Portland Burger Week: Parent-Friendly Edition

The Portland Mercury‘s Portland Burger Week is August 13-18! Fifty local bars and restaurants have created 50 delectable burger specials and are offering them for just $5, for one week only. [UPDATE: Looks like we’re down to 49 restaurants–East Glisan Pizza Lounge dropped out.] But as far as I can tell, only 29 of these fair establishments allow minors (if you have corrections, please add your kind remarks to the comments).

If you’re the brave parent who wants to explore the luscious wonderland that is Portland Burger Week with your adorable kids in tow, please consider the below tips:

  • Many of these places will be incredibly busy. That means long waits, sellouts, the works. Be prepared, and have a backup plan if your kids get antsy.
  • Just because these places allow minors, it does not mean they offer kids menus. Many of these burgers are not super kid-friendly: they include (delicious!) spicy sauces, fermented veggies, and other exotic garnishes. Check the menu beforehand, and whatever you do, do not try to browbeat the staff into making an off-the-menu grilled cheese.
  • Be mindful of your time. I don’t mean wolf your burgers down, but please be aware if there are lots of people waiting for a table. This is not the time for a lengthy stay.
  • Tip, and tip well! Everyone knows that servers are generally tipped a set percentage of the total of the bill. Everyone knows these burgers are only $5–lower than normal burger prices. Take the money you’re saving and gift it to your overworked server–it’ll earn you good burger karma!

Without any further ado–the burgers:

ajitramAji Tram Shaanxi Classic: Waygu ground beef patty with chopped pork belly, Chinese spices, cilantro aioli, lettuce, pickled chilies, and white cheddar on a grilled bun.

alamedaAlameda Brewing Co. Haole Burger: A seasoned and grilled hamburger patty, with teriyaki-marinated grilled SPAM. Topped with a grilled pineapple ring, American cheese, and lettuce, with Sriracha aioli.

albertaAlberta Street Pub Can’t Banh Mi Love: Carlton Farms seasoned pork patty loaded with ginger, lemongrass, rose bean curd, cilantro, and Thai chilis. Served on a pub bun with fresh jalapeños, cilantro, pickled veggies, and sweet chili aioli.

barbarBar Bar (minors welcome until 8 p.m.) Over the Rainbow Burger: 100 percent grass-fed, local beef patty, with teriyaki sauce, fresh pineapple rings, melty provolone, Canadian bacon, and lettuce on our classic potato bun.

brixBRIX Tavern (minors welcome before 10 p.m. except on Wednesdays, when the cutoff is 9 p.m.) The Norm: Smoked Tillamook cheddar fondue, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, caramelized onions, and house sauce.

burnside.jpgBurnside Brewing Co. (minors welcome until 10 pm) Cornholio Burger: A quarter-pound patty, roasted corn relish, smoked jalapeño cream cheese, garlic aioli, and chicharrones.

churchChurch (minors welcome until 9 p.m.) New Black & Blue: Black and blue fondue, shaved iceberg, and carmelized mushroom.

danweidanwei canting Spicy Tails & Trotters Pork Burger: Fermented cucumber, Napa cabbage, and Chinese mustard, dusted with a spicy blend of chilies and Sichuan peppercorn.

eastburn.jpgEastBurn (minors welcome upstairs only) Eastburn Big Mike: Local grass-fed beef, aged smoked gouda, housemade secret sauce, fried pickles, and shredded lettuce on a potato bun.

fosterFoster Burger The Jimmy Pesto: A nut-free pesto and mozzarella-topped burger with dressed arugula and fresh tomato.

hopcityHopCity Tavern Sofia Burgara: Pretzel bun, roasted garlic aioli, third-pound all-beef patty, Tillamook smoked cheddar, grilled onions, pickled jalapeño, heirloom tomatoes, and arugula.

hostelThe Hostel Cafe Cuban Immigrant Burger: A grass-fed beef burger layered with Swiss cheese, smoked ham, and sliced dill pickle on a brioche bun with Cuban aioli.

kellsKells Brewery (minors welcome until 10 p.m.)Irish Breakfast: Irish soda bread, bangers, egg, bacon, baked beans, fried tomato, Kells Irish stout, beef, and zesty aioli.

KimJongSmokehouseKim Jong’s Smokehouse Cheeseburger Steam Buns: Burger patty, American cheese, special sauce, sesame bun, and shedded iceberg.

 

las_primasLas Primas ¡Papa a la Huancaína Burger!: Our Peruvian-seasoned quarter-pound beef patty is grilled to perfection and topped with lettuce, fried potato, and pepperjack cheese, then slathered in huancaína (a creamy chili pepper and cheese sauce) and finished off with a botija spread.

lightning_willLightning Will Bar & Grill (minors welcome until 9 p.m.) The Bobby Boucher: Creole seasoned 1/4 lb. patty, served on bun with a New Orleans style remoulade, lettuce, tomato and cheddar.

lompoc.jpgLompoc Tavern Umami Burger: A six-ounce patty of our custom blend, all-natural beef topped with an umami spice blend, ginger teriyaki sauce, and sesame slaw.

loyal_legionLoyal Legion It’s Nacho Problem: Nacho cheese sauce, pickled jalapeño, tortilla strips, shredded lettuce, and tomato.

migrationMigration Brewing Co. (minors welcome until 10:00 p.m.) Taco ‘Bout It: Seasoned pork and beef patty, hatch chili aioli, southwest slaw, tortilla strips, and cotija.

newseasonsNew Seasons Market The Block Party: Carmen Ranch grass-fed patty, creamy Tillamook cheddar, sweet Walla Walla onions, Felton & Mary’s BBQ sauce, bacon, pickles, lettuce, and tomatoes stacked on a pFriem Wit Ale bun.

next_levelNext Level Burger Peachy Portland Burger: A Beyond Meat patty seasoned with Next Level Burger’s super-secret seasoning, topped with organic grilled peach, melted provolone, caramelized organic onion, organic red leaf lettuce, and smoked peach aioli. 100 percent plant-based.

nicksNick’s Famous Coney Island Sweet & Spicy Carnival Burger: A locally sourced, 100 percent ground-chuck patty with a spread of sweet and spicy jalapeño/bacon/brown sugar jam, with a layer of red onion, “Carnie” creole sauce, onion rings, pickles, fresh shredded lettuce, and topped with a mini corndog dashed with mustard and topped with a chipotle mayo dressing.

noranekoNoraneko DanDan Burger: Spicy, tingling hamburger patty with preserved vegetables and cold sesame noodle sauce.

oakbottom.jpgOaks Bottom Public House LSD BBQ Burger: LSD BBQ Sauce, quarter-pound seasoned beef patty, fryer onion straws, and slaw on a pub bun.

portlandburger.jpgPortland Burger Simon Bar Sinister: Roasted poblano elixir of broken minds, charred sweet pepper slaw of delusion, pepperjack cheese of lunacy, crispy fried onions of agony, raw onions of eternal rage, and a Southern garlic butter baste of hysteria.

smokehousetavernSmokehouse Tavern Pulled Pork Torta: Burger patty, pulled pork, chicharon, whipped avocado, and pickled onion, on a potato bun.

stoopidStoopid Burger Crazy Carl: Onion rings, fries, honey mustard, and Swiss and American cheese.

sunnysSunny’s Diner Demento Burger: Toasted housemade burger bun, Sunny’s demento cheese, half-pound all-beef patty, lettuce, and onions.

tiltTilt (East Burnside Bridge) Piggy Walls Burger: Tilt Sauce, chicharrones, egg, monterey “cheese bomb,” pork belly, beef patty.

yahalaYa Hala Beef Falafel Burger: Fresh ground beef with cheese, garbanzo and fava beans, coriander, cumin, garlic, parsley, and cilantro on a brioche bun, with lettuce and topped with refreshing tzatziki.

zoigZoiglhaus Brewing Company How Do You Say Hamburger in German?: Frizzled sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, caraway aioli, and beef patty on brioche.

Finally: if you find a burger you love, come back and tell me about it in the comments!

Happy burger eating!

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Pork Fried Cauliflower Rice

Pork Fried Cauliflower Rice

Pork Fried Cauliflower RiceHello folks! I’ve been super busy between working at Bob’s Red Mill (check me out on the blog), helping with GeekCraft Expo, and my other work with Pairings Portland and others. But I made a delicious pork fried cauliflower rice tonight and wanted to jot down the recipe before I forgot it!

I didn’t create this because I’m especially low carb–I just actually love cauliflower and like it better than rice. But it is lower in calories: I entered this recipe into MyFitnessPal (I’m obsessed) and a serving is about 200 calories (that’s four rather restrained servings, split this in two if you prefer).  Anyway, I knew I had a head of cauliflower and half a pound of leftover roasted pork languishing in my fridge, so I adapted this recipe for regular pork fried rice and came up with this:

Pork Fried Cauliflower Rice

You need:

1 head cauliflower
1 shallot
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 lb roasted pork tenderloin, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium carrot, cut into dice
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
2 green onions, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Core and grate the cauliflower, preferably in a food processor (mine came with two grating discs, I use the one with the larger holes). Then throw in the shallot and grate it as well.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower and shallot and saute, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown. Then push it all to one side and add the pork, carrot, peas (I threw them in frozen), and green onions. Let cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, and then mix it all together and push it to one side again.

Add the beaten egg, stirring occasionally, until the egg is scrambled. Stir the egg into the rice and add the soy sauce, ground ginger, and garlic powder. Eat!

Makes 4 servings, or 2 big servings

Does anyone have a killer cauliflower rice recipe to share? Wanna be friend in MyFitnessPal? Post below!

Capsule Wardrobe–I Got a Job!

So I hinted at this in my last post, but I’ve had a very drastic life change: after three and a half years at home with my daughter, Sarah, I’ve joined Bob’s Red Mill as a writer/researcher/proofreader. Which means I basically get to read (and write) about food all day long, in the employ of a stellar company that treats its employees very well. So yay!

This brought up two things: one, I needed to find full-time daycare for Sarah. It was a pretty emotional process. I really loved being home with her. But. At three and a half, it was becoming increasingly clear that Sarah needed more structure–as did I! We enrolled her in a place near my work, and although she gets frustrated at having to go “every day,” she’s been having a blast playing with other kids her own age every day.

So that’s a whole complex kettle of fish I won’t go into detail about here. But the second thing was, it turns out our corporate dress code is business casual, with jeans on Fridays. Which means jeans only on Fridays. And I love my jeans. I live in my jeans! I . . . did not own enough non-jeans pants to get me through a whole work week!

This led to a hurried online shopping spree at J Crew Factory (big shock, I know) to hastily put together a work wardrobe, right after I finally put together my Winter 10-Item Wardrobe! Fortunately, some pieces I already bought to wear around the house meshed well with my new workwear–check it out below!

While I generally follow Jennifer L Scott’s 10-item wardrobe guidelines, I also borrowed heavily from Leanne Blackmon’s Workwear Capsule Wardrobe ebook!

NavySweater

Cotton Caryn Cardigan in Navy

Lexie Pant in Navy

Lexie Pant in Navy. I also got these in Graphite (a dark gray), which is no longer available.

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Sidewalk Skirt in Navy (sense a theme?)

ChambrayShirt

Perfect Fit Chambray Shirt

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Stretch Button-Down Shirt in White

WhiteTee

J Crew New Perfect Fit T-Shirt in White

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Studio T-Shirt in Heather Graphite

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Open Drapey Fleece Cardigan in Heather Charcoal

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Car-Coat Cardigan in Burgundy Black

PaigeJeans

Paige Skinny Jeans–a present from my Mom and Dad. Friday gear!

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Edie Leather Loafers in Navy

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These are close to the Calf’s Hair Ballet Flats I had previously purchased!

BlondoBoots

And finally, another birthday present from my Mom–Blondo waterproof boots in Mushroom!

Now this aren’t my only work clothes–I also have a couple pairs of corduroys, and of course, my favorite striped shirt. This feels very basic and easy to put together–I’m tempted to add some accessories, but really, I don’t feel like dropping a ton more money. Maybe when I hit six months at the job!

Whew! So what do you think? Do you have any favorite workwear stuff on tap?

Winter 10-Item Wardrobe: Prep!

Wow, this is super late for many reasons (details later), but I wanted to get started on my Winter 10-item Wardrobe by reviewing last years’ picks. Which will survive? What do I currently have in my closet awaiting their closeups? Stay tuned, true believers!

I’ve long been a fan of capsule wardrobes, thanks to Jennifer L. Scott‘s Madame Chic books: you pick about 10 “core items” like pants, dresses, sweaters, and round them out with extras like t-shirts, jackets, shoes, etc. I’ve also been enjoying Leanne Blackmon’s Classy Yet Trendy blog: she generally has way more than 10 items (although she includes things like shoes, bags, etc.), but her style (pants) more closely matches mine.

So let’s get started by checking out last year’s picks!

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Plaid blouse by Rail.

I bought this last year and I still love it, although it’s starting to pill a little. This will likely be its last hurrah.

10-Item Wardrobe

J. Crew Factory chambray shirt.

Ugh, after at least six years, I had to let this go—the underarms were, well, the pits. Unfortunately J Crew Factory no longer carries this shirt. I am bummed!

10-item wardrobe jeans

Citizens of Humanity “Sculpt – Rocket” high rise skinny jeans in Waverly.

These pants were a disappointment. I bought them last year, and they’re already out due to holes in the knees and crotch. I know it’s partly my fault because I wore them almost every day, but come on! I never put these things in the dryer, I barely washed them! I will try to remedy this situation this time around by buying more pants. Yes, I am revolutionary.

10 item wardrobe jeans

Citizens of Humanity “Rocket – Sculpt” high rise skinny jeans in black.

These are a maybe. The knees faded, and these are already past their prime. Luckily I wore them less than the pants above!

10 item wardrobe Kenneth Cole black leggings

Kenneth Cole black leggings.

Ha ha ha ha! I don’t wear leggings. I never wore these. They were at least eight years old, so I don’t regret throwing them into the rotation. I will keep them as backup workout (HA) pants.

10 item wardrobe

Spider-Man sweatshirt, Forever 21.

I love this sweatshirt! But because of other factors, this will be relegated to the weekend rotation.

10 item wardrobe

Fisherman’s sweater, vintage.

Oh, I so wanted to love this 50-pound sweater. I got it off Etsy for a really good price, and it’s the real deal: a gorgeous wool sweater. It also was too warm and heavy and bulky for me, and it quickly developed a lot of moth holes. Bygones.

10 item wardrobe black sweater H&M

H&M black cardigan with lace detail.

Ehh, I’m glad I got this off ThredUp for $11, because I didn’t love it. Too thin, too tight, too cheap. Have fun at Goodwill.

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Blue “chambray” dress, Twill.

I really like this, but it wrinkles while I wear it. Not in my regular rotation anymore.

10 item wardrobe topshop wrap dress

Topshop Star Plissé wrap dress.

Um, why did I think a disco dress was going to be an everyday wardrobe staple?!? I barely wear dresses in the winter, certainly not one I have to keep an eye on to make sure I’m covered. I’m keeping this for special occasions and will wear it approximately three times a year until I die. You’re welcome.

On to the extras!

10 item wardrobe Madewell

Madewell t-shirts, white and gray.

These developed the tiny lower abdomen holes of mystery. Later!

10 item wardrobe splendid

Splendid ringer t-shirt.

Too wrinkly, didn’t wear well. Next!

10 item wardrobe

J. Crew Factory long-sleeved striped boatneck t-shirts.

Oh my goodness. It finally happened. J. Crew stopped freakin’ making these! Fortunately I replaced the navy-striped one last year, but . . . I’m going to need to track down another source. Why did you betray me J. Crew Factory?

10 item wardrobe star wars murder she wrote

Star Wars and Murder, She Wrote t-shirts.

These were awesome, but thanks to me wearing the heck out of them, they’re now relegated to weekend/workout gear.

So . . . I had one survivor from my core items and two from my extras?!? That is a crappy record. Hopefully this year’s 10-item wardrobe will fare better! Hopefully that post will be up by the end of the week!

So what do you think? Who has a capsule wardrobe to share? Do you have a striped shirt hookup you can tell me about? Post below!

Happy Monday! Pudding Is Ridiculously Easy, Landonness Is Next to Godliness & More

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Note: this is not pudding.

Happy Monday! I swear, I “write” this blog every day in my head, it’s just so hard to find actual time to type! I have so much to say, but I figure I’ll start out by sharing what I’ve been up to lately:

Geekery:
GeekCraft Expo, the handmade geeky craft fair I’m involved with, has been exploding all over the place. We announced the dates for our Portland show—

NOTE: I just have to say, almost as soon as I sat down to write this post, I was interrupted by my now-three-year-old daughter who told me she had to go to the bathroom. This is also why I can never write anymore! For those keeping potty training score at home: number one, 95%, number two, .01%. Pray for me.

Back to GeekCraft! Our Portland show will be Mother’s Day Weekend, May 12-13, and we’re moving to the Oregon Convention Center! This is a big move up for us that will allow us to grow the show (more geekiness!) and provide a world-class experience for exhibitors and attendees. Exhibitor applications are here!

I’ve also been doing some freelance PR for Dynamite Entertainment, publisher of such comics as The Boys, Nancy Drew, John Wick, Doc Savage, and more! If you’re a Doc Savage fan, Dynamite has a great “Build a Bundle” deal over at Groupees for the next couple of days: you can get 39 digital comics for $4.99, or 95% off the cover price, plus you can save 70% off rare Alex Ross variant comics!

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Artist Alex Ross: still awesome.

Kids Stuff

We went to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA this weekend—courtesy of a book-in-advance coupon I used a year ago (I’m a planner). This was our third time there, and it is surprisingly fun for parents, although it helps that Sid and Sarah love it sooo much. I’ll go into detail in a separate, future post, but my three main tips to save money at Great Wolf Lodge are: 1) book in advance (they usually have a promo code on site to use if you book at least 60 days in advance), 2) book for one night, but get there early to enjoy the pool and lodge the day of and day after your stay, and 3) bring cereal and fruit to eat breakfast in your room. We splurged on the breakfast buffet last year (with two adults, our two kids, and Sid’s two friends) and it was expensive, and the boys were mostly excited about the sugar cereal anyway.

In other kid business, I need advice! We’re making our annual trek to Massachusetts in March, and I need ideas: what toys/activities/games can I bring to keep a three-year-old entertained on a six-hour flight?!? Help!

Cooking

But Elisabeth, the title of this blog post mentions pudding! Where’s the pudding?!? So I’ve been fascinated by this cookbook, Wildly Affordable Organic—so much so that I actually bought it after checking it out at the library. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this book before. Although I don’t really do the organic part (I am cheap), and it’s a vegetarian cookbook (we do eat meat), I love that it has seasonal menu plans, a monthly shopping lists, and cooking plans where you do the heavy lifting—say, cook five pounds of beans, two loaves of bread, pasta sauce, dessert—on the weekend, so weekly cooking is easy. But also! The recipes are weirdly addictive, especially the chocolate and vanilla pudding recipes. Pudding, which I haven’t eaten since I was a kid, and almost never from scratch! Turns out pudding is stupid easy to make, and if you make it from scratch (and place parchment right on the surface to keep a skin from forming), it tastes just like the canned pudding I loved as a kid! Memories! But also: pudding is good.

Other recipes I’ve recently made (and loved):

Pork Loin Stuffed with Spinach and Goat Cheese: this is a lot of work (butterflying pork loin was so fun!), but definitely worth it. I roasted it instead of putting it in a Crock Pot because it was faster.

Panna Cotta: aka, Italian pudding. It’s my little joke (not really a joke) that I hate chewing, this is further evidence. It was delightful!

Cream Cheese Olive Roll-Ups: I made these to bring to Great Wolf Lodge because I had most of the ingredients on hand, although I substituted sundried tomatoes for green olives.

Basic Pancakes: Is this a glamorous recipe? No, it is not. Is it easy and damn delicious? Yes. Listen, Martha Stewart knows what she’s doing, and we eat these at least once a week.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Rabbit Hole

So, I read Alison Arngrim’s Confessions of a Prairie Bitch and it was fabulous. Alison is the actress who played Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie. Her life was insane (in ways both good and bad) and now she’s an AIDS activist and standup comedian who defends survivors of incest. She’s hilarious and an amazing person and I wish we could be best friends. Read it!

However. This sent me down a nutty rabbit hole. Not only did I then get Melissa Gilbert’s Prairie Tale (juicy and scandalous, but it was kind of sad that she thought then-husband Bruce Boxleitner was a healthy choice when it was so clear he was not. I hope her new husband Timothy Busfield is better) and then discover the hilarious and fast-paced Little House on the Podcast show by Kim Reed, but I got a little obsessed with Michael Landon (?!?) which led to the discovery that Highway to Heaven is on Netflix. I started watching it thinking it would be hilarious to see Michael Landon cast himself as an actual agent of God and weirdly touching to see him and Victor French (Mr. Edwards!) team up again, but it is legitimately pretty terrible and Landon was lucky it was pre-peak TV. I am still going to watch it all.

highway

So far Michael Landon, angel, has solved elder abuse/neglect, alcoholism, the grief of losing your husband and young son tragically, and racism!

Oh, and I’m re-reading The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure. When I commit to a rabbit hole, I go all the way. Don’t even get me started on road tripping to Missouri, because it. Is. Happening. Someday.

So. What’s up with you? Post your updates and comments below!

Mock Pizza Hot Dog Salad

The Secrets of “The Stuff”

 

Mock Pizza Hot Dog Salad

The Stuff on hamburger buns, because we’re classy like that!

Because it’s the holidays and I love you, I’m about to let you in on a horrifying family secret. One that if you are brave enough to attempt for yourself, you will thank me for. In secret!

Okay. When my brother and I were little, our Grandma Benge used to make us something she called “Mock Pizza,” and BJ and I dubbed “The Stuff.” It was cheesy and melty and meaty and indescribably delicious—we couldn’t get enough of it, and we begged our mother to make it. For a long time she denied knowing anything about it, but our will (and appetite) was strong, and we wore her down.

Now usually, when I get to this part of the story, the listeners lean forward, ready to hear about some charmingly rustic, vintage recipe. That’s when I say,

“You take a pound of hot dogs, a pound of Velveeta, half a red onion, and mayonnaise, and grind them into a paste.” Looks of betrayal, panic, and revulsion soon follow.

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What? It’s delicious!

But trust me! Spread this, um, delightful concoction (a cousin to such delights as ham salad) on sliced French bread and put it under the broiler—or, to be super special, spread it on refrigerated crescent-roll dough, roll ’em up, and bake them according to package directions—and you will be rewarded with one of the most delicious treats you will ever be lucky enough to eat! It’s pure alchemy!

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Okay, this photo is a little gross. Just trust me!

The red onion is my innovation (my Grandma Benge used pimentos), but you could make your own adjustments: I imagine pickles, olives, and other add-ins would be very tasty!

The Stuff, aka Grandma Benge’s Mock Pizza

You need:

 

1 pound hot dogs (whatever your favorite is), cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound Velveeta, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/2-1 cup mayonnaise, to taste

Mix the first three ingredients in a bowl, then run it through the coarse setting of a meat grinder or pulse it in a food processor. You want it to be spreadable but not totally smooth. Stir in mayonnaise to taste!

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The Stuff ready for action! And the apocalypse.

To use: Spread on baguette slices, hamburger buns, etc., and place under the broiler. Broil until the cheese melts and it gets a little browned. Delicious!

Alternately, you can spread refrigerated crescent roll dough with The Stuff, roll them up, and bake according to package directions. Warning: let them cool a little so you don’t burn off the top of your mouth with molten meat-cheese paste.

Add this to your next holiday get-together and delight your guests! Maybe just don’t tell them what they’re eating!

Do you have secret special holiday family recipes to share? Post them below!

Christmas in Dairyville

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas in Portland

Christmas in DairyvilleHo ho ho! As longtime readers know, I am a big fan of Christmas. The decorations! The family togetherness! The holiday china! Yes, I serve all of our meals on our Lenox Holiday china every day in December–otherwise it would just be silly to collect it, right?

But. There has been a bit of a shadow over this year. As someone who grew up in Portland in the late ’70s and early ’80s, there were some treasured, longstanding traditions that finally gave up the ghost in 2017: Meier & Frank’s (and later Macy’s) iconic Santaland, and the Meier & Frank (later My Macy’s) Holiday Parade.

Founded in 1857 right here in Portland, Meier & Frank was a titan, a chain of department stores whose expansion was inextricably entwined in the development of our very city. But, more importantly, Santaland was amazing. Situated on the 10th floor of the landmark downtown Meier & Frank building, Santaland was a winter wonderland filled with animatronic elves and reindeer, glittering Christmas trees, and gaily wrapped gifts leading to the real Santa (with a real beard) who “remembered” your name year after year. The whole thing was placed smack-dab in the middle of a huge selection of toys and ringed from above with a monorail that gave kids a birds’ eye view of the entire floor.

Meier & Frank Santaland

My brother and me at the Meier & Frank Santaland, 1980.

As the years went by, changes came: the toys thinned out (Toys R Us cornered the market), Meier & Frank was changed to Macy’s, and then when the building was remodeled, Santaland was relocated to the basement, requiring only one escalator instead of the 10 my brother and I scaled each year. The monorail was dismantled with the move, leaving only two stationary cars on the floor for kids to climb on.

But with sales slumping and real estate prices climbing, Macy’s parent company, the May Company, put the building up for sale last year, breaking up Santaland and ending the parade after nearly 20 years.

That was sad enough, but also, I had continued the tradition, bringing my kids there for pictures with Santa! So clearly, priority #1 this year was finding a new place to see Santa and rekindle the Christmas spirit! Here are my discoveries and experiences:

Christmas in Dairyville

Christmas in Dairyville: First off, I don’t know how I lived my life to this point without ever going here. Um, did everyone else know that Alpenrose has an entire “Western town” called Dairyville that includes an incredible “Storyville Lane” that’s like the Christmas equivalent of the Enchanted Forest? Because I did not. This is where we started our journey to make Christmas memories.

Pros:

  • Christmas in Dairyville is free to the public and huge!
  • Storyville Lane is pretty rad–flocked trees, little vintage Christmas houses, live animals.
  • They have face painting, ice cream (it was way too cold), food, and a gift shop.
  • Lots of cool historical exhibits, from vintage pianos (?) to classic old Alpenrose trucks and sleighs.

Cons:

  • We were there for about an hour and a half before we went to find Santa, and found that there was a two-hour wait. (We did not wait, see below.) Next time we’ll go take a number as soon as we get there.
  • The quality of the hot cocoa for sale was shockingly bad: clearly hot water with an inadequate amount of cocoa mix. Alpenrose is an actual dairy, why wouldn’t they offer, I don’t know, milk? Heat their own chocolate milk? It was not good.
Santaland at Oregon Historical Society

My very patient children–especially my son, Sid, thank you–at the Oregon Historical Society.

Meier & Frank Santaland at the Oregon Historical Society: I was very excited when I heard that Macy’s had donated part of Santaland to the Oregon Historical Society. Yes! A place that would cherish and display Santaland and preserve this important piece of history! When I saw that Santa would be there, I bundled my husband and the kids into the car and drove there next.

Pros:

  • It’s free to the public (the Oregon Historical Society is also free to Multnomah County residents).
  • There was almost no wait.
  • Pictures are free–bring your camera or device and a helper will take your picture.

Cons:

  • While the picture on OHS’s website is of the entire Santaland, it’s actually just a tiny corner with Rudolph, a couple of elves, and Santa’s chair. Don’t get me wrong–I’m so happy they have it. But my expectations were a little higher.
  • Unlike the traditional Santaland Santa, OHS’s Santa did not have a real beard.

Santaland at Lloyd Center Macy'sSantaland at the Lloyd Center Macy’s: Soon after our trip to OHS, I learned that the Lloyd Center Macy’s also had a piece of Santaland! Recapturing my Christmas memories was starting to resemble a game of Pokemon–I now have to run around and catch them all. But I needed to return some clothes to Old Navy, so Sarah and I went for a visit.

Pros:

  • Again, free.
  • This was actually a larger display that OHS’s–a little scenescape with the animatronic elves decorating the tree and pushing a gift-laden cart.
  • Near the Frango chocolates display. More nostalgia!

Cons:

  • No Santa (there’s a main mall Santa instead).

Monorail Exhibit at Pioneer Place: Oh my goodness. I am tired just typing this. I then discovered that the monorail cars are on display at the Pioneer Place Mall downtown. I have not witnessed this myself, but I doubt I will be able to resist checking it out. Is it near Hipster Santa? (UGH.)

I’m left with so many questions. Where are the rest of Santa’s reindeer? Or Macy’s 12 Days of Christmas window displays? What will move into the old Meier & Frank building? Is it time to relinquish my death grip on my childhood Christmas memories? My very patient husband–and children–might appreciate it.

Other Christmas treasures I’ve enjoyed this year:

The Hollywood Theatre has been playing Christmas matinees on the weekend, so I got to see White Christmas on the big screen for the first time ever, which was awesome. They will be playing a series of animated Christmas shorts, including Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, 12/23 at 2:00 pm.

Broadway Floral Home & Garden have some really beautiful wreaths for about $20. No bows, but I saved mine from years past.

We drove to three different Christmas tree lots in the bitter cold looking for a decent noble fir, but Fred Meyer ended up having the best option, at the best price ($41.99 for a 5-6 footer). They are extremely picked over, however.

Grocery Outlet Bargain Market has largish poinsettias for $6.99, a real bargain compared to $9.99 at Fred Meyer. Also, extremely cheap cheese, a must for any holiday gathering.

So what are your holiday musts and recommendations? Post them below!