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

Oatmeal, anyone? An Evening with Ottmar Liebert

When my daughter was small, she would refer to Flamenco guitarist, Ottmar Liebert as “Oatmeal”.  “Listening to Oatmeal again, Mom?”  she would ask.

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Last night, we were treated to two hours of this graceful guitarist’s skilled execution of some of the most incredible music I have ever heard.  Liebert was joined by bassist, Jon Gagon and percussionist, Chris Steele.  They had definite chemistry, and put on an ideal show in an intimate Portland venue in the Alberta Arts District.

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© Stacy Alexander

Ottmar Liebert is what guitar playing is all about.  He is in tune with his craft to the point that it seemed, at times, that he and the guitar were one instrument.  He was graceful, and seemed comfortable in his own skin, playing, most of the time, barefoot, with his eyes closed, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings, riding the waves of his own creations.   I believe he was playing a small DeVoe guitar, but it didn’t have any markings on it that I could see, so I’m not certain that is what it was.

Since 1986 Liebert has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1992 he purchased an “alt-ranchette” just outside the city, with an adobe guesthouse he built as a recording studio.  In May 2006 Liebert was ordained as a Zen monk by Dennis Genpo Merzel at the Kanzeon Zen Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He had a very strong presence….one of peace and goodness.  Both John and I sensed this immediately as we watched him.

(I couldn’t get the video of Luna Negra to embed.  This video (above) is an earlier performance.)

I have been unable to find a video of Jon Gagnon, his bassist, but will post one here, if i do later.  He  was simply put, rock solid in every way.  Jon had a huge presence and voice on a 4 string fretless which sang like an baritone opera singer…or, at times, a French horn.  I couldn’t figure out what one of his bass instruments was at all it.  The one shown here was huge, and had a EB-like headstock and a body shape of something like a JP and a morsh.   Its  tone was full of mwah, but soulful and crying. The  fretboard was  coated with something shiny. I’d not seen anything like it before.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.54.47 AMThe drummer, Chris Steele, was not to be believed.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.57.15 AMI did find a video of Chris playing, and I encourage you to watch it.  He is truly a unique player, and fantastically talented.

There is a video on YouTube that I couldn’t manage to embed here.  Please look it up.  It is called “Good Drums, Bad Turtleneck” by Chris Steele.  This is the video to watch to really see this man’s talent.  You can find it here:

The Alberta Rose Theater is a sweet little venue….very small and intimate, which was the perfect place to hear a trio such as this.  John and I ate the venue’s delicious  hand pies and sipped Perrier as we basked in the warmth and beauty that these musicians presented to us. We had such a nice evening.   These guys are  true professionals…plain and simple.  They were tight, knew exactly what they were doing, and provided the audience with an amazing show.  ’nuff said.  Well…no….NOT enough said, actually.

As I was sitting there watching these incredible musicians, I though about my dear friend, another musician, and felt so sad that his life has taken the path that it has.  It could have been him up there on that stage last night….but as they say…”When you lie with pigs….”  He has made some not-so-wise choices.   I’ll leave it at that.

It’s Not Too Late to Bid on Art to Help Doctors Without Borders!

You still have a few days to place your bid on my mosaic art to benefit Doctors Without Borders Auction.  Bidding is still under $100 for a piece that would normally retail for more than $300.   However, if  my piece, “Four René”  is not your cup of tea, there are 140 other international mosaic artists with offerings of wall pieces, affordable jewelry, sculpture, ornaments and more. Choose the best piece to suit your art needs.   Please help us help others by placing your bid today!

CLICK HERE to view all of the offerings and to place your much appreciated bid!

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Counting the Countless – A Good Day in Texas

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Magdalena Abakanowicz is one of my favorite artists.  She makes art about the “countless”… those countless people and animals that are so easily grouped together in life…..the homeless, the Holocaust Jews and Gypsies, the poor, the unemployed, minority women, stray dogs, bees….living creatures in groups that lose their individuality because they amass in such huge numbers that society stops viewing them as individuals and sees them blindly as one entity….the group…..the countless.  There are too many of them to count, yet each one is still an individual.  Abakanowicz is on of this world’s most important artists and one that I wholly appreciate for the depth and breadth of her remarkable creations.

 She says: “I feel overwhelmed by quantity where counting no longer makes sense. By unrepeatability within such quantity. A crowd of people or birds, insect or leaves, is a mysterious assemblage of variants of a certain prototype, a riddle of nature abhorrent to exact repetition or inability to produce it, just as a human hand can not repeat its own gesture”.                        

 

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This is me, standing in front of one of Magdalena Abakanowicz’s most famous installations, “Bronze Crowd” in Dallas, at the Nasher Sculpture Center.  The light scrolls are Photoshopped in, simply because I liked the affect.  We had just dined inside, and were strolling around the grounds together, thrilled, as always, by the outstanding works of art that surrounded us.  That was a particularly wonderful day.  When it isn’t crowded, Nasher is the perfect place to meditate.  It is peaceful there.  Beautiful.  Hard to believe it is even in Texas at all.

I was thrilled to be standing in front of the Abakanowicz piece.  Each statue is headless…and slightly different from the next.  The installation signifies a statement about lost individuality.  In addition to victims of atrocities, I look at this work and  think of those that try so hard to fit in with what they are “supposed” to do, and, in the process, lose who they really are.  They forget to smile.  They forget to love.  They forget to have fun  They lose their voices in the fray.  This installation is a reminder that each person on this earth is an individual with unique qualities worth paying attention to.

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Nasher has a fantastic gift shop.  In the picture above, I was wearing my new SAAKO infinity scarf  that I had received as a gift from their shop. It has flecks of gold in it and is truly beautiful! I have been addicted to these scarves since then, and have now amassed quite the collection of them.

The Nasher Sculpture Center is located in the heart of Dallas’ thriving downtown Arts District.  Going there is my second favorite activity when I visit the Dallas area. 🙂   It is located at 2001 Flora Street.  If you ever find yourself in close proximity, do go there.  It is an art oasis that you will never forget.

 

Seattle Here We Come!

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Late this afternoon, I completed my final assignments for Personality Theory class and now have a 4 day break before the new term begins. Man!  That class was difficult!  I’ve never written so much in my life, but I’m happy to say that I have a 4 point and my professor just recommended I publish my last paper, so I’m pretty pleased that all my hard work is paying off.

Tomorrow, I shall turn off my computer and put my phone away and hit the road for a couple of days of sweet R&R!

My daughter, Sarah and I are going to take 4 yr. old Ingrid to Seattle for 2 of those 4 days, in order to see Maya, my 17 year old granddaughter, shown here at Seattle’s famous Pike’s Market, fiercely armed with a pineapple!

ImageRene Best musician                          Rene Best guitarist

 

We’ll be leaving in the morning.  She is so psyched about this, and so are we!   On Friday night, we’re going to have a “slumber party” at one of my best friend’s beautiful house.   Sheryl, (shown here with our mutual friend, George, who now lives in Mexico) and I have known one another since we both lived in Texas….20 years?  Something like that.  She and her partner, Dylan, are metal artists.  Sheryl specializes in patinas.  Dylan welds.  They both do amazing work!

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Sheryl and  Dylan, have created the coziest, most fabulous  living space.  Their house is full of plants and art and is …well, just perfect, really… Comfortable, beautiful and with much character.   It is in a remote-ish area and there is plenty of time to spread out and relax while we bask in the pleasure of one another’s company.  This is Dylan with their now-deceased boxer, Buddha.  Image

Sheryl and Dylan now have two beautiful black boxers, Ella and Able.  Our little Beatrix will be no match for these two big guys.  I’m planning to keep them apart.  These two dogs are like thoroughbred racehorses, and every bit as graceful.  They’re both brilliant, too, and have no idea that they are dogs.

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 It has been a long time since I’ve had the time to just hang out and have fun.   Maya is bringing a friend, and we’re just going to relax, eat pizza, play cards, watch movies and have a good time.  I SO look forward to spending this time with my family there!!

 The coming school  term is going to be difficult.  Two complex classes, lots of writing and much time and energy will be expended.  This will give me time to relax and unwind a little…to recharge, as it were.  My daughter Sarah needs this, too.  It will be good.

Can you see the smile on my face??     Can’t wait!

smiling stacy