Xico and the Man, and the Woman, and the Heath Care Insurance

I’m basically a foreign language dummy,  while I had two years of college level beginning French, and can pick out a few written words in that language, and am fine and dandy saying hola, that’s about it. IMG_3261Imagine my trepidation when I’m approaching names like Xico and Cibo, both restaurants who opened last summer in P-Town (pronounced Pee town.) Luckily, many of the foodie reference sources I scour offer pronunciation tips for people just like me (and since I’m an American, I know there are tons of folks like me with no foreign language skills) so I know that Xico is more or less Chee Ko, and that Cibo is like Chee Bo, but that brings me to another issue. What’s with these Division restaurants and their linguistically confusing names? These places are mere blocks from one another, both on the same side of Division, and they both have these Chee names that you would never guess how to say without being told first. What restaurant is coming next, Chee Toh or maybe Chee Zit? (and would those be something like Xito or Cieit?) Good questions indeed, if you’re like me and only marginally brain-functional.

Of course Cibo is Italian and follows those weird Italian linguistic rules as far as C often being pronounced CH. Some of these Mexican things are totally baffling though, I was nearly elderly before I understood that Oaxaca and people talking about wahawka actually had a connection. For sure, many of these indigenous names in Mexico are completely frightening to even consider how to pronounce, perhaps the Aztec’s joke on all us gringos and those unpleasant Spanish Conquistadors running around with chamber pots for hats. If the native peoples of Mexico and those Basque folks could just get together and form a country, that would be really interesting, as no outsider would know how to say anything (and think of the great food!) Whatever the case, Xico is a really cute little name, once you receive those pointers on how to say it right. Also, I guess Taco Bell was already taken (but really, what do tacos have to do with bells? Who thought up that ding dong name, anyway? As much sense as it makes, why didn’t they just call it Taco Donkey, or Taco Armpit, or Taco Spaceship? Those surely make as much sense (and think how cute the Taco Donkey mascot would be!  Heee haaaaw! As long as they don’t call it Donkey Taco, that’s a whole lot less desirable.))


The Dining Report – Mextiza

What do you mean, NORTH Killingsworth?


A long time ago (practically when people rode dinosaurs to college) when I was getting my degree at the University of Portland, I drove to school each day down Killingsworth to Willamette, basically from beginning to end, as I think it begins somewhere around 82nd, and ends close to “the bluff.”IMG_2623 Back then, before the double-edged sword of inner NE gentifrication was even thought about, Killingsworth was not a particularly nice street, and sometimes there were rather scary looking things along the way, especially in the approximate area of the PCC Cascade campus. Mainly my plan was just to get to good old Willamette Blvd., and not really make any stops or look around a ton, and back then, there weren’t too many blossoming businesses to see, anyway. In more modern times, the only reason I had to go back and check out Killingsworth was when Roux opened, that nice New Orleans style restaurant that the owner lost interest in, and closed a few years back, finally reappearing with Violette, in the park across from Fox Tower (I’m never sure what that place is called, is it Director’s Park?) I liked Roux a lot, but the only thing I remember about its environs on Killingsworth was how quiet the street seemed there, very residential (And yes Michael, I think you are right, that Roux was a long way west, maybe around Jessup.)

Of course over the last few years, Killingsworth has exploded like all those other formerly “gritty” inner NE streets, Mississippi, Alberta, Williams. Now you’ve got New Seasons, Hot Lips, Cocotte, Beast, Yakuza, Autentica, and Podnah’s, all within a 20 block range. All of these businesses are on or around NE Killingsworth, which it turns out is not anywhere near N. Killingsworth, as I unfortunately learned at our last dinner, as did three of my co-diners. It turns out Mextiza is on N. Killingsworth (yes, just as the address actually said.) Of course I know the difference between NW and NE Portland, there’s that big river thingee in the middle to help me out. But it turns out I don’t know the difference between inner NE Portland and North Portland (by the way, there’s also SE and SW Portland, but is there a corresponding S. Portland? I think not.) Burnside, East and West, now there’s a street that makes it easy to figure out if you are North or South, but what exactly divides NE and N. Portland? Is it the freeway? Is it Interstate? (If so, wouldn’t Interstreet be more appropriate?)



The Trebol With Tribbles (it’s kinda noisy.)

IMG_2091This was our second dinner at Trebol, and it seems like much has changed in three years. For one thing, last time we had a dinner here, even though it was a Friday night, Trebol just wasn’t overly busy. This Friday evening, Trebol seemed liked it was really jumping, and has gained quite a bit of popularity in the interim, perhaps because this stretch of N. Albina Avenue has become much more traveled than even three years ago. Also, last time Restaurant Roulette ventured here, only four people wanted to try out the Mexican/NW/Sustainable cuisine featured here, and this time we has twelve takers, for whatever reason. It would be nice to view this surge of bodies as an indication of dining group health these days, but considering out last dinner was cancelled because I could not get a group together, and the dinner before that had a big whopping three of us, that would be completely delusional on my part. Maybe everyone just thought, ooooohhh, Mexican, that sounds good, and this is a place I haven’t been. Who can say. All I know is that it was nice to host a really popular dinner again (within the realm of big group craziness that always happens, of course.)

IMG_2092I checked my old blog entry, and it was also pre-Spring/Spring (of 2008) when our last dinner at Trebol took place, but that dinner must have been after the annual “springing ahead” of the clocks, because I remember that dinner started in the light, and this dinner took place in the dark with spitting rain .I know last time I liked the decor in Trebol, rather simple but colorful and vaguely South of the Border, with a really nice bar area. IMG_2082 This time I didn’t really see that much of Trebol, our table was taking up a great deal of the main area, but my impression was that its become one of those popular neighborhood eateries, much like the always wonderful Nuestra Cocina on Division. It appeared to me that more seating has been added, though, maybe one of those high food bars to eat at, and David (who was also at our last dinner) thought the room was different too. Well, added seating, always a good sign. One constant from last time, those ultra cheesy Spanish movies played on the TV in the bar, the bits I saw of this one  featuring someone prancing around in a scary mask and an old lady mummy. Every now and then I would hear someone at our table start laughing for no discernable reason, and I’d think, oh jeez, am I drooling again, but then I’d look around and see it was just those wacky onscreen antics creating the laughter. (more…)

The Dining Report, Nuestra Cocina

A Night of Spicy Food and Freaky Infants

This dinner took place October 9th, 2009
Okay, I’ll admit I’m not great with children, especially babies. This baby, though, was straight from a horror flick, and was totally freaking me out. It’s not that this baby was ugly by any means, it was just your basic really infantile humanoid, but that scary look on its face was creepy movie deluxe, those bulging eyeballs, I had to keep turning around to make certain an alien had not entered the room behind us. Actually there were two scary looking infants at that big table at Nuestra Cocina, seemingly twins, but while one looked only mildly alarmed, the second was completely Twilight Zone material, so otherwordly, could any other explanation be in order except that perhaps its diaper was jam packed?

Well, at least I know this infant sending me to my wits end wasn’t just a figment of my imagination, as our well-revered new regular, Heidi (now with 2 RR dinners under her belt) brought this horrifying spectacle to my attention, mentioning how discomforting she found this tiny, creepy little gaze, mostly directed at our table.IMG_1297 And once you saw it, it was so hard to avert your eyes, you could just image circular waves radiating out of this baby’s face and boring into your head until your brain exploded, or you went insane, or your food was set on fire right before your eyes. But like I said, I’m not really good with the kiddies anyway.

Scary infant aside, our evening at Nuestra Cocina went relatively smoothly. Although it’s been my favorite Mexican restaurant since it opened five or six years ago, I had not been to NC since I had a RR dinner here three years before. Nuestra Cocina is like many good Portland restaurants, you hear a certain amount of buzz about it for a couple of years after it opens, but then newer places open that garner more immediate buzz, and while you might always look upon it fondly, you don’t return for quite a long stretch of time, so you aren’t sure if it has maintained the quality and popularity it used to have.



As I’ve said before, I love Mexican food, and high-end Mexican is some of my favorite cuisine period. Portland is blessed with quite a variety of very good high-end Mexican restaurants, all having their legions of fans. DF, and Taqueria Nueva are loved by many, and in my opinion, Autentica, and Nuestra Cocina pump out some of the best South of the Border eats in town (in fact, as far as I’m concerned, Nuestra Cocina has some of the best food of any genre in Portland.) I had assumed before we visited Trebol, on N. Albina , that the menu would be somewhat similar to the other four places I just mentioned, a combination of Mexican preparations and good quality ingredients melded together to create some really delicious food. In some ways, however, Trebol is a whole different animal (for one thing, a very natural, organically based animal.) But more on that later (yes, that’s one of my stock phrases, as my reviews always have much more, and much later.)

Looking at the Mapquest map on their website, I got the impression Trebol was way the heck away from anything, and took a route there that made me believe that, all the way down Alberta. After leaving the restaurant and going a few blocks south on Albina, though, I found that once you go through a traffic light a take a tiny jog, you are actually in the heart of the Mississippi “entertainment district.” (But where did Mississippi go? It’s a weird meandering street, to say the least.)

IMG_0210.JPGThis section of Albina where Trebol is at looks like it is ripe for the picking, the acclaimed coffee place Albina Press has set up digs about a block from here, and the block or two around Trebol looks like it could be the next 30th and Killingsworth (afterall, you have to start somewhere, and look at what that intersection has become.) It was pretty obvious, from looking at the outside of Trebol, this space was not built to be a restaurant, it must have originally been a small warehouse or other such industrial space, or perhaps a mechanic or repair shop, but they’ve done a nice job with the building. Trebol classes the entire block up with it’s dark green stucco with wood accents.

The inside is really pleasant too, although somewhat modestly furnished (see my comments on the booths/tables later. Yes, already a second “more later,” this could be a complete nightmare,) IMG_0208.JPGI really liked the feel of the place, classy, cozy, and a favorite of mine, spotlessly well maintained and exceptionally clean and polished looking. The dark orange walls with the giant mirrors create a similar Spanish hacienda feel to the vibes I get at Toro Bravo and the “decorations on overdrive” of Casa de Matador (what is it about Mexican and Spanish decor and mirrors?) and any touch of gloominess is abated by a big wall of windows and yellow paint along the front area. Cute little local fabric artwork hangs on the walls (check out this big water tower from down the street!) and the concrete floor has an exceptionally painted and polished look for concrete. The bar is really nice, with a gigantic wall of liquor with a slidey ladder to reach it all, and a large television showing vintagely tacky looking black and white movies in Spanish. A great place to hang out for a couple of happy hour snacks and some yummy cocktails. (more…)

There’s a Horsey on the Sidewalk on Two Piggies on the Table.

Can someone answer me this? Why can’t they separate the two halves of English muffins correctly? What’s with this “fork split ” nonsense? Why can’t they just cut them with a knife, so that when you put them in the toaster they aren’t ripped to shreds with pieces hanging out that burn and then your whole house smells like a yeasty crematorium? Someone please explain this to me?

Okay, could you be wondering at this point, what possible connection could there be between dinner at an up and coming Mexican restaurant and English muffins? Obviously there is none, you fools. It’s just that earlier today when I was trying to decide what to write about our evening at Authentica, I was also incinerating a badly mangled English muffin, and really wanting an answer to this “fork split” mystery. Do they want us to rip them all up so we have to buy more? Is this some kind of UK conspiracy to make us yanks look bad?
Okay, who mumbled “Andy Rooney?” That guy has to be at least four times my age.
Perhaps I should just begin again …….


Nuestra Cocina logoHopefully a good time was had by all at Nuestra Cocina, one of our most successful turnouts. A mix of old and new faces feasted on the delicious south of the border inspired food and drinks at this always hopping SE hotspot for Urban Mexican Cuisine. Although getting a table for eight without a reservation on a Friday night can be a scary proposition, our timing was just right, the necessary over 50 percent showing up for us to be seated after less than 15 minutes sipping our delicious Long Island Ice Teas in the bar (these concoctions can be lethal, but NC blends them into sweet and delicious elixer of divine intoxication.) Also yummy here, several choices of fine Magaritas and a refreshing Mojito. This is a restaurant that has done everything right since its inception a couple of years ago, from the modest but appealing decor to the crisp and casual service, not to mention the delicious aromas wafting around the restaurant from the open grill blackening onions and peppers and griddling the soft and warm stacks of handmade tortillas.