What else are we expected to do on a Sunday afternoon with a near empty refrigerator and hungers fueled by a 2+ hour hike in the Columbia Gorge? EVOE, with its proximity to our house....a 13 block walk or 2 minute drive...and its astonishingly good food, has proven to be something we can't resist. And the chilled glasses of wine to the left (w's 2007 Elvio Cogno Langhe Bianco Nas-Cetta, an intriguingly lemony-minerally, slightly spritzy, and completely refreshing Piedmontese white; and my 2008 Chateau Miraval Provence Rosé), were our prelude to another unbelievably satisfying mid-day luncheon. Speaking of EVOE and wine, their glass prices and bottle offerings are absurdly cheap. I might suggest you get in and slurp down all of the 2007 Cameron Winery "Willamette Valley" Pinot Noir you can for $7 a glass or a ludicrously affordable $20 a bottle! This is one of the best Oregon pinot noirs of 2007.
Once ensconced at our two ringside seats at EVOE's long rustic lunch table, where the culinary genius of chef Kevin Gibson are on display about three feet in front of you and from a vantage point at which the observant eater can pick up tips to take home to try in our own kitchens, we placed our orders off the myriad temptations on the chalkboard menu. w chose the potato-leek soup with fresh morels and the scallops with a grapefruit-avocado salad. I opted for, after strong prompting from Kevin, his housemade wurst sausages with potato salad (below right) and the vitello tonnato (pic at left). As always, everything was exceptional. Again Kevin's deft touch lets every ingredient stand out, and his simple, totally unfussy preparations and presentations should be a clue to almost every other cook in town. The soup was surprisingly not creamy as potato-leek soup almost always is, instead chunky with cubed potato. It had a rich, heady, morelly broth with a hint of butter. Excellent stuff. The always reliable scallops were, as ever, perfectly prepared with the richness of the shellfish counterpointed by the citrusy twang of the grapefruit. The last time I had vitello tonnato, which is thinly sliced or pounded veal with a tuna sauce, was at a small café in Monforte d'Alba on our Piedmont excursion a couple of years ago. I told Kevin all I wanted was to be transported back tableside in Monforte. He, as he should have, rolled his eyes at the food dork before him and said he'd do what he could. One bite in and while I might not have been back in Monforte, I was pretty damn happy to be seated at the table in EVOE. The veal was perfectly chilled and tender, the tuna sauce a bright, tangy compliment. His wurst sausages with potato salad were also pretty fabulous. Moist, seasoned just so, wurst should never overpower. It's the subtle sausage. And each bite, dipped in a dab of mustard, followed by a bite of potato salad and sip of rosé, was luscious. Again, as I've said before, Kevin's cooking at EVOE is easily among the best in town, and the incredibly reasonable prices make this hands down the best dining deal in Portland.