Food Lover's Guide to Portland

The Food Lover's Guide to Global Foods

Mexican cuisine is soaring in popularity. So where can we find the finest and freshest ingredients?

By Karen Brooks August 23, 2012

0912 kelly meyers lozees

GUIDE: Kelly Myers

Mexican Magic

The rising-star chef and spice girl extraordinaire reveals four ingredients perfuming her new restaurant, Xico, joining SE Division Street’s culinary corridor of excellence this month.

Image: Anne Reeser

Canela (Mexican cinnamon)

“This flaky tree bark or ‘true cinnamon’ is interchangeable with common cinnamon sticks, just more interesting—warm, floral, very aromatic. I steep a stick in hot chocolate, and love horchata with lots of canela.”

Fidencio mezcal pta0ma

Image: Anne Reeser

Fidencio Mezcal

“Our favorite mezcal, smoother and slightly sweeter than most, and great for cocktails. I spill a spoonful or two over pinto beans just before serving with white onions, cilantro, and crisp bits of bacon.”

Dried chipotle chilies gmt0nz

Image: Anne Reeser

 Dried Chipotle Chiles  

“Toast these wrinkled chiles in a skillet over medium-low heat until you can smell them; cool and buzz in a spice grinder for meat rubs. Or rehydrate in water and blend with tomatillos for a tart, smoky salsa to spill over grilled franks.”

Image: Anne Reeser

Avocado Leaf

“For refried black beans, I love the potent, anise-like scent found in dried leaves of avocado trees. Sauté diced onion in olive oil with a small leaf or two, add cooked beans, fry a bit, then purée with a little cooking liquid from the beans. Garnish with crumbled Mexican chorizo or queso fresco.”

Advanced Shopping: Street-Food Heaven

The city’s most tantalizing ethnic dishes on wheels

Image: Michael Novak

Lefse Wraps

Viking Soul Food

4262 SE Belmont St

Portland’s handmade ethos meets Nordic comfort food in these delicately chewy, grill-speckled potato flatbreads. The best boast delicate schmears of fresh cream cheese and lingonberry jam, or aquavit-soaked salmon and pickled shallots. 

Image: Michael Novak

Crispy Rice, Cherries, Thai Sausage Salad

Carte Blanche 

SE 32nd Ave & Hawthorne Blvd

More fun than a Thai street party, Carte Blanche’s salad sports over a dozen ingredients dancing and crunching in wild harmony. Spiced cashews, cherries, fresh pineapple, crispy shallots, toasty coconut, crackling fried rice, and Asian sausage are just the beginning. 

Image: Michael Novak

Israeli Falafel and Fries

Gonzo (Now Closed)

SE 32nd Ave & Division St;

This installation inside of a pita highlights from-scratch garbanzo balls, wide swaths of tahini, and a true taste of the Israeli souk: the curry-like call of mango pickle heat; a pounding of parsley and pickles; shrieks of Yemeni hot sauce; and, teetering on top, long, golden fries.    

Image: Mei Ratz

Kélaguen Mannok with Titiyas 

PDX 671

SE 32nd Ave & Division St

It’s a revelation from Guam: a neat chop of cold chicken, each bite an ecstatic tingle of lemon, smoky char, and Thai chiles. Scoop it all up with warm titiyas—the buttery, flaky love child of a tortilla and coconut milk. 

Think Local, Eat Global 

0912 honey farmers market lnghmp

Image: Michael Novak

An emerging international farmers market sows a field of culinary dreams. 

At 11 a.m. every Sunday, a ramshackle plot of earth blossoms into a garden of eating tended by Latino farmers, Iu Mien gardeners, and Russian beekeepers. Tented tables hold hard-to-find Mexican herbs, Asian exotica, jubilant pickles, and, not least, starter plants, so you can grow worldly treasures in your backyard. In the corner, regulars dig into fat tamales, Somalian sambusas, and green sauce hot enough to curl your hair. Nearby, shoppers snoop around mountains of amaranth leaves and fresh garbanzo beans to live music as intimate as a village wedding. 

Welcome to Portland’s only open-air market for immigrant and emerging growers. The tiny, six-year-old Lents International Market, managed by Zenger Farms, is a neighborhood beacon, a direct-farm source for low-income shoppers, and, increasingly, a fresh supply chain for adventurous cooks.   

Scout the Russian stands for scrumptious radishes or delicate, pink-hued Russian Bull’s Heart tomatoes—a rare heirloom treat. No English is spoken at Vladimir Stadnikov’s farm booth, but the odd-size jars of wild honey need no translation: beautiful, complex structures of honeycomb bob like icebergs in amber syrup as floral and evanescent as a wildflower. Over at N&N Amaro Produce, a vivid universe beyond cilantro emerges in the intense, bright pop of pipicha and papalo leaves. The hub of the action lies at the community table, open to anyone with a garden haul to sell, and the conversation is part of the fun. Those unmarked, forest-hued greens beckoning for a date with the stir-fry? “Asian bitter greens,” offers one seller. “Old people like to eat them. They’re good for the skin!” Lents International Farmers Market; Sundays 11–4 through October; SE 92nd Ave & Foster Rd;

Image: Michael Novak

Advanced Shopping: Playing House

An emerging international farmers market sows a field of culinary dreams.


The cutest chopsticks on the planet, available in a zoo of options.

Peking Pan

This heavy-gauge pan—forged from a single piece of carbon steel—woks the talk with consistent, even heat.

Bento Lunchbox

For budding foodies, the Japanese Kokeshi Iron Chef  breaks into a soup bowl, a covered container, and a nifty saucer to hold that secret lunch ingredient.

Teapots and Cups

From high art to kitschy cool, the store’s collection runs deep.  

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