Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Comfort Food from Paradise In Portland

(Secret Asian Man is on Special Assignment in Portland, Oregon)

I was walking to Scoops with a friend the other day, who was discussing a couple she knows. "Can you believe it?" she exclaimed with more than a hint of exasperated disbelief, "they're STILL vegans! I thought it would just be a phase!"

Vegans, as I'm sure you know, don't consume anything made from animal products--no dairy, no meat, no feathers even. Veganism is also a necessary requirement for citizenship in Santa Monica.

Sure, like you, I've read the arguments and seen the data...meat is climate murder. The energy intensity to cultivate edible animals is high--half the greenhouse gas emissions from the human diet come meat production, though beef, chicken and pork are only about 14 percent of the diet overall.

Hey, let's face it, meat is tasty, tasty murder.

Though while our future may be in doubt, maybe a little history will be of interest?

In 1778, Captain Cook came across a group of islands in the remote Pacific Ocean, he named them Sandwich Islands after a his boss. You and I know them as Hawai'i. A lot has happened since then and one quietly notable event is Bob and Sonja Alamia emigrating from Portland to Maui.

They lived on the side of a volcano and during their ten years of paradise living, made close friends with the locals. Family matters called them back to Portland a little over a year ago. Milling around for something to do, they decided to open an eatery dedicated to uncommonly fantastic ways of serving up meat on bread. It's name? Sandwich Island.

Bob and Sonja being charmingly down-to-earth, found themselves recipients of the secret knowledge of Kalua Pork-craft. It is very likely the only place in Portland that offers this tasty bit of slow-roasted paradise. As I'm sure you already know, Kalua Pork, in its heavenly, tender, smokiness is one of those signs that soundly disprove atheism. Bob won't reveal the secret ingredients that go into making Kalua Pork, but its a slow-and-low 12-hour roasting process they perform themselves. The result? Meat of such porky, juicy purity that adding anything other than a bun defiles its divine nature. (However, hot sauce is also on offer). Sandwiches come in two sizes--the large Hog Daddy and the "small" Little Piggy. Their prices are so incredibly low, you will want to buy them by the dozen--$4 for the Little Piggy and $6 for the Hog Daddy.

The meat parade doesn't stop there.

Also on the menu are are Italian meatball sandwiches, Bob's (a native New Yawker) mother's recipe. Again, the cooking secrets are still with Bob, Sonja and Mama, but I did glean that the meatballs are cooked directly in the sauce, fusing together tomato and meatball into an tantalizing concoction of deliciousness. They are prepared in a way that renders these carné orbs succulent, greaseless, moist.

Prime Rib Sandwich--again the Alamias prove their skill with roasted mammals. The prime rib idea came from surveying the surrounding neighborhood and wanting to do something better than what was currently offered. I had the "Little Roaster" (not brave enough to down an entire "Beef it Up"...) which was served on a roof-of-the mouth friendly tender bun, which melted cheddar cheese. As I write this, I salivate and my teeth ache, yearning for another juicy bite. The beef and cheddar merged together to make reptile brain giddy with delight. The beef was so soft and pink, chewing seemed optional. Again the prices are so ridiculously low--$4.50 for the Little and $6.50 for the Large. The Amalias also give you a side (I chose Cole Slaw, from the available Mac Salad, Potato Salad, Cottage Cheese or Chips). I also got a small cup of, incongruous but yummy, Cranberry Sauce.

Moving on from Mammals to the Bird World, Sonja plumbed her Texas roots and developed a magnificent Chicken and Dumplings recipe, employing giblets and all to make a penicillin-rich, golden stew of galline goodness. One customer exclaimed, "This takes me straight back to my childhood!" Chicken and dumplings are a genus of dish, once common on American menus that have slowly disappeared. But at Sandwich Island its making a comeback!

Kalua Pork, Italian Meatballs, Prime Rib sandwiches, Chicken and Dumplings--an entire hemispheric survey of comfort food. Food just like mama made, if mama were Hawaiian, Italian, with a little Texan thrown in for kicks. It turns out Bob's mom is Puerto Rican--so never judge a book by its cover.

Sandwich Island is located in the Global Food Court, which is also home to Gandhi's Indian food. Gandhi's serves up, among other things, tasty Vegan dishes. So, bring those dedicated Vegans along, its time for lunch!

Sandwich Island is open from 10am to 2-3pm (call ahead) Monday through Friday.

Sandwich Island
827 SW 2nd Avenue,
Portland, OR 97204
503 330 5002


Andrea said...

Kalua pork...yum!. Good to see that SAM is reactivated in 2010, even if the posts make me hungry.

John said...

Ohana Hawaiian Cafe on NE Sandy (and in Milwaukee) also offers Kalua Pig on its menu. Though I like the Mahi Mahi there myself.

Secret Asian Man said...

Thanks, John!

Not living in Portland, this information is helpful!

All best,