Food Critic Karen Brooks Dishes On What to Eat, Right Now.

Portland Monthly's restaurant guru shares her obsessions and under-the-radar finds of the month.

By Karen Brooks December 1, 2014 Published in the December 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Karen Brooks


Head to the far corner of eclectic downtown gift shop Flora, past the bird-themed art trays and house-made scents that promise to “Smell Like Portland.” Look for the crazy cluster of tasting cups, old medical bottles, and jars of dried flowers, and barks. You’ve arrived at Wolf’s Apothecary, a hidden gem selling impressive local teas carefully formulated with foraged finds and hand-harvested “healing” plants by owner Jewelie Randall. My favorites: silky, sunny “golden dawn” (right) rumbling with oat tops, and the dandelion chai, chunked with cinnamon, roasted roots, cardamom pods, and a persistent hum of earth and spice. Sold by the ounce ($3.50–6.50); the shop also ships. 

Image: Karen Brooks


No one has better reimagined American candy bars than Portland chocolatier David Briggs. Exhibit A: his better-than-Snickers Raleigh bar. Now, Briggs’s Xocolatl de David has unleashed a devilishly fine Brown Butter Crunch bar. Think Nestlé with a higher IQ, all deep crackle, bittersweet intensity, and sharp French sea salt, with a little Butterfinger swagger. Consider it the very definition of a stocking stuffer. 


When is a coffee shop not a coffee shop? SE Hawthorne’s super cute Oui Presse has an answer, transforming once a month into a nameless pop-up serving eight courses of great rustic Northwest fare for only $36. Your cook/host/busboy for the evening? An introverted, culinary antihero who describes his fervently curated ingredients simply as “stuff I found.” That would be Kurt Heilemann, better known as Davenport’s co-owner and wine guru. He scours farmers markets for prime seasonal goods, then blows into Oui’s tiny kitchen like a windstorm and reveals his secret life as a cook. On your way to a groaning finish, you might encounter cured salmon and white currants, a lovely omelet of radishes and arugula, or hunky braised oxtails matched by rugged polenta. Most everyone shares $25 bottles from Heilemann’s affordably snobbish stash. Or bring your own for a corkage fee— and a judgmental stare from you know who. E-mail [email protected] to reserve a seat, Dec 14

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