Archives for posts with tag: portland

Easter 2012: many many calories, many many old friends, many many car sing-alongs. Three of my very favorite things. On Friday I headed down to Corvallis (after a bowl of gelato, to kick off the mini-vacation) to meet Logan (old friend #1) and Storey (old friend #2). On Saturday morning, Logan and I drove out to Gathering Together Farm, just ten or so miles from town, to meet Tayler (old friend #3) for brunch. A sign that I don’t remember any of except “fresh pastries” guides you down the little road to the farm; a sweet farmhouse amidst just enough fields, situated across the street from a fuzzy little llama herd.

The restaurant is in an old house, the main area shared with a mini-market, where produce from the farm and meats from the charcuterie guy associated with the farm and honey and jam and salsa are all for sale. The dining room spills out into a warm green house-y space, filled with big tree-slab tables topped with flowers and kitschy saltshakers.

Logie, Tayler, and I sat down at the sunniest table, but got right back up when the waitress told us the pastries were inside. Rhubarb gallette… croissants… chocolate croissants…doughnuts…lord. Swoon. Wound up with a doughnut (Me: “What kind do you want?” Log: “Well…the kind covered in sugar…obviously.”) They were potato doughnuts though, so healthy for sure. And a blueberry almond Danish. Danishes…usually not ym favorite. This Danish: just sweet and doughy enough center, ringed by a halo of crispy, burnt-sugar-y, cinnamon blessed pastry.

Okay, then brunch. Log got eggs benedict (with farm-y sausage subbed for ham) and Tayler and I got omlettes: she a yummy bacon one, me a yummy mushroom one. Lots of kale on everyone’s plate. Delight. Lots of chatting and catching up and having just one more tiny bite of Danish. Then Tayler and I went on to the Corvallis farmers market, the last winter market of the season before it moves back to its usual place by the river (dang it.) Lots of beautiful produce (the drawback of going to markets while traveling, want to buy vegetables…) like chard rabe, collard rabe, every rabe ever, and gigantic leeks. And lots of handicraft type things; soft scarves and verrry stylish barrettes made out of pine needles. And charming beeswax candles in all kinds of shapes (from om to asparagus) and …hazelnut brittle. Best ever. Also: crepes. We walked around the market enough times to earn ourselves a marionberry crepe, which we enjoyed in the sunshine, delightfully catching up and making plans to see each other so soon. Then Tayler headed back to Eugene and I headed up to Portland. Where Logie and I (and Hayden, old friend #4) ate at a McMinnamins then got a pound or two or three of Whole Foods fruit gummies for dessert. And played with the Redmonds’ impossibly sweet and cute new puppy, Soleh.

Then woke up to a sunny, warm Easter Sunday with the Redmond clan, aka old friends #5, 6, 7, and 8. Kicked off the morning by eating a couple seriously just-out-of-the-oven cinnamon rolls (…crack) and dyeing eggs (with natural dye- onion skin brown, red cabbage blue, and tumeric yellow…all with pretty little flowers and ferns pressed on them) then headed over to the neighbors’, where we kept on eating. German bread with a thick layer of blueberry jam, fruit kabobs (fruit made fun), and baked eggs filled with everything good (kale, mushrooms, creamy creamy cheese.) We had a whole brunch of our own waiting back home… but who can resist a big slice of braided bread or colorful fruit on a stick… Really. No one. So we walked for about fifteen minutes (fifteen very strenuous minutes) to work up some hunger for the real brunch. Joy:more cinnamon rolls, a big bowl of berries, ham, and caper-ed asparagus. Sweet sweet, salty salty. Yum. And then much lounging and chatting and belly rubbing, and eventually even sunshine napping. Then sort of happy-because-we-live-so-close and so-full-of-cinnamony-goodness goodbyes and off we were, back on the road for three hours of old family favorites sung fantastically well by two full happy girls.

My weekend: homemade cinnamon rolls, shooting off rockets, salmon, clams, risotto, Powells, chocolate chip cookies, foie gras. All these good things, all with beloved folk. Joy and sweetness and over-eating-ness. My M and D and I converged upon the Redmonds in Portland for the weekend, where we ate and laughed and ate some more. We love the Redmonds and they love us and we all love to eat and when we’re all together it’s pretty dang joyful. The first night we were there we had pasta with clams and about eight chocolate bars between the seven of us. The next day we “hiked” Mt. Tabor and did the requisite Powells Pilgrimage, where I got a bunch of food-lit books.

Then Pearl Bakery for sandwiches and cookies, before another beautiful dinner of asparagus risotto and salmon and roasted cauliflower. Kate knows how to do a dinner. Plus Craig and Dad’s “bad things I did with/to my brothers when I was little” stories and Dawson’s film ideas and Gabey’s cleverness. Good times around the Redmond table. Then Sunday. Began the day with a Reed campus walkabout, in preparation for the brunchy feast to come. Homemade cinnamon rolls, the dough made the night before to maximize both goodness and anticipation. Salmon scrambled eggs, the real reason you make salmon for dinner. And sweet spicy bacon. I ate three cinnamon rolls, I am proud/ashamed to say.

Then a walk to the park for the most thrilling hobby ever that I really am desperate to take up (and have lots of friends who excitedly take it up with me): model rockets. You go to the park, and you shoot off a rocket. And it flies a bazillion feet up into the sky and you frantically run around underneath to catch it. So thrilling! I want to have rocket launching picnics! Then after all that excitement died down, more excitement right away, with a dinner at Little Bird, the new restaurant by the Le Pigeon crew. the chef just crowned by the James Beard Foundation as Rising Star Chef, the beautiful bistro lived up to the expectations.

We started off with oysters… (“nietard” oysters? We couldn’t hear our shockingly hip waitress so well in the bustly restaurant… we made a lot of borderline jokes and laughed real, real hard.) Then we ate the most perfect little oysters ever, the sea-blessed goodness nestled into tiny little shells, just the right size. After the oysters, the charcuterie. Which involved: pickled fennel, something kind of spam-colored and textured, but incredibly un-spam like in all other ways. Deep-fried duck. Clearly awesome. Some other little tidbits that I can’t remember because included in this particular charcuterie plate was: foie gras brulee. Goodness on top of goodness. I… I don’t know what to say about it. Just think about it. Caramelized sugar crust (best thing ever) on top of creamy foie gras. Spread on toast-lets with a bright little daub of apricot jam. If foie gras ever gets banned nation-wide, I will have to move because I will die of sadness otherwise.

Moving on. (Gabriel has awesome hair.) After the charcuterie: crab and celery root remoulade, a tangy cilantro-tinged heap of crunchy celeriac and carrot with salty crab. Butter lettuce with more carrots and “saffron-infused garlic.” This was the one thing that was an eensy bit of a letdown. The menu said “carrot dressing” so I was imagining the roots made liquid, a light orange dressing for the best lettuce ever. Instead, carrots and lettuce, both still in their regular ol’ solid form. But still good (and now I have an idea for dressing and all the carrots I’ve been hoarding in the crisper.) Then on to the main courses. Get excited. Hanger steaks for Kate and Dad (with perky watercress perched in the plates), salty pork shoulder for Craig, the famous square Le Pigeon burgers (with killer fries and perhaps-maybe-housemade ketchup, the origin of which called for much taste-testing and speculation) for Dawson and Gabriel, lamb navarin with goat cheese gnocci for Mama (I need goat cheese gnocci in my life, stat), and beef tongue for moi.

Usually tongue is all chopped up beyond recognition, looking more like pulled pork than ex-taster. Not here. a generous hunk of tongue, with crispy roast broccoli and topped with teensy potato chips. I had a big pang of hanger steak order envy when they brought the plates, but that vanished instantaneously with my first bite. Tongue rocks. I’d love to learn to cook intimidating things like tongue and liver and sweetbreads…partly because I love them and partly because I’d feel so incredibly cool buying them at the butcher. After all this deliciousness, dessert. Of course. Coconut cake with passion fruit sorbet (I remembered having my first actual passion fruit in the Redmond’s Jakarta kitchen after years of having passion fruit flavored things and being shocked by the weird shell-like fruit, filled with seeds and slime), creme caramel with raspberry sorbet, and a butterschotch pot de creme, shockingly ordered at the last minute by non-dessert-Dad and shockingly my favorite one of the desserts. All beautiful and delicious, followed up with the good bitter ao a tiny cup of coffee in a beautiful little cup. And with the bill: tiny (teensy tiny) darling little oatmeal macarons.

Love to Little Bird, love to family, love to Redmonds, love to Portland!

Wedged between a cabaret club and a tango bar, Le Pigeon is loud, their own light indie music blend supplemented by the competing base beats as well as the sounds emitting from the open kitchen at the center of the small space. Waitresses with tall hair and red lips, their forearms tattooed, marking them as Portlanders, weave between the three long tables, delivering foie gras in multiple forms. Decorated with funky found bits like porcelain owls and old chalkboards, Le Pigeon appears to be a casual neighborhood restaurant, the wood tables left uncovered and the bread plates a mismatched assortment of old saucers. But a look at the menu hints otherwise, and the food itself tells an entirely different story.

Met with the options of duck meatballs, sweetbreads, crab sausage, and foie gras in just the first half of the menu, it’s clear that Le Pigeon is more than just a hip neighborhood spot flinging out bowls of pasta. Unable to resist the slightly politically incorrect delicacy, we ordered the foie gras and the duck meatballs. The foie was beyond perfection, the strange piece of meat atop a tiny crumpet, crowned with orange mushroom marmalade. Done exactly right, the foie had the slightest crust that held up as the rest of the bite dissipated into fatty bliss, countered by the tangy marmalade. The duck meatballs were also good, though felt inevitably lackluster next to the foie despite their wreath of sliced black truffles.

After a completely one-sided discussion of how good the foie was, and a debate as to whether or not to just go ahead and get another, our entrees thankfully arrived, resolving the issue. The two men at the table got hanger steaks; described by the waitress as the cut that the butcher traditionally saved for himself. Hanging from the end of the ribs near the kidney, it gleans some of the rich flavor of the kidney, making it a more complex piece of meat than most. Marinated in soy and fish sauce, the steak had the surprising quality of sushi or carpaccio, the rare meat in the center delightfully flavored and delicately textured within the char of the outside.

Two of us got the lamb, prepared two ways on each plate; two chops cooked sous vide and a cube of lamb shoulder terrine. Cooked in a sealed package in temperature-controlled water, the sous vide method allows the chef to get meat to an exact temperature all the way through. Usually chefs sear sous vide prepared meat to give it the same look and variation of cookedness of traditionally prepared meat, but the men of Le Pigeon left them char-less, something I loved, relishing the intact flavor of the meat, and my mother hated, missing the diversity in texture. The terrine was excellent, less overwhelmingly rich than my previous terrine experiences, and paired with a mint pesto and tiny heirloom carrots in a delicate yogurt sauce. The last dish was a pan-seared snapper sitting atop a butternut puree, pleasing although perhaps less exciting than the other dishes.

The first part of dessert was a cheese plate: a soft simple goat cheese, a bit of Ossau Iraty, a sheep cheese, and a wedge of Bethmale, a delectable sheep and goat combination cheese, alongside persimmon ginger chutney and sesame crackers, devoured with delightful fingers. The second part was a goat’s milk panna cotta (If panna cotta is ever on a menu, I have to get it. Clearly.) aside a pomegranate granita and bee pollen shortbread, topped with a few glittering pomegranate seeds. The panna cotta was just the lightest bit goaty, tangy enough to make it interesting but still simple and milky, as panna cotta should be, perfect with the icy granita and crunchy cookies.

Le Pigeon is a special place. The chefs clearly love food, love their food, making its preparation the centerpiece of the intimate space. The atmosphere is at once cozy and enlivening, as the food is simultaneously un-intimidating and impressive.

(Written for Independent Study Project at NCF, p.s.)

My birthday was an appropriately food-heavy day. Began at 7:30 with waffles, the only breakfast appropriate for such an occasion. Big belgian waffles with slabs of butter and lakes of syrup. Then yoga, not food related, but beloved by moi. Then a big car trek out to an excellently funky little Russian grocery, in search of pilmini, porky little dumplings. Met with a heartbreakingly empty pilmini freezer, we purchased a big loaf of dark, fragrant rye bread, chewy kielbasa lovingly renamed “bear meat,” a giant bunch of dill, a mushroom salad, a jar of eggplant caviar, and a tin of “sprats.” Not willing to give up on the pilmini, we forged onward, way out of familiar hip Portlandia, to Roman Russian Market, a bigger shop packed full of exhilaratingly strange Russian goods. Herbal teas meant to remedy any ill, jars upon jars of pickles, packets of colorfully labeled barley, cases of decadent cakes and hearty sausages. Pilimini acquired, we headed home for our giant lunch.Rye bread slathered with butter, dipped in the eggplant caviar. Slices of kielbasa alongside glasses of Kvass. And finally, doughy pilmini topped with salted dill, vinegar, and sour cream. Hearty, hearty heaven.

Then a downtown walkabout, hoping to burn enough calories before our five o’clock dinner at Toro Bravo, brother of Tasty & Sons. The uncharacteristically early dinner was just as delightful as expected, based on reviews, recommends, and the Tasty & Sons experience. A cozy little tapas place, Toro Bravo was packed at 5 PM with pre-gaming Portlanders, out for Spanish food before a game, as you do in Portland, OR. We hungrily ordered the chicken liver mousse, “singing pig” greens, oxtail croquetas, papas bravas, meatballs, cauliflower, scallops, and a big ol’ paella. The mousse, light and just salty enough, spread on soft bread as we waited for the feast to arrive. The pig greens, in a light dressing with almonds and grapefruit and a bit of blue cheese and sparky pickled onions, all good things.

Croquetas, fried dough with meat, always a winner. Strangely, wonderfully cinnamon-tinged, many pieces of bread were sacrificed to swab the croqueta plate for the last lingering bits of spicy strings of oxtail. The papas, crunchier than usual and the potatoes themselves spiced rather than beside a spicy sauce–good, but not as good as home made. Meatballs, served in a quiet tomato sauce with soft white beans, loved by all, but especially by two small hungry boys. Cauliflower, browned perfectly, crunchy, very tasty. Scallops, perfectly caramelized, atop a just spicy enough to be interesting harissa cream. The clear centerpiece of the meal, the paella, perfectly spiced, all the ratios of meat spot on, big hunks of chorizo mingling with steamy mussels.

Left very full and very pleased to go home for cake. Redmonds have a happy tradition of double birthday cakes, one chocolate and one lemon. And once you think about having two cakes–once you experience having two cakes–there’s really no going back. Still full of tapas, still full of pilmini, still full of waffles, I managed to eat a generous slice each of Kate’s two perfect cakes. Both bundt cakes, the lemon is just lemony enough, lighter than poundcake, denser than a regular ol’ cake, glazed with a thin sheer of sugar and lemon zest. The chocolate cake is simultaneously dense and moist, encased in a perfect crust, being a bundt cake and all. Frosted with Cowgirl Chocolate spicy sauce, a slight deviation from tradtition–perfection. A wonderful, 3,500 calorie, birthday.

Mother’s, a Portland brunch institution. Simultaneously cozy and fancy, Mother’s is full of people devouring omelettes whilst reading the paper as well as gaggles of women drinking coffee and chatting over pancakes. Our table held one order of deeply rich bacon-laden gravy and biscuits, cornflake-crusted challah French toast, and two orders of the house made lox alongside crunchy puffy bagels, thinly sliced red onions, mounds of capers, and meaty slices of tomato. I, one of the lox-eaters, heartily enjoyed my sesame bagel slathered in cream cheese and topped with a few rings of onion, covered in soft salmon, and dotted with a hundred salty capers. Happy and full, we wandered back out into the freezing cold, searching for antiques.

Beats college cafeteria bagel n’ lox by a long, long shot.

French toasty.

Sunny Mother’s.

Thank God Tasty and Sons is family-style, because there is no way we could have dealt with the stress of choosing just one dish each. Sweet Biscuits? Yes. Fritatta loaded with roasted vegetables? Yes. North African stews and sausages? Yes. Platters of beautiful house-cured meats? Yes, yes, yes.

Sitting at the thick wooden table amongst bunches of elated diners delighting in their perfect dishes, we ordered a breakfast board (a neighbor inspired choice,) Erin’s sweet biscuits with berry compote, Moroccan chicken hash, and a cast-iron frittata.

The breakfast board: sweet crisp apple slices (my one true love,) one perfect hard boiled egg, a hot pink mound of house-pickled beets, tough and tasty slivers of beef jerky, two intense bits of bacon, a smidge of chicken pate, a cloud of yogurt cheese with a tiny lake of olive oil, soft crusty bread, and crusty little crostinis. Yogurt cheese was so tangy and sunny, and thankfully Mark Bittman says it’s not so hard to make. Hallelujah, for I need it in my life.

Next, the sweet bitty biscuits with warm blueberry compote and a dollop of unidentifiable yet heavenly creaminess. The texture of a good ol’ fashioned southern biscuit, crunchy top and soft flaky innards, with the quiet sweetness of a high-tea scone, crumbling into a little sea of warm blueberries.

Then the Moroccan hash, a mish-mash of sweet potatoes, squash, green beans, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, olives, and chicken; topped with harissa cream and an over easy egg. All vegetables slightly crispy, the cream holding the tiniest bit of yogurt bite and that dark harissa spice, the egg providing a bit of an amalgam with the excellently runny yolk. Plus, brussel sprouts for brunch, could I ask for more?

A frittata, perhaps. Generous chunks of butternut squash, sweetly caramelized onions, long strips of swiss chard, and salty feta resting in airy eggs in a heavy skillet. Kate had a small out of body experience, Caroline won best restaurant finder award, and Anne just felt extraordinary bliss. Tasty and Sons, we love. Brunch version of Michael’s Genuine. Perfect shared plates in a lovely place. Sunshine streaming in from Williams Ave, hip and smiley waitresses in vintage black blouses bustling about and chatting, long open kitchen with a team of loud happy chefs plating our beautiful brunch.

Some food bits and some non-food bits.

#1. Artichokes. Kate got Heart of the Artichoke for Christmas and after an hungry look-over with many post-its left behind for MUST MAKE recipes, we happened to see little bitty artichokes at the little bitty market Pastaworks and of course  had to have them. Boiled a little then fried, made to be all crispy and garlicy and perfect. The little heart, soft and crispy at the same time, of my.

#2: Non- Food. Cargo, in the Pearl District, the most fascinating store on earth. A giant warehousey place chock-a-block full of Asian-y tchotchkes (with a couple Mexican bits thrown in here and there) and furniture and generally coveted things. Purchased some Indonesian boy scouth badges and a “BIG BAG OF JOY” tote. Passed on the very cool yet slightly creepy ceramic OK hands.

#3. Met with dear Moscow friend and wandered happily after a big Thai lunch, came across a little gallery with a lame show downstairs and a crazy show upstairs. All these mad contraptions of glass and gears that spin and move water and make noise and slide big lenses around and make you say wow a lot.

#4. Stumptown Coffee Roasters, hip, uber uber hip, little coffee shop in the Ace hotel. Had a perfect double short soy latte and a hazelnut scone and read my delightful Powells sale rack novel and unashamedly gawked at the parade of Portlanders passing by.

The coffee saucers say Good Luck! underneath your little cup, which I love.

#5. And back to Cargo for some pretty kimonos.

I’m in Portland! Land of chunky spectacle, Dansko clog, Patagonia puffer jacket wearing peoples and a hundred funky, fancy, food carty restaurants to explore. First one: Ken’s Artisan Pizza. To celebrate Gabey’s eleventh birthday we ventured to this packed little pizza place, lauded as the best pizza in P-town. The entire kitchen operation is right there in the open, slightly sweaty kitchen folk packing hotel containers with soon-to-be pizza toppings and dodging spinning wheels of pizza dough in front of a big ol’ blazing wood-fired pizza oven, the ground scattered with errant bits of prosciutto and kindling.

After a not so long wait our four much-anticipated pizzas showed up; two margheritas, a soppressata, and a fennel sausage. All thin and bubbly and a little deliciously burnt around the edges, tasting of Italy, the charred crust and the milky mozzarella reminding me of little cobbley plazas and dark waiters, their arms loaded with piping hot pizzas. The margherita was of course topped with the traditional simple tomato schmear, dots of stretchy snow white mozzarella, and wrinkled basil. The soppressata a margherita plus thick, chewy, house-made sopressata, spicy slices of something infinitely better than pepperoni.

The last pie topped with that classic base again, this time alongside fennel-heavy sausage and soft onions, the fire engine red and fuego hot Calabrian chilies on the side in a tiny, inconspicuous little bowl, inviting you to pile on some of the enticingly crimson bits and burn the inside of your mouth out. Then a delightfully citrusy Caesar with gigantic croutons, ordered out of neighbor envy. Then a second Caesar, for we loved it so. And then, so full and content we could hardly bear it, we managed to order a dessert to top off the birthday dinner; butter pecan ice cream that tasted of straight fresh heavy cream, dotted with the occasionally sugary pecan crunch, layered with soft sweet caramel, topped a generous dollop of airy whipped cream, a couple perfect pecans, and a birthday candle.