(Don’t Fear) The Pepper…or Salt

I hate when you order something that looks delicious, only to take a bite and find that the chef under seasoned it.

Case in point: I went to the farmer’s market earlier today. Part of the fun is in stocking up on fresh produce, and I definitely came away with my share. Apples, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and fresh dill. But it’s also an excuse to grab lunch on the go, and the Portland Farmer’s Market has no shortage of vendors serving great food there. Salvador Molly’s, Pine State Biscuits, and C’est Si Bon all serve wonderful meals. I like to try new things though, and today a Mexican place called Verde Cocina caught my eye. They were selling Huevos Rancheros, Chilaquiles, and Gringas. Their menu describes these as:

Gringas are soft, rolled tacos made from our handmade corn tortillas, spread with garbanzo-white bean mash, filled with either fresh local pork or fresh local veggies. They are covered with our signature housemade molé sauce, and served with whole beans and a mountain of veggies.

Sounded too good to pass up, so I opted for the pork version, which cost me $9 (ouch – that’s more than any of the other aforementioned vendors charges for lunch, but I was in a generous mood and the aroma from the freshly grilled sweet onions beckoned to me). They handed me my plate, and it was piled high with a colorful, appealing mound of fresh vegetables smothered in a thick, brick-red sauce. Yum, right?!

Not so much.

Dude. We rock! Food needs us!!

I found a spot to sit, eagerly dug in with my fork, and was dismayed to find the food bland and largely flavorless. This sucked because A) It wasn’t cheap, and B) There were plenty of other options available with proven track records. But what could I do at that point? Maybe if I’d been in a restaurant I’d have sent the meal back, but I had already wandered away from the booth and there was a long line of patrons waiting to order there anyway. It’s not that the food was bad…but it positively screamed out for salt and pepper. One of my biggest pet peeves is people who are afraid to season their food. A little salt and pepper goes a long way toward bringing out the flavors in a dish! I know I’m not alone in this way of thinking. I watch a lot of cooking shows, and the judges always gives chefs a hard time for under seasoning their dishes. It’s a cardinal sin! My meal would have been so much better with a sprinkling of both. You know how some people carry around flasks filled with the booze of their alcoholic choice? I’m tempted to start packing a flask full of salt, and another filled with pepper. And if that insults the sensibilities of the cook who prepared the dish, they can bite me since they have no business serving me something that lacks flavor in the first place!

I should’ve known better. This place was all hey, we have vegan dishes and our meals are all gluten-free!! Then again, that describes the majority of Portland restaurants, so it probably wouldn’t have done me any good. I ate most of it, and it filled me up. That’s about the best I can say, other than lesson learned. Next time I’m going for the biscuit topped with fried chicken, cheese and gravy. Gluten-free? Nope. Healthy? Not a chance. But you can bet your ass it tastes good!

/Seasoning rant.

Afterwards, I wandered around downtown Portland for an hour, just walking and enjoying what may be the last warm weekend day of the year. OK, “enjoying” is too strong a word because it was too hot for my blood and also humid, but the weatherman is calling for rain the next few days so I won’t complain too bitterly. Besides, today is only the 2nd day of autumn. I had no destination in mind; I just wanted to wander the streets, taking in the sights and sounds. That’s the great thing about P-Town; you’re guaranteed to spot something out of the ordinary, every time. Today it was a homeless man asleep in a doorway who demonstrated terrible fashion sense by wearing mismatched shoes: one was black and the other, white. Tsk-tsk. A little coordination next time please, buddy! I also spied a man in a white mariachi suit blowing a horn on a spare corner for change, another man yelling at everybody to Repent Now because The End Is Near but don’t worry, Jesus Loves You. This was topped off with a bunch of new solar-powered trash compactors lining the streets. I’m telling you, this was all a veritable smorgasbord of Portlandia.

Properly seasoned, of course.

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22 thoughts on “(Don’t Fear) The Pepper…or Salt

  1. Kathryn McCullough says:

    I too hate underseasoned food! Carrying salt and pepper’s not a bad idea, actually. Love the way you return to the seasoning image at the end of this post–great taste, my friend! Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend————
    Kathy

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  2. Ron says:

    “I found a spot to sit, eagerly dug in with my fork, and was dismayed to find the food bland and largely flavorless.”

    I’m utterly shocked at that Mark, because Mexican food is notorious for being ‘seasoned.’ What a huge disappointment that must have been 😦

    And died laughing at this….

    “Next time I’m going for the biscuit topped with fried chicken, cheese and gravy. Gluten-free? Nope. Healthy? Not a chance. But you can bet your ass it tastes good!”

    THANK YOU! I’m Italian, therefore I LOVE non-gluten-free food! I eat everything (which includes non-healthy) but I eat it in moderation.

    “Today it was a homeless man asleep in a doorway who demonstrated terrible fashion sense by wearing mismatched shoes: one was black and the other, white. Tsk-tsk. A little coordination next time please, buddy!”

    Bwhahahahahahahahahahaha! HILARIOUS!

    Well, all in all it sounded like a nice day!

    And hey, I hear ya about the heat and humidity because it’s been the same here. We had some gorgeous cooler days last week, however this week was like Spring and Summer weather – UGH!

    Don’t worry buddy, OUR weather is coming soon!!!!!

    Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaabulous!

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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    1. Mark Petruska says:

      Ron – I confess to not even knowing what “gluten” is. Seems to be quite the movement about to ban it from our food, though! And in my experience, that translates to bland + tasteless. I say, bring glueten back!!

      So GLAD our weather is coming! 🙂 Enjoy the rest of your weekend, buddy.

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  3. Tara says:

    I’m definitely not going to rub in that I took a hike up Lamoille Canyon with an adorable two year old and my favorite cousin, ate fried pickles and hush puppies for lunch, and now we’re drinking beers and scarfing pepperoni pizza from Domino’s.

    The only thing missing is you!!

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  4. Jess Witkins says:

    Oh my god! I would’ve so opted for Pine State Biscuits. Ate there when I was in Portland. The biscuits, the fried chicken, the pickles, the honey mustard and fried egg. I’m salvating.

    Still, markets in Portland are awesome. Glad you had fun bummin around.

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    1. Mark Petruska says:

      Yeah…I *KNOW*, Jess! I ordered “The Reggie” last time I was there, and even though it’s a heart attack on a plate…OMG!! The line for Pine State is always half an acre long. I’ve learned my lesson, okay??

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  5. Tracy says:

    Oh Mark, where is my picture of the food? You always have pictures…why not now? *Sniff*

    All kidding aside, I loathe unders-seasoned food…it’s like….why even eat it if you can’t taste anything. *Sigh*

    If we were to have time when you and Tara are here, I would love to take you to Southern Kitchen in Tacoma. Best darn southern food I have ever had and it was on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives a couple of years ago. I bring this up because everything on their menu is not, nor never will be, good for you and it tastes delicious!!

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  6. Mark Petruska says:

    I know, Tracy! I was too disappointed to even take a pic! LOL. (I did think about it, though). And if we have spare time, I’d love to take you up on your offer! We’ll see how busy Tara and I are. 🙂

    Like

  7. Carl D'Agostino says:

    gringas is what Mexicans call North American men. It is a term of despised ridicule and contempt. In order not to offend particular elements of the population I will allow you to speculate what they are actually saying when using the word.
    Vowel a word ending=fem noun, verb, adj and vowel o word ending = masc as Spanish is gender oriented language.

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  8. Patti says:

    When I was teaching my son how to cook and letting him in on the secrets of seasonings (very technical advice: keep adding stuff until you think it tastes good) – I told him that there was a reason why long ago, salt and pepper were considered as good as money when it came to bartering and payment of wages.

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  9. Mary says:

    Good seasoning is a necessity! For awhile, my husband was on a fairly strict diet to lower cholesterol. There isn’t much flavor to low/non fat foods but something like ground turkey chili can be a beautiful thing with the right additions. (He grows assorted peppers and herbs in the garden.)
    As for salt and pepper, I’ve become a bit spoiled…. I like the grinder varieties of both. And ‘Himalayan salt’ is delightful. I use the HimalaSalt brand. It’s pricey ($6+ small container) but soooo worth it. IMO.

    Like

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