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Guide for sophisticated vegetarian dining

Monthly Archives: September 2012

I cook quinoa pretty often. Both a grain and a protein, quinoa is an easy choice for the unambitious vegetarian cook.

The folks at Andina in Portland start with quinoa, and end up with this:

Behold: quinoa salad. It’s a terrine of sorts with black and white quinoa and vegetables. The fattiness of the cotija cheese, olives, and avocado play off the chewiness of the quinoa. I would love to make this at home, but this dish takes real effort.

Quinoa comes from the Andes, so it makes sense that Andina serves such a cool dish with it in their bright, bustling space overlooking the Pearl District. Andina has a vegetarian menu and can accommodate vegans, though cheese is in many dishes.

Besides the quinoa, and a plate of perfectly grilled asparagus, I had a dish of roasted beets:

I’ve never had beets and mushrooms together before. With the  slightly spicy aji green sauce (and sesame oil), the combination was really good. The pickled vegetables brought some  acidity and brightness to the plate.

Most dishes come in small, medium, and large. It would be fun to sample a bunch of vegetarian dishes with a group of friends. (Your carnivorous friends, especially the fish-eating ones, will love this place too.)


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Rooftop restaurants sound cheesy to me. I always wonder if they’ll revolve. And I expect only dreary decor and forgettable food.

Departure, at the top of The Nines hotel, looks like the sleek, sexy airport departure lounge of your dreams. And the food is amazing – possibly the best meal we had in a week of dedicated eating during our trip to Portland.

Departure has a vegan menu. For a gal from Texas, this is astounding.

And since this Asian-inspired food, there is vegan protein in the form or tofu, tempeh, and edamame.

I started out with shiitake nigiri sushi:

The complexity of the smoked citrus soy and garlic soy caramel were perfect with the chewy, earthy mushrooms. This might have been my favorite dish of the night.

The gingered mushrooms followed:

The mushrooms, some greens, and slices of Asian pear came on a bed of pureed parsnips. While the puree was delicious (it tasted buttery, which is hard to accomplish in a vegan dish without butter), the dish overall could have used something crunchier than the fresh greens. Maybe panko?

Then came the brussel sprouts, which friends had told us we had to order:

Cooked with malt vinegar, lime, and chili, this was a complex, tasty dish. These brussel sprouts are pulled apart, with individual leaves composing the salad. This gives them a light texture. The strong flavor of cilantro tasted great with the heat of the chili and the acidity of the vinegar and lime.

Since we only had to waddle to the elevator to get back to our hotel room, we went ahead and split a warm ginger black plum crisp.

It was comfort food (sweet cooked plums) with a surprise element : the astringent, only slightly sweet Thai basil ice cream.  An Asian-influenced crisp.

Departure can be expensive (order lots of sushi) or moderate (stick with the  larger plates).

All this deliciousness, AND you get a gorgeous view:

Makes me rethink dining at the top.

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