Monday, April 30, 2012

anniversary and a hotel tour

It started as an every five year ritual. We returned to The Heathman hotel where we spent our wedding night. I’m not sure exactly when this happened, but it’s now an annual tradition. This year we mixed it up and stayed at The Benson. Like The Heathman, The Benson is a historic downtown Portland, Oregon hotel, rich in history and tradition... just like our relationship :-)

We got a sweet deal on a penthouse suite. This was the view we were greeted with upon arrival.




Off the small seating area with the rainbow view, the bedroom is behind french doors.


There’s enough storage here for me to stay for weeks. Our room had several cabinets and drawers like you see behind me.


A comfortable lobby bar serves decent cocktails and a yummy cheese plate.


a few of the architectural details...





As you can see, room service breakfast was good, but if I were comparing it to The Heathman, the quality of the food and its presentation was lacking The Heathman Hotel’s exquisite taste and attention to detail. 

While we’re on the subject of hospitality, the entire Benson staff could use a lesson in the value of attending to details. The slightly tattered furniture, even though it added to the antiquity of our room, didn’t appear to be intentionally shabby chic, but scruffy and run-down. The maids had missed the lipstick kiss left on the french doors... tacky!


I hope you enjoyed this little tour. In case you missed my Heathman post from a couple years ago, you can check that out here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chinese chicken salad

Hi there, how is everyone? I’ve been keeping busy with work, creating a new web site for my business, working through the tower of receipts for tax preparations (and, of course, the writing of the large checks ceremony), celebrating birthdays with family members, our anniversary, a little gardening. 

We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary by spending a night at The Benson, a very old hotel in downtown Portland. I felt very spoiled after cocktails, a dinner out, a long sleep, and room service breakfast! But not for long, since upon my return home I went straight to work preparing food, and my messy house, for the 12 guests expecting Easter brunch at our house the next morning. 

It’s times like this when I long to be a person who can easily go with the flow and let people bring food and enjoy a relaxing day together. Instead, I put too much pressure on myself thinking I need to make all the food from scratch, have fresh flowers on the table and on my porch, a spotless house. So I make myself, and everyone around me, crazy and tend to forget that it’s all just supposed to be a fun day with family.

Do you have a California Pizza Kitchen restaurant near you? If you do, go try their Chinese chicken salad. It’s good! My daughter loves it, but parking there is difficult, so we created a version at home we think tastes similar, if not better.


Chinese Chicken Salad 
(similar to California Pizza Kitchen’s)

Serves 5-6
5 Tablespoons hoisin sauce 
3 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter 
3 teaspoons brown sugar 
1 teaspoon Asian chili paste 
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated 
5 Tablespoons rice vinegar 
1 1/2 Tablespoons sesame oil 
Whisk together the above ingredients and set aside.  
2-3 large cooked chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, chopped into chunks 
Sesame seeds 
1 Head Napa cabbage, chopped 
1 Head Romaine, chopped 
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped 
2 carrots, peeled and grated 
3/4 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 bunch (about 8) green onions, white and light green parts, chopped 
In a really big salad bowl, combine the cabbage, lettuce, cilantro and green onions and toss gently. Sprinkle in the sesame seeds and peanuts. Add the chicken. Pour in the dressing and toss. 

This tends to get soggy by day two, so eat it up. My daughter consumed three bowls lickety-split. 

With any luck, and some sunshine, I’ll have a few of these ingredients growing in my garden this year. I just planted the peanuts and Asian chilies last week. (Just checking to see if you’re paying attention.)