A Wondercookie for your Stomach Chakra’s Thoughts

This week we tried two new Northwest lunch spots, sampling Dragon Bowls at Yoga in the Pearl’s new neighbor Prasad, and stuffing sloppy gloppy (in a good way) meatball sandwiches at new Breken Kitchen in NoLo. This sort of hard-hitting food journalism takes energy, and nothing fuels an intrepid foodster quite like the mighty cacao bean, so I’ve also been rather shamefully scarfing Double Chocolate Nibby Wondercookies at Meat Cheese Bread and massive wedges of Mom’s Chocolate Cake at Alma Chocolate. Here’s the sordid tale.

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prasadinteIt always makes me a little nervous to eat inside Yoga in the Pearl. I feel like I need to take my shoes off and speak in whispers and by all means, NOT accidentally drop my fork because the clatter might disturb the divine flow of a hapless studio patron’s heart chakra.

But since every now and then my overwhelmed stomach chakra, weary of the endless stream of charcuterie and chocolate and champagne and sweetbreads it’s fed on an all-too regular basis, calls for something fresh and pure and raw and well, rice and vegetable-y. I was having such a day last week, so I happened into Prasad Cuisine, which now resides inside Yoga in the Pearl, having replaced Blossoming Lotus.

Prasad has quickly climbed the Portland food ranks, starting out in 2008 as a small catering business, then moving into a food cart on funky NE Alberta in 2009, and finally coming to rest in the posh Pearl District. Specializing in organic juices, smoothies, salads, wraps and bowls, Prasad’s menu is mostly organic, mostly gluten free, and mostly vegan. They’ve got quite a few raw dishes, like the Love Pasta with zucchini noodles and pine nut & cashew ricotta, and source their pastries from New Cascadia Traditional Bakery. I had to try one of the massive samples of vegan chocolate cupcake in front of the cash register–it was moist and rich and altogether satisfying.

prasaddbAfter I tied my fork to my hand to avoid any chakra-disrupting mishaps, I tucked into a Dragon Bowl–a beautiful concoction of Bhutanese red rice, beans, kale, sprouts, and a mighty trio of arame, dulse and wakame, which are all types of seaweed and chock full of vitamins, minerals, protein, and glowing healthiness. They are also universally appealing–apparently the Irish sell dulse as a snack at county fairs and Icelanders eat it with butter, which was not an option here. My seaweed bounty was covered by a fan of perfectly ripe black sesame-seed sprinkled avocado, which was almost buttery in its exquisite creaminess.

prasadteaAs I sat by a shiny green plant in the serene yoga studio setting, absently picking black sesame seeds from my teeth and sipping the remainder of a steaming hot pot of impossibly fragrant and spicy ginger tea, made from fresh ginger root grated straight into the pot, I started to wonder if there wasn’t something to this vegan thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to pull a Grant Butler or anything, but once you’ve eaten three kinds of seaweed and drunk raw ginger tea in the corner of a pristine Pearl District yoga studio, you feel like you just might be able to conquer the world. I wanted to run into the street wearing embarrassingly tight shorty pants made of an organic cotton/lightweight bamboo support jersey blend, shouting Namaste at everyone I met.

mcbcookieI didn’t though. The cupcake sample I’d eaten had given me a serious hankering for CHOCOLATE. I had something specific in mind, so I crossed the river to Meat Cheese Bread for this incredible cookie, which I have dubbed the Double Chocolate Chocolate Nibby Wondercookie. It is made in-house with several types of top-notch chocolate, crunchy Scharffen Berger cacao nibs, and big fat flakes of sea salt that crust the Wondercookie’s surface like glittery half-melted snowflakes. It’s not the prettiest cookie, unless you’re turned on by food that looks vaguely like cow patties, but oh boy, when you’re done eating it, you’ll want 10 more and a gallon of fresh creamy whole organic milk to go with them. You won’t even care if you can ever fit in skinny bamboo stretch pants ever again.

I was a fallen woman, all that gloriously healthy kelp and avocado goodness erased by one devastating Wondercookie binge, so the next day my decadence-loving soul and I lunched at Breken Kitchen, which has occupied the lovely, airy Northwest Portland space vacated by Sydney’s Cafe.

Helmed by Justa Pasta co-owner Jessica Carfagno, Breken’s menu covers your standard café fare–hearty sandwiches, soups, salads, platters of cookies and other baked goods baked in the on-site bakery, specialty coffee drinks and tea drinks made with local Smith teas.

brekenmeatballsambrekenhalfbrekensoup

I indulged in the meatball sub–plump savory pork and beef meatballs embraced by gobs of melted mozzarella in a fresh baguette, accompanied by a salad of mixed organic greens in a pleasantly light vinaigrette. Biting into the sandwich with gusto, proudly wearing a marinara mustache, it didn’t seem possible to have sandwich envy, until I saw the tableful of hipsters across from me all contemplating towering tuna melts.

When yet another tuna melt arrived at the table next to me, and the recipient pulled out a long lensed, super professional looking camera and started taking pictures of it, I wondered if I could possibly fit in two huge sandwiches, in addition to a bowl of crouton-topped homemade tomato soup. My stomach made a warning sound, like the noise fancy cars make when they are about to back into a hydrant.

almacakeI decided not to risk it and just return later for the tuna melt, because back at home waited a huge piece of Alma Chocolate’s famous (or infamous) Mom’s Chocolate Cake that I had in reserve. Triple layers of cake as dark as midnight in Hogwarts Forbidden Forest, cushioned by the richest of ganaches and thoroughly frosted, this cake is my nemesis. See, of all the baked goods in the world, normally I can resist cake. I ask for a small piece, please, and that’s all I eat. I’m pretty smug about my cake control, too. But this cake–well, even the four-inch wedge so generously doled out could just never be enough. I sat there watching a Ginger Rogers marathon on the Turner Classic Movie Channel, shoveling in rapturous forkfuls and washing them down with cold milk, and prompting a bystander who shall not be named to snarkily remark, “I’ve never seen you dig into a piece of cake quite like that” and “Are you going to snort those last few crumbs or can I put this plate in the dishwasher?”

And that wraps up this week’s Notes From My Stomach Chakra. Good luck on your own seaweed and meatball sub-fueled edible adventures.