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On—ahem—the word Moist

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As someone who writes often, and often about food, there are certain words I choose to use, and words I try to dodge.

And the word I tend to most avoid is moist.

Personally, I think it’s a useful word—what other adjective best describes biscuits or cake?—but I know that it leaves some of you, if not most of you, feeling squicky.

So how did this fairly innocuous word become one that can so easily turn stomachs? I ask, because I don’t know. But I wanna know.

Is it cultural? Maybe, but It seems, at least to me, generational. For some reason, if the word’s gonna crinkle noses, most of those noses seem to be on the faces of Gen Ys and Millennials.

I have my guesses as to why this is, but it seems as like this word has been unfairly maligned, kind of the way clowns have.

I can’t recall anyone I knew who was afraid of clowns until, maybe, the 1990s. Personally, I’ve always liked clowns. I think they’re neat. Still, I get why clowns can be scary.

A few years ago, I interviewed a handful of clowns and asked them why they thought people feared them.

None of them mentioned John Wayne Gacy—a monster who truly was scary. Rather, all of them cited Tim Curry’s turn as Pennywise in the television adaptation of Stephen King’s It.

Thing is, none of them blamed Curry, or King, or even TV. So who was to blame for scaring the pants of a generation of children? My clowns—every single one of them—blamed the parents who let their little ones watch it.

But to whom shall we assign blame for essentially outlawing the word moist? It’s troubling, because there isn’t a single word that does what it does, as well as it does. Who wants to eat a damp, soggy cake, after all? Or a clammy biscuit?

No one, that’s who.

But what if we suffix the word? Is moisture okay? How about moisturize? What about moisturizer?

What about moist towelettes? Are they okay? If not, are Wet-Naps® really any better?

Sound off below and tell me how you feel about the word moist, and why you feel the way you do, because, really, I wanna know.

 

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Devil's Dill’s No. 3

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There are lots of reasons I wanna see Chris Serena and Gavin Duffy’s Devil’s Dill Sandwiches succeed. Here are a few…well, several:

  • their sandos have crunch (the insides of their rolls are brushed with olive oil and then grilled over open flames)
  • they’ll wrap your sando in gluten-free bread, if you want
  • they sell Pickleapolis Pickles
  • they’re open late (till 3am)
  • they deliver late (till 2:30am to homes that fall within a 1.5 mile radius)
  • they work hard (14-hour days, six days a week)
  • they make a lot of mean sandwiches (a meatloaf, a cheesesteak and a pair of vegan-vegetarian sandwiches)
  • they just might make the best Italian grinder in town.

Now, the thing about Italian sandwiches is, they may be easy to make, but they’re deceptively hard to perfect.

And Devil’s Dill’s No. 3 isn’t just perfect, it transcends the genre.

Like all Devil's Dill sandos, it comes on an 8-inch custom-made Fleur de Lis ciabatta roll. But even though the sandwich's meats (Molinari salami and mortadella) and cheese (provolone) are all of high caliber, they seem, compared to other ingredients (balsamic vinegar aioli, a tart cherry pepper relish and fresh kale massaged in olive oil, sea salt and white wine vinegar) like mere filler.

In other words, the meats and cheese satisfy, but the kale and the peppers will awaken each and every one of your tastebuds, which will in turn serenade each bite with sing the same pretty love song.

If you’re looking to order one and dine in, don’t—it’s grab ’n’ go only here. Unless, of course, it’s 2am, and you’re lucky to live with their delivery radius.

if that’s the case, it sure beats pizza, right? And while A Devil’s Dill sando may be one helluva way to sop up whatever you’ve fun you’ve been having in the preceding hours, you’re kind of doing yourself a disservice. A good one, but a disservice nonetheless.

Because the No. 3, like all good things, is best enjoyed on an empty stomach and with a clear head. Your mouth will tanks you, but so will your brain and, inevitably, your heart.

Devil's Dill Sandwich Shop, 1711 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503.236.8067

Portland’s Most Progressive Beer Program is in a Men’s Store? Maybe it Is.

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If a new craft beer catches fire at one bar, the odds that it’ll catch fire at another are pretty good.

Which is great for good new beers, but after a while, those good new beers become so ubiquitous that they often end up tying up the taps that gave them a first shot in the first place.

So it’s sorta weird to say that what just may be this city’s most progressive draft beer program isn’t happening in some well-loved public house, but rather in the fitting room of a men’s consignment shop at the north end of NW 23rd Avenue’s holistic district.

Lance Miller and Max and Ian Andreae’s Threads Count is a good place to get a nice, gently used (and sometimes brand new and never worn) shirts or a pair of boots, but it's the intangibles that keep you coming back. The fellas are friendly, they’ll remember you by name even if you haven’t seen them in months, they can pretty accurately gauge your inseam or your shoe size by giving you a quick once-over, and, of course, they’ll pour you a beer for you to sip while you shop. A good one.

For some time now, their fitting room Kegerator’s kept cold a rotating roster of not-so-easy to find craft draft suds—from Burnside Brewing’s Sweet Heat and Oakshire’s Espresso Stout to Buckman Botannical’s nano-brewed Pumpkin Kölsch and a long list of Lompoc-, 10 Barrel- and HUB-brewed beers.

And there’s nothing like a beer in one’s hand to make shopping—especially for the churls who loathe shopping—i.e.: men—go down easier.

As for the duds, you never know what’s gonna turn up, but all kinds of things flow in as fast as they fly out—from Hermès overcoats and vintage Elvis ties to slick, stylish Italian leather boots.

But the real reason you need to hit this place up is the suit you’re about to help Miller and the Andraes design.

Lance, Ian and Max will walk you through what’s in style and what’ll stay in style while helping you choose the fabric, buttons, lining and piping for the one-of-a-kind sumisura suit that they’re gonna measure especially for you. 

Now it takes a couple of weeks for their people to stitch it together—as many as six of ‘em—and it’ll cost you some scratch (anywhere from about $750–$1250), but it’s an investment in your future.

And it’s something you owe to yourself.

And it’ll always come with a cold mug of quality beer.

Threads Count, 1536 NW 23rd Ave., 503.224.0506

Soul in the Bowl

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In the pantheon of home cooks, there's none more superior than grandma. Just make sure your mom’s not around to hear you say it.

But that rule doesn’t scale at Ben Bui's Fish Sauce, where Bui's mother, Lauren Huynh, runs the line (and in effect, the kitchen's show), turning out plate after plate of the same dishes she used to prepare for Ben at home when he was just a little boy.

“It’s mommy food,” Bui says. And there’s lots of it to try, but the one thing that’ll keep you coming back is Huynh’s phở.

While there’s lots to love about phở—Fish Sauce’s comes in beef, chicken and veggie flavors—the soul in the bowl belongs to the broth. And Huynh’s homemade broth is the kind of comforting thing that can right all your wrongs.

Each week, she fills three industrial sized pots with water and beef shanks, seasons those with star anise, coriander, fennel and clove, and and then simmers those pots for a full day until she’s got enough broth to last the week.*

If you’re dining in, you’ll enjoy the space. It’s spare and full of clean modern lines, and for a room with a 20-person family-style table and an open kitchen, it’s surprisingly intimate, too.

Plus, the best part of are those first few slurps is the savory smell of the steam that mists off your soup's surface.

There’s nothing that quite beats a homemade soup, and this one might even trump your own grandma’s.

But don’t worry. Ain't no one telling.

Fish Sauce, 407 NW 17th Ave., 503.227.8000

* Sorry, vegetarians and vegans: there have been heroic efforts made to pull off a tasty veggie stock, but Bui decided that none of their experimental broths could match a good old-fashioned beef stock.

Portland's Other Schnitz

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Mistakes were made. At least one big one was, so a correction’s in order. Turns out that my original suggestion in Neighborhood Notes that Karel and Monika Vitek's Schnitzelwich is surprisingly light was remarkably wrong.

I’ve come to learn that a Tábor Schnitzelwich is, in fact, a commitment—I'd originally typed that finishing off this burly sando in a single sitting would leave you feeling A-Okay, but that's because when I first ate one, I'd eaten just half, then, still hungry an hour later, finished the other half. I felt great. And delightfully surprised. But 60 minutes can make all the difference.

I've since come to learn on subsequent visits to wrap up and eat later what I can’t finish now rather than have at it in one go, which probably says a lot more about me than the sandwich, itself. Still, this sando's a keeper, and well worth the short wait it takes to have one prepared, even if it means standing in the rain.

Served on a ciabatta roll and topped with crisp Romain lettuce, a pleasantly pungent horseradish sour cream and an electric red ajvar (a Czech relish made with garlic, eggplant and roasted red peppers), the Vitek's breaded and panfried schnitzel sando (your choice of either pork or chicken—but c'mon: are you really going to ask for chicken?) long ago leapfrogged lotsa spots to become one of Portland's most iconic sandwiches—an honor it richly deserves.

Just remember: if you find yourself halfway through, take a breather and think, should I trust my belly or my own lyin' eyes? The answer is obvious: trust your belly. Finish what you can, wrap up what you can't, and give yourself a short rest before filling the rest of you up. Of course, you can always choose to bring along a friend to help you finish it.*

*And should you bring along that friend, consider going on a Wednesday. You can pair that split sandwich while splitting a bramborák (a bulging omelet-like 10-inch potato pancake that you can have stuffed with sauerkraut, ham, spinach and that same spicy sour cream), or pony up and share a bowl of Bohemian Gulash, availably daily, and prepared weekly with thematic twists—the Viteks make Guinness Gulash, Szekely Gulash, Pilsner Gulash and Gypsy Gulash just, as Karel says “to make the point that Gulash has many faces and endures infinite possibilities.”