Having already sipped my way through the Willamette Valley (more about that here), I turned my focus to clean water issues for (most of) my remaining time in Portland. I insert (most of) because I could not, you understand, pass up on the gustatory pleasures offered by this beautiful city.
Following a tip from the generous and gorgeous Jenna Pelletier, I booked a single seat at the much-lauded Le Pigeon for a Bastille Day feast. I love dining solo; it gives me the freedom to completely geek out over the food and wine. I take goofy notes in my tatty mini spiral notebook, replete with big exclamation points, lopsided hearts, and smiley (or, sometimes, frowny) faces, and I make BIG PLANS about how I will try to recreate this or that at home.
I lucked out at Le Pigeon: my single seat at the bar gave me an unencumbered view of the minuscule cooking space in which two or three culinary Jedi were wedged at any given time. I even got up close and personal with the mise en place.
I ordered the five-course tasting menu with wine pairings. I only eschewed the seven-course option because I had to walk myself back to the hotel, and even though it was only a mile and change, I didn’t want to be waddling and weaving through the streets of Portland.
Course One: Albacore, pepper and coriander crust, spicy tuna rillettes, avocado, compressed honeydew, and pickled green tomato: buttery, sashimi grade fish with pops of delightful acidity from the melon and green tomato.
Wine One: Bisson Glera Frizzante, 2013 (Veneto): a bone dry sparkler with stone and saline on the palate.
Course Two: Grilled cuttlefish, first of the season chanterelles, peach jus, purslane, olive, and rosemary brown butter: the squid was tender and perfectly seasoned; the peach played off the sweetness of the squid and added a balancing tartness.
Wine Two: Matello Caprice (Pinot Blanc & Pinot Gris), 2012 (Yamhill Carlton, OR): according to the sommelier (who I swear is Katie Mc Manus’s long lost twin in beauty, knowledge, and overall loveliness) this wine is completely fermented in stainless steel, but aged on the lees which gave a nice depth. It was redolent of peach blossoms (genius match with the peach jus) and a bit of white pepper.
Course Three: Pork chop marinated in a mustard/sweet herb vinaigrette, grilled to medium and served off the bone, endive, apricot, and goat cheese, served with a pan sauce of the marinade (I detected dill, mint, and parsley, but I’m probably missing something). I’m pretty sure I moaned when I tasted this. I tried to recreate this at home last weekend with moderate to good results. Much of my success is due to the excellent pork I nabbed from Blackbird Farms.
Wine Three: Domaine Rolet Arbois (Poulsard, Troussea, Pinot Noir), 2009 (Jura); I experienced a big whiff of cedar to start out with, then cherries and green herbs on the palate. This wine positively sang when it met the dill on the pork.
Course Four: Corned lamb shoulder (with a generous amount of the fat cap still attached), potato in a creamy mustard sauce, cabbage cream, huckleberries, nasturtium, onions, and grated horseradish. This dish haunted me for days after I ate it. I became a card-carrying member of the Corned Lamb Fan Club. I can’t wait to try to recreate this at home.
Wine Four: Cantina Castaldi Rosso Pianazze (Nebbiolo, Uva Rara), 2011 (Piedmont); Pronounced tannins played excellently with the lamb fat, and smoky cherries balanced the saltiness of the three-day brine on the meat.
Course Five: A double dessert! First up: Coconut bread pudding, jackfruit sorbet, coconut cream, and boysenberry compote. Shortly thereafter: foie gras profiterole.
Wine Five: Tokaji, 3 puttanyos (I didn’t catch the producer and by this point my notes are a little fuzzy), but it was chock full of honey and honeysuckle. Very luscious.
What a gorgeous dining experience! Impeccable, unpretentious service and deliciously artful food: a true highlight of my trip. Certainly if I had been enjoying such a decadent meal when the revolutionaries stormed the Bastille, they would have sent me to the guillotine tout de suite.
The next night, my awesome former boss invited me to join his dining group for dinner at Olympic Provisions: coincidentally, my other wanna-go-to spot in Portland. Olympic Provisions is known for:
…and the reputation is well-deserved. Fantastic charcuterie, excellent cheeses, and a slammin’ wine list. It doesn’t hurt that there are hams hanging from the ceiling for some porky ambiance.
My photos from the meal don’t do the food even the tiniest amount of justice, but take my advice: order the spaetzle with the beef sugo. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also just fun to say “spaetzle.”
Other nibbles of note: when Jay and I lived in Portland, we ordered pizza every Friday night from our local joint. We sat on the living room floor, eating our medium thin crust, drinking IBC Root Beer, and watching the show May to December on PBS until I ultimately fell asleep (a tradition we continue to this day, although lately we watch Ancient Aliens). We loved that Portland pizza. Over the past two decades we have fetishized it. I couldn’t wait to get one, to feed a twenty-two year old longing. Aaaaand, it wasn’t very good. It made for a disappointing dinner but long-overdue end to the craving.
I ate a lot in Portland: much that edified and inspired me and something that helped me let go of false memories. I had a delicious time!