Arrive as Friends – Leave as Famly – Casa Mia

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-02-02-am

Casa Mia

The Detour coffee shop was a popular landmark at 3035 Division Street, but its owners decided to move on, and now we are graced with a fabulous new replacement, Casa Mia. This is the Italian restaurant the Richmond neighborhood has needed for a long time. It is quaint, cozy, and lacks the corporate vibe that so many of the new neighborhood restaurants have. What it lacks in the hip and cool area, it makes up for in its genuine charm,  pleasant atmosphere and friendly service.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-16-30-am

The interior has been completely revamped since the cramped days of the Detour in a pristine solid wood and black metal decor.  Fresh roses grace each table, sleek silver mirrors reflect the soothing pale gray interior, framed, Italian-themed posters add to the decor, all tempered by the rustic cement floor.   The place looks nice!

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-19-39-am

Chef Benito Omana, originally from the Mexico City area, loves Italian food. His humble restauranteur beginnings were that of a dishwasher who keenly observed the chefs in the restaurants where he worked, learning bit-by-bit as he observed, and who gradually worked his way up through the ranks by demonstrating his own talent as a chef. In 1992, he began cooking at popular Portland restaurants, such as Pazzo, Piazza Italia, Southpark, Wildwood, El Gaucho and ElGuero.  In 2014, Benito opened Bellino Pasta & Cafe in Hillsboro, but he lives here in my neighborhood, and when the opportunity arose to open Casa Mia, he jumped on it.

I stopped by for lunch and immediately felt a little wary, because no one else was there. I was further dismayed to note that there were few, if any, vegetarian entrees on the menu.  However, when I expressed this to Benito, he told me he could whip something up off menu, the sign of a truly good restaurant, if you ask me……and he did!  He said that he plans to add more vegetarian options at some point.

I was first greeted by a plate of delicious house made foccacia bread with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  I was starving, so this tasted really good.  I was half way through my first piece when my husband, John, decided to stroll over and meet me. He polished off the rest with great enthusiasm.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-26-48-am

Benito served us a moderately priced Italian wine made from  Nebbiolo, Nascetta, Eau-de-Vie, Pelaverga, and Dolcetto grapes, which went perfectly with our entrees.

Benio whipped up a delicious penne dish for me that had outstanding fresh tomatoes, lots of garlic, basil and some of the best parm I have ever eaten.  It was simple, and quite delicious.  I loved the fact that it was served at a very hot temperature, too.  Great mouthfeel.  Teriffic flavor that made me smile.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-30-40-am

John had the fresh minnestroni, right off the stove.  Every ingredient was fresh and delicious, and it went beautifully with the wine and bread.

We had cappuccinos and some of the best tiramisu we had ever eaten for dessert.  We’re talking some serious dessert here, folks. It was out of this world delicious!

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-32-06-am

The entire meal cost less than $30, and we made a new friend in Benito, so I’d say we made out pretty well.  Wouldn’t you?

Because of its location along Division street, and the manner in which it is set back from the street, Casa Mia is easy to miss….which is why  I am writing this blog article to urge people in the Clinton-Division-Richmond neighborhood to stop by and check it out.  Benito has big plans for weekend brunch, and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner all week long.  This is a call to action to stop in and introduce yourself to the chef and delight in the wonderful food that John and I experienced at Casa Mia!

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-38-39-am

Casa Mia – Affordable fine dining in a quaint, friendly atmosphere.

Save

Save

Do I Stick it in the Fridge?

Some foods need to be refrigerated.  Others don’t.  This is a list of  foods that do not need to be chilled.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 6.35.25 AM
1. Bananas – Storing bananas in the refrigerator can actually disrupt their ripening process.  Once refrigerated, a banana may never be able to resume the ripening process even if returned to room temperature.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 6.36.16 AM

2. Yams and Sweet Potatoes – When exposed to cold temperatures, starches found in potatoes will turn to sugar, disrupting their flavor and texture. If you prefer tasteless potatoes that cause weight gain, however, please refrigerate.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 6.37.02 AM

3. Tomatoes – Have you ever tasted a really amazing tomato right out of the fridge?  Nope, Me neither.  Tomatoes LOSE their flavor and become mushy when refrigerated.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 6.37.48 AM

4. Apples -Apples  lose their texture and flavor when refrigerated.  If you want a cold apple, just stick it in the fridge about 20 minutes before you plan to eat it.  Otherwise, store them at room temperature.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 6.38.34 AM

5. Onions – If you love soggy onions while also causing the rest of your food to taste and smell like onions, then you’ll definitely want to refrigerate your onions immediately.  Otherwise, try storing them in a paper bag (within a cool, dark cabinet) for maximum shelf-life.  And by the way, did you know that storing onions with potatoes will cause the potatoes to ripen too quickly and to spoil sooner?  The onions give off a gas that causes this, so be sure to separate them for storage, m’k?

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 6.39.25 AM

6.  Avocados – Much like the banana, refrigeration shuts down an avocado’s ripening enzymes.  If you want guacamole next month, this may be OK, but if you’re like me, you probably want guacamole today.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 6.41.25 AM

7. Coffee – Contrary to popular belief, coffee is best stored at room temperature to allow the natural oils within the coffee beans to activate its pungent aromatic scent. Refrigeration can actually cause coffee to absorb odors from other foods in your fridge.

Speaking of coffee…I haven’t had mine yet this morning, so off I go.  Have a happy day everyone!

Salicornia Maritima – Something New for Dinner

I had seen salicornia maritima, AKA “sea beans” growing alongside the Pacific for years, but never bothered to investigate it.  Then, last Tuesday, when the organic produce delivery came, I reached inside and pulled out a small paper bag filled with it.  Sea beans.  They smell fishy….not all that great….but when I tasted one, it wasn’t bad at all.  Had sort of a lemony taste…very salty…and I figured that if I still ate fish, I probably would have served them up with salmon.  They are dark green, and I thought that since they were in my produce delivery, they had to be good for me…so I looked ’em up online.  It seems they are high in iron and super nutritious.

I learned that they are usually steamed or boiled.  I sauteed them with some tiny shiitake mushrooms in lemon juice and olive oil. Added some freshly cracked pepper and pink Himalayan sea salt and that was it. If I had it to do over, I would not have salted them…but I only added a dash,so it was ok.  Delicious!

 1dinner

I served them up with some vegetarian chick’n a l’orange and a nice helping of creamy polenta with chopped spinach and diced carrots.  Paired the meal with a nice glass of Malbec and really enjoyed it.  So.  There it is.  Something new for dinner.

Place Your Bets….

I’m not a gambler….but if you are, and would like to place a wager on the Kentucky Derby, this is a venue online where you can not only watch the race.  You can also place your bets!   (Am posting this for a friend who just won $7,000 on a $2.00 bet.)

CLICK HERE!

The Magical Power of Lemon Water

1lemonwater

I felt emotionally exhausted and physically drained after my trip to another state week before last.  Saying goodbye to loved ones is always so hard, but in this case, it was absolutely agonizing.

Four funerals of friends over a 10-day span was just too much.    On the flight home, I asked the airline hostess for a glass of water with lemon.  Upon drinking it, I noticed that my mood was lifted rather instantaneously.   It was as though I’d just consumed a magic potion.

My mother has always extolled the virtues of lemon water.  For years, it has been my “go-to” drink.  I love it, and I choose it over soda every time.  If I want something bubbly, I will drink either San  Pellegrino or Perrier with a squeeze of lemon.  I love the stuff…so light and refreshing.  Little Ingrid now loves it, too.

None of us drink sugary soft drinks.

1soda

Among many other things the advantages of regularly drinking lemon water include:

  • Preventing  the growth of pathogenic bacteria and the decomposition of tissue
  • Cleansing the system of certain impurities, and also helping prevent certain diseases and infections
  • It is amazingly effective at dissolving uric acid (often the cause of pain and inflammation in joints) and other poisons in the body
  • It can help reduce symptoms of malaria, rheumatism, gout, rickets and tuberculosis…not that I have any of these diseases…

And I think it simply tastes good.

I keep a lemon half in a small glass container right inside my refrigerator door.  Each time I pour myself a glass of water, I grab the lemon and give it a little squeeze into the glass.  Doesn’t take much to impart a truly delicious flavor.  Although, in the summer, when mint is fresh and ripe, I might add a sprig or two of that as well, I never add sugar.   I’m sweet enough already.  😉

People with liver damage often turn to lemon water because its healing power is an excellent stimulant for the liver.   From what I understand, it helps liquefy bile and helps control excess bile flow. For liver complaints, it is recommended that one drink warm lemon juice one hour before breakfast.  Drinking it as a “tea” and drinking it in a cold glass of water provide different benefits and different taste sensations.

One of the most important benefits of imbibing lemon water with some degree of regularity, is its effect on the gastrointestinal tract. Lemon water assists in the process of digestion and elimination.  It also has an alkalizing effect on the body. Increasing body alkalinity is what you should be going for.  It is one of the key benefits of drinking lemon water.

Other benefits include:

  • Helps purify the blood and will also control a tendency to bleed
  • Assists in lowering high blood pressure
  • Reduces the amount of phlegm in the body
  • Relieves symptoms of asthma, allergies and other respiratory problems
  • Nourishes brain and nerve cells due to its potassium content
  • Helps dissolves gallstones, calcium deposits, kidney stones, and pancreatic stones

Basically, as we get older, our bodies “rust” (sort of).   Rust is, of course, the oxidation of metal. And scientifically, aging has been considered the slow oxidation of our bodies. Like those brown age spots on the back of people’s hands?  That’s just oxidized fat under the skin. Oxidant stress is why we get wrinkles, that’s why we lose some of our memory, that’s why our organ systems break down as we get older.  How do we slow down oxidation? By eating foods containing anti-oxidants. If you want to know if a food has a lot of antioxidants in it you slice it open, expose it to air—expose it to oxygen and see what happens. Does it oxidize, does it turn brown? Think about our two most popular fruits: apples and bananas. Turn brown right away—not a lot of antioxidants inside there. How to do you keep your fruit salad from turning brown though? Add lemon juice, which has vitamin C in it, an antioxidant, which can keep your food from oxidizing and can do the same thing inside our bodies.  Lemons are good for you and help slow down the aging process.

I also use lemon juice for countless other things around the house.  For example, I boil a few slices of lemon in about half a litre of water. Let it cool. Pour it in a spray bottle and voilå!   My own homemade air freshener!  I use it as a glass cleaner.  I use it to polish my silver.  I toss a lemon into the garbage disposal to make it smell good.  I use it in my homemade furniture polish.  I just love how it smells.

Lemons.  They’re a good thang!

Lemon slices background