Dispatch from Portland: Take-Aways from FeastPDX

| Posted
 
 

!--paging_filter--pI spent the last three days and nights ingesting stronga crazy amount of food and bev at a href="http://www.feastportland.com/" target="_blank"FeastPDX/a/strong, the Bon Appetit-sponsored food fest in the Rose City. It was the festival's second year; I attended last year as well. And while I had no complaints about last year, overall I think this year's festival was better: more events, a few free events, some strongvery good tasting panels/strong and speakers, and of course, the primo events: the Sandwich Invitational, Night Market and High Comfort. Of the three, my favorite is the Night Market./p
pBut there is one difference I'm noticing, having been back less than 24 hours. strongThis year, I don't have a case of the Grass-is-Greener's. /strongPortland usually seduces me and makes me feel a little bit envious./p
pAnd, sure, there's still a little bit of that. strongWhat's the Seattle equivalent of Clyde Common?/strong Or Olympic Provisions? Why do we have a downtown where a person has to zig zag through thugs and jerks and idiots to get from Pike Place Market to Pacific Place? I never felt scared or threatened in Portland, even as my husband and I walked back to our downtown hotel through Portland's rowdy Chinatown at midnight after dinner at Le Pigeon. And man, everything is so much less expensive there. (Sales tax is a drag)./p
pBut in addition to eating and drinking my way through many of the Feast events and tasting panels--strongthe Clash of the Pinots /strongand the strongBaby Got Beer Back /strongpanelsstrong /strongwere the highlights of the fest for me this year--I also snuck away to taste my way around town./p
pAnd that's why I'm beaming with hometown pride./p
pI was so excited to eat at a href="http://www.smallwarespdx.com/menus/Small-BarwaresFullMenu.pdf" target="_blank"Smallwares/a. strongJoanna Ware is doing really good pan-Asian food/strong in the Beaumont neighborhood. If you go, get the fried kale salad with bacon, mint and fish sauce; the roasted mushrooms on a thick and amazing walnut-onion puree; some strongreally excellent kimchi/strong (including a beet version); and the mapo dofu, a heavenly egg custard. Still, in a battle between the food at Smallwares and the food at Revel, there's no question that I'd picka href="http://seattlemag.com/revel" target="_blank" Revel/a again and again, hands down./p
pimg src="/sites/default/files/newfiles/phpxdmiewam.jpg" height="197" width="350" //p
pMy next stop was a href="http://thesugarcubepdx.com/" target="_blank"The Sugar Cube/a, Kir Jenson's brand new brick-and-mortar bakery, which started out as a food cart. There, the chocolate cake (shown above) was incredible; soft, so moist, with deep chocolate flavor. But even better, her stronghoney brown butter bourbon pie/strong, rich and nutty and not even a little bit from cloying (the big dollop of whipped cream helps, too). I didn't take a picture, because we were hoovering it. I'd say the Sugar Cube is the equivalent of Ballard's a href="http://seattlemag.com/hot-cakes-molten-chocolate-cakery" target="_blank"Hot Cakes/a, and they're both so charming and tasty, I'd call it a draw./p
pAfter the Night Market I snuck away to another of my longtime Portland favorites, a href="http://www.olympicprovisions.com/" target="_blank"Olympic Provisions/a in Northwest, which is in a snug space under the expressway. There, I tasted my way through strongthe wines by-the-glass list (it's short, but really smart)/strong with a few oysters and a plate of sincerely excellent beef carpaccio. It was everything I needed: a little break from the crowds, good food and warm ambiance. strongAnd then I waited 40 minutes for a taxi, because that's how they roll in Portland/strong. For a similar meal here, I'd happily sup on oysters and beef tartare at the bar at Le Pichet. It doesn't get much better than a href="http://seattlemag.com/le-pichet" target="_blank"Le Pichet/a./p
pThe next day I hit a href="http://www.clydecommon.com/" target="_blank"Clyde Common/a, one of my all-time favorite places, for a small snack and a beer mid-day: great fried strongJo-Jo's with a perfect Bearnaise sauce for dipping,/strong and a slightly over-vinegary zucchini and ricotta salad. In Seattle, I'd go to a href="http://seattlemag.com/quinns" target="_blank"Quinn's/a for the same kind of food and feel. That is, if Quinn's were open mid-afternoon. Can we make that happen?/p
pstrongFinally, that night, two dinners./strong/p
pFirst, a href="http://roe-pdx.com/" target="_blank"Roe/a, which all of the Portland folks I spoke to wanted to try, but hadn't. It'sstrong a small, intimate parlor for artistic seafood/strong tucked into the back of another seafood joint on Portland's Division street, and it's quite a departure from every other Portland place I've been to. Formal-ish, but not comfortably so; it was so chilly I had to keep my coat on. The four course tasting was lovely, with a particularly clever take on ramen with cuttlefish cut finely into the "noodles" and beautifully prepared quail eggs, melting yokes and all. But the meal was scant. We asked if we could forego dessert to opt for another savory course (as neither of us wanted dessert), and we were told no. I got the impression that the restaurant relies on the bread and flavored salt service (a href="http://www.littletbaker.com/" target="_blank"Little T/a, which is equivalent to Columbia City, in other words: really good bread) to fill diners up. For $70 per person before wine, you can do much better in Portland. And you can do much, much better in Seattle at a href="http://seattlemag.com/article/sushi-kappo-tamura-restaurant-review" target="_blank"Sushi Kappo Tamura/a. If you're keeping score, point: Seattle./p
pimg src="/sites/default/files/newfiles/phpmm0auxpm.jpg" height="262" width="350" //p
pstrongOur second dinner that night was the late seating ata href="http://lepigeon.com/menus/LePigeon%20Dinner%20Menu.pdf" target="_blank" Le Pigeon/a, /stronga tradition for my husband and me when we visit Portland. We've been to Le Pigeon four times, and we almost always start with the foie. We did so Saturday--this time the dish was seared foie with johnny cakes, miso, camembert, nectarine and green beans--and it was just too busy; it didn't need the corn johnny cake or the camembert cheese or the green beans. In fact, it tasted like two dishes on one plate. I would've rather the foie been served with just the nectarine puree and the miso./p
pWe followed with the pigeon with pigeon peas and pigeon liver and pineapple, surely a wink at the out-of-town Feast eaters flooding the restaurant: strongLe Pigeon giving you pigeon x3/strong (shown). It was a dish that shows off Gabe Rucker's talent with the darkest, richest flavors, and it was thisclose to tasting like a plate of liver. But the acid from the pineapple and heat from the scotch bonnet peppers kept everything pretty well in balance. Final course--braised then grilled lamb shoulder--was fork tender, and served with tomatillo salsa, warm, soft peppers and feta. It was delicious./p
pstrongIt's also fun to watch Rucker groove to the hilarious, sometimes corny music he plays /strongwhile he cooks in the open kitchen: Creep by TLC, Poison by Bel Biv Devoe, and a little Biggie Smalls were played during our late dinner. Sit at the bar if you can. You might find yourself dancing in your stool, too./p
pIf I had to choose a Seattle place doing food like Rucker's, with a soundtrack like Rucker's, with the really great wines by-the-glass and with the seductive ease of Le Pigeon, I don't know if I could. Final round goes to Portland./p