Monday, November 9, 2009

What's cookin' PDX?

Recently K and I took a decadent trip to Portland Oregon for our 8 year wedding anniversary.  We stayed at the luxurious Nines Hotel on Morrison Street, downtown.  It was so freaking lovely we almost didn't want to come home.  A thought kept repeating in my head.  "Why does P-Town have better food than Seattle?"  "Why does P-Town have better shopping than Seattle?"  "Why does Portland have so much awesome street food when Seattle has so little?"  Okay, I know what you're saying.  "If you like Portland so much better than Seattle then why don't you move there?"  The answer to that question is a complicated one.  I love Seattle for the same reason that I hate Seattle.  Seattle is a small city trying to be a big city.  I like living in the city but at the same time Seattle is confused in thinking that to become a large city we have to remove all of it's small city charm.  It has become a place where independent business owners can't make a living, vacant plastic condos are spreading like hipsters on a white belt sale, and people just don't seem to give a shit.  I want cute boutiques to shop in, consistent and delicious restaurants to eat at, and affordable freaking housing to live in.  Is that so wrong?  I'm easy like that.  I'm hoping over the next few years we find our identity again and stop all this nonsense.  I also hope we get a goddamn grilled cheese truck!

Day 1 - Portland Oregon:

After running all over Seattle trying to get someone to rent me a car (apparently, car rental companies think you're a deadbeat if all you have is a credit union debit card) we finally got rolling after taping up some bloody toes (don't ask) and picking my pride up off the floor.  A short couple of hours later we arrived at the Nines Hotel in downtown PDX.  It's a beautiful French antique/retro modern luxury hotel that gets it just right.  The kind of place you could see someone arrive stepping out of their Aston Martin Vantage wearing a vintage Chanel couture ball gown.  We're not rich but we pretend it very well.  As a matter of fact, it costs us as much to stay here as it would've the Red Lion Hotel so whateva.

For Dinner we walked through junkie infested waters to the very hip Ace Hotel where underneath resides the lovely restaurant Clyde Commons.  It was packed but we managed to grab a couple of window bar seats.  It was loud and full of young professionals (perhaps professional douchbags, I'm not sure) giving us the stink eye.  After everyone got a look at the beautiful ladies that just enlightened their evening they went back to stuffing their faces and talking about which car made them look more attractive.  We staved off a couple of panic attacks and perhaps physical ones (I thought Kelleen was going to elbow the drunk woman behind her in the head if she bumped her one more time). The staff was very friendly and we ordered a couple of cocktails. I got the East of Eden which consisted of Bombay Dry Gin, fresh lemon juice, elderflower liqueur, a Gewurtzraminer reduction, and egg whites. It was silky and sour and freaking delicious. It calmed me down right quick. K got a cocktail which I can't remember the name but it consisted of bourbon and ginger soda. Also very tasty. For a starter we ordered a crispy fried pork terrine with pistachios, frisée and a Dijon vinaigrette. After the initial crunch of the breading, the pork was melt in your mouth amazingness. This appetizer was so good I wanted like ten more of them. The dish was perfectly balanced and all of the flavors complimented each other so well. I wanted to ask for the recipe but the bartender looked busy. For the entrees I ordered the grilled trout with smoked beef tongue, potato hash, fried eggs, and béarnaise sauce and Kelleen ordered the fresh pappardelle with lamb sugo, raisins, and pine nuts.  Holy Hell this meal was fantastic.  Probably the best trout I had ever eaten.  It was nice and charred from the grill and the smokiness of the beef tongue and the creaminess of the sauce blew my mind a little bit.  I thought K was going to crawl inside of the fish and live there she liked it so much.  I rarely order pasta when I'm at a restaurant because it's relatively simple for me to make at home but the papperadelle was another story.  The noodles were unearthly with just the right amount of al dente spring to them and the lamb sugo (kind of like a ragout) had an elegant balance of spice and sweetness.  The drunk lady had left our side, the cocktails had kicked in, the food was phenomenal, and everything seemed all right.  Clyde Common on Urbanspoon

Day 2 - Portland

Following a lovely night of sleep we headed off to Clinton Street for a Scandinavian breakfast at Broder.  The small cafe had a beautiful, sunny disposition.  After deciding that perhaps sitting almost in the restrooms was not conducive to the enjoyment of a meal we moved to a more appropriate spot where we ordered the Swedish breakfast bord which consisted of house-made gravlax, salami, Swedish hard cheese, grapefruit, rye crisps, fresh made yogurt with honey and lingonberries.  I also ordered the Pytt I Panna (Swedish hash), a tasty mash up of potato, duroc ham, roast beef, onions, and peppers topped with fried eggs and served with walnut toast and lingonberry jam.  We also had a few sides of potato pancakes.  Everything was so simple and tasty.  After the fact I wish we had tried the aebleskiver (Danish pancakes).  Something to look forward to next time. Broder on Urbanspoon

After a such a large breakfast and full day of shopping we pretty much skipped lunch except for the amazing snack we had at the Grilled Cheese Truck.  Grilled cheese truck you say?  Why yes, there is an amazing grilled cheese truck on Alberta Street.  We had one with blue cheese, apples, and bacon.  It was so good and I love the fact that they had converted the Partridge Family school bus into a dining hall.  So stinking genius.  Portland has tons and tons of street food.  Buses, carts, vacant lots with smokers on them.  Everywhere you go there are at a few carts of every kind of food you can think of.  We saw the usual taco trucks and hotdog carts but also saw Egyptian, Chinese, Polish, Thai, and Lebanese stalls and waffle and ice cream carts.  This made me angry with jealousy.  Why are Seattle regulations and taxes so unreasonable.  I need more food in portable form.  I demand it!!!  Oh, and check out this for Portland's food cart scene: foodcartsportland

So before dinner we headed off to get some cocktails at the Teardrop Lounge.  They make all of their own tinctures and bitters.  Very inspired cocktails.  I had the Corpse Reviver which consisted of gin, absinthe, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, fresh lemon, and I can't remember what else.  This cocktail kicked my ass.  For a minute of two I thought I was on acid but not in a bad way.  I think too that it was my first time drinking absinthe.  Kelleen had the White Noise which was made of tequila, white miso, Nocino, spiced pomelo soda, and lime.  So good it hurt.  You definitely can't say they aren't innovative.  I love that mixology is starting to make a presence in the culinary world.

For dinner I made reservations at Ten 01 in the Pearl district.  I promised K that I wouldn't take any pictures of our food, it being our anniversary dinner and all.  They had learned of our special occasion and brought us a few glasses of champagne which I though was very classy of them.  The staff was amazing and it was probably some of the best service I've ever had.  They were like fancy ninjas that would fold your napkin while you weren't looking.  I thought that perhaps we had magic water glasses that never dried up.

So we started up with some oysters on the half shell.  If I see these on the menu I have to have them.  I think I am addicted to raw oysters.  If there was a dealer in the alley behind my apartment that sold raw oysters with perhaps a little mignonette I would probably have to sign my paychecks over to him for my daily fix.  Actually I'm glad there is no such thing as back alley oyster dealers (at least that I'm aware of).  We had some Kumamoto and some Willapa Bay oysters with a jalapeno-champagne mignonette.  Super yummy.  We weren't that hungry so we headed straight for the entrees.  I got the lavender duck breast with white beans, lacinato kale, and balsamic gibier jus.  This was one of the top 5 things I've ever put into my mouth.  The duck was perfectly cooked with angel dust or some kind of addictive substance.  The lavender gave it a subtle floral flavor.  The beans had just the right amount of give and were creamy on the inside.  I have never had kale as good as this.  There was no bitterness what-so-ever.  The whole dish made perfect sense.  I snapped out of my absinthe induced haze and the world made total sense for the duration of the meal.  An epiphany in a cut of meat.  Kelleen ordered the seared sea scallops with parsnip puree, brussel sprouts, and fresh roasted chestnuts.  They were by far the best scallops we had ever eaten.  What mad genius would ever think to pair up sea scallops and roasted chestnuts?  It makes no sense!  "Is this chef insane?" I thought to myself.  So delicious.  We were sent desert and even though we were stuffed we made room.  It was a peanut butter and chocolate bread pudding with malted milk ice cream.  More of a cake than a pudding, it was decadent and once again completely original.  I also had a trio of cheese on house made sea salt crackers.    Before we could leave they also sent us a chocolate chip cookie and house made chocolates.  There was a lot of talk about the place going downhill with a new chef arriving and all that business.  The new chef Benjamin Parks has me as a fan.  This was one of the best meals I've ever had.

Day 3 - Portland
I still have dreams about the Reggie at Pine State Biscuits.  The Reggie is fried chicken, thick slab bacon, and cheddar cheese layered into a cream-top buttermilk biscuit and topped with sausage gravy.  You can get it "deluxed" by adding a fried egg to the situation (which I thought about but decided that veering at the last minute in a "game of chicken" with a potential heart attack wasn't worth it).  We also had a plate of biscuits and gravy, some Hash Up -hash browns with ham, onions, mushrooms, and melted cheese (in Waffle House lingo we would call these hash browns, scattered, smothered, covered, chunked, and capped), and an order of fried green tomatoes.
  These kids would make any Southern grandmother proud.  I haven't had Southern food so good since I was a little girl in Georgia.  My god, those biscuits were like eating buttery air.  I wanted to do a couple of backstroke laps in a pool of that gravy.  In fact, I may have to replace all the liquid I drink with a steady supply of Pine State Biscuit sausage gravy.  You may have to wait in a very long line and smack a horde of kids so hip they have the word "irony" tattooed on their foreheads out of your way to get a seat at one of three small tables but hell yes it is worth it.
Pine State Biscuits on Urbanspoon
Once again we had eaten so much before doing some more shopping I almost had to shop in the maternity sections of the boutiques we perused.  Thank god for the empire waist, that's all.  As the day faded away and our appetites begrudgingly returned to us we headed off to Bluehour for some cocktails before dinner.  Kelleen had a New Stone Fence (vodka, apple cider, angostura, applejack maple foam) and I had a Diva (house infused citrus vodka, blood orange, lime).  Go ahead, have your little laugh at my drink and say things like "...of course your drink was called the diva Violet, what else would you have?  Didn't they have a drink called the Spoiled Princess Latina Diva?"  No they didn't if they had, I would've gotten it.  The drinks were tasty if not up to par with Teardrops innovative concoctions but perhaps the comparison is unfair.  Of course after seeing raw oysters on the menu I ordered a half a dozen.  My one complaint is the music.  I felt like we were being transported to some scary world where John Tesh and Moby had lots of babies and formed world music bands together.  I didn't like that.

For dinner we tried to go to Le Pigeon but it was packed and the wait was too long with no place to wait. Then we tried Pok Pok but it was packed and so cold that the diners looked like they were trying to enjoy Southeast Asian food while ice fishing.  Everyone looked like they were in pain so we opted against waiting.  Finally we arrived at Laurelhurst Market.  Butchershop by day, steak restaurant by night.  The wait was long but at least we could wait inside by the meat case.  The fact that LM is it's own butcher shop means that there is no middle-man so the amazing steaks are unbelievably affordable.  K had a medium rare bavette steak with garlic smashed potatoes, and chimichurri.  The bavette comes from right above the loin on the cow and is similar to skirt steak.  It was lip-smacking heaven.  Nothing like a perfectly cooked steak.  I got the Cassoulet Toulousaine  (duck confit, pork belly, Toulouse sausage, and Viridian Farms tarbais beans).  Once again I found myself saying "best meal I've had".  Everything was just so amazing.  I wish we had tried some of the cocktails at LM.  Mixologist Evan Zimmerman is supposed to be a genius with his house-made tonics and bitters but I was liquored out.  Back to the hotel for an early morning drive back to Seattle.

Portland treated us amazingly well.  Every meal we ate was fantastic.  Tons of great shopping.  Really nice people.  Our hotel treated us like royalty.  It's always hard to go back to your busy life from vacation.  Work days seem like they never end, bills should just pay themselves, and your super creepy idiot of a noisy downstairs neighbor seems like he's perhaps dangling in a creepy sex swing and barking like a dog louder than ever.  But home is home, and that's where my heart is.


radiobelly said...

fucking sweet all over.

Violet said...

why thank you.

Teri said...

I'm Teri Hysteria, a T-girl who just finished eating the last of my homemade lavender chocolate on crustini, and who yearly makes 24 loaves of holiday Stollen, German style. I am engaged to another T-girl who is a chef. We try not to eat, but when we do we like to make it worthwhile...I love your descriptions of the food and your injected wit on your selected set and settings... You should be a food critic (I meant a paid one)!

Violet said...

Thanks Teri. That would be a pretty fun job. Know anyone hiring? ;)

Jennifer B said...

I'd love to go to Portland one day and this post just made me want to go more.

"We're not rich but we pretend it very well." Only way to go!

Dennis K. said...

Hi Violet you and your blog rocks! I'm definitely going to try checking out a few places you visited in Portland this week. Thanks for the inspiration. Cheers

Violet said...

You should definitely go sometime Jennifer. I love PDX. My band is playing there in a few weeks so I get to eat more delicious things! ;)

Thanks Dennis. Let me know what ya think about P-town.