Wednesday, July 29, 2009


The Huffington Post picked the top ten U.S. cities for local food--a decidedly green look at great restaurants. Foodies won't be surprised that Portland, Oregon ranked number one.

According to the article, "It is no surprise that Portland, the first city to adopt legislation to combat climate change, is serving up some of the greenest and tastiest food in the United States." They singled out Three Square Grill and Higgens for their use of fresh and sustainable local produce. Good job, PDX!

I prefer small, imaginative restaurants far more than the standard warhorses with white tablecloths that frequently get mentioned in the "best of" lists. One of my favorite places in Portland is Pok Pok and Whiskey Soda Lounge (at 3226 se division, pdx). I've mentioned it before (and so has the New York Times, GQ, Food and Wine, and a slew of others) so it's not exactly undiscovered, but it may be new to you. Pok Pok offers a brilliant take on Southeast Asian street food. Order Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings. Sticky and sweet, and tossed in caramelized Phu Quoc fish sauce and garlic, this is amazing. Or try the Kaeng Hung Leh--"Classic Northern Thai sweet pork belly and pork shoulder curry with ginger, palm sugar, tamarind, turmeric, Burmese curry powder and pickled garlic."

Jumping to city number two on the list, San Francisco, here's another favorite--an unassuming spot in a city of great places to eat, Cafe Claude is a perfect little bistro in an alley (off Union Square, at 7 Claude Lane) that serves the best french onion soup in town and features jazz at night. By day, sit under an outside umbrella.

My town, Seattle, is a great place to eat and scored a number 5 on the green list. They singled out Cafe Flora, "an eco-conscious vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free restaurant that serves local produce and herbs from Washington farms." Blah. I'm sure it's quite good, but we skipped the vegan food for la Medusa, a big favorite of ours. This hip Sicilian restaurant is a lively creative spot with a knowledgeable and friendly staff, and a chef that is a tattooed wizard of the culinary arts. A ten minute drive from downtown, this out of the way place is worth the trip (it's in the Columbia City neighborhood at the south end, at 4857 Rainier Avenue South) to taste their "Sicilian inspired food for the soul."

My parents are excellent Italian cooks and they vouch for the place. Mom is Calabrese, and Dad is Sicilian from New York City (also quite a food town) and he said the Perciatelli con le Sarde (the signature dish of Sicily: perciatelli pasta and sardines in caramelized fennel & onions, saffron, pine nuts, olives, raisins) is better than the same dish he'd eaten in Sicily. A recommendation doesn't get any better than that! The apps are great, too, so try the homemade eggplant caponata and the bacala--fried cod fritters. By the way, you may know that Sicilian food is different than Italian food--Italy is highly regional and wasn't even a united country until the 19th century. Try la Medusa.

There is an old Sicilian saying: Cui va 'n Seattle e 'un vidi la Medusa, si nni parti sceccu e torna armali. (English translation: Whoever goes to Seattle and doesn't see la Medusa, goes there a jackass and returns a fool.)

The Huff Post Top Ten Cities for Local Food

1. Portland
2. San Francisco/Berkeley
3. New Orleans
4. Albuquerque
5. Seattle
6. Chapel Hil, NC
7. New York
8. Minneapolis
9. Denver
10. Washington, DC

Hungry? Check out these amazing out of the way places:

Pok Pok
is located at 3226 se division, pdx. Check out their website here.
Cafe Claude is located at 7 Claude Lane, in SF. Website is here.
La Medusa is located at 4857 Rainer Avenue South in Columbia City. Their website is here. Divider

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