A friend is leaving Kachka as we're getting seated. "You've got to order these," she says, and snakes her arm over my shoulder to point to the Siberian pelmeni on the menu. Kachka's plump, savory, hexagonal meat dumplings are a pile of little jewels, one that always starts a heated fork fight between my husband and me. Whether you have them steamed, pan-fried or swimming in a bath of chef Bonnie Morales' meaty broth, they're always topped with plenty of tangy smetana (sour creme fraiche). In his book Travels in Siberia, Ian Frazier said they ate so much smetana that it made him and his compatriots smell like "grown-up, dusty, sweaty babies." I long to smell like such a baby. If the staff would let me, I'd jump into a vat of the stuff. ADRIENNE SO.
It may not have been the best thing I ate this year, but it was certainly the thing I couldn't stop eating once it appeared on the table—and that was even before I asked what it was. What it was, was Tanuki's squid jerky: sweet-salty-spicy-sticky-stretchy tendrils of culinary wonder. Our table was cluttered with a dozen other plates from our omakase extravaganza, not to mention 1-liter bottles of Asahi and tall glasses of soju sangria, and yet I had eyes—or taste buds, rather—only for cephalopod. REBECCA JACOBSON.
This being Portland, it's surprising that the best bowl of chili I've had in my life didn't come on a cold, damp day. It was a warm August night, actually, when I ordered a bowl of Texas red chili at Podnah's Pit. It was more curiosity than want, and I had plans to set the bowl aside as soon as my brisket arrived. Well, I forgot all about that brisket, along with the ribs, pulled pork and even the cornbread, scraping up every last bit of that obscenely rich beef-and-pepper stew. The deep brownish-red sauce was thick, almost creamy, like tomato soup. It was just spicy enough to be interesting, but also sweet and smoky. Roasty beef chunks had a reassuring firmness on the fork that quickly melted away, like a Southern-tinged beef bourguignon. I get giddy just thinking about it—especially on nights like these. MARTIN CIZMAR.
While scanning a menu at Hotel Quellenhof in Arosa, Switzerland, my eyes fell upon "Bistro Rösti": foal steak cubes served with herb butter over a bed of potatoes similar to hash browns. Horse, much like dog, remains a taboo meat in the States. But, when in Switzerland… The small, dark cubes of horse flesh, lying atop golden brown rösti with two flowers of butter sprouting from opposite ends, was still sizzling when the waiter brought it to the table. I would be hard-pressed to describe big differences between horse and beef, but I can tell you it was delicious. Meat, potatoes and butter. Meals don't get much simpler than that. JOHN LOCANTHI.
While it may not be the hippest joint on the scene, Pause on North Interstate Avenue is a time-tested favorite among Overlook neighborhood residents for its low-lit, laid-back vibe, cushy red booths and generously sized patio. It's also home to what I strongly believe to be the best-tasting, most beeflike veggie burger in the city. Despite my status as an avowed carnivore, I order it every time. Smoky and mushroomy, covered with Tillamook cheddar and housemade zucchini pickles and nestled in a pillowy bun smeared with chipotle mayo, it's a veritable umami bomb that stands up to even the most unabashedly sinful meat creation. KAT MERCK.
I don't generally dream of snails. At least in this neck of the woods they're too often overcooked into the texture of a child's balloon, or so garlicked-up and herb-salted they taste like a sea-logged basement. But Cocotte's escargot in basil pistou ended up being one of the most balanced and unlikely treatments of escargot I've had. The low richness of lentil, eggplant and thankfully tender escargot play against the crisp sharpness of radish and leek, all swimming in the near-sunshine of a garlic-basil pistou. God help me: I now dream of snails. (pictured above) MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Portland's 2014 summer was one for the books. Long strings of languid, sunshine-drenched days yielded produce of exceptional quality in vast quantities. Peerless among the bounty were the Triple Crown blackberries from Unger Farms sold at the midday Wednesday Portland Farmers Market downtown. The Secretariat of berries, Triple Crowns are as big as your thumb, as juicy as a ripe peach, and offer the perfect balance of sweet-tart purple berry flavor. During their fleeting appearance in late July, relishing an unadorned, just-purchased pint in the middle of the market square was my peak pleasure for the year. To keep the memory fresh year-round, I also put up a flat or two for future pie-baking. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
I've been accused of taking multiple cheap shots at the Lloyd District this year, so consider the following a form of mea culpa: I still believe the neighborhood is a "glorified suburb" representing "the rotting tauntaun carcass of American consumerism," but it is also home to the best damn 40-year-old hoagie shop in Northeast Portland. Taste Tickler's sign faded long before Jimmy John's and the Mexican Quadrangle—that's where Qdoba, Chipotle, Muchas Gracias and Taco Bell are all within retching distance of one another—moved in, but the small sandwich-and-bento eatery has maintained, largely on the strength of the Famous Tickler. It is basically a steroidal Italian sub: fistfuls of ham, salami, pepperoni, lettuce and tomatoes dusted with Parmesan and shoved between two pieces of bread thick enough for batting practice. It took me a year of living nearby to try one, and it's been a Saturday afternoon go-to since. So apologies, Lloyd: You're not such a bad tauntaun carcass after all. MATTHEW SINGER.