The emails reach the Bite Club's desk nearly every week: Starved Portland transplants seeking delicacies from exotic, far-off lands like Wisconsin and New Jersey. Sure, you can't toss a spatula in P-town without hittin' a smoked salmon-but try to locate a hunk of babka? You're screwed.
Most pleas for hard-to-find vittles come from that Midwestern state or from New York, which leads us to believe that either Portland lacks the culinary technology necessary to properly prepare these foodstuffs-or that residents of these states are just a bunch of really mouthy bitches.
Either way, in the spirit of discovery, Bite Club sent exploratory nosher and Rhode Island-native Mary Putnam (clam cakes and quohogs, anyone?) in search of these wily dishes.
Frozen Custard: This rich, dense ice-cream alternative is a favorite in the "custard capital of the world" (a.k.a. Milwaukee, Wis.) and at Lake Oswego's new Dewey's Frozen Custard (51 S State St., 697-3399) has been serving the cold, eggy stuff since this past April.
Broasted Chicken: At the bizarre local bar The Pink Feather (14154 SE Division St., 761-2030), this illustrious chicken is marinated, then pressure-fried, resulting in meat that tastes tender on the inside, crispy on the outside and yummy all the way down to the bones (dinner $9.50, basket $8).
Fried Cheese Curds: Completing the Bermuda Triangle of hard-to-find Wisconsin foods is this elusive curd, which tastes a lot like a creamy mozzarella stick made with squeakier cheese. Old-school drive-in chain A&W (8131 SE Powell Blvd., 775-1578, and other locations) sells curd for $2.99. Wisconsin native Peter Bro fries 'em up at his new Clinton 'hood eatery, Savoy Tavern & Bistro (2500 SE Clinton St., 808-9999), where the teeny-tiny curds will cost you $5.
All-You-Can-Eat Crab Legs: There's no such thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to crab appendages. Believe me, dear crustacean lovers, restaurants must know that this dish invites stomach-distending gorging, which might be why they're such a rare menu item. Luckily, Pioneer Place sushi haven Todai (340 SW Morrison St., 294-0007) offers crab fests for weekend dinners ($19.60 senior, $23.95 general).
"Real" Corned-Beef Hash: While the meaning of "real" corned-beef hash is disputed among foodies, the hangover-curing basics-chunky corned beef cured or pickled in brine, chopped onions and potatoes-are the foundation upon which all recipes are built. Find yours at Byways Cafe ($7.25, 1212 NW Glisan St., 221-0011), or tool out to Troutdale for a plate at McMenamins Edgefield ($9, 2126 SW Halsey St., Troutdale, 492-3086).
Babka: Inquiries for this traditional Jewish coffeecake garnered some interesting responses from local bakeries: Vodka? Baklava? The city's top mom herself, Lisa Schroeder, plans to offer a chocolate variety of the beloved nibble at her newest venture, Balaboosta (217 SW Washington St., 222-6303). Loaves are $9.95, slices $2.50.