved caffeine institution, but I finally visited Stumptown Coffee on Division in SE Portland. And I had a fantastic experience. I got excellent advice after asking “What kind of bean should I get for my Saeco Aroma espresso maker?” (Answer: “Hair Bender”), and I got a knowing nod when I asked the barista for a “Split-shot Americano.” I can’t say that ever happened to me in all of the ten years I lived in Los Angeles.

Stumptown Coffee supports Mercy Corps' Japanese Earthquake ReliefThe coffee was exquisite (both the whole beans I purchased for take-away and the Americano I downed on-site). Henceforth I plan on buying all of my whole beans from Stumptown Coffee, which easily makes my “Favorite Portland Restaurants” list.

Stumptown Coffee (on Citysearch | Yelp | Foursquare)
4525 SE Division St.
Portland, OR 97206
Follow them: Online | Twitter

ABOUT THIS BLOG SERIES:
On Tuesday, March 29th over 50 PDX restaurants donated a portion of their sales to Mercy Corps to help survivors of the earthquakes in Japan. Since I am new to Portland restaurants, I have decided to patronize and Blog every participating restaurant. For every restaurant I Blog, I will donate $1 to Mercy Corps (the charity organizer) and their Japanese Earthquake Relief Effort. This way, I can support the cause while supporting the supporters. 🙂

(Source and inspiration)

Portland Restaurants support Japanese Earthquake Relief
Portland Restaurant Checklist:
23hoyt, Aalto Lounge, Apizza Scholls, Aquariva, Ate– Oh–Ate, Bar Avignon, Beaker and Flask, BEAST, Biwa, Bluehour, Broder, Bunk Bar, Bunk Sandwiches, Castagna Café, Central, clarklewis, Clyde Common, Country Cat, Dick’s Kitchen, DOC, Fratelli, Gilt Club, Gruner, Jade Teahouse, Kenny and Zuke’s, Ken’s Artisan Bakery, Ken’s Artisan pizza, Kir, Laurlehurst Market, Laughing Planet Café (all locations), Lincoln, Little Big Burger, Little Bird, Meat Cheese Bread, Masu, Mee Sen, Miho, Mississippi Studios, Navarre, Nostrana, Olympic Provisions, Park Kitchen, Podnah’s Pit Barbecue, Pok Pok, Produce Row, Saphire Hotel, Saucebox, Savoy Tavern+Bistro, Spirit of ‘77, Stumptown Coffee (all locations), Tanuki, Tasty and Sons, The Aviary, The Observatory, Toro Bravo, Vita Cafe, Whiskey Soda Lounge, Yoko’s, Zilla

Marketing 101: Autism Spectrum at the Movies

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Movie Theater PopcornHere’s a bit of brilliant Marketing: In the past few years, some movie auditoriums have begun serving a very specific group: Parents of special-needs children.

Previously, attending a typical movie would be over-stimulating and upsetting for any Spectrum child, and nearly impossible for her parents. According to the Autism Society of America, however, such theaters now offer special movie screenings with “their lights brought up and the sound turned down,” allowing for a sensory-friendly experience. Additionally, no previews or advertisements are shown before such films.

“New Mommy” show times are fairly common nowadays – particularly during weekday mornings – and usually feature diaper-changing tables inside the theater (genius!). Similar in concept, sensory-friendly movie theaters tap into an existing market that is equally starved for entertainment. Like new mommies, parents of special-needs children have avoided movie houses for fear of causing a disruption to other patrons. Such embarrassments cannot happen at one of these sensory-friendly showings. In fact, audience members are welcome to get up and dance, walk around, shout or sing.

Is there a population segment your business is not reaching? Are there, perhaps, clever ways you could identify and appeal to such groups? Absolutely.

Poblanos Rajas. Que Pasa Cantina | SE PDX

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Prior to Ani DiFranco’s Crystal Ballroom performance in Portland last night, Chelsea and I enjoyed another delicious meal at Que Pasa Cantina on 12th in SE Portland. Chelsea had (and loved) one of the daily specials: Poblanos Rajas, served piping hot in an iron skillet with fresh, hot flour tortillas.

Poblano Rajas at Que Pasa Cantina

I had another Daily Special: Chicken Mole Enchilada. The chicken was tender and oh-so-savory. After just a few visits, Que Pasa Cantina is fast becoming a favorite for us.

Great Restaurant Ideas: Cup & Saucer

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Here’s a clever, cheap table-furnishing idea:

Cup & Saucer's clever restaurant idea.
Cup & Saucer's clever restaurant idea.

A jar filled with old Trivial Pursuit cards. What a great way for guests, awaiting food or service, to entertain themselves.

Cup & Saucer, NE Killingsworth.