Cherry Blossom in Portland


My friend Deb and I flew up to Portland, Oregon, last weekend and stayed with my BFF Maya, and had an ah-mazing time.

We were incredibly blessed that it was sunny and warm (even hot at times) during our stay, despite the heavy rain the city experienced only few days prior. We were told that this was, hands down, the best weekend there in many, many month! Even the cabin attendant had to make a disclaimer that it’s not an April Fool’s joke that we can expect an unusually pleasant weather once we land in PDX.

We didn’t do much, other than eat good food and vegged out at home, which is exactly what Deb and I needed to relax and unwind. My favorite part of the trip, aside from catching up with my girl friends, is seeing rows and rows of Sakura trees and their lovely, pink petals dancing on the streets of Portland.

We went into this little speciality beauty shop called Blush Beauty Bar on the trendy NW 23rd Street (aka “trendy” third) and I fell in love with a bottle of this Cherry Blossom scent from Demeter.  I’ve tried different Cherry Blossom fragrances, including ones from Jo Malone, Bath and Body Works and L’Occitane, but this has to be my favorite I’ve tried so far.  It’s light and floral, and you immediately transport yourself to spring with just one spray.

And even more spring-y, are these designer chocolate bars from Moonstruck.

Special Delivery: Pix Patisserie


Big thanks to my BFF Maya for making my 25th birthday (celebrating for the 152,027th time) very special, with a surprise delivery of lovely assortment of macarons from Pix Patisserie in Portland, Oregon! Because they were shipped from her (as opposed to from the store), some of the little lovely cookies cracked, but they were still delicious nonetheless!


Absolutely love the flavor guide! What a cute idea.

(Food) Marathon Weekend Part 3: Chez Maya

Of all the wonderful restaurants in Portland, my ultimate favorite is Chez Maya, also known as my best friend Maya’s dining room.biggrin After every marathons and half marathons, she and her family invite me and my fiancé over to their home in the Portland suburb for a celebratory dinner of T-Bone steak and all the side dishes that will make any hungry soul swoon. It’s a ritual that has gone on for the last three years, and one I hope will continue for many years to come.

By watching the way Maya dances in the kitchen, one would never believe that this is someone who didn’t really cook all that much until about five years ago. Now, she’s one of the most amazing home cooks I know, whipping up amazing dishes and desserts you can only find in fine, gourmet restaurants. And what makes her even more amazing is that she is not afraid of butter. Not afraid at all.

This night, after completing the half marathon in Portland, was no exception. She cooked T-Bone steaks for everyone who surrounded the table – me, my fiance, Maya, her husband Shaun, their son Joe, her sister Tania, Tania’s baby boy Caden, and of course, Solomon, a pit bull with the heart of gold (though he only got a few pieces). She cooked my steak perfect medium rare, and loaded everyone’s plates with roasted carrots, potatoes, and zucchinis. She even made my favorite fried potatoes that taste 100 times better than any French fries out there. She said that the secret is in the Indonesian margarine that she uses (though I am convinced that it’s pure lardlol).

She even prepared us chocolate molten cake for dessert, with the center so warm and velvety, the melted chocolate just ooze out of the cake! Talk about a heavenly dessert!

I cannot thank Maya and her family for their warm hospitality and making us feel special every time we visit.

And yes, we were in food coma for the rest of the weekend.  I don’t think I’m ready to go back to the real world … just not yet …

(Food) Marathon Weekend Part 2: Papa Hayden

Last weekend’s Portland Half Marathon was one of the most fun I’ve had in running races! There was absolutely no pressure for me to perform well (not that there ever is an expectation for a turtle like myself lol) and knowing that I was only doing this race purely for fun helped me relax and actually enjoy the experience. Thinking about all the delicious food I get to eat afterward also helped me stay super excited during the 13.1-mile run.

My time is not considered great at 2 hours and 51 minutes, but I was extremely pleased with the result since all I wanted was to run under three hours. But more so than time, I was delighted with the way I felt during and after the race. My feet felt lighter than usual and I felt like I had some energy left even after I crossed the finish line, which made me believe that I can shave off a few minutes on my next half marathon in two weeks.

I think it really helped that I trained for this race for the last eight weeks (unlike my last Portland Marathon), logging about 15 to 20 miles per week. I didn’t necessarily follow any formal training, but my friends Tiffany, Shannon, and I were good with doing mid-week runs at Rose Bowl. Having great running buddies really does make a difference! I am so thankful for the lovely ladies for pushing me to lace up my running shoes, even when I was feeling incredibly lazy and unmotivated!

My fiancé and Maya were waiting for me at the finish line which made me incredibly happy. After I took pictures with the medal and relaxed a little, we invited Tiffany and Jesse for brunch at Papa Hayden.

I was hungry but my body was a bit too tired to eat a heavy dish like Eggs Benedict (that almost everyone at the table ordered), so I settled for a shrimp salad and French onion soup that my fiancé and I shared. The soup was amazing, with the perfect amount of cheese melted on top, but the salad was just okay. I wish I ordered a waffle or bread pudding that caught my eyes in the beginning.

The desserts were absolutely fantastic, as usual. My favorite was Baked Alaska. The airy and sugary meringue certainly hit the sweet spot for me. Although the desserts were meant to be shared, I think I polished the plates all by myself! But that’s okay because I just run a half marathon!  And I intend to use the excuse for at least the next several weeks … or even months. twisted

(Food) Marathon Weekend Part 1: Park Kitchen

My fiancé and I spent a lovely three-day weekend in Portland. We flew there for my half marathon but really, that was only an excuse to go visit my best friend Maya and enjoy the wonderful cuisines of the Pacific Northwest. lol There is nothing more wonderful than fresh, locally-grown organic produces of autumn exquisitely prepared by master chefs, and there is no better place to enjoy them than PDX!

After we landed in Portland and had a great lunch at Pok Pok Noi with Maya and her son Joe who picked us up at the airport, my fiancé and I headed to Park Kitchen for our double date with our friend Tiffany and her boyfriend Jesse for our non-stop food fest. After Paley’s Place, this is probably my second favorite restaurant in Portland. The food here is always so amazing, and I love that I get to try new unique dishes every time, depending on the month of the year I visit!

We opened a few bottles of perfectly-matched wine (thanks to Jesse’s expert wine guidance) and ordered the Small Cold Plates and Large Plates samplers to share, where we got to experience a handful of seasonal specialties. This is truly a perfect option for anyone who simply cannot choose from so many amazing items on the menu!

To start, we enjoyed (clockwise starting from the upper left) a plate of grilled bread with raw quail egg, cheese blocks, and frisee salad; Indian-inspired salad with papadum and curry-flavored chick peas on the bed of green; grilled corn and green bean salad (if I remember correctly, the black thing at the bottom was some sort of fungus … sounds strange but it was delicious); and razor clam with roasted pepper and what tasted like sliced fennel or celery root tossed in vinaigrette dressing.

Next, we ate watermelon and beet salad on the bed of sweet yogurt-like cream with peanut brittles on top; yellowtail sashimi tossed with grilled zucchini, tomatoes, and wonderfully bitter green; and baby octopus with grilled shishito peppers and simple tomato sauce.

For the Hot Plates, we got the following: Homemade beet Pappardelle, carrots, and Brussels sprout cooked in beet butter, and topped with creme fraiche; grilled sturgeon with wine reduction sauce; pork belly with spatzel (German pasta) and squash puree; rib-eye steak with wasahi flower sauce with grilled shishito peppers and roasted tomato with breadcrumbs.

For dessert, we devoured the decadent chocolate cake with a scoop of chocolate ice cream, and a slice of cheesecake with peeled grapes.

Our reservation was at 5:00 p.m. (a total early-bird special) because I wanted to go to bed early to ready myself for the half marathon the next morning but we ended up spending three and a half hours at the restaurant! With more glasses of wine than I anticipated (but loved every drop), I knew that I was going to pay for it at the race … but I didn’t care because this dining experience was SO worth it!

Park Kitchen
422 NW 8th, Portland, OR

Papa Knows Best: Papa Hayden

Six months ago, my best friend Maya and I ventured across the ocean for the Parisian version of the girls on the town. We spent ten blissful days soaking in the beauty of the city, and eating up everything in sight! We often talk about doing it again but returning to France so soon is a little out of our reach at the moment, so we decided to recreate the experience in another amazing city – in Portland, Oregon. Lucky for me, Maya and her family live in this Pacific Northwest city and I didn’t have to cross the ocean to see my BFF.

I love Portland the way I love Paris (evident here). It may not have famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, but Portland is an amazing culinary city with many talented chefs whipping up equally impressive dishes. In some cases, the food in the Pacific Northwest may be better than in France.

Papa Hayden, a restaurant and dessert lover’s heaven, located in Northwest Portland (there are two Papa Hayden in Portland and this one is considered the “Westside” location), is a place that can rival any bistros in Paris. Depending on what you order, the dishes may even be better – like the Steak Frites (lovely medium rare steak with compound butter and a side of French fries) out of the daily special that I ordered for lunch.  It was much better than the steak and fries that I’ve experienced anywhere!

Maya’s Braised Lamb with spring onion, wild cress, carrots, and baby potatoes was as impressive. Serviced on a white lopsided plate bowl, the dish made us feel like we were dining in a lovely corner bistro in the streets of St. Germain again.

And anyone who thinks American dessert chefs play second fiddle to French masters, they’re mistaken. Just take a look at these sweet creations and you’ll be able to taste the creativity, master artistry, and the commitment to beautiful plating.  (Check out more Papa Hayden dessert creations here.)  Everything here is very impressive!

I know that Maya and I will return to Paris someday but for now, Portland will do. And it will do very, very well.

Portland Marathon!

portland marathonI must be the luckiest person in the world. The luckiest, in that I did everything I wasn’t supposed to do when running a marathon, and still managed to cross the finish line injury free and still smiling.

I’ve learned early on that marathon is such an honest sport, that it gives back what you put in. This means that the strengths you gain from each step you take during training is what is going to help break through the “wall” and guide you to the finish line. But silly me, I didn’t train whatsoever for the race. The typical training schedule requires that you run at least three times a week, with one long run on a weekend (usually leading up to 18 miles or more) but my frequent travel and laziness prevented me from hitting the pavement on a regular basis. The longest run during training was eight and I barely ran once a week … and that is really, really bad.

Second, it is a cardinal rule that you do not wear brand new outfits to a race. It is recommended that you wear something your body is already familiar with, to avoid any potentially unpleasant incidents like chaffing. Silly me again, I wore my spanking new yellow shirt and Capri-type pants I picked up at the Nike store the other day.

Third, I was supposed to eat pasta and carbohydrate-rich food the night before, drink lots of water to properly hydrate, and go to bed early. Instead, I chomped down on pork tenderloin and stayed up late.

Despite all my flaws, what I’m most appreciative of is the fact that my body stayed with me throughout the journey. My legs were so strong and powerful that they push me forward. My knees were so unselfish, that despite the extra poundage, they still let me go from one place to another with occasional skips and hops. Despite the years I neglected them from smoking, my lungs still stuck by me and allowed  me to take in the deliciously fresh Oregon air. My heart, broken several times, still beat in rhythmic melody, bringing music to my life. As I ran and walked the 26.2 miles, I talked to my body parts, thanking them for believing in me and always staying with me. They carried me through the marathon, and in life, and realized that it is, at last, my time to give back to my best friend and return the unconditional love.

portland marathon medalMy sister, who is also my personal trainer and my rock, suggested that I make a commitment and “marry” my body, just like I would with someone I love. This means that I would take care of it by loving every part of it, and feeding it with healthy nourishment – in both food and thoughts. With the marriage, I make a promise to be true, through good and bad, in sickness and in health, richer or poorer. And, especially after feeling the love it has for me, I can only say … I do.

The marathon was particularly touching because my friends Maya, Tiffany, and Ted, along with my boyfriend, were all cheering for me at the finish line. I had to hold back tears when I turned the corner and saw their smiling faces. And even though they were not here in Portland physically, I knew that my family was cheering for me from sunny California.

I am the luckiest person in the world.

Carb-Loading at Mother’s Bistro!

mothers restaurantRight after we returned home from a fun-filled weekend in Vegas, my boyfriend and I repacked our luggage to fly to Portland — this time for the Portland Marathon! (Wow, I’ve traveled to three cities in mere two weeks and more to come ahead!)

Running the marathon in the Rose City has become an annual event for me ever since I participated in the race last year and had a blast (although that wasn’t how I remembered it when I was running / walking in the pouring rain 😯 ).  The race also gives me an excuse to visit my best friend Maya and spend a lovely weekend with my boyfriend in the scenic Pacific Northwest, so with the exception of the 26.2-mile self torture that I have to endure, this is a dream mini-vacation for me.

We arrived to PDX early on Saturday and after we checked into the hotel, picked up the race bib, did some retail therapy at the expo, and had a quick brunch, we rested at the hotel until Maya met us for dinner.  We walked over to one of my favorite comfort food restaurants a few blocks away, Mother’s Bistro.

I usually make a point not to blog about a restaurant I previously talked about but this place is an exception (this is my third time writing about this place — here and here).  Mother’s Bistro is not the most extravagant joint in the culinary-rich Portland food scene, and there are, admittedly, other restaurants that I love more (alas Paley’s Place), but it always hits the spot for me.  It’s comfortable, cozy and warm – just the way I like it.

mothers food
Clockwise from top left: Lamb skewer (daily special), Carlton Farms Pork Loin Medallions, Mother’s Macaroni & Cheese Du Jour, and Chicken & Dumplings

I was hoping for a pasta or other carbohydrate-rich menu options but there weren’t any so I settled for a plate of pork loin medallions with mashed potato (carb!) and vegetables.  I took a bite of my boyfriend’s Mac and Cheese Du Jour (tonight’s was Mexican style), and loaded up on rice pudding (which also became my breakfast on the marathon day)!  Everything was delicious, as always, especially the desserts.  You just can’t go wrong here.  Oh, how I wish I can just pluck this restaurant and take it home with me to Los Angeles!

mothers desserts
Pear Huckberry Tart and Bread Pudding

I know I indulged, but there has got to be something good that comes out of running a 26.2-mile monster the next day, right? By the way, the only reason why you see an empty restaurant on the top photo was because we were the last ones to leave.  Trust me, this place is packed 24/7 (but definitely worth the wait).

Mother’s Bistro
212 SW Stark, Portland, OR 97204

Dinner At My Place? Paley’s Place

paley-cookbookI’m always intrigued by those “experimental” food blogs where authors decide to cook every single dish in their chosen cookbooks and document their endeavors on a blog. Perhaps the most famous is Julie Powell’s “Julie and Julia,” that pioneered this new genre by recreating all dished featured in Julia Child’s much loved “The Art of French Cooking” in one year. She actually completed all 536 recipes in mere 365 days, and her blog-turned-book is now made into a movie.   My favorite is Carol Blymire’s “French Laundry at Home,” where she brought Thomas Keller’s famous Napa Valley restaurant to her Maryland kitchen. Carol’s blog is so impressive because she actually gave a visual step-by-step, which makes a wonderful online reference for anyone using this cookbook. I’m so envious that she got to experience Keller’s artistic creations night after night, although I’m sure it wasn’t without some serious commitment and hard work.

I will admit that the idea of doing something daring like this has crossed my mind in the past, but, despite all the wonderful varieties of cookbooks that are available in bookstores today, I have not encountered the one that truly convinced me that investing so much of my time and energy (and money) to recreate its highly intricate dishes is ①a good (or sane) idea and ② is worth it.  If I were to ever dive into this, I thought, the cookbook would have to be something truly unique, with accessible ingredients (I will not go searching for a pig’s head, I’m sorry!), and displays passion, warmth and love that are essential in home cooking. And more importantly, it needed to be intriguing enough to keep me motivated through the entire course of the process (which will, most likely, take years to complete). I have casually noodled with the idea but NEVER, EVER expected to find a cookbook that fit all the qualifications – until I met The Paley’s Place Cookbook.

Paley’s Place in Portland, Oregon, is, as I’ve said before on this blog), one of my all-time favorite restaurants in the world. The food here is amazing and not only do they blow my culinary mind, they make me truly happy. I’ve always regretted not living  in Portland to experience Paley’s more frequently, but with this challenge, I can have Paley’s close to me at all times!

Okay, don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not saying that I’m going to recreate EVERY SINGLE item in the cookbook. I’m also not saying that I’m going to do this in a set timeframe. What I’m saying is that I have made a commitment to make as many menus from The Paley’s Place Cookbook and talk about it here on this blog (I created a category called, “Paley’s at My Place.”) 🙂 ! Maybe I’ll cook every weekend and see how it goes. I know it won’t be easy, but I’m really excited about my new gastronomic adventure.

With that, I’ll leave you with some pictures from my last Paley’s outing with Maya in January. As always, I had a wonderfully delicious time there with my best friend (and many, many vodka martinis). These visuals should explain why I’m so smitten by the masterful dishes Vitaly Paley creates in the Victorian house kitchen! And big thanks to Kimberly Paley for her hospitality and complimentary cocktails to go with these amazing dishes 🙂


A complimentary appetizer


Escargot à la Bordelaise, Roast Marrow Bones & Garlic ($18) … it was Maya’s idea to orders snails, really, but they were actually pretty tasty (tasted a little like oysters).


Winter Vegetable & Heirloom Bean Cassoulet ($18). The best cassoulet EVER.


Bacon, Prune & Chestnut-Stuffed Quail, Chestnut Spïtzle & Mushrooms (Half order $15).


Fish of the Day: Sturgeon


Olive Oil Cake


Chocolate Steamed Pudding Cake, Cardamom-Poached Pear & Chantilly Cream ($8).

Paley’s Place
204 NW 21st Ave, Portland, OR 97209

Ultimate Comfort Food: Mother’s Bistro

mothers-beet-saladI sometime wonder what’s really behind my fascination with food. Some psycho-analyzing type would probably diagnose that I’m using food to fill the void in my life, which, I guess, can be partially true, but I think it’s more the things that are associated with food that makes me gravitate toward it. For instance, the conversation I have during a nice dinner get-together with friends and family makes me forget all the negative things in the world. And a glass of wine tastes so much better when shared with the loved ones. As long as I can remember, food have played a vital role in my family, and dinner was the time that we had to talk about our days and learn a thing or two about each other that we didn’t know before. I love dinner with my family.

I crave the company of friends especially when I’m traveling (symptom of home sickness, perhaps?) and I try to meet up with as many friends as I can when I’m traveling to Portland to catch up. During this trip, I was able to reunite with one of the managers that I used to work with for dinner. I always enjoy dining out with him because he is a serious Foodie with plethora of knowledge in food, wine and everything epicurean, and he always know where to dig up the best finds in the Portland’s culinary scene (he’s virtually a walking Zagat guide)! It’s also such a treat when I get to see his lovely wife and oh-so adorable baby girl during our soiree. They are, by far, the cutest parents I know and how appropriate was it that we (his family and two of my food-loving colleagues) decided to meet at a restaurant called Mother’s Bistro!

Items on the menu here are dishes created by mothers around the world, quite a delightful concept for a restaurant. True to the concept, the food offered here includes many of our favorite comfort foods such as pot roast and meat loafs, as well as down-home, hearty desserts. Everything offered here are so warm that you feel like you’ve just received a giant hug from mom!

I’ve been to Mother’s Bistro in the past for breakfast (which was amazing!) but never for dinner so I was really excited to try the ultimate comfort food. I looked through the menu but could not decided between the Mac and Cheese and the Crab Cake, so we decided to order the Mac and Cheese to share among all of us so I can have the taste of both (god bless them) 🙂 I also ordered a Beet Salad to start and I was able to get it half size (pictured on top).


Rib-Eye Steak .. it looked so good that I wished I ordered it myself!


I ordered the $15,000 Dungeness Crab Cakes, served with creole mustard sauce, cole slaw & matchstick potatoes. Very delicious but it was a little on the heavy side. I think I would have liked it more if it was not deep fried.


Mac and Cheese. There’s different one every day and this night’s special was cheese and broccoli. I would love to come back and perhaps try the lobster one day!


Fish of the day … sorry, totally forgot what it was but he was really happy with it!


Chocolate Cake! Look at the size of this thing!


Apple Crisp / Cobbler. This was perhaps the best cobbler I’ve had. The cinnamon-y flavor makes this dessert so comforting and delicious!

This night was a total indulgence overload. Among the five of us (sans the baby, of course), we opened two bottles of wonderful red, ordered a table-full of delicious comfort food, a round of sweet dessert wine for everyone, a luscious  chocolate cake, and a plate of warm apple cobbler. During dinner, chef / owner Lisa Schroeder came by the table to greet us, which added a special touch to this already wonderful dinner with a great company!

Mother’s Bistro
212 SW Stark, Portland, OR 97204