Espresso Excellence

Alex Pond’s winning brew is for judges only, but he knows where else to get great joe.

By Lynette Sanchez

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The champ

?Alex pond’s signature coffee is an exercise in extravagance. His espresso is Panamanian single-origin Carmen Estate, reserved specially for him by Stumptown Coffee. He infuses his milk with saffron. His cocoa powder was ground on a small family farm in Bali. He pulls his shot over caramel sauce (homemade, of course). His salt: Tanzanian. Pond calls his creation the Continental. And it’s a winner.

A barista at the Fresh Pot on N Mississippi Avenue, Pond recently won the Northwest Regional Barista Championship in Tacoma, Washington, and will compete in this month’s US Barista Championship right here at the Oregon Convention Center (March 5–8)—which may be the closest most of us ever get to the Continental.

If the Fresh Pot sold the drink, it would cost an indulgent ten bucks or so, for just four ounces—if they could even get the ingredients. “It’s well balanced, it’s complex, it’s sweet and syrupy and chocolatey,” says Pond, twenty-two. “It’s everything I want in a cup of espresso.”

At the nationals, he’ll compete against more than fifty other baristas. Each will have fifteen minutes to prepare and present four espressos, four cappuccinos, and four of their own signature drinks to the seven hovering judges. Competitors are scored on taste, presentation, technical skill, cleanliness, and overall impression. While competing they wear microphones and look a little like Costco product demonstrators as they tell the stories of their technique and coffees with an audience looking on. Pond hails from Eugene, but here he’s the hometown favorite. “I like to think of Portland as the coffee capital of America,” he says. “No matter who’s competing, I want Portland to win.

 

Pork-Drunk Love

How to treat the sexiest breakfast meat right.

By Brian Barker

 

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Braised pork belly with poached egg, from Masterbacon

Bacon is such a quintessential breakfast staple, even vegetarians stake a claim to their own versions. We’d argue the morning itself is made better by bacon. When those marbled strips of pork hit the pan, the scent lifts us above our earthly entanglements, and the near-hymnal sizzle sings.

Everything tastes better with bacon, and lately Portlanders have embraced it with grease-fueled gusto. Every restaurant in town seems to have a tongue-in-cheek ode to that fatty and luscious cut of pig belly, be it for breakfast, lunch, dinner—or even dessert. Le Pigeon serves an apricot-maple-bacon cornbread as post-supper indulgence. Jenn Louis at Lincoln has been known to top her apple pies with woven bacon. And what adorns Voodoo Doughnut’s maple-frosted bar? You guessed it.

“Portland has long been known as the microbrewing capital of the world, but I like to think of it as the bacon capital of the world,” Scott Kveton says of the salty meat’s local do-it-all appeal. He should know. Kveton recently celebrated the launch of his Southwest Portland–based specialty mail-order bacon company, Bacn.com, by hosting Portland’s inaugural “Masterbacon” cooking competition. Held in January at Davis Street Tavern in Old Town, the event drew nearly forty local contestants who brought creations such as peanut butter–bacon sandwiches, bacon baklava, and even a maple-bacon custard pie.

Despite plans to spin off the bacon bash as “Bacon Camp” in cities like Seattle and San Francisco, Kveton knows that sometimes the best way to enjoy bacon is the old-fashioned way: fried in a pan, at home. Here are his tips for sizzling up the perfect slice:

1. Iron it out: A large skillet, ideally cast iron, distributes heat evenly. Cast iron also retains flavors from past use. For maximum zing, prime your skillet with leftover bacon grease.

2. Fryer beware: Because the meat releases water when heated, if you cook too much bacon at once, you’re boiling, not frying it—gag. Kveton suggests preparing only three to four pieces at a time.

3. Put a lid on it: After an initial flip of the bacon, cover the pan. This regulates the temperature and browns the meat evenly.

4. Take the long road: Use low, steady heat. If your stove has five heat settings, aim for the third. Flip the bacon every few minutes, and allow ten to twelve minutes of sizzle before removing. (For thicker cuts, increase cooking time to around fifteen minutes).

 

Wake and Slake

Don’t be ashamed. Booze for breakfast is perfectly acceptable.

By Bart Blasengame

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The Street Car at Everett Street Bistro

?The crimson mélange of beer and tomato juice is called many things. Red Eye. Red Rooster. Bucket o’ Blood. Of course, I knew none of this at the time. I just thought the bartender at the Mock Crest Tavern had made a mistake by mixing these two ingredients.

“What’s that?” I asked the man next to me, who’d ordered it. With fingers stained from a lifetime spent sucking on unfiltered Marlboros, he tipped the glass toward me. “Breakfast,” he croaked. “Most important meal of the day.”

It was 10 a.m. On a Tuesday. I was there for the free Internet. Naturally, I thought the man chocking down tomato beer must be an alcoholic—a dubious double standard, since if it were a Sunday I’d have been right there with him, tipping back a pre-noon cocktail and feeling nary a twinge of guilt.

Thank God and Jack Daniel’s, brunch emerged as the most celebrated meal of the weekend, allowing us to unapologetically enjoy booze for breakfast without our friends wondering whether to stage an intervention. The trick, though, is breaking free of those orange-pulp mimosa ruts and refusing to settle for anything less than a stellar Bloody Mary. In a town where the quest for an artful buzz is eclipsed only by the need to fill out the belly, this isn’t exactly a challenge.

If you consider housing your morning pick-me-up and your hair-of-the-dog in separate containers a waste of china, then you’re no doubt familiar with Irish coffee. Most conventional attempts end up either too bitter or too sweet, but the Ellen’s Coffee at Genie’s Café (1101 SE Division St; 503-445-9777) is the perfect mixture: Irish cream, hazelnut, and rich coffee mingling with vanilla-and-coffee-bean-infused vodka. Equally sublime is the Brandy Milk Punch at Roux (1700 N Killingsworth St; 503-285-1200). Think of it as a White Russian in a tux—the starring liquor complemented by a touch of sweet, citrusy Tuaca; the inner pods of vanilla beans; and milk—served over ice.

Further down-market is the Florida Room’s (435 N Killingsworth St; 503-287-5658) take on the Bloody Mary . So devout is the bar’s worship of this brunch staple, they devote an entire menu to it. The belle of the boozy ball is the Holy Water, a somewhat unorthodox but successful approach that involves steeping ground tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, and other proprietary ingredients for a few days and then filtering the mixture. The “tomato water” is then mixed with 42 Below vodka in a pint glass and served with celery, pickled green beans, and olives. Yet let it be known that the traditional bloodies at the Country Cat (7937 SE Stark St; 503-408-1414) give the Florida Room some competition: they come with a garnish of house-made jerky.

If your weekend bender just isn’t complete without the fizzy tingle of alcohol and fruit, at least try and be creative. The Everett Street Bistro (1140 NW Everett St; 503-467-4990) offers a Bellini of champagne and white-peach purée, a marvelous take on the mimosa. But honestly, we suggest you take the Street Car —a heavenly commingling of Pendleton bourbon, tart muddled limes, and orange juice. If there’s a more pleasantly potent way to enjoy the weekend, it’s probably illegal.