Nom Nom Paleo

Dining Out: Pok Pok Noi (Portland, OR)

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I love filling my head with information about food writing, the business of blogging, and the intricacies of e-publishing as much as the next blogger…

…but being confined in a stuffy conference room for two days straight is making me downright batty.

A small pack of us happily broke away at lunchtime to chow at Pok Pok Noi (the smaller, abridged version of the original Pok Pok), located in a tree-lined nabe in Northeast Portland. Okay, who am I kidding? Every neighborhood here resembles a forest.

But when the five of us arrived at the restaurant, it turned out that only three of us were itching to eat at Pok Pok Noi; the other two wanted to dine at Grain & Gristle next door instead. Since food trumps friendship, we opted to split up and regroup post-meal. (Kidding — but not about spitting up to hit two different restaurants.)

Pok Pok Noi serves a dozen or so of the greatest hits from the regular Pok Pok menu, which was just fine by us. (As much as we love to eat, we weren’t likely to order more than 12 dishes.) By the way, Pok Pok is not Paleo AT ALL — the menu clearly states, “we use peanuts, shrimp, meat, eggs, sugar, salt, wheat & dairy products in our preparations” and makes clear that no substitutions are allowed. But this was one of those rare meals where I figured the indulgence would be worth any gastrointestinal consequences.

The three of us unanimously agreed that we wouldn’t be satisfied unless we ordered half the menu. While I sipped on a can of coconut water, the dishes came out in quick succession.

We shared Papaya Pok Pok — spicy green papaya salad with tomatoes, long beans, Thai chili, tamarind, fish sauce, and peanuts (and yes, Paleo Police, I left the peanuts on the plate)…

…Muu Paa Kham Waan (grilled boar collar with a spicy chili lime garlic sauce), Neua Naam Tok (spicy flank steak “salad”)…

…and a platter of Ike’s Vietnamese Spicy Fish Sauce Wings.

These wings are legendary — and with good reason: crunchy, juicy, sweet, savory, and tangy. Again, not Paleo whatsoever, but sooooo worth it.

I had a terrific time sharing plates with my lunch companions, Lia (of Nourish Network fame) and Kat (author of the terrific and essential The Kitchen Counter Cooking School). When not immersed in conversation, we fed ourselves with our hands, murmuring about the amazing food. As Lia dumped her cleaned bones on the platter, she declared that the food at Pok Pok must be Paleo because we were all grunting like cavemen.

We were so caught up in licking our fingers and picking every last morsel of the platters that Kat was almost late for the writing workshop she was leading at IFBC.

The rest of my day was spent cooped up indoors as I absorbed as much as possible about improving the quality of my writing. My mission is to maximize the pithiness of my blog ramblings, yo. By the way, for a shining example of kickass food writing, check out my pal Cheryl’s prose on her award-winning blog. She’s my hero.

Me write pretty someday…hopefully!

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop (8/24/12)

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With limited time in Portland, I knew I had to start working my way through my gastronomic to-do list before the International Food Bloggers Conference began in earnest. 

First thing in the morning, Cheryl and I made a pilgrimage to Stumptown Coffee Roasters, the coffee mecca of the Pacific Northwest. Sadly, my inability to read a map properly made our path to java nirvana more circuitous than anticipated. “SE” and “SW”? Greek to me. Maps confuse me with all their wiggly lines. I’d never flinch at eating scorpions or beef testicles, but I’m the kind of gal who’d finish last in The Amazing Race ’cause I can’t navigate worth a damn.

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Lynne was already waiting for us when we arrived. The smell of coffee at Stumptown was intoxicating — I perked up even before I spied the impressive array of coffee drinks and magazines available to all the hipster caffeine junkies who wander in.

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

I ordered an espresso con panna, not realizing that the “panna” — cream — came in the form of canned whipped cream rather than as a splash of heavy cream. My bad. But it was still a fantastic cup of coffee.

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

After properly caffeinating ourselves, we strolled around the neighborhood and quickly spotted a long line of people jonesin’ for fried sugary gluten at Voodoo Doughnut.

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

I swear: if I’d been here just a couple of years ago, I would’ve totally camped out in line for a chance to munch on a few (dozen) doughnuts. Now? Not so much.

Lynne and Cheryl had to return to the hotel for their book signings, so I picked up my new friend Shaun to accompany me to the Cultured Caveman food cart. This was to be Shaun’s first foray into Paleo eating, and I had a feeling I’d picked the perfect spot.

In fact, I’d been eager to visit Joe and Heather, the owners of Cultured Caveman, for months — ever since I got wind of their Kickstarter campaign to fund the launch of their business. Their video was charming and funny, and I was thrilled to participate in their fundraising efforts and spread the word about Portland’s very first Paleo food cart. I couldn’t wait to come to Portland so I could drop by for a meal. 

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Joe and Heather didn’t disappoint. The dynamic duo behind Cultured Caveman are exactly who I’d imagined them to be: warm, genuine, charismatic, smart, intrepid entrepreneurs. (Besides, they mentioned that a few of their menu items are actually based on my recipes, so how could I not love them? With me, flattery’ll get you everywhere!)

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Waiting at the food cart to join us for lunch was Kyra Bussanich, the beautiful and talented Paleo-eating, CrossFitting, gluten-free baker from Crave Bake Shop — and winner of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars! How awesome was it that she hand-delivered a box of award-winning gluten-free treats for me to take home? (Honestly, I hope I can resist the urge to eat all the goodies before I return to the Bay Area.)

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

And, of course, when my good buddy Diane Sanfilippo showed up, it was a super-Paleo party in Portland! (I think Oregon marks the fourth or fifth state in which I’ve hung out with Diane. Only forty-five left to go!)

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

I was delighted to meet a number Joe’s and Heather’s fans, too. Clearly, the Cultured Caveman food cart is THE place to be if you’re a Paleo eater.

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

And with good reason. The eats are superb.

I sampled as much food as I could cram into my mouth. I started with the crisp, flavorful coconut flour crusted chicken tenders fried in tallow…

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…the hearty bone broth…

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…the sweet and savory bacon wrapped dates and almonds…

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…(which, by the way, make perfect Paleo “croutons” for the colorful kale salad)…

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…and a side of rainbow fries served with homemade ketchup.

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

For dessert, I inhaled a hot chocolate cupcake from Kyra. When I bit into this beauty, I’m pretty sure my eyes rolled into the back of my head.

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Even after two solid hours of food, laughter, and conversation, I didn’t want to leave. 

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

But alas, it was time for me to head back to the conference, so we said our reluctant goodbyes.

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

I really ought to have taken more photos of the remainder of my day. I should’ve taken snapshots at the presentations I attended, or at dinner with my new IFBC buddies. But I was tired, the lighting was dim, and our dinner was at Ned Ludd, where I’d just eaten and snapped a whole bunch of images the night before. So I decided to put the camera away for once, and just soaked it all in.

I did manage to take one more photo, though. To cap off a day of super Paleo power, here’s a shot of me and Chef Gregory Gourdet at the Taste of Oregon and Gourmet Fair at IFBC: 

Portland Eats: Stumptown, Cultured Caveman, Crave Bake Shop by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

He’s not just an award-winning chef. Chef Gourdet also happens to be a Paleo-eating, ultra-marathoning CrossFitter.

AND he’s been named Portland’s Hottest Chef of 2012.

Whoa.


Looking for more recipes? Head on over to my Recipe Index! You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPad® app, and in my New York Times bestselling cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel 2013).