niblets: summer days driftin’ away edition

IMG_7539Niblets is an all-too-occasional feature on the ins and outs of the Eugene food scene. Syndicate me?  You know you want to.

Get your last meals in at your faves soon: behold the imminent closure of a long-time Eugene fixture, Keystone Café, who will be shutting the doors for a long-deserved retirement; Kopi-O, on what we hope is a temporary stoppage due to the sale of the building; and the latest venture of Eugene restaurateur Sara Willis, Carmelita Spats, who has “decided to simplify and only do dinners when I can personally work every aspect of the dinner/event,” according to the Facebook page.  She plans to do catering and other events, including a project slated for fall.

Catering seems to be the way to go in this town.  The Party Downtown duo has put their lunch service on hiatus for the summer months due to an upswell of catering gigs.  They still serve brunch on Sundays, though!  Look for more changes and upgrades as the dog days saunter on.  They recently celebrated their first year anniversary, I’m happy to say.  And Belly is 6 years old!  Congratulations to two fine establishments.

Kamitori is agonizingly no longer serving sushi, as previously reported, but the new incarnation, open Tues-Sat until 3 p.m., is actually quite lovely.  And that’s saying a lot from a person who doesn’t like dining out for breakfast.  Eugene so desperately needs a full service, non-greasy-spoon-diner breakfast place, and Kamitori may just be that place.  It’s a rare treat to have an expertly trained, internationally experienced chef serving breakfast and lunch with an eye for quality, and the standards show it.

Our baked goods and pancakes are all hand-made from scratch, made from fresh eggs and fresh milk to make them very soft and milky.  NO water added.  So please stop by and try our new menu including Thick & Fluffy Pancakes and Soft & Juicy French Toast, both are served with lots of fruit toppings to your taste, French-style Omelets, Japanese style Sandwiches, and Japanese breakfast & lunch, including Tonkatsu, Curry Rice, Udon and Soba Noodles.  Also please try our very creamy milk-brewed Cafe au Lait, Tea au Lait, and Matcha au Lait.  We sell some Japanese style Bread, too, such as Shoku-pan (milk bread), Zenryu-pan (whole wheat milk bread), An-pan (sweet red bean filling), Jam-pan (homemade jam filling), and more.

And although I had my doubts at first, having tasted Masa’s zenryu-pan, a milk-based soft wheat bread very popular in Japan for breakfast, and melon-pan, which doesn’t include melons but is a soft cakelike bun with a crunchy slightly sweet topping that resembles the netting on a melon skin, and seeing photos of the thick & fluffy pancakes with a mountain of fruit and whipped cream, I was convinced that he has an idea that will draw not only locals but visitors from afar.  They also serve some Japanese lunch set standards like curry rice and shio-saba yaki (salt-grilled mackerel) and even, if they have it, sashimi teishoku.

So listen up:  this is the perfect place for brunch with a mixed crowd, as most can enjoy a great American breakfast, some can enjoy more adventurous Japanese pastries, and the freaks like me can enjoy a real Japanese breakfast set with green tea, miso soup, rice, egg, and pickles.  Yes, as in a Japanese breakfast that you can only get in a U.S. restaurant in places like San Francisco or New York, and even then only in a couple hotels in Japantown. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Told ya it was going to put us on the map.

Even better: Olivo Tapas, the first solo venture of former Executive Chef of Ox & Fin and Sous Chef of Soubise Alejandro Cruz, will be operating soon out of Kamitori’s space at 1044 Willamette in the evenings.  Click here for updates on opening times and a menu that’s heavy on seafood and light, sophisticated fare.

IMG_7690 IMG_7573 IMG_7834Other up-and-coming dining ventures in town are all excellent food carts:  Tam’s Place Vietnamese in the former Party Cart space at 28th and Friendly, nearby Green Plow Juicery (both pictured above), across the way from a sort-of interior food cart: Red Wagon Creamery’s new ice cream scoopery at the Friendly Street Market. Two particularly good carts that service Oregon Wine Lab on various days of the week for the welcome experience of having a glass of crisp Riesling on the patio with your meal: DaNang Vietnamese Eatery and Twisted Tako, a fusion taco cart.  I’ve yet to try Whapping, a Costa Rican Afro-Carribean-focused cart that looks promising.  Check their pages for locations and times.  Also look for Taco Next, a new venture with an excellent cook, on Main Street in Springfield soon (see details above on card!).

Join Facebook and friend me there for updates about many more local events than I can post here on the blog.

run, run, as fast as you can; you can’t catch the strawberry shortcake man

Gruel in action, snack after the Spring Classic duathlon in Portland.  After three legs of running, biking, and running again, Retrogrouch finished in the middle of the pack for his age group.  Not too shabby for a first timer!  Even more amazing, given that he’s only been running for a year or so. Check out that calf!

The leather saddle stands alone.

I had to capture the post-race eats, of course, which Retrogrouch calls “sugary crap.”  He had a point.

I had escaped the sun (!) to sit under the tent and read my book on anorexia in literature.  Naturally, I was distracted by the candy strewn about on all the tables.  This horrible blond woman, whose aggressive, hypermasculine husband was one of the early finishers, walked into my shot.  I said, brightly, oh, I’m so glad you’re here so I can include your strawberry shortcake in my photo!  She shrank away, so as not to associate herself with the dessert, saying “you want to take a PICTURE of that?”

Well, yes.  They serve candy, big hunks of honey-wheatish bread, HFCS peanut butter and jelly, cookies, whipped cream, shortcake, and Genuine Muscle Milk (“contains no milk”) as a reward for exercise.  I think that’s worth documenting and pondering.  What does it mean that we’re encouraged to eat foods we otherwise demonize as a reward for socially acceptable behavior?

Evolve?  I’m pretty sure I’d rather be primordial.  No offense.

They did have a form of gruel for people like Retrogrouch, though, steelcut oats with craisins.  He partook in this delight after finishing his own gruel.

Suffice it to say that I opted instead for a big, delicious bowl of bun bo hue at Pho Dalat down the street from the race venue. “Dingy like an old Denny’s,” a Yelp review accurately notes, but excellent and unusual spicy beef pho with brisket, tendon, and thin slices of pig’s blood cake in a pork broth, with accompaniments of Thai basil, cilantro, lime, jalapeno, bean sprouts, and shredded cabbage.

Beautiful, sunny Sunday in a great city.  Happy Easter from Portland!