Pack your basket with tasty, unique foods

by: STAFF PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Barb Randall considers the family meal from Casa del Pollo to be the perfect picnic.

One of my favorite summer pastimes is picnicking at outdoor concerts. It doesn’t really matter what genre might be performed, I just like being outdoors, listening to music with friends and family enjoying a great picnic.

For a recent assignment for LO, the monthly glossy special section we produce, I was to showcase picnic foods from Lake Grove restaurants. I discovered some great foods in the Grove that I would be proud to pack for a picnic. My favorites: hard cider from Flyboy Brewing, Parisian macaroons from Mirolo Chocolatier and for the entrée — anything from Casa del Pollo.

Owned by Jorge Zuniga and his family, Casa del Pollo serves Costa Rican cuisine. Each morning Jorge loads the smoker outside the tiny red and white restaurant with chicken and pork and lets the smoker do its magic. Keep your windows rolled down so you can enjoy the fragrance of the smoking meats — it is pure ambrosia.

Most traditional Costa Rican dishes consist of beans and rice with other ingredients, like chicken, pork and vegetables. Jorge told me it isn’t spicy food, it’s flavorful food. You can pep the dishes up to your liking by adding chimichurri sauce.

What did I find on Casa del Pollo’s menu that would make for a delicious picnic? Lots of items. My favorite was the family meal consisting of a whole smoked chicken served with family-sized portions of rice, beans, pico de gallo (a salad/salsa made of tomatoes, onions and peppers) and escabeche (pickled onions and carrots) and tortillas. What family wouldn’t love to tuck into this Costa Rican comfort food?

Other items on the menu perfect for picnicking include tacos made of chicken, steak, smoked chicken, smoked pork or sausage; burritos made of chicken, steak, smoked chicken or smoked pork; and veggie meals. For those who want to eat like a tico or tica (a native Costa Rican) order from the Eat like a Tico menu. Items on that list include Gallo Pinto (all day Costa Rican breakfast of rice and beans served with two eggs, tortillas and sour cream); Pinto con Pollo or Carne (a mixture of rice and beans with escabeche and your choice of grilled chicken or steak); Pinto con Huevo y Salchichon (a typical Central American mixture of rice and beans served with two eggs and grilled kielbasa) and Chifrijo (rice, beans, tomatoes, onions and pork). Casa del Pollo serves the best ceviche I’ve eaten — but only on Friday and Saturday.

Casa del Pollo may be Lake Grove’s best kept secret. The food is delicious and the service friendly and welcoming. There are actually two locations — the first at 15910 Boones Ferry Road and the second at the clubhouse of the Lake Oswego Golf Course, 17525 Stafford Road in Lake Oswego. The Boones Ferry location is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and the Stafford Road location is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Back to picnicking. Part of the fun of potluck picnics is surprising your group with unique and delicious foods. I am including easy recipes for pico de gallo and chimichurri sauce, so you can experiment with Costa Rican food at home. Treat yourself to a meal from Casa del Pollo soon, too.

How can you add adventure to your next picnic? Add your suggestions for the perfect picnic online or on Facebook.

Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure!

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto Recipe

(Beans and Rice)

No one who’s ever visited Costa Rica is likely to forget gallo pinto, and those who haven’t visited rarely understand how people can be so enamored of rice and beans. Ticos, native Costa Ricans, look at you like you’re a little crazy if you ask how to make it; sort of like if you asked a Brit how to make a cup of tea. Everyone knows you just cook the beans, cook the rice, and then cook them together.

1 pound black beans, canned or dried

8 to 10 sprigs fresh cilantro

1 small or medium onion

1/2 small red or yellow sweet pepper (optional)

3 cups chicken broth or water

2 cups white rice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 to 3 tablespoon oil to fry the gallo pinto

If beans are dried, cover with water and soak overnight; if they are fresh, just rinse them. Drain the beans and add fresh water to an inch above the top of the beans, salt, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce heat to very low simmer until beans are soft (about 3 hours for dried beans).

Chop cilantro, onion and sweet pepper very fine.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to a large pan and sauté the dry rice for 2 minutes over medium high heat then add half of the chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro and sauté another 2 minutes. Add water or chicken broth, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer until rice is tender (20 to 35 minutes).

Once the rice and beans are cooked, you can refrigerate or freeze them. Keep 1/2 to 1 cup of the cooking water and add it to the water when cooking the rice. This is what gives the rice its color and some of its flavor. Sauté the rice, beans, reserved chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro together in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Sprinkle with a little fresh chopped cilantro just before serving.

Make up small batches of gallo pinto when you want it by simply sautéing them together.

Recipe courtesy of

Chimichurri Sauce

1 bunch flat leaf parsley

8 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Juice of 1 lemon wedge

1 tablespoon diced red onion

1 teaspoon dried oregano (optional)

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pulse parsley in processor to chop. Add remaining ingredients and blend. Use for basting and as a marinade and for serving with foods.

Recipe courtesy of

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached by phone at 503-636-1281 ext. 100 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow her on Twitter at

By Barb Randall
Staff Reporter
503-636-1281 Ext 100
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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