XLB Dumplings

Review – XLB (Portland, OR)

XLB – Portland, OR

Visit Date – 3-18-18

Dim Sum Curiosity

When Anna and I decided to visit Portland, we made an effort to seek out places to eat with food we couldn’t get at home.  Asian cuisine is a favorite of ours, but what we get at home is a bit less than authentic.  Being the research guy that I am, I went to work.  That research led me to the excellent Marukin and the even better XLB.

Dumplings (at least the Asian variety) are not a staple of East Tennessee’s restaurant culture.  When I was a kid, there was a place that did Dim Sum on Sunday mornings, but that restaurant has been gone since I was in my

XLB Dumplings

XLB Soup Dumplings

teens.  Television being what it is, Anna and I were curious to try more of this (outside of our area) quite popular food niche.  This led us to XLB.  XLB is known for one thing – their soup dumplings.  Soup dumplings are a tricky thing – protein and gelatinized stock are mixed together and wrapped up in a thin dough before being steamed.  Soup dumplings are XLB’s focal point and they do them excellently.  All of the rave reviews led us to their door to sample their wares.

When you walk in, you place your order at the counter before seating yourself.  Servers bring the food out to you as soon as it is ready.  We decided to go with one order of the soup dumplings, one order of

Shanghai Sausage and Shrimp Noodles

Shanghai Sausage and Shrimp Noodles

Shanghai Pork and Shrimp Noodles, and Chili Shrimp Wontons.  After beverages and tip, we still came out for less than $50. The location is clean and open.  We sat near the back at a long table and enjoyed the atmosphere.  The food came out quickly and we dug in with gusto.

Time to Eat

For the record, the soup dumplings were fantastic.  Blindingly hot inside, but thoroughly delicious.  The wrapper was soft but chewy.  Hot pillows of deliciousness.  The noodle dish was likewise excellent.  Large perfectly cooked shrimp and sausage with noodles cooked correctly.  The wonton dish was also exceptional, though the one dish we would likely skip the next time around in favor of trying something different.  The wontons came in a black bean sauce and were very different from the fried wontons I am used to at home.

We kept coming back to the dumplings though.  Amazing and full of flavor.  If only you could take them with you!


We devoured every single dumpling and most of the noodles.  Sadly, we still left a bit of the wontons and the noodles behind.  For the price we paid, we were beyond pleased with the meal.  Our friend Caitlin who accompanied us announced at the end of the meal that this would now be on her list of places to go on a regular basis.  I cannot blame her, if we lived anywhere nearby we would be regulars ourselves.

Definitely one of the best meals I have enjoyed – at any price.  Next time I am in Portland, I know where one of my meals will definitely be.

Finished Chili

My Chili Recipe

Read about my love of chili here.


1lb thick cut bacon, cubed

1lb stew beef, cut into ~1/2″ cubes

2lbs 80/20 ground beef

2 yellow onions, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 poblano pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

4T Mexene Chili Powder

2T Chili Powder

1T Ancho Chili Powder

2T Paprika

1T Kosher Salt (more as needed)

2T Cumin

2T Tomato Paste (I use Cento)

2T Beef Better than Bouillon

2 12oz Dark Lager (I recommend Negra Modelo)

1 box tomato sauce (approx 13oz)

1 can diced tomatoes

1 pack unflavored gelatin

32oz Unsalted Beef Stock

1 dried Guajillo chili (seeds removed) Continue reading →

If You Are In the Market for a New Car…


I like cars.  Nice cars, old cars, cars that I cannot afford.  I would dearly love to own a Ferrari one day – though I admit the likelihood of such a thing is minimal to non-existent.  That being said, I still enjoy watching Top Gear and seeing the exquisite offerings from Audi, Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc…

A guy can dream.

I learned to drive in my father’s vehicles – a 1984 Dodge Ram and his 3 mile long Lincoln Town Car.  The truck was more fun to drive, but the Lincoln handled better (though you always felt like you were driving an aircraft carrier). When I got my license at 17 (I wasn’t in any hurry), I generally drove the truck around.  It was big, got horrible mileage, and was entirely more vehicle than I needed to get to work and school.

I loved it.

Sadly, I had an accident in it my first year at college and the truck died shortly thereafter.  Amazingly, my parents took me off to the Airport Motor Mile here in Knoxville to look at cars.  While the prospect of a new car was, of course, welcome I was a bit downcast when I realized we were looking at Geos.  If you have never seen one, nor heard of one, they were a budget brand created by Chevy in the early ’90’s.  They would get you around, but you were not going to look good doing it.  My contribution to the cause was requesting the 4 door model versus the 2.

In all fairness to my folks, having killed the truck I am still thankful they were willing to buy me a new car – albeit a decidedly unglamorous one.

I drove that sucker for 8 years. Continue reading →

B. Matthews

Review – B. Matthews (Savannah, GA)

Breakfast of Champions

Savannah is one of those towns where you can not really go wrong.  Booze and food tend to be uniformly good – with better than average options.  That being said, there are a few standout places.  B. Matthews happens to be one of them.  I first heard about the place on Youtube.  Several videos mentioned them as a go-to place for brunch.  Upon further research, we discovered they do breakfast every day till 11.  We decided to visit.

Great decision.

The wife and I are decidedly in favor of good breakfast places.  We both *love* breakfast.  On my days off, I usually do breakfast as a given.  When we travel though breakfast tends to be hit or miss. Blame me for that, I like to drink on vacation and getting up early is generally not my idea of fun while on vacation.  That being said, we knew we would be in downtown Savannah early enough for breakfast and I decided to try something new.

Boy howdy, am I glad Anna agreed to my suggestion. Continue reading →

New mattress and frame

Buying a New Mattress… (my experience with Dream Cloud & Purple)

A Bit of History…

Many years ago, near the dawn of time, I was a much younger me.  I had a bunk bed (the top of which was rarely used for anything other than play) which I slept on until I was in 8th grade or so.  For various reasons, I then moved all my stuff into our guest bedroom and began sleeping on my mother’s antique twin bed.  The frame was nice, but nothing special (and the same could be said of the mattress).  For the next 15 years or so, I had that same bed.  It was tiny, and I beat the heck out of it.  It somehow survived several moves, time at UT, and all the abuse inherent in said activities.

Finally, I decided, it was time for a change.  Around 2005, I decided the time had come to upgrade.  I started looking around and found a queen frame and mattress for less than $1k.  At the time I was working in a restaurant at night and going to school during the day so $1k was a lot of money to me.  I called the number in the paper (yes, back in the day we looked at the classified ads in the paper!) and set up a time to go look at beds.  Looking back, what followed was a bit surreal (and possibly shady).  I showed up at a warehouse off Broadway, just past Fountain City.  I was told to come alone and at a specific time – I would only have half an hour to decide and pay.  Once allowed into the warehouse, I was shown the frame in the ad (Queen, Cherry, Sleigh) as well as the mattress it came with.  I could, however, upgrade both the frame and the mattress from the LARGE selection in the warehouse for more money.  As I didn’t have a lot of money to work with, this was a bit of a useless option.  Next did take a look at several other mattress options (one of which I did go with) before briefly looking at the other furniture on offer.  Then I got to negotiate a bit and had them to deliver my mattress and frame to my apartment as part of the final asking price.  I felt like I had just made the deal of a lifetime.  On my way out, I saw someone else pulling up (alone) and waiting in their car for their allotted time to shop (I bet they didn’t get the deal I did!).

That bed and frame served me (and eventually my wife Anna) well for the next thirteen years. Continue reading →

Bourbon & RC – A True Southern Libation

I am most definitely a bourbon fan.  Nowadays, it is pretty much my liquor of choice.  This was not always the case as for many years I was (and still am) something of an Irish Whiskey fiend.  For years, most of my friends have been fans of bourbon and its many brands.  Several years ago, my good friend Dave shared several bottles of fairly good bourbon with me and since then I have been a convert.  Neat, mixed, or on the rocks – I’m a fan of bourbon in all of its incarnations.

This one just happens to be the one I drink more often than others. *^*

It combines the bourbon my friends love with the cola that my mother loves – Royal Crown (aka RC Cola).  RC is a bit sweeter than its much larger competitor I shall not name.  You have to look for it a bit harder in the grocery aisle, but it is there. Personally, I like this pairing quite a bit.  The sweetness of the bourbon and the cola work great together and overall it is just an easy beverage at the end of a long day.

Give it a try and let me know what you think! Continue reading →

My summer pasta

Spring Pasta Recipe

Read the article here.


~1lb chicken cutlets

Montreal Steak Seasoning

Olive Oil

4 strips thick cut bacon (diced)

2 leeks (diced)

4 cloves garlic (sliced)

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup butter

1 package pasta

2 cups chopped spinach

1 cup roasted red peppers (diced)

10oz frozen peas

1/4 cup shredded parmesan

salt & pepper Continue reading →

My summer pasta

Spring Pasta – A Meal to Enjoy with Friends

Get the recipe here.

Spring is Near

The weather is finally starting to change (last week it was sunny, this week it snowed – welcome to Spring in the Tennessee Valley).  It is time to enjoy the weather, while also enjoying some of the delicious vegetables that the season has to offer.  If you are at all like me, you’re also trying to take it easy after a winter spent eating everything in sight that looks good.

Sometimes it’s good to skip the cream sauces and go a different route. Continue reading →

Zeus' Vieux Carre cocktail

Review – McMenamin’s Zeus Cafe (Portland, OR)

McMenamin’s Zeus Cafe

303 SW 12th Ave

Portland, OR 97205

Visit: March 16, 2018

We stopped by the Zeus cafe to grab a drink and meet up with our friend Caitlin downtown.  The cafe is located on a long block as part of the adjoining Palace Hotel.  The McMenamin’s have a pretty neat thing going in Portland – they buy up properties and turn them into music venues/breweries.  I did not get a chance to try any of there beer, but I did get to try a few tasty beverages while we were there.

Anna and I both snagged a cocktail.  I went for the Zeus’ take on a Vieux Carre.  While I enjoyed it, I cannot say it was as tasty as the one I had at Pepe le Moko the night before (that one was near perfect).  It was, however, quite tasty and I left no alcohol behind.

Zeus' Vieux Carre cocktail

Zeus Cafe’s take on a Vieux Carre

Continue reading →

Powell's Bookstore

Powell’s Book Store (Portland, OR)

Powell’s Bookstore

1005 W Burnside St

Portland, OR 97209


I love books.  I have since I was about seven or eight.  I was a rotten kid, so I spent a *lot* of time grounded.  I had no tv, and pretty much had to spend my time in my room or outside doing chores.  This left me a lot of time on my hands.  Luckily for me, my parents always let me go to the library (even if I was grounded).  This became my escape.  It also ended up as a boon when I got older – I read faster than my classmates, had better retention, and read at a higher level.  Small favors I guess!

Since then, I haven’t given up on my love for reading.  Before I had children of my own, I read a book a week – minimum.  Now, I read at a slower pace (and split things up between the written word and audiobooks).  One of my favorite things is still spending time in a good bookstore or library.  Add in a bit of the labyrinthine and I am a truly happy camper.

Enter Powell’s. Continue reading →