We just got back from a great weekend in Portland and to no surprise the food scene remains terrific. We started our first evening out with a quick cocktail before dinner was Saucebox, a swanky bar offering freshly mixed cocktails containing fresh herbs and mixers. The Thai Basil Gimlet was refreshing with thai basil, lemon-lime juice and vodka and my husband’s drink – Thai Boyfriend, Maker’s Mark muddled with kaffir lime and topped with ginger beer was delicious as well. A great place to kick off our weekend before heading to Little Bird for French bistro fare.
Little Bird is a newish restaurant in downtown Portland created by chef Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon. Little bird is quaint and rustically decorated with a knowledgable waitstaff. We started with the charcuterie plate offering creamy foie gras pate’ with gelee, rabbit rillet and a variety of handmade salumi from Olympic Provisions. The foie gras pate’ was some of the best I have ever eaten with delicate flavor and addicting spreadability. The rillet had great texture and mouth feel and I enjoyed piling it on a thinly sliced crisped baquette. The next courses of salads proved to be fabulous as well…celery root and crab salad with homemade aioli. A slight dash of espelette combined with the celeriac and fresh crab made my palate happy and satified. The butter lettuce salad was fresh and delicious with chunks of roquefort, chopped tomato and tossed in a light viniagrette. As for the main course, the slow roasted pork was fork tender with a delectably sweet-n-savory sauce and tender apples. Too stuffed for dessert, we were handed dime sized marons with our check. Great touch.
Before heading out to the Williamette Valley for a day of wine tasting we started our day at Tasty n Sons. Tasty n Sons is the new restaurant from John Gorham of Toro Bravo. This place is comfort food gone wild serving breakfast, happy hour and dinner. The options are endless fun with breakfast being offered throughout the day. The Shashuka — a red pepper and tomato stew with baked eggs and merquez sausage topped with rustic toasted bread was hearty and eventful. Dipping the bread into the rich sauce was a real treat for a breakfast adventure. The roasted apple topped with cheddar cheese and lardons was another delicious dish for breakfast, one in which I will duplicate at home. The French toast was light and airy dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled in a dried blueberry maple syrup (available in a half order). Yes! Definitely a place to visit and come back to.
As for wineries and places to visit in the Williamette Valley — the charming city of Carleton has some great tasting rooms to visit. EIEIO wine maker Jay McDonald is creating some excellent pinots. His tasting room offers pours from other local wine makers as well, which makes for a great wine discussion with Jay. Across the street is Alexana wine. Another great place to taste some lighter but delicate pinots. Around the corner from there is Scott Paul who produces pinot as well but also pours French Burgundy –a fun educational experience. In Dundee, the Ponzi Tasting Room is a great place to taste and try a variety of wines from all over the valley. Light plates of cheese and charcuterie are also available to nibble on while tasting.
Peruvian restaurant, Andina was a fun overall experience serving fresh ceviches and tapas. The avocado stuffed crab was flavorful but a found the avocado slightly under ripe. The fresh fish ceviche with red onions, sweet potato and fresh corn was nice. The best part of the meal at Andina was the fresh dipping sauces they put on the table — my favorite the peanut with fresh chiles. Overall, Andina needs to mimic some other great Peruvian restaurants in the country (La Mar in San Francisco). Ambiance is the best part of this place.
Pok Pok is a staple for lunch or dinner in Portland. Pok Pok creates delicious Thai street food — I highly redcommend the spicy wings with a fresh Pilsner on tap for a quick lunch. Voodoo donuts is another Portland institution offering freshly made donuts with innovative toppings and a cult following.
Castagna chef Mattew Lightner (Food & Wines top new chef 2010) is taking the Portland food scene to new levels. His innovative dishes prepared with flavor and tremendous presentation are both delicious and artful. Castagna’s $65 tasting menu offers a unique experience, one in which will leave you talking about for days. Chef Matthew has worked at some impressive places– one being Mugaritz in Spain where he learned some great gastronomic techniques. The menu is extensive but some great highlights were the rye rolls served with roasted pork butter, the crunchy molasse pork jowl and the cured beef tongue over celery root and mustard seeds — tasted like corned beef and cabbage. The desserts were fantastic as well — chamomile ice cream with crystillized honey and citrus and the sunchokes with poached apples. A great experience.
Our final meal at the end of a great weekend was brunch at Beast. The format at Beast is two seatings daily for dinner with a special addition of brunch on Sundays with two seatings as well. Brunch is a preset menu each week and on our lucky day is was outstanding! We started with rhubarb clafoutis with maple glazed bacon followed by a freshly made lamb, parsnip and mushroom hash with poached duck egg and truffle hollandaise. Next, came the cheese course with mixed greens and we finished with a coconut truffle cake with vanilla whipped cream. Everything made to perfection and needless to say decadent! I found Beast amazing and will go for dinner on our next visit.
Portland’s food scene is very impressive and nicely affordable as well. The farmer’s market on Saturday’s is worth a visit as well.