Friday, January 28, 2011

My own best of

In Eugene we have two newspapers, The Register Guard and the Eugene Weekly. Normally the Weekly hates* me and I'm, well, lets just say I am not crazy about them. But every year they release a best of Eugene issue with a restaurant guide which I do love. I was thinking about this the other day and decided I could and should write my own business friendly restaurant guide. Mine is a lunch guide because, I like most business people, eat out a lot for lunch, mostly for meetings but also sometimes because I forgot my lunch or had no food. So for all of you who live in Eugene...

Laura's Eugene Restaurant Guide for Lunch

The best take out lunch--Hong Kong
I eat here more than any other place. It's one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in Eugene and it's just a few blocks away. Lunch is $4.50-$5.50 and it's a lot of food. My favorite is Kung Pao Chicken. But on the dinner menu they have fabulous Ma Pa Tofu. It's a small family owned place, kind of a hole in the wall but they are very nice.

The best "I feel compelled to eat something healthy"--Cafe Yum
Cafe yum is sort of like Eugene's version of a peanut butter sandwich. It's always a good, stable option. Not too exciting but it does the trick. I usually only eat Cafe Yum when I feel the need to eat something healthy. They are famous for yum bowls, a bowl of brown rice, black beans, yum sauce, tomatoes, olives, Cheddar cheese, avocado and salsa. It is very Eugene.

The best comfort food lunch--Newman's fish market
Hands down! Newman's fish market is a mere one block from my office and they have the best fish and chips of my life. For 6 dollars you can have cod fish and chips to go. They also have halibut, salmon, shrimp, oysters and scallops. Plus they make their own tarter sauce. Delicious!

The best overall business meeting lunch spot--Ta Ra Rin
I have a lot of business lunch meetings. Usually I let the other person pick the restaurant but when I have to make the recommendation I always recommend Ta Ra Rin. Definitely one of the best Thai restaurants in town and just blocks from my office. They have my favorite Pad Thai and I also adore the Pad se ew. They have great atmosphere, quick and friendly service and reasonable prices.

The best hangover lunch--Brails Diner
I do not make a habit of being hungover. However, about once or twice a year, say the day after Halloween and St. Patricks day, I find myself wandering down to Brails for breakfast at lunch time. Brails is notorious in Eugene as the best hangover restaurant and I couldn't agree more. This is perhaps epitomized by one dish which consists of a mound of white rice, topped with two eggs over easy, a hamburger patty and a lot of gravy. Best cure ever! Corned beef hash is a close second.

The best celebration/birthday/long lunch with a friend lunch--La Officina
This is my second favorite Mexican restaurant in town and it is down the street from my office. This is my favorite place for a long lunch. All of the food is delicious and they make crazy good margaritas. The service is really nice but can be slow and the food takes a bit so again better for a long lunch. They make their own salsa trio that comes with chips. All delicious. Amazing Tacos al pastor and mole. They also serve Mexican style breakfast all day and on Saturday mornings.

The best wooing elected officials lunch--Davis'
In my job I have a lot of meetings with elected officials. My favorite place to take them to lunch when I need their vote on an issue is Davis'. It's a downtown institution. Traditional pub food taken up a notch, a cool yet elegant atmosphere, amazing drinks and all around foodie heaven. It's a little on the spendy side but worth it. My favorite lunch item is the white bean salad. It's a poached egg served on a bed of braised white beans and asparagus then drizzled with truffle oil. I hear the Mac and cheese is to die for it is full of homemade sausage.

The best lawyer lunch--Sushi ya
Since I handle public policy issues I often have to consult with our lawyer. He and I have become good friends over the years and he gives me loads of free legal advice as long as I buy him sushi. Good deal right. In my public policy tenure I have bought him a lot of sushi. But my favorite downtown sushi spot is Sushi Ya. It's good sushi, much better than the sushi station which I do not care for, and it's in a great location in the bottom of the Tiffany building. My favorite sushi restaurant in town is Mio, but that is on the other side of town and so not great for a working lunch.

The best romantic date lunch--Poppy's Anatolia's
When my husband and I have dates one of our favorite places is Poppy's Anatolia's. We have gone here to celebrate so many special occasions, when I got my first real job at the legislature, when he got into law school, when I finished his first year of law school, when I got hired at the HBA and for many birthday's and anniversaries. It's a quirky local place that has a menu of half Greek and half Indian. I prefer the Indian which comes with an array of homemade chutneys. Poppy's is conveniently located right across from the DAC in the heart of downtown and serves as a good lunch spot as well. For lunch I like to get dahl or vindaloo. Perfect for a really cold day.

The most exciting lunch--Ax Billy Grill
Without a doubt my favorite building, perhaps place, downtown is the DAC, the Downtown Athletic club. The building, originally called the Ax Billy Building, was built in the early 1900's. It had been abandoned when it was bought by a local developer in the 80's who restored it and turned it into a gorgeous state of the art athletic club. I have had a tour and it is amazing. The whole place looks like an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel with beautiful lounges, tiled ceilings, a gorgeous swimming pool and sauna, and locker rooms that are nicer than my house. The top floor of the DAC is ballrooms and a restaurant, the Ax Billy Grill. The restaurant has a wall of tall windows looking out to downtown. The food is delicious and being up there just makes you feel happy. I rarely get to have lunch here as it's kind of expensive. But when I do am definitely very excited!

The cheapest lunch--Riva Mexican fast food
From the nicest lunch downtown to the cheapest...You can't beat this fast food Mexican for a quick cheap lunch. It's not good but it's not bad and for 3.50 you can have a lunch to go in 5 minutes.

The best I miss college lunch--Cafe Sienna
Usually I don't miss college. But occasionally when a nostalgic mood hits me I walk a few extra blocks and meet my sister at cafe sienna for a good, cheap and massive Mexican breakfast. This was one of my favorite campus eats and it is still just as good. For 6 dollars you will have enough food for two meals, maybe three. Everything is fresh, spicy and quick. My favorite is eggs a la compesena. Scrambled eggs with jalapenos and tortilla chips served along side beans and tortillas.

The best overall lunch place--Cafe Zenon
Zenon is one of my favorite restaurants in Eugene. It has captivated my attention since I was a kid and my Dad would take me to desert after plays at the Hult Center. I used to dream of the day when I could eat an actual meal there whenever I want. Well, I wouldn't say I go whenever I want, but I do get occasional business lunches at my favorite local cafe. Zenon is perhaps most known for its ambiance. It's a small restaurant with murals on the back wall and old fashioned over sized globe street lights inside. It has a beautiful bar and is known for fabulous drinks. The menu changes each week with internationally and locally inspired dishes.

So there you have it. My guide to downtown eating. To the locals...what is your favorite place to eat in downtown/midtown Eugene?

*It is the liberal alternative newspaper and As a business lobbyist they view me as the devil incarnate, one who aides in others ability to rape and pillage the land and promotes scorched earth development

Quick dinner delight

Last night I through together a quick dinner which I loved. It continues my love affair with the incredible edible egg and was done in 25 minutes. I am going to call it Grits with Louisiana sausage and eggs
Isn't it colorful? Here is the recipe:
Grits with Louisiana Sausage and Eggs (serves 4)
8 eggs
4 links Louisiana hot sausage or andouille, chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 cup salsa
1 can diced tomatoes
4 green onions
2 TB parsley
salt and pepper
1 cup Cheddar cheese
In large skillet heat a little olive oil. Add chopped sausage, cook med a few minutes, add diced onion. Saute a few minutes. Once onion starts to soften add bell pepper and garlic. Cook another minute. Add can of tomatoes, salsa, salt and pepper. Let simmer until sauce begins to thicken. Once sauce is simmering, prepare grits to package instructions. Once sauce begins to thicken heat butter in second skillet. Add parsley and green onions to tomato mixture. Fry eggs to desired doneness. While eggs are cooking add butter and salt and cheese to grits. Divide grits among four dinner plates. Top with tomato sausage mixture. Top each plate with two eggs. Serve with hot sauce.
I also wanted to share pictures of our goose gumbo.
As I said I wasn't crazy about the goose. It wasn't bad it just wasn't something I would really crave. The gumbo however I really liked. I think it would be fabulous with chicken. Here's my recipe which is adapted from an Emeril Lagesse recipe for wild duck gumbo.
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
whole chicken cut into pieces
1 TB each: cayenne, paprika, thyme, oregano
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup flour
1 onion chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
4 links andouille sausage or Louisiana hot sausage
1 quart chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp Cayenne
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
mix the four spices and rub mixture all over chicken. bake in 350 oven for one hour, set aside. chop all veggies and sausage before you start.
heat gumbo pot to medium add both oil and flour. cook stirring constantly with wooden spoon until you have a medium roux. The roux should be the color of peanut butter. This took about ten minutes. add chopped onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic. cook about 5 minutes more. add spices, bay leaves, sausage and chicken. cook a few more minutes. add broth, bring to boil and simmer 2 hours.
*We love grits. However, if you don't like grits this would be good over polenta or rice or even toast.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

This and that

Right now I am loving all Asian food, particularly noodles: pad Thai, pad se ew, pad ki mao, cold sesame noodles, pho, ramen, chicken udon noodle soup, cold buckwheat noodles with dipping sauce, chow mien---all delicious!

I am going through Gossip Girl withdrawals. I am waiting for the third season from the library but nine people are ahead of me and there is only one copy. Instead I have been watching the Office. I am waiting for Jim to propose to Pam. I just love Jim and Pam.

I use the library a ton! It saves me so much money. I check out books, and lots of DVD's, TV shows and movies. Plus it is two blocks from my office so it is really convenient. I pre-order what I want online then walk over and pick them up.

Last week my husband shot a goose. So last weekend I cooked the goose. I made gumbo out of it. Goose is very similar to beef--who knew? I should have taken a picture of Chris with the Goose, it was giant, but I didn't.

I recently joined a gym and I kind of love it. I was very reluctant about joining, it was Chris' idea, but now I look forward to going. I am taking zumba classes--it is really fun.

I am loving this book. Really I can hardly put it down.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This and That

We had such a nice three day weekend. Yesterday was a model of productivity at our house. The rain finally stopped, it was sunny and we were able to get so much done, air out the house, work outside and so on. I tackled some big projects namely organizing our paperwork. Augh what a chore that was.

I had book club last night and we discussed:

This book was really interesting. Sometimes I am really not excited to read a particular book for my book club. Usually, I am wrong and once I start reading it I love it. That was not the case with this book. Sections of it were really fascinating but out of 600 some odd pages I think 100 were interesting and 500 were dull. But really, what do you expect when someone writes a biography of the Atlantic Ocean?!

Now I am reading:

I am really excited for this book because I love Anne Tyler. I have read two of her other books, An Amateur Marriage and Morgan's Passing. Both were really excellent. I love the way she describes America and American culture in her books. It is so different from other American authors but it is also very right on in so many ways. If you haven't read anything by her I would recommend starting with An Amateur Marriage.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Football is stressfull!!!

Yesterday was like a national holiday here in Eugene. Many offices, including mine, closed the doors at three pm to allow for the festivities to begin. People wore Duck gear to work, yellow and green beads were handed out, light poles downtown were decorated with duck colors, and similar to the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday, nobody was focused on work. Everyone ran around predicting the score, comparing quarter backs and counting down the minutes until we could all go home, and start watching the pre-game show.

Mr.P and I went to my Mom and step-fathers to watch the game. The Wilson's joined us and they said they could hear screaming and hollering coming from houses as they walked over. People were definitely excited! It was one of the most stressful football games I have watched. We just could not get our offensive game off the ground. It was painful to watch possession after possession end without a touchdown. I think the most painful point of the game (until the end) was after an 81 yard run and Auburn stopped us two yards from the goal. Then after scoring a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the game with 2 minutes left we let them run the damn ball. Oh, to be so close to overtime and lose with one second on the clock to a field goal. It was so painful.

But to be fair their defense was better. They were able to stop us from running the ball, they blocked LeMichael James over and over again, and they kept us from getting to first down. They played like number 1 so I suppose they deserve to win.

But what I cannot support is the comments made by Auburn's coach at the end of the game. I don't remember the exact wording but the jest of it was, "God was on our side". "No--You did not just say that!" Was our reaction. I'm sorry but God did not determine Auburn the more worthy football team to win the game. God did not decide given the high percentage of Christians rooting for Auburn* or living in Alabama that they deserve to win the game. Nor did God decide given the Conservative dress* of their cheerleaders that they should win. They played better end of story. Now was God a big part of the quarterbacks life, and did that relationship help him to get to where he is today? Perhaps, and that would be a fine thing to say. But God is on our side as opposed to Oregon's? I think not!

And that is all I have to say about that. So until next season...

*Eugene has a very low percentage of church goers. I think it is something like only 10% of the population attend church
*the Auburn cheerleaders wore turtle necks while Oregon's were wearing sports bras.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Yay for Friday

It is almost the weekend and I am so happy. I had a crazy busy week at work and I am off to Seattle in just a few hours. My sister and I are heading to visit our cousin Lauren. There will be shopping at J Crew, eating yummy food, drinking cocktails and maybe seeing a movie.

Monday our Ducks play Auburn in the BSC! We are very excited. Happy weekend to all and Go DUCKS!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

wholesome winter soup

It's been quite a while since I blogged about food. Last night I made a wonderful simple vegetable minestrone for dinner. It was the perfect dinner for a chilly night. We ate this with toast and homemade bread and butter pickles and pickled beets.

Vegetable Minestrone Soup

1 large onion, diced
3 leeks (white and light green parts only), rinsed and chopped
5 carrots, peeled and diced
5 stalks celery, peeled and diced
2 TB fresh rosemary chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans diced tomatoes with liquid
1 quart homemade chicken stock
2 cups water
1 head green cabbage cored and roughly chopped
4 cups cooked white beans* or canned and rinsed white beans
2 hand fulls fresh basil shredded
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese for garnish, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in large soup pot. Add diced onion, carrot, celery, and leek, cook ten minutes stirring occasionally. Add garlic and rosemary cook another 5 minutes or so till veggies are somewhat tender and onion is translucent. Add stock, water and canned tomatoes with juice. Bring to boil, reduce and simmer 15 minutes. Add cabbage place a lid on the pot and cook 10 minutes. Add white beans and basil. cook another five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. This soup needs kind of a lot of salt so keep adding and tasting until it tastes really bright and fresh. Serve with Parmesan cheese on top.

*soak 2 1/2-3 cups dried white beans in water all day. when you get home rinse beans, add to pot, cover with water, bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook 1-1.5 hours until tender
*adapted from Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef, minestrone soup

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Auuugghh...Morning Again....

I don't know about you all but mornings are a bit of a nightmare around here. My goal* is to be at work by 7:30 or 7:45; often I have to be at work by 6:45 or 7am for early meetings. I am a big fan of the snooze and I have a lot of hair to fix. This combination alone is a recipe for disaster. But when you add in a husband who has lost his glasses, needs a breakfast/lunch, needs x form signed before you leave, its simply beyond disaster. Something must be cut and usually for me that's breakfast. But inevitably if I skip breakfast I'm starving by 10 am and since I can't eat wheat running down to the coffee shop for a muffin is not an option. Do you all have this problem? Well lately I have found some creative ways to still make it to work on time and not skip breakfast all together.

If money and time allow there are some really good grab and go options that are much better than the usual scone, muffin and bagel you usually see. Both Starbucks and Jamba Juice have hot oatmeal for just a few bucks. The Jamba Juice oatmeal is a lot better than the Starbucks but our Jamba is sans drive through. Also I usually ride the bus downtown and our Jamba is not downtown. However if you can make it to a Jamba try the oatmeal. They slow cook steel cut oats with soy milk and then top it with brown sugar, bananas and pecans. Its wonderful. Paired with fresh squeezed orange juice its even better. Starbucks also has yogurt/granola parfaits with fruit. In Eugene we have a wonderful local coffee shop called Full City, they serve homemade granola with yogurt or steamed milk, toast with butter and jam, and even gluten free quiche. This quiche is made with a brown rice crust rather than the standard pie shell making it lighter, healthier morning meal.

As convenient as it is to stop and grab breakfast it is not really in our budget. So I'm a fan of breakfasts I can pack and take. Yogurt and granola is great for this, a dish of yogurt and a Ziploc full of granola and you are good to go. I take toast and peanut butter to the bus stop many days. But if I have time my favorite is polenta or grits to go. Polenta and grits can both be cooked in 5 minutes. Pour hot creamy polenta or grits into a pint mason jar, top with butter, cheese and some salt, throw in your bag and at work you have a hot, wholesome breakfast to eat at your desk. Best of all both polenta and grits are dirt cheap which is always a plus!

*the last couple of weeks i have been failing miserably at this goal but there is always tomorrow, right...