A Cajun Life

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A Cajun Life

A Cajun Life

Location: 14530 SE 202nd Ave, Damascus
Hours: Fridays 11am-7pm; Sat, 10am-2pm at Gresham Farmers Market

The Story:

I grew up in deep SE Portland. We actually lived in unincorporated east Multnomah county, a mysterious rural land between Portland and Gresham. I raised pigs that usually went to “pig camp” while I was at summer camp. Food options in the area consisted of jojo’s at the local market or Subway or Dairy Queen. What I would give to have have been able to eat at A Cajun Life while a kid. It would have been childhood favorite.

A Cajun Life is the work of Chris Fontenot and his wife Hillary. Chris, a Louisiana native who ended up moving around the nation a bit before landing in Damascus, discovered the one thing he truly missed about home was the food. A common theme heard when talking with transplants to our fine town. Luckily for us, they chased this dream down and opened the cart named Roux down off HWY 212 and SE 202nd right in the heart of Damascus. It wasn’t easy. Damascus is a new city with little or no regulations regarding mobile vendors, so Clackamas County became the final arbiter. They too are new to mobile vending, so in the end, everyone has been on a learning curve trying to support this small business, get them open and keep them open.

Bayou Boogie and Crawfish Etoufee

Bayou Boogie and Crawfish étouffée

A Cajun Life’s menu features all the dishes I have fell in love with during my numerous trips to New Orleans. While everything on the menu looked simply amazing, I asked Chris for his specialty and he put together a combo of his Bayou Boogie and crawfish étouffée. Normally, this quantity of food would give me pause, but after that first bite of hot sausage and rice with a bit of chicken, I couldn’t put the fork down. The hot of the sausage was so different than what I’ve had, I couldn’t get enough. I quickly realized I had picked out most of the sausage and left everything else there. I felt like a kid separating items on the plate. The difference here was that the rest of the dish was amazing even though I had already ate the sausage. The crawfish étouffée, crawfish tails smothered in sauce, was equally flavorful and a treat. I asked Chris about a crawfish boil and he stated it may end up on the menu in the future. Mmmm, crawfish!

A Cajun Life, located in Damascus, may be a bit far for many of our readers here, but it is on the way to and from Mt. Hood and elsewhere east. Take a different route next time you’re out for a hike and drop on by. Their hours are weekend focused open on Friday at the cart and Saturday at the Gresham Farmers Market. If you’re a Timbers fan, you can check them out at Saturday, September 29th’s match against DC United. I’m happy to see mobile vendors succeeding beyond Portland but close enough to visit. Drop on by if you’re in the area and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Authentic Cajun Gumbo: chicken, sausage, Tasso served with potatoes in roux based sauce over rice – $8
  • Crawfish étouffée: crawfish tails smothered in sauce served over rice – $8
  • Bayou Boogie: chicken, sausage and Tasso gravy served over rice – $8
  • Crawfish Pistolettes: French bread stuffed with crawfish cheese sauce – $3.50 each

Hours: Thurs, 3:30-7:30, Fridays 11am-7pm; Sat, 10am-2pm
Website: ACajunLife.com
Facebook: A Cajun Life

Hog and Hen Acadian Kitchen

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Hog and Hen Acadian Kitchen

Hog and Hen Acadian Kitchen

Location: SW 4th and College
Hours: Weekdays 11am-3pm

The Story:

In a cart that looks more like a little bungalow with a piqued roof, you’ll find a chef creating dishes out of a the rich Cajun and French country tradition. Hog and Hen Acadian Kitchen is open to serve you a different dish every time you return.

As a child, Meghann White was a fixture in her parents kitchen doing those tasks that kids love to do – grating cheese and slicing olives. This exposure to food and a family tradition to have Cajun dishes during special occasions shaped Meghann to the point when at the age of 14, she asked for and received a hand-crank pasta machine. When I was 14, all I could think about was the next Duran Duran cassette. One culinary memory Meghann shared with me was how she learned to catch yeast to make her own sourdough starter from the PBS show Breaking Bread with Father Dominic. Her mother is still feeding that starter to this day. While becoming a chef wasn’t part of Meghann’s initial plan, she continued to build these passions and skills in the kitchen and broaden her tastes into adulthood to eventually have friends to her home for regular dinner parties. The cart was the next step.

Beer Chicken Chili

Beer Chicken Chili

Hog and Hen has an ever changing menu with two to three items available any given day. Meghann admits her food and style are influenced by Cajun cooking, yet she doesn’t want to be defined as a Cajun cart as that pigeonholes her to a few specific dishes in the minds of many. Since Cajun is truly a mix of different cultural culinary traditions that have morphed over centuries, it continues to evolve. Mix with that some of the French country flavors Meghann has embraced and you get some great dishes. On one of the wettest days of the year, I visited the cart for the Beer Chicken Chili. Tender chunks of chicken are simmered in beer with white beans, tomatoes and peppers to create a unique flavor mashup. Served in a large cup over white rice, this is a hearty dish for a cold day. The added bonus is the cornbread, a large chunk of southern goodness you will not want to put down. I normally enjoy my bread throughout a meal dipping and nibbling along the way. I was sad when I finished Meghann’s cornbread before I even was half way through the chili. Some excellent nosh.

Hog and Hen is open weekdays from 11-3 unless she runs out of food, which happens more often than not. As stated, the menu does change, so visit often for variety. Meghann was there with a smile to greet me on the worst day of the year weather wise and I appreciate that. Walk on down, get some cornbread and let her know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Beer Chicken Chili: chicken simmered in beer, white beans, tomatoes and peppers served over rice with cornbread – sm, $4; lg, $6
  • Jalapeno Mac ‘n Cheese Casserole: mac and cheese with a spicy twist, topped with a golden crust of bread crumbs and served with an apple – sm, $4; lg, $6

Hours: Weekdays, 11-3pm
Website: Hog and Hen
Twitter: HogandHen

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Bubba Bernie’s

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Location: SE 12th and Hawthorne, Cartopia

The Story:

On Friday or Saturday night, I am a sucker for fries or a pizza or a pie – all the wonderful things available at Cartopia down on SE 12th and Hawthorne. Yet, sometimes, you have a craving for something a little different – maybe a po’boy or some BBQ or even some jambalaya. Well, Bubba Bernie’s is there to sate that craving.

Bubba Bernie’s serves up a great mix of southern comfort food. The evening we visited, a cold dark Saturday night, we were able to sit comfortably at their tables under their awning warmed by their gas space heater. It was one of those nights when the only thing that could warm you was direct heat, and Bernie’s had it. We ordered a BBQ beef brisket sandwich and the vegan jambalaya with kale and veggie sausage. [Read more...]

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