You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘portland’ category.
When I woke up on Sunday morning, I still didn’t have much of an appetite as a result of the food onslaught from the previous day. But duty calls, so off I went. And what better way to start the morning than doughnuts? Well I can actually think of about a hundred better ways, but I’m a huge Anthony Bourdain fanboy so I had to make the pilgrimage to Voodoo Doughnut and see what the hype was all about.
The shop was tiny and staffed by freaks and smelled delicious. The menu was particularly high-minded, with designations such as “No Name Doughnuts”, “Old Dirty Bastards” and “Cock & Balls”. I was intrigued by the infamous bacon maple bar, but in the end couldn’t bring myself to order it. We were meeting a group of friends, so we decided on a Voodoo Dozen which is essentially pastry omakase. I may have mentioned previously that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but these doughnuts were so over the top that I could only manage a bite or two before my teeth were falling out of my head. Just so we’re clear, we’re talking about doughnuts covered in Fruit Loops. If that’s your thing, then by all means you should stop by on your next trip to Portland. You can also get legally married there, FYI.
We eventually met up with our friends and decided on a late lunch somewhere inoffensive. The consensus from the locals was that Mother’s Bistro & Bar downtown would have the broad appeal we were seeking. I was also advised to go early and get reservations because the place was apparently crazy popular. They weren’t kidding. What was initially quoted as a 45 minute wait stretched into an hour and a half. Lord. We all vaguely remembered similar situations in previous trips to Portland (I’ve always thought the town was a little zombified). Anyhow once we were seated and ordered up, the food came quickly enough.
The space was enormous, taking up almost an entire city block. The décor was hotel lobby chic, with heavy, ornate curtains and lounge chairs and gilded everything. Mother’s is a burger and omelettes sort of place, and I happily munched away on a surprisingly decent Reuben sandwich – the corned beef brisket was lean and flavorful, the sauerkraut was tangy and the thousand island dressing was used sparingly (which is how I like it). The whole premise behind chef Lisa Schroeder’s restaurant is to serve traditional home-cooked meals like MOM USED TO MAKE. I’m not kidding. But while the concept may be hackneyed, the food certainly was not. And the menu was colossal – pot roast, chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, multiple varieties of macaroni & cheese. The textbook definition of comfort food.
We had waited so long that I had finally regained my appetite, and we all scarfed down our food and raced out to the next destination. Overall, I really enjoyed this particular trip down to PDX, and the restaurant scene has just exploded in the last few years, so I’m sure I’ll be back soon. I really want to eat at Beast and Le Pigeon and Sel Gris and Toro Bravo and…
So I arrived in Portland on Saturday afternoon, just in time for an impromptu wine tasting on the patio of the new Hotel Modera near the Portland Art Museum. Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs – score! This northwest region in Oregon produces some of my very favorite wines. I had sort of forgotten I would be in Pinot country. And though nothing I tasted really blew me away, I did get tipped to a cool wine shop/art gallery off of Fremont. It was unseasonably warm, and I was unseasonably relaxed.
After a brief siesta, we headed down to the Pearl District to get some drinks. I’d read about some celebrated mixologists at a place called the Teardrop Cocktail Lounge, so I was eager to check it out. However, when actually confronted by the insane descriptions of some of these concoctions (Exhibit A: The Reuben – corned-beef rye, krogstad aquavit, mustard seed tincture, swiss cheese tuile, sauerkraut cube, 1000 island rim, mini pickle), I opted for wine instead. I’m glad I did – they had a “whole cluster” Pinot Noir from Belle Vallée that had one of the most incredible bouquets I’ve ever encountered. Impossibly floral and earthy and wonderful. I’m already trying to track down another bottle.
We had late reservations at the Park Kitchen around the corner, which was one of the primary reasons behind my trip to PDX. Chef Scott Dolich was the only candidate who wasn’t from Seattle to be nominated for Best Chef Northwest by the James Beard Foundation this year (congrats to Holly Smith, who I guess is technically located on the Eastside). And even though there are a number of rising stars in Portland at the moment that I’m dying to check out, I figured I should pay my respects.
The restaurant was cozy and warm from the open kitchen in the back. A very intimate and romantic space. The menu is divided into small hot plates, small cold plates and large plates, so my partner and I decided to try a little of everything. We started with the salt cod fritters and housemade malt vinegar, as I’d heard this was a favorite dish that always remained on the otherwise seasonally rotating menu. These perfectly fried, golfball-sized spheres of potato and fish were both fluffy and surprising filling. The malt vinegar was potent, and I loved it.
We were actually seated fairly close to the kitchen, so the room temperature had gone from warm to hot while we were pondering the menu. We decided on a couple of cold plates to cool us down. The watermelon salad with feta and heirloom cucumbers did not disappoint, with huge chunks of juicy watermelon (the best I’ve had all season), and inch-square blocks of hard feta that were less tangy and more mild than what you would usually find on your local gyro. Next up was a plate of marinated mussels, with fresh corn and lobster mushrooms. The mussels were served cold, which dramatically reduced the chewiness I often associate with ripping through viscous bivalve guts (I’m a total sucker for mussels). For the main course we shared a SuDan Farms lamb “with nightshades”, which in this case meant an array of sauces and creams composed of tomatoes, eggplant and bell pepper. The lamb was rare and rich, the sauces were inventive, and the plate was a huge success (although I was slowing way down at this point… I could really only manage a couple of bites).
But when would I ever be back…? So we powered through and ordered up a piece of fennel cake with blackberry ice cream. It was a bit sweet for my taste, especially given the candied pieces of fennel on the side. But I did enjoy immensely the piece of bittersweet “Xocolatl de David” chocolate compliments of sous chef Dave Briggs that accompanied the check. It was a beautiful night, and we strolled back to the hotel where I promptly entered a food coma. At least until the next morning…