Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Northwest calling

With a little encouragement from loved ones, I feel I'm due for something new on the Ingrid food front. I've spent the last week and a half in the sunny Pacific Northwest: Portland for an amazing wedding and a migration to Seattle last night to spend QT with the siblings. In the year and a half since I was last in Portland and the two years since my last Seattle jaunt, the Northwest seems to have exploded with some incredible joints that are both deliberate and simple, creative and adorable and a spankin' good time. The "fashion-forward" versions of cuisine, if I may.

One of the several notable visits in Portland was Pok Pok on SE Division, a version of authentic Northern Thai street food served both sit-down style and a to-go shack. The dining room is situated in creator/owner Andy Ricker's actual residence, and the to-go shack in his driveway. Whatever the situation, the food is got-damned good. The choices are many and quality, and the menu is spattered with bits and pieces of info about Thai cuisine history, Pok Pok's origins, and helpful how-tos for Thai dining habits.

The dishes vary in size from tapas-serving to big plates of succulent meat. Our server was quite insistent, almost too much so, on making our party of eight ladies eat family-style, which ended up being more like sharing in groups of four or so, as some were vegetarians, some had food allergies, and some just preferred otherwise.

Regardless, I didn't try one dish that I wasn't impressed by. More than anything, every bite pretty much erupted (kindly) in my mouth. My favorite was the Yam Plaa Deuk Fuu, a green papaya salad with catfish gaufrette, which was like fresh, citrusy this-and-that topped with a perfectly-fried catfish cake, with the flaky integrity of the fish still intact. The Cha Ca La Vong (marinated catfish on vermicelli) wasn't far behind. The meal bore for me a new appreciation for Thai cuisine, covering all the bases of one of my favorite kinds of meals: undone, non-fussy yet explosive street food.

More than anything, this trip has reminded me that eatin' good remains a high priority. And I could eat coconut rice all day long.