Monday, October 23, 2006

Disaster averted!

It all seemed so promising. The table was set, it was a beautiful,, 70 degree shirtsleeve late autumn early evening outside. Our friend Denise just walked in with an incredible platter of appetizers. w's signature cocktails were going down deliciously easily.
Digging the deck and digging in @ w's!

The soup was made, the late season caprese was ready, then.....then.....the main course of eggplant lasagna made it's unfortunate appearance out of the oven. Now I'm not saying everything I make is great. But I have to admit this is the first time I have ever thrown the main into the trash before it even made it to table. I will accept some responsibility here. But when the girl at Pastaworks tells you that their fresh pasta doesn't need to be cooked in water before you use it, maybe take that with a grain of salt and use your best judgment. Had I done that, dinner would have been a little more complete. As it was, the soup course became the main, along with some pasture-raised lamb off the grill that I had marinated ahead of time that originally was going to accompany the...ugggh, lasagna.
But as always, that little disaster was overlooked in the course of other good food, great conversation, and a wee bit of delicious wine. My friend DOR brought an excellent 2001 Bierzo from Dominio de Tares. You heard it here that Bierzo, a tiny appellation in the northwest corner of Spain where the wines are made from the mencia (pronounced men-thia) grape is going to be the next star Euro appellation. We also popped a 2001 Vietti Barbera d'Asti "La Crena", which is simply a stunning, incredible barbera. One of those reds you want to check in on in about 8!
The night, which was spiraling, ended up being fabulous. We even had an early season pumpkin pie courtesy of w's baking skill. More good food, good wine, good friends. It just keeps getting better!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Life is good!
Not to be redundant, but how lucky am I? Two dinners out in the last two days, both absolutely spectacular!! Following hot on the heels of Wednesday's stellar meal at Autentica, w and I celebrated her birthday last night with dinner at Le Pigeon (738 E. Burnside, 503-546-8796), a cozy little bistro just off the east end of the Burnside Bridge. The buzz has been hot and heavy about this joint, and based on my experience it is all too true! The food from beginning to end was fresh, new, and exciting. We settled in to a couple of seats at the counter, always my preferred choice. The seats look right at the cooks who are working it hard, and allow some give and take and timely advice from the ones who are going to be kicking out your food, never a bad thing.
We started with three appetizers, in order:
-Trotter cakes with a creamy, intense aioli: shredded pig foot meat in a potato cake that was crisp and delicious.
-Duck Nuggets, which were as good as they sound, with a plum dipping sublime.
-And foie gras on a crostini with a peach topping that was everything I could have hoped for. Decadent, rich, perfectly seared foie gras that had me silently blessing that goose and his fatted liver...yum!
Then on to dinner, in w's case a fabulously savory dish of monkfish medallions, in my case an amazingly creative combination of prawns and pork belly on the best, sweetest creamed corn that had me swooning. We reluctantly passed on dessert, but you can bet I'll be back to tackle that portion of the menu.
This place is a great spot, cute, cozy, great vibe, and the food is among the most creative, satisfying, and well prepared in town. One visit and I'm will be too!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Authentic? You bet!

I hear a lot of restaurant recommendations from a lot of different people. One place where the buzz in my ear has been loud and clear is Autentica (5507 NE 30th, 503.287.7555), a newish Mexican joint a couple storefronts north of NE Killingsworth Street. All I kept hearing from my foodie friends is that this place is the real deal and the food is crazy good, not your typical cheesy-AmerMex blend of stomach binding ingredients. Well, last night after a terrific wine tasting at my friend Whitney's cute little bungalow in NE, I had the opportunity to check out Autentica on my way home. Um, how to say this? How about "Holy shit this place is rocking!" If you haven't been there yet, get your appetites going and get over there, because based on a somewhat frustratingly limited exploration of the menu (frustrating only in the sense that I can only eat so much by myself!) I am hooked. I mean, everything that owner/sous chef Oswaldo Bibiano was rolling out of the kitchen was absolutely knock out grub, and my tastebuds were loving every last morsel. Okay, to start, I ordered 1/2 dozen oysters that were a deliciously fresh, briny beginning hopped up with a drop of hot sauce. Then came a dish of Queso Oaxaca con Chorizo, which is basically a bubblingly hot melted dish of Mexican cheese with bits of chorizo, served with their silky smooth housemade corn tortillas. Here's a graphic representation of this bowl of goodness.....
Yum, so good and on a cool, damp PDX evening so satisfying. And it comes with a trio of homemade salsas that are to die for. I also had to try, to satisfy my taqueria/taquito fetish, their Tradicional Taco al Pastor which is probably the best $1.50 appetizer in town. Now with the whole Large Plates side of the menu open to me, it was getting tough to make a decision. But since a real mole is kind of the litmus test of true regional Mexican cuisine, I went with the Pollo en Mole Teloapan. A half chicken blanketed in a chocolatey brown Guerrero style mole. Wow!! It's made with eight different dried chiles and nuts. This was by far the best mole I've had in Portland. Complex, rich, silky smooth with a nice spicy kick. Absolutely sensational and the flavors truly explode across your palate. I was sittng at their kitchen bar, and asked Oswaldo how long it took to make. He said he starts on Monday and basically spends an entire day prepping, mixing, slowly simmering this magical concoction. Here it is, before my knife and fork made a mess of it....
The object in the upper right is a beautifully presented serving of rice in a corn husk. They also serve it with another helping of their perfect corn tortillas, which you can stuff with the succulent meat or use as a mop to clean every bit of this saucy deliciousness off your plate. The whole meal was exceptional, and incredibly affordable. I barely scratched the surface of the menu, and can't wait for my next trip!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Give a man a fish......
.....and he can make a decent small bite to eat. Give a man three fish and he can make a pretty mean meal for unexpected friends who drop by.
I had plans to make a quick trout dinner before w and I went to the Mississippi Pizza Pub to see our friend Andrew Field play some music. Never having roasted a whole fish, I planned ahead and picked up one extra of our scaly meal-to-be in case things went off the tracks and I needed a backup up plan. Then came a late call from my friend Amy Ruppel, asking if we were going to see Andrew and if we would want to have a drink before hand with she and her hubby Randall. Not wanting to pass up the chance to hang with two of my favorite people and since I live a mere three blocks from the Pizza venue, it only made sense to have them come by for a quick pre-show drink and snack. Out came plan B in the guise of fish 3, some quick prep on he and his two piscene brothers, in this case a few well placed knife slashes on both sides of the fish, a rub of olive oil and a sprinkling of S&P, some fresh thyme and lemon stuffed inside, 15 minutes in a 475 oven with some thin sliced russet potatoes (also w/olive oil and S&P), a deliciously crisp bottle of 2004 J. Christopher "Zoot Allures" Blanc, and voila....... incredibly satisfying, clean, fresh, and best of all super easy-to-make nibble to send us out onto the street with four very happy tummies!