Posts Tagged ‘Portland Pizza’
I’m not a very disciplined writer. Well, I’m not very disciplined at anything, actually. Point being, when I set out to have an experience, and subsequently write it up, I don’t have a structure or point in mind ahead of time. I write about what moves me (or doesn’t) at the time of the experience. It’s based on emotion, only, rather than fact; I don’t take notes, and I’m a lousy photographer, so my pix never adequately describe my experience, either.
I’ve never been to Camas before, never really had a reason to head in that direction. Though I had heard good things about Twilight Pizza Bistro, there didn’t seem to be any reason to make the trek from Southwestern Portland. I was wrong.
Last night, owners Don and Morgan invited a friend and I to sample the “best Italian food in Clark County,” as they and hordes of their customers describe the fare.
Opened in 2007 in a historical building in downtown Camas; Camas is situated near the north bank of the Columbia River, approximately 20 miles East of Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA.
The owners wanted to create a “family-centric’ dining establishment, with a full-service menu serving Italian style cuisine and pizza. Appetizers include a variety of twists concocted from pizza dough, as well as steamers and wings.
Our “over the top” server Tim showed us to the table and explained the menu choices. It was a Monday nite, dinner time, and every table was full. (They are moving to a new, expanded location in the Spring, (watch their website or follow them on Twitter for updates).
If I was writing this piece from the heart, I’d tell a tale of a young newlywed couple that created an establishment five years ago, built with equal parts of love, restaurant knowledge, family recipes, and hospitality-centric personalities. But if I wrote it that way, I doubt I would motivate you to try Twilight, and this morning, that’s my goal – to get you in there. If I can get you in their front door, there is no doubt in my mind that you’ll return over and over again.
Don and Morgan visited our table several times to talk about their passion, their methods, their ingredients, and their hopes and dreams for the future. My dining companion for the night was our dear family friend Gigi Petery, former personal chef and future psychologist.
One of the things I carped to Don about, in general, is my annoyance with people that get into the “hospitality” business, but ‘aren’t.’ This can’t be said for Don and Morgan. They DO get it. They DO understand why people come to their restaurant, and do everything they can to make the experience a great one.
There’s an old-timey restaurant on the way to the bayous and swamps out of New Orleans, a dated Italian joint, one of my favorite places in the world; it’s called Mosca’s. Some say the original family cooked for Al Capone, and headed out for New Orleans when that stage of their career ended. “Insiders” walk into Mosca’s, and decline a menu, giving the waiter the simple instructions of “feed us.”
I’d be VERY comfortable doing the very same thing at Twilight. In fact, we glanced at the menu, but told Don our personal likes and dislikes, and asked him to prepare what he thought best.
When our food was brought to the table, I had a second realization about Don. HE CAN READ MINDS! He knew exactly what would please both of us, instructed the kitchen in those points, and delivered the goods.
We started with the crostini plate, which they call “The Big Schmear.” A sliced toasted baguette, accompanied by a whole roasted head of garlic (which I hogged, sorry Gigi), whipped butter, and a ramekin of oil and balsamic vinegar. OMG, as you hipsters would say! It was delicious. The garlic was done perfectly, roasted to the point to where you can squeeze a clove onto a baguette piece, and have a “died and gone to heaven” smile on your face with every bite. Mrs. Burgerdogboy (she was under the weather last nite, at home with chicken soup), roast a bulb a couple times a week, it’s easy, delicious, and garlic is good for you.
We both were in the mood for pizzas, and we weren’t disappointed. Don and Morgan thought their ‘T-Rex” was the way to go for me, and the Tree Hugger was the choice of Gigi. AGAIN WITH THE ESP!
Twilight starts with fresh made dough, a base of basic red sauce they have seasoned to perfection, and the finest quality meats and vegetables.
Pizzas come in five sizes, which range from “individual” to “BurgerDogBoy” size (16″), which their menu describes as serving 5-6 people. Or me. Atop the fresh crust and red sauce, the T-Rex has hand-pulled chunks of Italian Sausage, Hormel Pepperoni, Canadian Bacon, and Andouille (“on doo eh”) (a spicy French sausage popular in the Southern US). Although not on the menu offering for the T-Rex, on my version, Don threw on a few more whole, roasted garlic cloves. Nice touch!
Gigi’s Tree Hugger was a vegetable lovers delight. Mushrooms, bell peppers, black olives, sweet onions, zucchini, and sun-dried tomatoes. Server Tim suggested a few fresh sliced tomatoes as an accompaniment for Gigi and it was a great suggestion.
Cooked in a standard Baker’s Pride pizza deck, the pies do take some time, and the menu cautions you about that. How much time do they take to bake? Exactly the right amount, judging from the results. The pies are baked perfectly, and come out to the table with there being no doubt in your mind that this pie was prepared fresh and is ready to eat. The crust is only very slightly browned, there’s no charring, the outer rim is slightly crispy, and the chewy factor increases as you work your way to the center of the pie.
Look at the bottom of a pie, and you will get a sneak peak into the fastidiousness of the owners, recognizable by the appearance of the bottom of the pizza. No oven residue, no charred spots. Perfect.
The owners of Twilight did their research when it came time to select what toppings they were going to offer. Most of the meats are from the acclaimed Chicago purveyor Fontanini. I have had NO BETTER Italian sausage in Portland than this. One only need look at my waistline to know just how much Italian sausage I’ve consumed, and in fact, Twilight’s food is in the negative calorie category(1) for those of you concerned with such matters.
On my next visit, server Tim suggested I try their most interesting pie, so interesting that he ordered it seven times in a row, as a customer, before he came to work at Twilight. The “Southern Comfort” adds a hint of bbq sauce to the red, and adds chicken to a variety of meats. Sounds wonderful.
Having no room for dessert, naturally our hosts insisted we try them, and we shared the creme brulee, and a rhubarb crisp, topped with creamy Tillamook vanilla ice cream. They were both superb, and I hogged the crisp (sorry again, Gigi!).
The menu is chock-a-block full of things I want to try: steamers, pastas, and a salad or soup or three I’m interested in. While Twilight is quite a distance from my house in SW Portland, I will happily find an excuse to get back to Camas for more, and soon.
Thanks, Don, Morgan, and Tim for a superb experience. You deserve all the success and kudos you have received, and best wishes for achieving even greater heights when you move to your new location!
(Ed. disclaimer as required by law): Twilight Pizza Bistro comped out meal).
(1) I am teasing of course. There is no such thing as “negative calorie’ food.
We were served a wide variety of dishes, and overall my favorite was Sunshine’s take on the national dish of Canada, poutine. Sunshine’s version adds Italian pork sausage to the gravy, and it was absolutely superb. They have mastered the art of keeping hand-cut fries very crisp, even when bathed in gravy, no easy feat!
We had a couple slices of pepperoni pizza, and that was grand, for my likes, as you know, are cracker thin crust, and Sunshine’s fit that description, crispy on the edges, chewier working inward. Loved it.
Finally, we had bits of the fried chicken sandwich, and washed it all down with slushee margaritas (wow!).
Looking foward to heading back for brunch and dinner items, including their burger, pork belly sandwich, chicken and waffles, and their biscuits and gravy, which features the same Italian sausage gravy as the fries! Sunshine will be one of my new regular hangouts, no question!
Mrs. Burgerdogboy was having a lunch biz meeting here and offered to bring me something home. (She is SO good to me!) I went with the pizza, simply because a) I haven’t had pizza in awhile, and 2) I had not tried Blitz’s and it would give me something to write about.
I asked her to get the “People’s Pizza”, which promises 18″ of fun topped with salami, ham, Italian sausage and bacon.
While she was waiting for her take-out order, Mrs BDB talked to the chef a bit, who came out and asked if everything her party had was OK. Chef explained the difference between the various locations of Blitz – was has just opened in SW on 99w. Menus and themes vary at each location.
The pizza arrived at our house a short time later, still warm from the oven. It’s a monster pie – 18″, most shops version of large is 14″, and the pie was esthetically pleasing.
I knew at first glance that I would love the crust – thin and cracker like, promising crispy crunching at the edges, and chewy goodness as one progressed inward towards the middle.
Toppings were ample, and while I am not usually a fan of crumbled and diced toppings, preferring hand-pulled or sliced chunks, instead, but on the Blitz’s pie, this method really worked – due to the quantity of toppings used – flavor extended across the entire diameter. Whole slices of salami dotted the pizza in a concentric circle.
The sauce and cheese are to my liking – blending in with the other flavors, neither overpowering the other. Applications of finely diced garlic, and an ample sprinkling of herbs round out the taste of the Blitz pizza.
Two things I look for: On a thin crust, the effect that NY “hang” has on the toppings; when you hold a slice and it slumps over, do the toppings all end up in the box? Not so with Blitz. Second? How does the pie fare the next morning, having sat in the box all nite? Blitz? Excellent. Enjoying left overs right this second, and with an 18″ pie, there are ample leftovers!
Pizza, like all foods, is a very personal thing. One has their likes and dislikes. I haven’t been too happy with pies in Portland, despite the raves some restaurants receive from their customers. My favorite to date has been from Cara Amico on Barbur.
Today, Blitz knocked off Cara Amico and moved to the top of my Portland list! (Add sliced Silician-style olives as a topping choice, you’ll move near the top of my all-time favorite list as well!)
Stopped here at the rec of a fellow Yelper, while passing thru the area yesterday. I had a car load of people of varying ilks (gluten free, vegetarian, and me – garbage-atarian) (I eat anything), and the menu offered something for everyone. Three small pies and a Greek salad put me back $61, which was a little brutal, I thought.
Bortolami’s is an unassuming place in a small strip mall; the decor is “neo-bicycle”, with bikes, accessories, and racing shirts hung from the walls and ceiling. A flat screen plays sports channels. I cannot say whether or not the motif adds to “ambiance,” so let’s just call it a theme, that carries through to the menu, with specialty pies having bike-oriented names.
The crust is Boboli-like. Puffy, with a crusty bottom, chewy and doughy. It’s a quality crust, if your preference leans towards this type of thickness.
The red sauce leans towards the recipes that provide a sweet, rather than savory flavor, quantities of cheese and the flavor it imparts is good.
The toppings range from very fresh cut vegetables, to prepared, standard pizzeria variety. In the latter end, the Italian sausage is the medium, pre-cooked (I suspect) type, but with very good flavor, nice fennel and a bit of kick, and the pepperoni has a slightly higher fat content, resulting in two things on a pie – more flavor, but with slight cupping and charring, which is actually what I prefer out of my pepperoni.
All that said, the pie is VERY filling, and even the small size is too much for most diners to polish off in one sitting. I had two slices of the medium, and caved, having to polish it off in several settings at home, including this morning, and if you are a
regular reader, you know my own personal “ultimate” pizza test, is how good it
is the next morning cold, and Bortolamis shines in this category for me.
The Greek salad was very nice, greens with thin-sliced purple onion, black olives, and lots of feta, with a paper ramekin of Greek-type salad dressing on the side.
Would I go back? For certain, if I was spending time in the area, or passing through again.
If you live within spitting distance of this pie shop, I recommend you give it a try.
Everybody raves about Old Town Pizza, just look at the front page of their website: “Something to Experience before You Die”; “Visited by the Tonight Show and Rachel Ray’s Tasty Travels“.
So what are my raves about Old Town? It’s a really nice building and space. Oh, and it’s a really nice building and space.
I went with their normal crust, which is kind of “Boboli-like” in nature; they now offer a “new thin crust” but it only comes in a smaller version. (Wot? Wot?).
The sauce is non-descript, and the cheese, well, is cheese. I was really excited from the menu description of the “house-made sausage”, but it wasn’t all that flavorful, and the bits were miniscule. There are lots of great house-made sausages around town, and this isn’t one of them.
You place your order at the ‘order counter’, and it’s not really clear that if you want drinks, you can pay together or separate (at least it wasn’t to me).
The order-taker gives you a playing card, and your pizza is brought out when it is ready. If your server is ambitious, you’ll get flatware, plates, and napkins. If they aren’t, you’ll have to ask.
Standard seasonings adorn each table.
I’m just moving into a new office in Old Town, and I was really hoping this place was going to be my twice-weekly stop or delivery choice.
Did I mention it’s a really nice building?
Waiting at the local mall the other day, actually waiting to have lunch with a client nearby, was feeling a might peckish and decided to have a pre-lunch slice. The food court option was Villa Pizza, an outlet of the nationwide brand chain, Villa Enterprises.
The origin of the pizza stems from a single outlet in NYC’s Times Square, and now they have over 200 locations in malls and airports across the country.
It was $3.50 for a good-sized slice of “New York style” pepperoni, and I liked it. Thin crust, capable of a good roll if you wanted to eat it “New York style”, with a crispy edge and chewy middle. The sauce has a bit of heat to it, and the pepperoni is low in fat enough to prevent cupping or charring.
I’d hit it up again. Menu is online.
Mrs. BurgerDogBoy has been suggesting I get to “Give Pizza A Chance” since she read about it in Portland Monthly. Funny, I hadn’t tried it, I hit that food pod quite a bit. In the pic of the stand, you can see “Swamp Shack” next to it, some great Creole food, and next to that, “Tabor“, who makes an excellent schnitzelwich!
On to the pizza. I ambled by shortly before noon, and perused the pies on offer, the big rack has a stack of ’em, with little handmade signs describing their toppings.
I went with a slice of their all meat pie, pepperoni, sausage, C-bacon. It’s a thin crust effort (tho they have deep dish as well), and they boast about their organic flour and locally sourced meats. A little sign out front says the pepperoni is now from Otto’s. Nice.
By most pizza eater’s definitions, the thin crust is “New York” style, meaning you’ll find some flex if you want to roll your slice – and you can see this in the “hang.”
The outside is crispy while the innards are chewy, always a miracle to me. Light on cheese and sauce, some scattered salty pork parts, this is a great pie, and someday I’ll grab a whole one and nosh on it for days (they are big!)
My second experience with Bellagio’s wasn’t as good as my first one, however, there wasn’t enough change to put me off ordering from them again.
The first negative was I ordered before they had even opened, and ordered a delivery for 1130 A; the store called me a few minutes later and said they were slammed with orders, and delivery would take a minimum of one hour and a half, did I still want the pie? Well, at least they let me know, and I left the order in.
I once again ordered their all meat pie, which they call the “Butcher Block”, and has Mozzarella, Salami, Pepperoni, Canadian Bacon, Italian Sausage. I added double cheese for an additional buck.
I was as impressed with the quality of meat toppings as I was the first go-around, tho I think with the economy, perhaps the quantity has lessened a bit, and the Italian sausage pieces seemed a bit smaller.
The cheese, this time – not so sure. I don’t think I got the “double” portion, and the melt quality (see pic) left a little something to be desired. In the pic you’ll also note the grease stain on the paper plate.
The crust is fine, tho the thickness is not my preference, it still makes for an enjoyable experience, crispy on the perimeter, chewy as you work your way inland.
Actual delivery time (their charge is $2) took 1 hour and 45 minutes, which in my experience, isn’t usual.
Of the people that deliver to my SW neighborhood, Bellagio’s is clearly the best choice for midday. Evenings, I will prefer to opt for the wider selections available from Delivered Dish.
How did they do on my ultimate test for pizza? How is it the next morning after sitting out on the counter all night? Bellagio passes that one with flying colors! Think I’ll have a slice right now!
Local Portland business Attorney, Will Du Val, and his better half, ok, 2/3, Victoria, invited us out for some holiday cheer last night, and their choice was Nostrana, the locavore-oriented Italian place on SE Morrison. It’s always been a hang-out of theirs since the early days of couple-dom (2nd anniversary coming up Jan 1, if you want to send gifts), and I quickly saw why it’s special to them.
With a menu that changes nearly nightly, Nostrana is one of those places which has taken local ingredients to ethnic dish variations, with a vengence, resulting in a wide variety of interesting offerings.
It becomes a study in juxtapositions. One notices this right off, when you enter the cavernous, high-ceiling room, which is huge and intimate at the same time. Mrs. BurgerDogBoy said the wood beams reminded her of an upside-down Noah’s ark. To me, it said “Aspen Apres Ski” motif.
An open bar, kitchen, and the wood burning ovens are the centerpieces of the room.
The menu is limited by seasonal availabilites of ingredients, and that’s not a bad thing. Rather than trying to offer the sun, moon and stars to suit every single diners’ tastes, Nostrana limits what they do, and in turn, that means what they do prepare, they do well.
Interesting starters last nite included garlic roasted cabbage, and a plate of an orange/onion salad. I favored both.
The Du Vals went for the flat iron steaks, prepared, by waitress mandate either “medium rare or rare”, and the result was a wonderfully flavorful piece of beef.
Mrs. BurgerDogBoy went for gnocchi (served only on Thursday nites), with a basil pesto ‘sauce’ that was heavy on the herbs, and light on the sauce, a nice change. Savoring each delicate potato pillow, she opted to bring a big portion of it home, surely destined for the breakfast table this morning.
And, choosing for me, Mrs. BDB ordered a fennel sausage pizza, great cheese, great sauce, larger than I would have suspected, crispy and bubbling out of the wood-fired oven, Neapolitan style.
Undoubtedly one of the best pies Portland has to offer.
I know we’ll be back as the seasons change, to sample more of this chef wunderkind’s masterpieces. I heartily recommend reservations, as the place was jammed early in the evening. We were somehow blessed with the corner booth (no doubt due to the Du Val’s influence in this burg), which was just great, for permitting a view of the entire room and kitchen operation both.
Service? Uneven. But not so much as to dampen the entire experience.
Thanks B and V for sharing a wonderful night, and a place so special to you.
(Yes, I know, I can’t believe I didn’t shoot the pic before taking a slice, either! But it looked sooooooooooo good!)
Geez, I hate it when there is something “new” and I’ve missed it. Especially if it is “8 months new!” Apparently, when I wasn’t looking a new pizzeria opened inside one of my neighborhood grocery stores, the Thriftway in SW Portland.
Called “A Slice of New York,” that’s exactly what they offer, whole pies, slices, NY style hoagies, calzones and the like.
I had wandered in to Thriftway to get some bagels for Sunday morning, not one of my usual stops, but Noah’s had exactly 3,255,123 people in line. (Ok, Noah’s is not one of my usual stops, either).
So I decided to grab a slice, the choices were cheese or pepperoni with pepperocini, the latter not being my favorite, I went with the plain old cheese slice. It was $2.50, a far better price than many slices around town lately, and I told them they could forgo a reheat.
Wrapped in foil, I took it to a table, and took a pic, then another showing the ‘hang,’ and another to show whether or not you could roll it. (YES!).
Examined the slight pools of cheese grease on top, punched at the crust with my finger, noted the spring, and took a bite.
OMG, I’m at Original Ray’s! (Or anyplace in NY with “Ray” in the name).This is about as good a NYslice as one can find here in Plaid Town, Oregon.The prices for whole pies are spendy (see menus below).