Thai Carnation

Thai Carnation
Graphic by John Mendelssohn

My friend, Natcho Ebay and her husband Chef Manat are part of a large family that enjoyed the couple’s cooking in their native Thailand upon many occasions before they decided to relocate to the US- PNW. Adding to their experience, they also served as many as a thousand people at a time during Thai festival season, They now operate the popular Thai Carnation Restaurant and Lounge located at 24697 SE Stark St where Troutdale and Gresham intersect in the Portland, Oregon metroplex.

There is a good reason why this restaurant quickly sailed to popularity. From the beginning, the young couple has enthusiastically prepared treasured family recipes that were passed from one generation to the next, adding unique skills and instincts to transform the them into unrivaled gastronomical expressions. Area residents love it, and flock to the restaurant in droves.

Natcho and Manet are deeply rooted in their Thai cookery. They see their food as art, the plate a canvas, and the food their paint. Eating at Thai Carnation isn’t just a meal. It’s an unforgettable experience that fully engages the senses. Customers delight in the Thai spices that waft from the kitchen and evoke anticipation of what is to come. Each selection is beautifully arranged on the plate making it as visually pleasing as it is delicious. The food is healthful, delicious and unlike any other Thai cuisine in the Pacific Northwest. The couple understands the subtle delicacies and layered complexities of their native cuisine inside-out, coaxing these things to the forefront with grace and confidence.

The exterior of Thai Carnation seems nondescript as is any other restaurant along that particular stretch of Stark Street suburbia. The element of surprise becomes evident the instant the customer walks through the doors. While the food is ultimately the most important aspect of a restaurant, the interior design is crucial in ensuring the most pleasurable customer experiences. Thai Carnation does not disappoint.

The restaurant’s pristine dining area is tastefully appointed in exotic Thai decor replete with beautiful art, religious statuary, candles, plants and an overall serene vibe. The room is spacious and bright. The seating is comfy and intelligently arranged to optimize privacy while dining. Thai music lends authenticity to the experience.

The masked, black-clad staff can be seen quietly bustling about doing whatever is necessary to please their hungry patrons. They are polite, knowledgable and among the most efficient staff I have ever encountered in a restaurant. Since I eat a plant-based diet, I inquired about their vegetarian options and was informed that they can make virtually anything on the menu either vegan or vegetarian on demand.

The vegetable-centric menu is also inclusive of seafood, chicken and limited beef dishes.

Since I know Natcho, the owner, I always order what the Japanese refer to as, “omakasi”. This translates as, “I’ll leave it to you,” and it is a good choice, as she knows what is best on a given day, and always chooses the most delectable selections for me.

Steamed vegetable dumplings

The meal on this occasion, began with a plate of potstickers. They consist of the customer’s choice of steamed or fried pillows of handmade dough stuffed with an array of seasonal vegetables that includes broccoli, corn, spinach and glass noodles. Each is sprinkled with a delicious crunchy topping. The dumplings come served with a tantalizing Thai-style soy ginger sauce. The potstickers are offered alongside a selection of 14 other appetizers.

Deep Fried Tofu

We also had a plate of the deep fried tofu, which consisted of dredged, triangular tofu segments lightly fried and served with the restaurant’s own sweet and sour sauce. The sauce had the perfect balance of sweet and savory blends of culinary magic. The tofu was garnished with the bold orange, green and purple of shredded carrots and cabbage.

Mango Curry

The mango curry, served with steamed white rice, was a bold combination of tofu and yellow curry paste suspended in a creamy coconut milk base with bits of fresh mango, cashews, onion and bell pepper. Like most of the restaurant’s dishes, the textures ranged from smooth and creamy to defiantly crunchy.

Perfectly Steamed White Rice

Pad Vegetables with Cashews

The second entree was an extraordinary pad vegetable dish with cashews. It consisted of thinly sliced carrots , delicate bamboo shoots, fresh broccoli, baby corn, onion, red and green bell pepper and cashews. It was moderately spicy, which was tempered by the sweetness of the coconut milk. Again, a perfect balance of color, texture and flavor that could do nothing but delight.

The meal concluded with the chef’s special black rice pudding.

Black Rice Pudding

Natcho characterizes their Black Rice Pudding as the restaurant’s signature dessert. It is presented with a generous portion of sliced, fresh mango resting gently on a bed of sweet sticky rice pudding and sprinkled with seseme seeds. The combination creates a harmonious blend of sweet and tangy flavors and smooth textures that are offset by the satisfying crunch of the toasty seseme seeds. The dish is richly satisfying, yet light and is definitely delicious.

Natcho Ebay

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All foods at Thai Carnation are made with fresh, local ingredients and are MSG-free. Customers are asked to select their preferred spice levels.

This is a LGBTQ-friendly establishment.

Thai Carnation offers both COVID-compliant in-restaurant dining and carry out orders as well. Until further notice, masks are required for dining in.

Customers can order through Grub Hub, or on the restaurant’s website at:

http://www.thaicarnationpdx.com

Thai Carnation Restaurant

24697 SE Stark Street

Troutdale, OR. 97060

503-994-7777

A Sad, Sad Day

A week ago, someone I have known and loved for decades, suffered a major heart attack in Europe where he lived.  Today, the doctors were going to remove him from life support, and I haven’t heard any news yet….but I am suffering already, from a profound loss.  My daughter is also, as the two of us were very close to him.  He was my ex husband.  I had heard from him only days before the attack.  He sounded cheerful and friendly.  He was an upbeat kind of guy.

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My husband today, has been so supportive and understanding of my pain.  I am counting my blessings that he is in my life now, but I will miss Steve.  Ours was an exciting life together.  He was a brilliant petroleum geologist.  We traveled here and there together, went on lots of hikes and explored the world in the most intimate of ways.  He knew a lot about things…about the earth, history, how things work.  He was such an interesting guy, really into biking, and, in fact, in his last email to me, that is what he talked about.

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Today, I am finding comfort in the small things that life has to offer during sobering times such as these.  A couple of Steve’s family members reached out to me and we have reconnected, which is a blessing.  I have been watching the little hummingbird outside my window, so frail and tiny, but powerfully convincing of the gratitude that I feel for its being there in its beautiful spender during this sad time.

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I am grateful for my wonderful husband, for my best friend, for my daughter and my grandchildren.  I have so much to be thankful for, and today especially, I am mindful of the temporary nature of our time here on the earth.  In the words of one of Steve’s Aunts who contacted me yesterday, “Put your arms around the people you love and hold them tight.  Hold on to your family….”  and that is what I shall do.  The family that I have in my life is the best one could possibly hope for.

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I am grateful for them…..and for my life today.

Making Your Own Cosmetics

I am sort of on the fence about cosmetics.  Admittedly, I love them.  However, I don’t wear them much, other than lipstick , which my sweetie loves in red, he tells me, AND I won’t wear any cosmetic products that contain harmful ingredients or that are manufactured by companies that test on animals.

That said, I’d like to show you a quick and easy tutorial to make your own lipstick.  Mind you, please check first, before using your eye shadow, to make sure that it was not tested on animals, and try to use a lip balm made with soy, coconut, jojoba or other oils that are not carcinogenic.

As I mentioned previously, I went to the Portland Veg Fest last weekend, and while there, I purchased a book by Sunny Subramanian and Crystle Fiedler called, “The Compassionate Chick’s Guide to DIY Beauty.”  You can pick up a used copy for around $10, on Amazon by clicking  HERE.

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The book contains 125 recipes for vegan, gluten-free, cruelty-free makeup, skin and hair products. In this book, Sunny explains why animal testing is cruel,unnecessary and inaccurate, so there really is no need to buy products that have been tested on animals.  It is pointless, unless you get some perverse pleasure from harming innocent animals.  There are, after all, alternatives to animal testing that are far more accurate in their results.

Ingredients to Avoid

In her book, Sunny discloses some of the ingredients that should be avoided when purchasing cosmetics, and reminds us that by making our own DIY cosmetics, we can control what goes on oru skin and screen out any harmful ingredients such as :

  • BHA
  • BHT
  • Coal Tar Dyes
  • DEA
  • Triethanolamine
  • Dibutyl Phthalate
  • DMDM Hydantion
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hydroquione
  • Lead
  • Methylisothaizolinone
  • Nanoparticles that can penetrate the lungs
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Petroleum Products
  • Other Harmful Ingredients

I don’t often wear foundation.  Instead, I don’t smoke, and I drink a lot of water and my skin feels soft and is relatively wrinkle free, for my age.

To help even out my skin tone, I buy a natural Papaya mask (that smells like heaven) from a company on Amazon called, “Ladybug“.  This stuff is absolutely wonderful, despite its mixed reviews.  It smells good enough to eat, too.

If you want to make your own foundation, that is easy also, with just some jojoba oil, Vitamin E oil and some powder made from rice flour that Sunny’s book talks about.  Really folks, I do recommend this book.  However, if you’re looking for a visual aid to make your own all-natural, organic powder foundation, watch this:

I make an all-natural liquid foundation that works really well, if you don’t mind keeping it in the fridge, since it contains no preservatives.  The base of it contains:

To this, I add various colorants, such as beet powder, mica powder, cocoa powder  and other all-natural colorants, depending on what I’m trying to achieve. Mix everything well, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  This is the type of thing you just have to experiment with until you get the color that you want.   It turns out really well….as good, in fact, as the MAC foundation that I used to pay $38 a pop for, but lighter and less greasy feeling.

As a hair conditioner, I simply put about a tablespoon of coconut oil in my hair before I go to bed at night.  This, too, smells wonderful, and I wash it out the following morning with a gentle Aveda all-natural shampoo.  If I get a case of the frizzies, a small dab of coconut oil or Argon oil does the trick.

Finally, if you want to create your own all-natural scent, give this 3-ingredient recipe a try.  I use DoTerra Essential Oils, but you can use any combination of any brand that you like.

The Internet is a wonderful source for finding recipes for making your own cosmetics.  Give it a try, if you don’t pick up a copy of Sunny’s book.  I think you’ll love what you discover.

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Celebrating the Veg Lifestyle

Being vegetarian or vegan is not just eating a certain diet.  It is a lifestyle that involved a more conscientious way of living, one in which people pay attention to things to which  the average carnivore does not give as much consideration, or so it seems.

Each year in Portland, the Northwest Vegetarian Society holds a huge event at the Portland Convention Center.  This weekend was the 12th year for this celebration, and John and I were in attendance.

The festival was packed with booths handing out literature, GREAT free food samples and all kind sof veg-friendly products.  In attendance were doctors and lawyers and people with tattoos and people without tattoos.  There were housewives and house husbands.  There were kids of all ages, who enjoyed many activities that were set up for them.

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We forwent lunch and opted, instead, to wander from booth to booth trying new products and sampling our favorites that we had tried before.  All were just great.

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Although both of us are vegetarian and not vegan, we both loved all of the many vegan options that we tried.  Vegan/vegetarian foods have really come a long way over the last decade.

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The event had all kinds of entertainment, lectures and demonstrations. One of my favorites was a demonstration by the author of The Compassionate Chick’s Guide to DIY Beauty, Sunny Subramanian of the Vegan Beauty Review.

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This is Sunny with her little boy who insisted upon singing for us.  He was very sweet.  Sunny’s demo was great.  She has a great blog online, too.  I purchased her book and just love it.  It has the most fantastic all-natural recipes for cosmetics and related items.  Really great.

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We attended a lecture by Juleanna Heaver, RD, about The Vegan Ten: Basics of the Vegiterranean Diet, which is a vegan version of the Mediterranean diet, one of the most healthful diets in existence.

I attended another one on investing in humanitarian causes.

It was a good time.  I think I’ll attend again next year.

 

Portland’s Japanese Garden

I don’t think yesterday could have been more beautiful…but that’s how autumn days are in Portland. Beautiful.  The temperature was a comfortable 72 degrees and the sun was shining like a beacon of love from the sky, its warmth caressing me as I strolled through the Japanese gardens.

We drove out to Washington park and took the shuttle up the mini-mountain to the Japanese garden. The roads were under construction, so we had to take a long hike up a straight hill.  There was bamboo art scattered along the path that was created by Jiro Tonezawa, Shigeo Kawashima, Charissa Brock and Anne Crumbacker.  All magnificent.

When we entered the front gate, John noticed a sign that advertised free tours.  I preferred to see the garden without a tour guide, so we agreed on a meeting place and time, and went our separate ways. My friend called while we were there, and I  described everything to him as I strolled through the gorgeous grounds.

The koi in this video are worth upward from $1000 each!  A few winters ago, when we had a deep freeze, most of the garden’s koi were killed from lack of oxygen when the top of their habitat froze.  Garden administrators investigated the problem and learned that by digging their habitat 3′ deeper, enough oxygen would exist to sustain future schools of fish, so now, I think they’re safe. Each one looked like its own little work of art.

I have a beautiful picture of my husband in Japan , meditating in front of one of the famous raked stone gardens there.  This one, he said, looked very much like that one.

This is a stone bench in a simple Japanese tea house.  John had my wide angle lens, so I couldn’t get a shot of the entire house.

The prevailing sound at the garden was the sound of falling water.

The roof ornament at the peak of the teahouse roof.

The garden is set deep inside a beautiful forest.  It is quiet there…serene.  Peaceful.

A Japanese Jizo – protector of travelers, animals and children. I once did an entire installation of jizo art.

Portland artist, Anne Crumpacker, whose work is shown in the next photo, interweaves scale and proportion to create living topographies. She has created a magical bamboo and wooden boat that references the 11th century classic, Ukefune, The Floating Boat.

If I’m not mistaken, this one is by Chrissa Brock, but it, too, might be one of Crumpacker’s pieces.  I will find out and make the correction at a later date.  The piece below was along the path through the forest and up the steep incline on the way to the garden.

The following (amazing) woven ball is by Shigeo KawaShima.

The following view was the only hint of civilization beyond the forest-sheltered garden.  Mt. Hood rose up to the sky behind our city center, and I felt grateful, when I saw it, to be alive.

I love living in Portland.

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