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Monthly Archives: October 2010

Breakfast, Brats and Badgers

Last weekend Empanada Boy and I flew out to Madison where we met his parents and my parents and sister for an awesome long weekend. We spent most of the weekend at the house in Eagle River (Northern Wisconsin) that Popover and Tofutti Cutie co-own with EB’s aunts and uncles. But we started the trip off right by attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison homecoming football game, in addition to all the other events and traditions (many of them food related) that came along with it. We started the morning off at 9 am with some tailgating. But this wasn’t just any kind of tailgating. As it happens, Popover is a very important person in the UW world— a Regent on the board of the university system. That got us all an invitation to a tailgating breakfast at the UW president’s house!

We were all introduced to the president and then filed into one of the bright airy rooms of the stately UW-owned home where we lined up for Bloody Marys with a bunch of other red-clad folk. We then proceeded to the buffet table where we piled our plates high with fresh fruit salad, beef hash, homemade chicken sausage topped with mango salsa, croissants, cinnamon buns, cheese and egg souffle and tomato salad with balsamic vinaigrette. The food, catered by Viki Kohlman of Chez Vous, was much more high-class than my vision of tailgating fare, but it was quite tasty. The Bloody Marys were also remarkably good, considering their mass production. The only thing that left something to be desired was the coffee, watery and weak. As Mango Mama put it: “The president deserves to have better coffee.”

We finished our food and then headed to the stadium where pretty much the whole city was gathering in their red and white, badger-festooned regalia. EB, Flava Flav and I spent the first half of the game in the stands with fans of all kinds. From there, we had a perfect view of the marching band and cheerleading squad and watched as the Badgers outpaced the Minnesota Golden Gophers. It was more than 80 degrees that morning (crazy for October in Wisconsin) and we were in the direct sunlight, so we were glad when halftime came and Popover took us up to the Regents’ box where he, Tofutti, Mango Mama and Daddy Salmon had been watching.

The Regents and their guests had been snacking on brats and drinking soda (no beer— it’s college!), but alas, the brats had already been cleared away by the time we got up there. I didn’t want Flav and Mango Mama to go without trying a brat, so I went down to one of the peons’ concession stand, got a brat, dressed it with mustard, relish, onions and kraut and brought it back up to the box. Juicy and flavorful, it was gone before I even thought of taking a picture. That wasn’t the end of the feasting, though. Part way through the third quarter, pizzas were delivered to the Regents’ box (in case you weren’t full enough already). These came in sausage, pepperoni and vegetable flavors and were fairly unremarkable, but we tried them anyway. After all, this may well have been our only chance to check out the Regents’ box.

In the end, the Badgers won the game and we got a great lesson in UW tradition. The Badgers went on to beat top-ranked Ohio State this weekend, and I cheered like a true fan when I heard the news.

On Wisconsin!

Meat Cheese Bread— Nuff Said

Empanada Boy and I were in Portland a few weeks ago for a brief visit. We arrived late and on separate planes (long story), but my sister, the lovely Flava Flav, was there to meet us (or a least me; we left a car there for EB because his plane arrived late). We stayed that night at her awesome new apartment in Southeast Portland. She slept on the couch so we could have the bed. When we got up the next morning, Flav informed us that she had nothing in the refrigerator. I opened it to verify, and it was indeed true. But not to worry: Flav lives around the corner from Meat Cheese Bread, a sandwich place that is all the rage in Portland gastronomic circles.

Like the awesome sister she is, Flav let us make coffee at her place while she walked over and ordered us three breakfast sandwiches: the breakfast burrito (OK not technically a sandwich), the steak and egg sandwich and the smoked ham with Gruyere. When she got back to the apartment, Flav took out a cutting board, put them down on it and (after I snapped a shot) sliced them into thirds, rightly assuming that each of us would want to try a bit of all three.

The first creation we tried was the breakfast burrito. Something of a Mexican food snob, EB was skeptical of the entire concept. He probably envisioned a sad limp wrap like one that might be found at Taco Bell or Denny’s. Flav and I have fonder associations with breakfast burritos having regularly made our own for weekend breakfasts during middle and high school. The burrito from Meat Cheese Bread was quite good, most notably because of the presence of an excellent green chile salsa. (In my opinion, salsa is the key ingredient for this dish.) Apart from that, the burrito just had eggs, hash browns and cheddar cheese. The tortilla itself was tasty, having been slightly toasted to bring out the flavor. Even EB liked this dish.

Next in our three-course breakfast sandwich tasting menu was the steak and egg. This was made with flavorful, fatty flank steak, sliced thin, atop a house made roll. Blue cheese crumbles and a perfectly fried egg accompanied the meat. I found the rich meat and tangy cheese combination quite tasty but a bit too salty. My mouth was still coated in salt hours after eating it. That may have been aggravated (or primarily caused) by the smoked ham sandwich (pictured above), which was our final dish. The ham came with Gruyere and aioli on the same chewy house made roll. Flav added an egg for an extra $1. Again, the flavors were all there, particularly the garlickly aioli, the runny egg and smoked ham trifecta, but I found the meat too salty for comfort. This may be a result of the process of curing the meat, so there may be some inconsistency in the saltiness. Still, it made a perfectly good meal leave a bad taste in my mouth.

In short, I would give breakfast at Meat Cheese Bread another try, but I might play it safe on the salt front by ordering the breakfast burrito. And, of course, there’s the entire lengthy lunch menu— this restaurant’s real bread and butter (pun intended)— still waiting to be tried.

Meat Cheese Bread
1406 SE Stark
Portland, OR 97214

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