7 August, 2016
I spent a day off up in Portland to see some good friends, Seth who worked with us at Persephone for many years, and Nicki who co-manages the Saturday Portland Farmers' Market at PSU. We walked over to 1477 NE Alberta St. to check out the food cart called Desipdx, serving "Indian fare with local flair." Deepak Saxena creates fabulous food art which is alive with flavor from this small but efficient kitchen. Deepak is car-free (he rides his bicycle to and from the cart, various farmers' markets and other fine food purveyors). Our food was served on real dishes (brightly colored green and orange for the Indian flag). Biodegradable to-go containers are available. While we were there a customer asked for a plastic bag to carry his food container away in, and Deepak politely explained that he did not have plastic bags. I silently cheered him on.
By the time we arrived (almost 6 pm), many items on the menu had sold out, but there was still plenty to choose from. Desipdx's menu has lots to offer folks of many different dietary styles and preferences. There are many vegetarian dishes as well as vegan and gluten-free offerings. We had a plate of chai chicken, a vegetable thali plate, a pickle plate, and an order of pakora waffles. Everything was wonderful. As a vegetable grower and home cook, I notice when chefs do vegetables well. Each was given a chance to speak for itself and present its unique taste and texture, and each was very nicely flavored and seasoned. Let's face it, some of the big players as far as seasoning and ingredients in Indian cooking just don't grow locally: cardamom and coconut, for example. But Deepak embraces local foods wholeheartedly, never hesitating to pickle celtuce, turnips, fennel, or coriander seeds, to roast beets for a vegetable medley, or to whip up a batch of kohlrabi raita (why did I never think of this?). I took a photo of our dinner which truly did not do it justice. Much better photographs are available on instagram @desipdx. My favorite caption is, "When life gives you broccoli stems, throw them on the grill to soften and char a little and then make a chutney out of them."
We enjoyed our meal so much that we had to have a second thali vegetable plate, which we followed with a dessert called "carrot halwa." Oh. Goodness. This is described as "carrots slow cooked with coconut milk for hours, lightly sweetened with coconut sugar, and flavored with cardamom. What I tasted is everything that is wonderful about a carrot. With just a little something more. Really. Nothing prevented the carrot from singing loud and proud. Freedom of expression for carrots is a wonderful thing, and I was delighted to find it at this small food cart from which many vegetable and other culinary wonders emerge. Please do give it a try.