Monday, September 17, 2018

McMenamins at Cedar Hills Crossing - Stepping It Up

As I've said in past blogs, Cedar Hills Crossing is undergoing a major renovation. For, at least, 30 years Mcmenamins (a local chain of brew houses) has had a restaurant within the parking lot, across from the end of the main mall. While it was never a dive bar by any means, I'd always found it to be cramped and noisy. The food was OK, but one usually went there for the selection of whiskeys and exclusive beers.

The old restaurant has been torn down, and replaced by a new larger establishment across the street at 2885 S.W. Cedar Hills Blvd., Beaverton, OR 97005. The new place opened this summer. Since my friend had just finished her surgical rotation for medical school, and was about to leave town for her infectious diseases rotation, I used the occasion as an excuse to check out the new Mcmenamins.

| Subject: Ale-Battered Alaskan Cod, Fresh-Cut Fries, Tartar Sauce, Ranch Dressing, and Buttermilk Coleslaw | Date: 09/12/2018 | Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |
We arrived at 11:30 on a Wednesday for an early lunch.  The place had only been open for half an hour, so it wasn't crowded yet.  As I went in, the first things I noticed were the high ceiling and the roomier dining room which surrounded the well stocked bar. The highlight of the dining room is gorgeous brick wood burning fire place resting just under a big screen TV. The decor alone was a definite step up, and made me anxious to try their food.

I started with a pint of McMenamins' Ruby Ale.   The ale is slightly sweet with a hint of raspberry, without being cloying or jammy.  I found it to be refreshing and easy to drink.

For lunch I ordered the two-piece Ale-Battered Fish & Chips meal (wild Alaskan cod, fresh-cut fries, tartar sauce & buttermilk coleslaw) for three-piece meal is also available for $16.50.

I've found that deep fried fish can easily be soggy and greasy when coming the kitchen of a bar.  This wasn't the case this time.  My fish was perfectly crispy, well seasoned, and hot.   I'm not sure if the accompanying tartar sauce was made in-house or was from a jar, but was creamy, tangy, and sweet complimenting the flaky white cod superbly.  Likewise, the skin-on fries were piping hot and delightfully salty.

My only disappointment was in the "Buttermilk" Coleslaw.  To be fair, I'm a fan of slaws on the creamy side of the spectrum.  This was a vinegar-based coleslaw with little, if any, mayonnaise or other creamy element to speak of.  While buttermilk is in the name of salad, I only tasted the vinegar and a weird hint of horseradish.

My friend, Kara, began with the house Kölsch.   Having had bad experiences with Kölsch style beers, I passed up the opportunity to try a sip of hers.  However, she said it wasn't overly hoppy and was easy to drink.

To eat, she ordered the Mai Thai Crab Roll (red curry crab salad, lettuce, cucumber, onion, cilantro, jalapeño & fried shallots with Sriracha mayo on a butter-grilled lobster roll) for $12.00.  Kara let me try a few bites of her sandwich, and I'm glad she did.

The thick-cut toast was crispy and noticeably buttery; it would have been delicious on its own next to some eggs and bacon.  As a vehicle for a sandwich, it sheathed a delectable crab salad. The seafood rich filling was creamy, salty, and just spicy enough to be tasty without being tongue searingly hot.  It was a very well balanced sandwich, which I'll be going back for.

The new facility is unquestionably a step up from what they had been.  Not only is the atmosphere more inviting and comfortable, but the food is of a superior quality.  McMenamins at Cedar Hills Crossing has earned 8 out of 10 stars, only losing points for the coleslaw.  I will be back.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Bacon Jams' All Original Bacon Spread

I like bacon. No... That's wrong...  I LOVE bacon!  I eat bacon almost every morning, I put it on most of my burgers, and I even have a blanket on my bed that looks like bacon.  A few months ago, I was watching Chopped and one of the contestants made bacon jam.  I'd never heard of bacon jam before, so I looked online and found an 8oz jar of The Bacon Jams' All Original Bacon Jam for $13.75 on Amazon.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon's Affiliate Program.

I confess I had certain expectations when I bought the jam. The reason I like bacon is for the smokey salty flavor that it delivers.  At breakfast bacon provides a crunchy texture in contrast to soft eggs and toast as well as the salty taste to offset sweet cereals, fruits, and jellies.  On a burger, it provides a savory balance against sweet ketchup and fresh lettuce and tomato.  I expected the jam to perform the same function.

I was disappointed.  I put the jam on a burger along with American cheese and mayonnaise.  The result was a very sweet burger.  The bacon jam was very maple forward with a very mild smokey undertone.  The bacon flavor was there, but it was almost like it was an after thought.  The bacon flavor was secondary to the flavor of maple syrup.

There are people who like maple bacon, and those people will probably love this jam. However if you're looking for a condiment that delivers a real bacon punch, this is not it.  Therefore, I give The Bacon Jams' All Original Bacon Jam 5 out of 10 stars.

On a curious final note, if you order the jam on Amazon it costs $1.25 less than if you order off their website directly.  Somehow adding Amazon as a middle man brought the price down instead of up.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Marilyn's Gluten Free Gourmet Cheese Straws

Before I  begin, I have to disclose a personal bias. I am friends with the daughter of the owner of the baked goods company that makes these snacks. Since the snacks were given to me as a gift, I won't be giving them a star rating.

Marilyn's Gluten Free Gourmet Cheese Straws come in three varieties. I was given  Original and Jalepeno (their spelling) flavors, but they also come in White Cheddar & Chives.

Made from; sharp cheddar cheese, rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, sea salt, spices, and a few other ingredients; none of which are, hard to pronounce chemicals or food dyes; each straw is about 3 inches long and it looks like a crinkle cut French fry.

I am typically not a person who seeks out gluten free snacks.  However, I do like snacks that taste good. These straws taste a bit like Goldfish crackers, only more dense. They have a good crunch to them, but are a little dryer than most crackers. I did not mind it though, as I ate them along with a Sam Adams Summer Ale while watching The Four (Go Sharaya!).

The Original flavor had a good sharp cheddar bite to them, and are a little bit spicy in their own right. The Jalepeno adds another level of spice, but they're not so hot that you have to take a drink right away. They have just enough heat to let you know they're there without being overwhelming.

For more info about the straws, and how to order them, you can visit Marilyn's Gluten Free Gourmet Baked Goods.

Happy eating!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Is McDonald's Bacon Smokehouse Burger Really Smokin'?

I should begin by addressing the elephant in the room. I've reviewed a lot of burgers lately, making this blog's content a bit burger heavy. In fact, I've written enough pieces on burgers to justify adding "Burgers" as a tagged category over in the right hand column.

They're what people eat.  According to The 2016 Burger Report, "the average consumer still eats a burger 5.3 times in a month."  Of course I will still write about cheese, wine, and gourmet fare when I can, but if I want to appeal to a wide audience I have to talk about what people like to eat, and that's burgers.

| Subject: McDonald's Bacon Smokehouse Burger |
| Date: 07/09/2018 | Photographers: James Kiester & Edward Kiester|

Being a lover of bacon, when I heard about McDonald's new Bacon Smokehouse Burger (Applewood smoked bacon, bacon-onion sauce, white cheddar, sweet mustard sauce, and fried onion strings) I had to give it a try.

I bought the single all beef patty version of the sandwich from my local McDonald's at 19525 SW TV HWY in Aloha, Oregon. I could have ordered the double, but, with fries, the single seemed like it would be enough food for me.

When I opened the box, I noticed the soft bun and the bacon protruding out the sides right off the bat. A second glance revealed the presence of the crispy fried onions and mustard sauce.   I was excited. The burger looked like a winner.

Texture wise, this burger had it in abundance. The golden friend onion strings and the crisp bacon both added a nice crunch to sandwich. They were doing their job in that respect. However, the real test was the flavor.

The mustard sauce was tangy and sweet. While it was delicious it was almost all I could taste. I could taste the bacon a little but the onions provided no real flavor. As for the bacon-onion sauce it might as well have not been there, it added nothing to the burger.

When a burger is called "Smokehouse" one expects a solid punch of smoky flavor. I just didn't get that. This burger should be called the Bacon-Sweet Mustard Burger so people know what they are getting going in. As a smoky burger, the smoky flavor isn't coming to the party. All in all I give the Bacon Smokehouse Burger a 6 out of 10 stars.