Friday, June 19, 2015

Carte Blanche = complete freedom to cook what you want and eat what you love

My friend Amy Burglehaus is a local food writer. Her blog, Eating My Way Thru Portland, chronicles her experiences as she dines around town at restaurants new and old, foreign and familiar. She wrote a blog post almost two years ago about a couple of meals she ate at a food cart named Carte Blanche, which is located in a small pod alongside a busy stretch of Hawthorne Boulevard in southeast Portland. Amy heaped high praise on everything that crossed her lips and, knowing from experience that I could trust her judgement, I vowed to get there asap.
my friend, Amy Burglehaus (photo courtesy of her blog)
Of course, the timing of Amy's post also coincided with my husband Greg & I moving to northeast Portland. Where before we literally lived just a few blocks from Carte Blanche, now we were a few miles and two bus rides away. With a new job and other responsibilities demanding more of my time, I still hadn't tried Carte Blanche when, in December 2014, Amy partnered with the owner of the food cart, Jessie Aron, to sponsor a giveaway of a $25 gift card. I immediately entered the contest and, as luck would have it, my name was randomly chosen as the winner! Now I had absolutely no excuse not to try the food that was garnering rave reviews from Yelpers, Portland Monthly, The Oregonian, and more.
the super-cute vintage Airstream trailer that houses Carte Blanche
Fast forward to last night, when Greg & I FINALLY made our way down to Carte Blanche for dinner. We arrived just after 6 pm when the cart was slammed with the dinner rush. Jessie and her friends graciously took our order and told us to wait (their estimate of about 25 minutes was pretty accurate) in the shade of the dining tent and they would deliver our food when it was ready.

Greg carefully studied the menu and decided to order the rice bowl "Sufjam Fever" with pork. I asked one of Jessie's coworkers to make a suggestion. When I told him I like everything, he asked if I was in the mood for a sandwich. He said he had eaten "The Trouble with Ghosts" with fried chicken for lunch and that it was awesome. I gave him the green light to make the same thing for me and opted for the Japanese green bean salad as my side dish.

While the most-shaded communal picnic tables were occupied as we waited for our food, those diners finished their meals and left just as our plates were being delivered. So Greg and I settled in the shade at the east end of the tent and prepared to dig into our scrumptious-looking dishes.
Sufjam Fever
Greg's rice bowl was served with many of the items in little piles around the edge of the large bowl, allowing him to mix & mingle flavors to his liking. While he didn't let me take too many bites, I did manage to get a taste of heavenly slow-roasted pork and was intrigued by some nicely-steamed fingerling potatoes I spotted at the bottom of the bowl. Those few bites encompassed a melody of flavors with the gentle heat of Thai curry and the sweetness of coconut.
The Trouble with Ghosts
My sandwich looked and tasted amazing! It is honestly one of the best all-around dishes I've had in a long time, with the originality, quality, and overall melding of unexpected flavors deserving of the most lauded restaurants in town, like Le Pigeon. Just read through the ingredients list on the menu board: Za'atar & honey-seasoned fried chicken, praline bacon, chevre, caramelized onions, roasted sweet peppers, apple, arugula, avocado, pesto, aleppo aioli, and pickled peppers. It's hard to imagine all of these things going well together, but the result was a complete symphony in my mouth. Each bite promised different flavors and textures, all complementary and inspirational. I would eat this again and again, gladly! Note that I could have split this $10 sandwich with Greg and still been plenty satiated, but am happy I had it all to myself, and I savored every single bite.

Jessie and her team deserve every word of praise that has been bestowed by others before me and by what I'm sure will be many more in the weeks, months, and years to come. No word on whether she's considering a brick & mortar location. Either way, be sure to put Carte Blanche at the top of your "must try" list because I guarantee you'll be coming back for more!

Carte Blanche is located at 3207 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214.
Current hours are Thursday through Sunday 12 pm - 8 pm (or until they sell out).
They do accept orders by phone: (971) 258-2895.
The menu is seasonal and rotates every three to four weeks.
The website is always up-to-date:

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