December 2007


PURRING UP A HOLIDAY STORM AT MONTAVILLA’S THE COUNTRY CAT

Thank you to the small but very select group who helped me prove that it is possible to successfully hold a Restaurant Roulette dinner in the month of December (sadly, the previous dinner at Restaurant Murata was canceled due to lack of participation.) Last year, we didn’t manage any dinners during the dregs of 2006.

And much as I knew it would be, since it was so close to “THE HOLIDAY,” it was quite a fun and festive evening. We even had a new member, Paul, it’s just too bad he didn’t stay until we actually made it to a table. (Incidentally Paul, if you’re reading this, we were seated within five minutes of your departure, after some rearranging by the CC staff.IMG_0034.JPG

Until a little over 5.5 years ago, I lived for 13 years within long spitting (hissing) distance of where The Country Cat is located. When I first moved to the NE side of Mt. Tabor (Mt. Tabor ends at 75th, I lived on 74th,) Montavilla was still a generally rundown area; one of Portland’s oldest eastside neighborhoods, it was sadly in need of a bit of love and some new blood. Toward the end of my tenure in that ‘hood, however, things were looking up a bit. Ya Hala had opened up right next to the international grocery, and rapidly had a reputation for pumping out delicious Lebanese food and drawing in large early evening crowds, particularly popular with neighborhood families and young trendies on a budget. Finally, someplace new to eat besides the completely dubious Thatchers and the always good but totally heavy duty Flying Pie Pizzeria.

With all the booming new eastside neighborhoods beginning to jack-up the price of real estate though, those with new business ventures started to turn their formally blind eye toward previously unpopular areas like Foster, Woodstock, and then less than five years ago, Montavilla. I don’t know how many people over the last couple of years told me they like hanging around the Bipartisan Cafe (probably that Stumptown Coffee has something to do with it,) and it certainly is a morning and afternoon magnet in these parts. Earlier this year the owners of Flying Pie lovingly rehabbed what for years had been the Nickel Ads and an Oregonian distributorship into its original incarnation, The Academy Theater, a pizza brewpub similar in scope to the Laurelhurst Theater (although the Academy is much more eye-catching outside.) Longtime fixture Dickinson Drugs finally melted away to nothing, its old timey dingy space and postage stamp post office no longer serving much of anyone. Obviously Adam Sappington, a long time chef at Wildwood, was keeping his eye open for a promising space, and perhaps noticed all the new business moving into those funky old store fronts along Stark just north of 82nd. The theater is certainly a draw these days, and for once, parking has actually become a bit tight. The neighborhood is still a bit weird though, lumberyards, construction outlets, and equipment rental companies taking up most of the area between Washington and Stark on the south side of the street, and if you’re zooming along the east-going Washington St. toward I-205, you would never even know there is a burgeoning neighborhood one street over. (more…)

Special Review – Le Pigeon

Is That A Bird On The End Of The Table?

 

At least three people in the group have badgered me over the last few months, desperately wanting to go to Le Pigeon. I went to Le Pigeon almost a year ago, and thought it a fine restaurant. A fine restaurant, but a very small restaurant, a place where taking a large group was nearly unthinkable. Since I had been there the first time though, Le Pigeon had changed slightly, and while it is even more acclaimed these days, and even harder to get into, they at least take reservations at the communal tables, I think for groups of four or more. Sounds easier, but it’s not.

 

Good luck actually getting a reservation for a group over four, especially if you want to dine between the hours of 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm, when reservations are also prohibited. So you can kind of get a reservation, provided you plan far in advance and don’t mind eating really early or really late. Initially we were going to make a reservation for six, and include a couple of other people who might want to join us at this dinner, but that plan became all shot to hell in a hurry, as we could barely even come up with a reservation for four, and to do even that, we had to reserve at 5:45 pm. So sorry to all of you who we had to leave out, Le Pigeon is a great place, but I would guess, probably the hardest fine dining restaurant to get into in Portland at this time. Lauro is always busy, when I was at Lolo that joint was jumping, and Toro Bravo always has them lined up down the street. But those are decent sized restaurants. The main issue is that not only is Le Pigeon some of the finest cuisine Portland has to offer, it’s tiny (size and popularity wise, it’s hard not to compare with Pambiche, although the food and atmosphere are 180% different. And at least Pambiche does lunch, allowing more people to pass through its doors and sample the vittles there.)

 

One thing to keep in mind though,  if there is a restaurant in Portland you have really wanted to go to, but it seems inappropriate for a large group or we’ve already been there, let me know. This is the second time I’ve done one of these special smaller dinners in the last couple of months (the first one was Toro Bravo in October,) so send me an email on your special place, and I might be able to get a dinner going. After all, I certainly like eating out (if only I could find that gold mine to pay for all these dinners.)

 

Anyway, it was an extremely lousy Wednesday evening when the four of us met at Le Pigeon, pelting pouring rain and actual globs of wet snowflakes on the trip home. For once the reservation was not under my name, as Adele took the reigns on this one for me and went through all the arduous reservation rigamarole that is necessary to get a table at Le Pigeon (she was the main instigator on this dinner, a former French styled professional chef, she’s been wanting to check out Le Pigeon for a very long time.)

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