Portland

Late-Night Lattes and Gelato

© 2012 Affogato

Earlier in the week, I was invited to a couple’s house for dinner. I’d known said couple for several years. The wife is a zany interior decorator, and her husband is a homebrewer. Their son – the new arrival to their little nest – was the most expressive toe-head of a baby I’d ever seen. Cute as a button.

They succeeded in accomplishing an amazing feat that night – getting me to eat an entirely vegetarian meal. That and eating everything that was on my plate. If it hasn’t been made obvious, I’m the very antithesis of a vegetarian. Meat is delicious.

If someone said to me, “That will kill you someday.”

My response would be, “The sooner the better!” All the while gleefully OM-NOM-ing my way into happy oblivion.

Both had prepared a wondrous meal of cooked barley and kale salad. The only thing not a vegetable was the goat cheese, which was also fantastic. And something I hadn’t had before. But the day o’ firsts didn’t end there. Ooooh no.

Following a mediocre outing for beers (and rude waiters), the couple suggested we stop off at a gelato place for dessert. I’d never had it before. They described it as “ice cream made with egg and milk…and awesome!” (paraphrased slightly). Only time I’d ever heard of it was in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.

The location in question – known as Affogato – was within walking distance from their fair ‘burb in St. John’s, a very distant fringe of Portland. The gelato/espresso place had only been open for six weeks. Both of the owners were brothers, and – aside from the gelato that they made themselves – they also (as I was told) made/boiled/blended a mean masala chai.

Yes, it's a bad picture, but - trust me - it was delicious.

Crappy picture, I know. But delicious.

I had determined to only stick with the gelato. My cup was a hybrid of “Milk Chocolate Chunk” and regular chocolate. It was the stuff Care Bear Heaven was made of. I gleefully devoured it with very little poise or posture, making a mess the entire way. What I wasn’t expecting was how filling it would be.

@ 2012 Affogato

@ 2012 Affogato

While I was inhaling my dessert, I queried Simon (the co-owner) about their chai some more. He informed me that they did all the blending and brewing themselves – just like everything else in their shop. This made my ears perk. Then he informed me that they boiled the spices for multiple hours. I drilled him for ingredients. He told me their signature blend contained orange pekoe, ginger, cardamom, cloves, anise, nutmeg, peppercorns, honey, orange zest, cinnamon, coconut sugar, and…lastly…

Vanilla beans!

I ordered the chai latte.

To be honest, I’m not usually a masala chai sorta guy. When I do have it, I prefer the spices to be balanced with the milk, sweetness, and black tea base. It’s easy to make masala chai and the latte variant, but it’s also easy to mess it up. This was perfectly balanced. On the spice end, ginger definitely took point, but it was reined in by the vanilla presence. That and texturally it was fluffy but full-bodied. These brothers knew what they were doing.

I left with a tummy full of warming awesome.

Now, all I’ve gotta do is convince them to make a masala chai gelato.

*Cue evil laughter*

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Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 Steep Stories No Comments

Meeting a Tea Moment

Sometimes – just sometimes – Twitter is steeped in awesome. A fellow tea blogger – Jen of An International Tea Moment – reached out to the Twit-o’-Sphere to see if there were any decent tearooms in Portland. Another fellow tea blogger – Nicole of Tea For Me Please – directed her to me. Because…apparently, I’m the go-to guy for Portland tea-binging. I passed along some suggestions and inquired about what was bringing her to my corner of the ‘burb. Tea Moment Jen replied that she was in town on a business trip and had a smidge of time to track down some good tea.

Naturally, I calmly and professionally suggested we should meet up.

She obliged, and we traded contact info to see if it was in the cards. We agreed that Tea Chai Te was a good enough place for a hypothetical meet-and-greet. I hadn’t been there in well over a year.

The next day, while awaiting the possible tea-chime, I started my “morning” with a Nilgiri green and cereal. It was far stronger than I anticipated, leaving me practically bouncing off the walls. (Er…in my mind.) Roughly around noon, Tea Moment Jen texted informing me that she was on her way from the airport to Tea Chai Te. I took off like a bat outta hell, outright ignoring certain traffic laws.

Tea Chai Te is a curious little tearoom situated in Portland’s Pearl District – right off of NW 23rd, or “Trendy”-Third as the locals call it. It’s urban to the core, small, but oozes adorability. Early on in my tea exploration, I was a frequenter of the place. Somehow, though, my visits became fewer and far between. Probably because I had tea dates there that didn’t go so well.

I arrived in roughly fifteen-ish minutes – record time for such a trek – and found Tea Moment Jen sitting in a corner with soup and teapot. I scissored my way past a couple of hipsters and clumsily introduced myself. She did likewise with far better poise. I excused myself for a moment to order a pint of something dark.

First question out of her mouth (like any good tea geek) was, “What did you order?”

“The Zhen Qu Gold Buds,” I replied.

Her eyes widened. “That’s what I ordered!”

Badass, I thought.

How was Tea Moment Jen in person? Just as elegant and eloquent as her blog indicates her to be. We discussed everything under the sun from favorite teas, Russia, how we got into tea, to how awesome Jo Johnson is, to tea vendors we liked. The conversation ran the entire tea-ish gamut. I was talking a mile a minute like a hyper-caffeinated motormouth.

After about an hour, though, we had to part ways. I left feeling accomplished, enlightened, and…bouncy. (Damn you, Zhen Qu!) While brief, the outing was beautiful and badassery-incarnate. Another blogger friend notched off the “tea-in-real-life” list.

Kindly ignore my obvious bed-hair.

Kindly ignore my obvious bed-hair.

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Wednesday, October 10th, 2012 Steep Stories No Comments

I work for tea money.

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