A few restaurant highlights from a recent trip to Portland (which also included beer tasting, biking around, and seeing a few friends, but I promised myself this wouldn’t be a blog that’s mostly long-winded stories about my day with only a passing mention of food):
The Waffle Window (at 36th and SE Hawthorne):
A waffle with sauteed mushrooms, spinach, roasted peppers, fresh tomatoes, and “marinated chevre”. The chevre had the consistency of a dense whipped cream and was a nice cool counterpart to everything else. Plus, look at that pleasing collection of colors with the blue-rimmed plate!
Little Bird (downtown):
I’d heard good things about Little Bird from a friend recently, and still remember the mind-blowing (and rich-food-giddy-coma-inducing) meal I had at its more formal big brother Le Pigeon years ago. By lucky chance, we’d just finished a beer tasting two blocks away and Little Bird had a late-night menu, and we split:
- White bean with parslied ham salad (rich, a “salad” in the same way macaroni and cheese is a pasta salad).
- A salad of butter lettuce, radishes, and a Pernod (and I think, tarragon) vinaigrette. This was the standout dish of the meal, if you’ll believe it– excellent lettuce that wasn’t just a vehicle-for-dressing, paired with a translucent but complex dressing.
- Steak Tartare topped with an egg yolk. You can barely see it in this photo because it’s been mostly demolished, but this was also very, very good (and I say this as someone who rarely eats tartare).
- A burger with fries. The fries didn’t do anything special for me, but the ketchup was far better than usual (homemade, I assume, with much less sugar?), and the dressing on the burger was good. A good burger to eat a third of along with some other dishes, but I would have been missing out if I’d just had that for dinner.
- Wildflower honey pot de creme with blueberries (and put-a-bird-on-it crackers).
This whole delicious meal of four good dishes + a shared dessert + wine for three people was only $90 including tip.
Simpatica (just East of the river):
I love the Simpatica concept– they’re usually a catering company, but three times a week they serve a meal in their space. It’s informal (long communal wooden tables, simple plates, next to a catering-size kitchen where they’re finishing the dishes), with nicely muted lighting that keeps it from feeling like a cafeteria.
For dinner, you sit down at 7pm and get fed a three-course meal with dessert (no choices, and you may not know what the menu will be when you make reservations). I’ve just been there twice, and both times it was delicious, hearty food, usually with a substantial component of it cooked over the course of the day on their outdoor grill and some sort of good local greens.
This visit, the theme was “crawfish boil”, and we had:
- Deviled eggs with smoked salmon and some pickled celery (I love it!)
- Chicken salad (from chicken roasted on their grill with a beercan in it)
- A crawfish (and shrimp, clams, corn, potatoes) boil, which they poured out from a huge pot onto a table to show it off (then portioned it out into dishes to share between each group of eight people or so). This took some effort to eat and was a social bonding experience for our table…
- Cherry cobbler
Evoe (at SE Hawthorne and 38th)
This was probably my favorite food experience of the trip (though Little Bird was also very good). It’s just a few tables and seats along a counter inside the Pastaworks market, serving a collection of small dishes. It’s a light, bright, high-ceiling, airy (cliche?) space that doesn’t feel like a restaurant (and I mean that in a good way). We got to watch the food being prepared while ogling their jars of colorful pickled vegetables and chatting with the chefs about ingredients and restaurants in SF.
Everything we had here was basically perfect, including:
- A charcuterie plate, including some jamon, cured meat from Fra’mani (Oakland!), several other good cured meats from local places (I don’t remember everything), Salumi Finnochiona (dry fennel salami from Seattle– I had to buy some to go), and a house-cured (in salt and sugar) foie.
- A Spanish-style tortilla (omelette with potatoes and whipped garlic) served with romanesco.
- A salad of glacier lettuce, peaches, and crisp speck. Yet again, a salad was one of my favorite dishes– both because the elements worked so well together, and because of the exciting new-to-me green “glacier lettuce”. Based on someone else’s blog, it’s apparently a green that originates in South America and is now grown at a local farm. It’s slightly thick and tart / citrusy like a sorrel, has a satisfying texture, and… well, it’s hard to describe. Try it out if you see it anywhere.
We also had some wine (I’m not really a wine connoisseur, so don’t have anything intelligent to say about it), and I had a hard cider that was slightly funky/earthy and interesting.
Ruby Jewel Scoops (on N Mississippi):
I’ve always liked salty sweets (for example, Poco Dolce tiles, or the Bi-Rite salted caramel ice cream), so I had to try Ruby Jewel’s “caramel and salted chocolate”. The base caramel ice cream was fairly good, but I loved the salty chocolate chunks and their localized nature. This may sound odd, but I like foods with interesting flavors presented side by side, so I can vary the taste ratios bite to bite.
Overall, really good food.
p.s. Credit for some of these photos goes to A.L., I can’t remember which ones were hers since she let me use her camera.