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Portland Part 1 & Honey Walnut Cake With Riesling Sabayon

Honey Walnut Cake & Riesling Sabayon

A couple weeks ago I boarded a plane heading toward Portland, Oregon. I had no idea of what was ahead of me. I had no expectations either. I have learned that beside the ones I put on myself or my work, expectations can ruin an adventure. They make you focus on one thing and make you miss the alternative, the little things, the beauty that lies wherein.

I had nothing on my mind than not to miss my flights because Portland, a city I had never visited awaited. And I was meeting up with Tami in Chicago to catch our connection. Both our schedules had been so incredibly intense that we had to put ourselves on a self imposed "time off – time out – see you later – don’t burn the house down and please feed the pets" to finally give each other a big hug and a good conversation.

We did not sign up for the trip just to hang out with each other but it was definitely one of the perks. Actually neither of us (and neither of the twenty or so other participants on that trip) knew the other was going for a while. It makes me smile that a group of strangers all received the same email one night, not knowing how much they would gain of the trip, discovering a new city, new kindred spirits and themselves in the process.

Pok Pok, Portland Oregon

Yes, I had been asked on a sponsored trip. I am never asked on any of them or swanky organized parties and dinners and frankly, I am ambivalently happy about that because I’m still not sure how I’d feel if offers were frequent. I had never been to Portland. There was an opening in my schedule. Bill was busy every day and night with work and music. I said yes. So glad I did!

For three days, Travel Oregon made sure that we discovered the city of Portland, its food, its people, its landscape and many facets. From canoeing, foraging, fishing, to canning and charcuterie with people and artisans who cared about their craft, their land and wanted to invite us to come visit and leave with the desire to come back. Never were we asked to post, tweet, facebook or promote anything.

Portland, honey, I fell in love with you. You’ve got mountains like back home. You’ve got heat and snow. You’ve got magical hours and colorful places. You did not have to twist my arm, just to let me soak it in to hook me up.

This post will be part of a series of three, all accompanied with a recipe inspired by a dish I had there. There was some good eating and good drinking in Portland. Happy hour seem to start early and lasts all night. The running joke was "it’s been a full 5 minutes since my last cocktail/bite"Portland, you’re pretty special.

The Driftwood, Hotel Deluxe, Portland Oregon

Tami and I flew in a day before to get our feet wet, catch up and catch our breaths before the trip would start with some friends we’ve known for years and some we were meeting for the first time. We had only one "must do" for that evening: Pok Pok and its famed Thai & Vietnamese dishes. For various reasons, I did not take any photos of the dinner. I was focused on conversing with Tami, our bartender was extremely distracting (think Toni Bourdain and Eric Rippert secretly engineered offspring), and I needed both hands to polish off the most succulent fish sauce chicken wings. The numerous cocktails created with the restaurants house made drinking vinegars, did not help with focus either.

Ping Restaurant, Portland Oregon

Dinner was quite an adventure for my palate. Every bit of spicy was balanced by a hint of freshness. Every sweet met its salty. I must recreate one of the desserts we shared that night, the Pok Pok Affogato, when I have more time. Quite possibly the best of the last five years for me.

We rounded up the evening with cocktails at the hotel (Hotel Deluxe) lounge, The Driftwood Room. I am rarely impressed by the lounge within a hotel but this one quickly became a rendez-vous point for most of us on the trip. Crisp and refreshing cocktails with glamourous names and vintage appeal. The Springtime In Paris, the Ginger Rogers or the Rita Moreno kept us going and talking a little while longer each night.

Gruner, Portland Oregon

The next day, the official start of the Travel Oregon weekend was not starting until late in the afternoon so Tami and I grabbed our cameras and walked about town. We stopped in the famous Powell’s bookstore and happily got lost in this mecca of new and vintage books. A short walk down to Porch Light, a lovely prop shop recommended by Lara and we met up with Paula from bell’alimento who had just arrived for the trip also.

Gruner restaurant and its shaded outdoor seating provided a lovely respite for three ladies with varied tastes and preferences. More lovely cocktails and beet pickled deviled eggs to start us off. Salad with smoked trout, apples, blackberry vinaigrette, toasted hazelnuts, a tarte flambee (Flammekueche), zucchini and ricotta dumplings with roasted tomatoes. All were passed around the table and enjoyed without restraint.

Gruner, Portland Oregon

Dessert is what inspired today’s recipes. We clearly would have been happy to sample all of them but we only had room for a few more bites. And what glorious bites! The hazelnut-powdered sugar doughnuts with warm chocolate ganache were surprisingly light as a feather and melt in your mouth dangerous. The star of the meal was however the Honey Walnut Cake with Riesling Sabayon and Blackberries. A perfectly light cake with deep flavors of honey and walnut balanced by the soft and refreshing cream of the sabayon. This one was a sure winner for us three.

After more walking around town and a little get together to meet our trip companions for the next three days, we were whisked off in separate groups to different restaurants for dinner. Three of the activities on the trip were a choice between 4 or 5 options making it a truly tailored experience to our preferences or adventurous spirits. It also made it more manageable to handle small groups and to share our activities with our friends later on in the evening as we were recapping the day.

Ping Restaurant, Portland Oregon

That evening Paula and I found ourselves seating across at the dinner table at Ping, created by the man behind Pok Pok. I know, two Asians restaurants in two days….Given the lack of seriously authentic ones here, I was a darn happy camper again.

Ping Restaurant, Portland Oregon

The menu and cocktail pairing created for a small group was truly amazing. And abundant. Two dishes really stood out for me. The Quail Egg Skewers wrapped in local bacon and drizzled with a spicy mayo were an unusual bite of soft and crunchy, spicy, salty and neutral. The Vietnamese Style Short Ribs marinated in fish sauce, lemongrass, garlic and scallion oil were a perfect balance between balance of execution and presentation and depth of flavors. Strong, salty, refreshing and sweet.

Ping Restaurant, Portland Oregon

Ping Restaurant, Portland Oregon

The rest of the menu food was as rich and interesting as the setting and atmosphere of the restaurant with a theme of street food meets bistro carried out throughout the building.

Ping Restaurant, Portland Oregon

The rest of the evening is a blur. My belly was full and grateful. My senses overwhelmed by this much "different" experienced in one day, one evening. Hard to believe that we all got up hungry and joking about it. Luckily for us, our next meal was just an adventure away…

Dinner Mates

Stay tuned for more about Portland! I hope you enjoy the Honey Walnut Cake, with sabayon or just a spoon of whipped cream. It is even great the next day, toasted for breakfast…

Ping Restaurant, Portland Oregon

Note: the winners of Tart Love: Sassy, Savory and Sweet by Holly Herrick is Jessie in Los Angeles and Kate in Rochester NY. Send over your mailing address at mytartelette [at] gmail [dot] com and I’ll send the book right away.

Honey Walnut Cake & Riesling Sabayon

*Disclosure: I was not asked nor received compensation to write about the trip. Transportation, meals and drinks when enjoyed as part of the trip itinerary were all taken care for by Travel Oregon. I did come in early and left late, staying and eating on my dime at the hotel and restaurants around. And it was all worth it…!

Honey Walnut Cake With Riesling Sabayon:

For the cake: Recipe from David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria
1 1/2 cups walnut pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan (or 1 cup gluten free flour mix here)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Reserve.
Spread the walnuts on a sheet pan and toast in the preheated oven for 4-5 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
Grind the nuts in a food processor with 1/2 cup of the flour until fine. In a medium bowl, stir together the ground nuts, remaining flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with an electric hand mixer, beat the butter with the honey and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the orange zest and vanilla. Add it in three times to the butter mixture. Beat well to incorporate after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared cake pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a cake rack to cool. Serve with the sabayon.

For the Riesling sabayon:
1/2 cup Riesling wine
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar

Place a saucepan filled t 3/4 full with water over low heat. Bring water to a low simmer. Place Riesling, egg yolks and sugar in a stainless steel mixing bowl. Place mixing bowl over pan with water. Whisk vigorously until mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and let cool 10 minutes. Serve with the cake and fresh berries.

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Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga September 20, 2011 um 8:17 am

What an awesome trip recap! I was following your tweets and it sounded like it was a blast. Happy that you got to experience great food and the company of some great ladies and bloggie pals. Always a bonus! 🙂

london bakes September 20, 2011 um 9:31 am

What a fabulous trip and the photos are simply stunning. I can't wait to hear more about it! The cake sounds wonderful as well, what I magical combination of flavours.

Carrie Pacini September 20, 2011 um 11:31 am

I've heard so many wonderful things about Portland and the authentic vibe it has. It's on my list to do! Sounds like such a wonderful trip. I will have to check out Travel Oregon.

bunkycooks September 20, 2011 um 12:46 pm

This is a beautiful recap! I can't wait to see your other posts. It was so nice to get to spend a little time with you in this incredible city. I also feel that I have been changed and inspired in many ways by this trip and am so glad I went, too.

Aly Debbas September 20, 2011 um 1:05 pm

What a beautiful post! My family lives in Eugene, OR so I know just how wonderful it is to travel there – and the food, the best!

chutneyandspice September 20, 2011 um 1:09 pm

what a visual feast, your pictures paint such a beautiful image of a city I have also never visited. I love your line about expectations – my husband always reminds me never to have expectations as you end up disapointed if you do. I sometimes love to travel without a guide book so that I can build my own image of a place rather than anyone elses. Look forward to the next 2 posts.

argone September 20, 2011 um 1:54 pm

mmh ça avait l'air d'un fabuleux voyage … quelles belles photos qui reflètent l'ambiance !
j'aurais bien testé la recette, mais les cups tout ça, le beurre en cuillérées à soupe … trop dur de tout convertir ! dommage …

White Toast with Butter September 20, 2011 um 2:01 pm

That was a lovely post. I have been dreaming about pok pok wings since I first saw them on Unique Eats. One day…one day…the cake looks incredible.

Paolita@BerryHaute September 20, 2011 um 2:10 pm

Looks like a fantastic trip, I've only been to Portland once for a couple of days and loved it, I wished then I'd had more time and definitely wish to come back after reading all about it.

Katie September 20, 2011 um 2:12 pm

Glad you liked our town!

Susan @ SGCC September 20, 2011 um 2:20 pm

What a lovely recap! I can't wait for the next installments. It was so great to share the Portland experience with you and the others! I'm still having pangs of withdrawal!

Mary September 20, 2011 um 2:44 pm

Your post could not be better timed. My husband, daughter and I are heading to Portland on Thursday for a family vacation. Gruner's menu sounds unique and delicious. Hoping to get a reservation. Also, to Chutney and Spice – maybe it's a husband thing, but I too get warned about forming expectations.

la domestique September 20, 2011 um 3:19 pm

I can't wait to try the honey walnut cake! Last year I visited Portland for the first time and fell in love with that city.

Pétra September 20, 2011 um 3:39 pm

You know if I had seen you out at a restaurant I would have been so surprised! We do have such amazing restaurants here in Portland and so many activity's to do.I know just the bartender you are referencing at Pok Pok 🙂 and did you know that wing recipe is available online and they come out just as good at home!! It sounds like a magical trip! Did you make it to any of the gluten free bakery's?

kelsey September 20, 2011 um 3:52 pm

beautiful! where is the plate from that you used for your cake?! i love it. did you make the napikins as well?

ValHalla September 20, 2011 um 4:03 pm

While I have authentic Thai restaurants in my city, what I loved about Pok Pok was the astounding diversity of dishes from all over the country. Not just panang and pad thai! As someone who does not enjoy the spice level of a lot of Thai dishes but who loves the other flavors, it was a revelation. I sit in anticipation of more diverse Thai dishes! (May I secretly hope one of your other recipes will be something similar to what I enjoyed there?)

MikeVFMK September 20, 2011 um 4:24 pm

Simply lovely, Helene. I've never visited the real pockets of America and, after seeing and reading this, it's my loss. Can't wait for the rest!

Salt Lake Sugar September 20, 2011 um 5:08 pm

I seriously miss Portland. I attended culinary school there (Oregon Culinary Institute) and loved every food moment Portland had to offer.

Thanks for the beautiful photos, brings back happy memories.

Valérie (France) September 20, 2011 um 6:07 pm

Une gourmandise très bien parfumée et de jolies images
Je te souhaite une belle soirée

Anonymous September 20, 2011 um 8:30 pm

Sounds like an awesome experience! And the cake looks really good! 🙂

Cooking Quidnunc September 20, 2011 um 11:23 pm

great pictures and recipe!

Banana Wonder September 21, 2011 um 1:20 am

Glad you had a nice stay in my home town! Honey cake looks increds – must make!

Anonymous September 21, 2011 um 3:14 am

What a terrific re-cap. Your pictures are incredible and the cake….*sigh* I love the idea of Riesling in the sabayon!

rental mobil September 21, 2011 um 4:43 am

Very nice, thanks for sharing.

kellypea September 21, 2011 um 1:33 pm

The hubster and I have been talking about going to Portland on an extended weekend. We've never been, either, so it's great to hear your perspective. The food sounds eclectic and delicious!

Rhonda September 21, 2011 um 2:24 pm

As a native Washingtonian, I have a soft spot for the beauty and culture of the Northwest! You shared your trip so beautifully, I am quite jealous…I really need to go back home and visit.

michele September 21, 2011 um 6:17 pm

I have never been to Portland but it looks wonderful and it looks like the food is great.

Rocky Mountain Woman September 21, 2011 um 9:23 pm

Oregon is my favorite place ever ever!

Unknown September 21, 2011 um 9:37 pm

What a wonderful article. I enjoyed reading about your Portland experience. We too love that part of the country and have family that live there and love it. Love the name of that restaurant "Pok Pok"…so catchy.

molly September 22, 2011 um 3:25 am


I just received my (your) book, and wanted to congratulate you directly on an exceptional, exceptionally beautiful, exceptionally useful work of art. The care and thoughtfulness that went into this wonder is evident on every last page.

Thank you.


Denise @ TLT – The Little Things September 22, 2011 um 12:25 pm

What a beautiful trip; the gorgeous pictures make it feel like I was there too. I wish I was;)

Unknown September 22, 2011 um 1:49 pm

Great blogging apu, can I ask where you cot the cake stand its just so perfect and I would love one for me.

Unknown September 22, 2011 um 1:52 pm

Fantastic bloggin apu, can I ask were you got the cake stand it just so perfect and I would love one for me.

Debbi_in_California September 22, 2011 um 2:17 pm

Wonderful post! What is the treatment/ tone used on the restaurant images. They all have a beautiful pinkish tone?
Now I want to visit Portland!

Mary September 22, 2011 um 6:13 pm

Another proud Oregonian (Eugene is my hometown originally and currently!) to read that Travel Oregon is marketing to people like you!!!

We are ALL "out of the box" up here in the Northwest! I'm so glad you enjoyed the stay.

Mary in Oregon

Unknown September 22, 2011 um 11:00 pm

Amazing!! I've always wanted to visit Portland and now I want to even more. I definitely need to plan a trip there and I'm going to bookmark all your adventures so I have great places to visit!

peachkins September 23, 2011 um 4:26 am

love all the food photos!

marla {family fresh cooking} September 23, 2011 um 4:38 am

Fun to read about your time in Portland…I have never been there but everyone always tells me I would love it for many of the reasons you mention here.
Fun to have a peek inside all of these lovely restaurants. The chicken wings sound addictive!
Love the idea of the walnut honey cake too!

Helene September 23, 2011 um 4:49 am

Eugene: I found it at a vintage shop near my house.

Thanks everyone!

Katherine Martinelli September 23, 2011 um 10:42 pm

Sounds like an amazing trip! Was following your tweets throughout and it really sounded like fun. Portland is an amazing city. Gorgeous photos, as always. And this cake looks delicious – perfect for Rosh Hashanah!

holiday club September 24, 2011 um 9:07 am

Nice trip. The photos are really great. Very memorable trip.

JulieD September 24, 2011 um 3:18 pm

Love all of your pictures and following you, Paula and others during the trip on twitter & instagram. So glad you had fun!

Dolores September 24, 2011 um 10:04 pm

I am from Portland (not original from here but I made it home!) and I am glad to read you had a great time here! I love the recipe and I´ll try it this weekend!

Mairi @ Toast September 25, 2011 um 6:48 am

Beautiful photos & oh I so want to go to Oregon, looking forward to reading more 🙂

Gen September 25, 2011 um 2:22 pm

Hum les photos donnent terriblement envie!

kyleen September 26, 2011 um 4:07 am

Wow this trip sounded wonderful. Your writing is so descriptive and your pictures so vivid that I want to go to Portland now!

Anonymous September 26, 2011 um 7:24 am

What a fabulous trip. I LOVE the sound (and look) of that riesling sabayon – simply stunning.

Maria Maria Maria September 26, 2011 um 10:01 pm

What wonderful photography!

Arzu September 27, 2011 um 8:36 am

The food looks delicious but what fascinated me more are the photos.. The lighting, composition etc, everything looks so professional and with good taste.. I think it's very important for a food blog to have more than decent photos. Your work is great! I wish I could get some tips!

Isabel September 27, 2011 um 1:03 pm

The Vietnamese Style Short Ribs look amazing!! I made those once a while back and fell in love. If only that cut of beef was easy to find in Virginia…I would make them everyday!

Hallie Fae September 27, 2011 um 2:25 pm

Honey cake, perfect for the jewish new year!

Lemon September 27, 2011 um 5:10 pm

Portland is a great place! I have been thereto several times some years ago and I really loved it. The city itself is marvellous and has many nice districts to discover. I also remember Powell's Bookstore! A lot of great restaurants and bars, little shops, nice art galleries etc. You should go back to Portland when there is snow. Then, everything looks even more beautiful, just like a place from a fairy tale. Portland is definitely a place with a high quality of life and I would recommend to everybody who has already been to NY, LA, SF to spend some days in Portland, the city itself but also its surroundings. As a souvenir I still keep some from their pancake package, seemed to me like a regional specialty.

Trattoria da Martina September 27, 2011 um 9:53 pm

Hi, I have just bought you book and I'm reading it…I find it very interesting and useful, so I have decided to have a look at you blog. It's a great blog! My compliments!..May I ask you a question? Where did you buy that wonderful wire cake-stand I see in the photo? I have searched it through the web but I couldn't find a place where to buy it…I have read someone has bought a similar one from "target" – an online store – but i haven't found it there…Can you help me? Bye bye, Martina

Helene September 28, 2011 um 2:37 pm

Tarttoria Da Martina: I found it at a vintage shop near my house.

Thanks everyone!

Trattoria da Martina September 28, 2011 um 8:31 pm

Thank you Helene for answering my question!

Eggton September 28, 2011 um 11:53 pm

Helene, What is going on in the photograph of what looks like white parchment dangling? I adore it. At first I thought it was people's orders written on papers for the chefs, and then…it's actually a chandelier of sorts, isn't it? What did those red pendants seem to be made of? It's stunning either way. Katherine (, a blog about moving to Alabama and making dinner)

Helene September 29, 2011 um 1:16 pm

Eggton: it's just a decor element.

Anna September 29, 2011 um 4:02 pm

What an incredibly beautiful food blog!

buy mobile phones September 29, 2011 um 6:13 pm

wow i love your post this is amazing stuff

notyet100 September 30, 2011 um 1:36 am

Wish I could bake this one right now,..looks yum,.

Vickie September 30, 2011 um 1:06 pm

sounds like an amazing trip & the cake looks delicious 🙂

Jenny Tan October 1, 2011 um 9:07 pm

Ahhhh…how is it that I missed meeting you here in Portland??!!! 😛 I'm so glad you visited Portland and love it. Hope someday you'd come back and have classes here – whether it's cooking/baking or photography.

Dmarie October 4, 2011 um 12:10 am

that cake looks divine. LOVED this post and will be bookmarking it. I've been wanting to go to Portland for ages…it's definitely in my future!

Mel October 10, 2011 um 10:09 am

Hi Helene, wow your photography is amazing – and that looks like one delicious trip! I can't wait to visit the States again… the last and only time I have been, I was 12. Portland is on my list of places to visit!

Unknown October 10, 2011 um 2:53 pm

Your photography is really something amazing! I really enjoy your wonderful angles and inspiring shots! Thanks so much for being an inspiration!

Lia Griffith February 18, 2012 um 9:14 am

Helene! I finally got a chance to read your Portland posts. I live right here in the Pearl, just steps away from many of these places and it was great fun to read about them from a fresh perspective. I am also gluten-free and know this city is fantastic for people like us.

CoolCake Love March 26, 2013 um 10:14 am

Hi Helene, being an enthusiastic foodie, I can't believe this is the first time I stumbled upon your amazing blog. I have so much reading and cooking to catch up on – Good for me :). The first recipe I'm going to try is this Honey Walnut Cake With Riesling Sabayon – I just love unusual combinations and the cake looks perfect. All the best!

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