Cruising Up and Down MLK Just Like Those Pimp Mobiles of Olden Days

First of all, let me say that I’m sure people plan things, then miss them all the time, due to either unforeseeable circumstance or just plain lameness. I am not “people” though (no kidding) and have never missed, or been more than 5-10 minutes late for any RR dinner, the one time I was almost 10 minutes late due to Pearl parking (Fenouil). Otherwise though, I’m pretty rigorous about making it to the dinners, and being on time, after all, I am the ridiculous “hostess” at these gatherings.

The dinner at Ned Ludd was certainly the exception, however, not only was I at least 30 minutes late, but I nearly missed the entire dinner in my frustration over not being able to find the restaurant. That’s right, although I drove by at least 5 times, each way, I could not find the restaurant, eventhough I had supplied seemingly decent directions to other participants attending (approximately 2 blocks N. of Fremont on MLK). I had never actually seen Ned Ludd before, but those were the directions I got from their Google map. IMG_0978But those tricky folks at Ned Ludd, on their website they show a photo of what looks like the restaurant with their weird little sign perched in front of it, so I looked for that. And sure enough, two blocks N. of Fremont on MLK there is a big old building painted brick red, just like on their website. But as I approached, and drove around it several times, I could clearly see that the big red building was some sort of foot long sandwich shop, not Ned Ludd.

Okay, I know this should have sounded some bells and whistles in my feeble brain, right intersection, brick red building, and I might have gotten out and walked around to look. In my ding dong defense though, I have had some truly enjoyable forms of some lovely viri since the last week of February, all but the first week of March, and it has actually continued with me in one form or other up to this very day, so I’m not quite as mentally sharp as I was before this annoying mass-enjoyed disease seemingly decided to set up permanent residence in my old and dumpy body. And as I had viewed the pictures on the website, I had not thought to bring the address (and I can tell you, there is no Ned Ludd mentioned in the pathetic phone book in the sleazy phone booth I found along MLK about a mile South of the restaurant). Sure, a normal person would have called for some sort of assistance on their cell phone, but not Ned Luddite, Cavewoman me, owner of no cell phone, no i Phone, no GPS. So I just continued to drive up and down MLK, all the way from Killingsworth to the North and the Hawthorne Bridge to the south, thinking I had somehow gotten the location screwed-up, and looking for the old red building with the Ned Ludd Sign.

IMG_0980Well, as it turns out, I was brainwashed by the photo on the Ned Ludd website, which is a picture of the big red building next door, with their rather small and obscure sign photographed in front of it. Ned Ludd is actually the corrugated iron building next door, set back from the street by a small courtyard, and noted along MLK only by a small and hard to read (during daylight hours) red and black sign. But as I was not looking for a corrugated iron building, I just kept driving by. Just remember gang, if you see me continually driving by, as you did on this evening, but not coming in, run out in the road and flag me down (Grace would have been easy to spot).

Perhaps Ned Ludd are leery to show their own building, as the masterminds behind the place think people won’t be interested in visiting a nice restaurant in what looks like an equipment shed, but to me, it’s what is inside that tends to be most important, not what sort of building you are in. And I actually found Ned Ludd a very quaint, eclectic, and friendly environment, once I actually was able to leave my car and head toward a destination.

As anyone who had early 19th Century British history drummed into their heads probably knows, the Luddites were a protest movement which fought the mechanization that happened during the Industrial Revolution in England, often by destroying the equipment.IMG_0979 These individuals were worried about a loss of jobs due to machines doing what a multitude of workers had done by hand previously, and their leader was the fictional Ned Ludd. Having part of my probably ill-selected degree in Western European History, I could not help but be fascinated by a Portland restaurant who decided to use Ned Ludd as their inspiration, and a desire to use simplified, non-tecnologically advanced cooking as their mantra for being. The idea behind Ned Ludd is to make as many items (like their own sausages and condiments) on the premises from farm fresh ingredients, and to cook everything possible in their wood fired oven (which is great, except that Global Warming is probably a useful modern concept for everyone to embrace).

By the time I actually got to Ned Ludd, they seemed pretty busy, but it didn’t strike me as an overly large place, so maybe that’s why they were full. I was struck almost immediately by the green walls, obscure and fancy lighting fixtures, and winsome and often wacky decor the moment I entered, inside you would never guess you were in a tractor barn (although the rickety and rotting wooden plank ceiling seemed an odd touch). Other than that, however, I loved what these modern day Luddites had done with the place, it was cozy and adorable. So my only major complaint for “physical Ned Ludd” is that it really would be easier on their new patrons if they showed the outside of their own building, not the one next door, that way the mentally infirmed like myself might make it to their own dinners without being 30 minutes late.

I could tell the rest of our smallish group was pretty shaken up by my absence by all the drinks and food they had ordered (actually, they did express worry between sips and bites). IMG_0986I also understand that showing the restaurant you are interested in making some dining progress is often a necessity, so I didn’t take too much offense at all the joyous good times that had taken place before I got there, even though I did notice the group seemed to be having an extra good time until I showed up. Maybe this is how I could re-expand the current roster of RR, promise not to show up! (Of course I’d still come anyway, I’m pretty ruthless that way).

Sadly, at least for one of us, King of Dambuie, Ned Ludd has beer and wine only, so everyone went for the vino (except for Grace, soon to hatch her egg in a couple of months or so. IMG_0987She just brought her own flask). Strangely, some of the wines seemed to have names, so Frank had something called a Love & Desolation, which didn’t impress him much (but really, would you order a wine with desolation in the name?) As for me, I just had a plain old Chardonnay, which I wasn’t overly thrilled with either. I don’t know what Glee and David had, I missed most of their drinks.

As alluded to earlier, I was dragging the tail end of things all evening, always one step behind, so salads and other noshes had been ordered and were getting ready to arrive by the time I plunked my addled keister down and ordered wine. Grace, never exactly a shrinking violet when it comes to ordering, started out with Ned Ludd’s Pickle Plate (How come everyone has a pickle plate these days? IMG_0971Especially since I don’t really care for pickles? Why don’t any of these restaurants start out the festivities with something more harmonious to my palate, like a cake or pie plate sampler? No, they all have to waste those things at dessert time, when you’re already full).

Next up for Grace, the house Charcuterie Plate of pork rillettes, duck rillettes, Ben’s bacon and pancetta. Of course, in her usual generous Grace fashion, (she said she can’t help it, she’s Chinese) she took a couple of nibbles of various items, and passed the remainder around the table for all to enjoy. I was trying to take it easy, I had consumed a large Lebanese lunch earlier that day (and felt like I had been driving from Lebanon over the last hour) but Ben’s bacon sat right in front of me for a bit to long, so I did have a slice of that (not my last for the evening) and a small hunk of bread with a smatter of one of the rillettes, although so far rillettes do not induce thrillettes in me.

IMG_0975Grace was also one of two to order a “Kaltbit” (I haven’t a clue what that means, but the previous items were “Forebits”) of the “Braised celery, dijon, capers, dry jack and egg”. The verdict was mixed on this item, Frank and Grace “cons”, Glee and David “pros”. Two Kaltbits of “Frisee, duck confit, dried figs, pistachios, sherry vinaigrette and cracklings” were also ordered. IMG_0973Although this was originally Frank’s I think, Grace enjoyed it more than her celery dish, but I never really heard what Glee thought of her order. My Kaltbit this evening was the “Butter lettuce wedge, pickled onion, Maytag blue and hazelnuts”. Although my salad was quite attractive, and not bad, between the pickled onions and the glass of wine I had, I nursed a nasty case of indigestion through to the next morning, acid city

As it happens, our table on this evening was rank with illness, all of us womenfolk being ill with influenza type situations, and all the men (yes, two of them) feeling smug because they weren’t sick (they were certainly looking smug.) IMG_0977As mentioned, I was many weeks into my illness, with at least two more weeks to follow (what fun!) but Glee and Grace were only about a week in, and my recovery time had to be a major disappointment to them. I particularly felt bad for Grace, who was not only in a real uncomfortable looking phase of her pregnancy, but she also had a cold, was too warm, and was dizzy, she thought from cough medicine (it’s good Frank suggested she drive them home). She was a real trooper though, and over the course of the evening ate parts of her two forebits, parts of two kaltbits, a decent amount of her “Plat” as well as some of Frank’s plat, had one dessert, and tasted two others. Just think what this relatively modest sized woman could do when she’s feeling 100%!

But back to those Plats! In case you are wondering, no I don’t know what a “Plat” is either. What can I say, the folks at Ned Ludd are just plain weird. Our old but usually missing friend Michael (formerly a belly button poet but now a butterfly) wrote to me that reading the Ned Ludd menu was like hearing Elmer Fudd speak. IMG_0983Something odd must happen to your speech patterns when you name ends in udd would be my guess.

Anyway, it wasn’t too surprising to see most of the plats coming out of the wood burning oven were hearty fare, since when do you ever get light and airy fare from a wood burning oven? No one had the beer braised blue mussels with garlic, chili and lime: the house-cured pastrami and kraut; or the ruby trout with fennel and lemon. Glee marched to the beat of her own drummer though, and had the “Roasted acorn squash, farro, and ragout of vegetables with wild mushroom gravy” and while she said it was not bad, it was a bit vegetableee, and she was craving the meat the rest of us had. (Yes, unfortunately I have found, when you order vegetarian items, there always seems to be this perplexing lack of meat. Someone should look into that).

As for the rest of us, we were doubling up again, and only checking out two other plats between the four of us. IMG_0982David and Grace both decided the “Rolled shoulder and crispy brined belly of pork” sounded like an entree they desired, although Grace, once again being the most colorful person at the table, asked for double belly and no shoulder meat, she obviously is not a fan of dry or not-greasy. Both David and Grace also decided they would try one of the “Warmbits” on the side (???) (things like nettle fritatta and creamed nettles. Now when is the last time you dined at a somewhat classy place that served two types of nettles, answer me that?) in their case the “Creamy mashed with Bordelaise butter”.IMG_0985 David was in for the ultimate surprise, as it turned out that some of the creamy mashed were turnips, so that makes about three out of the last three dinners where David has experienced the joys of root vegetables. And to think, this man pretends not to like them. Both Grace and David seemed to agree that while they probably would have preferred 100% taters, the turnips were not too offensive.

Although I didn’t realize it until they arrived, Frank and I, sitting side by side, had ordered the same main dish, the “Pancetta-wrapped game hen with creamy mash”. Considering the thing on top looked more to me like Ben’s bacon than pancetta, tom foolery might have been afoot, but other than my suspicions over what kind of cured piggie it really was draped over the breast meat, the game hens came out of the oven quite tasty looking. IMG_0981The truly amazing thing was, although I have this reputation for eating beef all the time, I had consumed chicken almost every single night that week for dinner (including the weekend) had it other times for lunch, and still, for some goofy reason, ordered chicken on my big night out to eat. It was like being a Dillenburg!!!

As someone who has prepared their share of Cornish Game Hens in their time, I happen to know they aren’t that easy to cook and make juicy. The breast meat almost always dries out, and to me, there is almost nothing worse than dry breast meat (which is why I’m always trying to pawn it off on everyone, here, eat my delicious breast meat). I actually found my Cornish Game Hen at Ned Ludd quite decent, and the breast was still relatively moist, so I actually ate some of the part I could not pawn off on others (thank you Glee). Good old David though, he’s really taken to being chicken-difficult since I mentioned what a poultry lover he was many moons ago, so he refused to try even one bite. Grace enjoyed the tastes of Frank’s hen that she sampled though. Our dear friend Frank, however, king of the obstinate nay-sayers, distainer of almost all restaurants, when I asked him if he liked his game hen, his answer, a petulant NO. Hey Frank, don’t make your comments too flowery, you’ll suck up too much of the air that all the rest of us sickies might need.

When dessert time rolled around, four out of five of us decided to splurge, although to be honest, I’m sure Grace would have gotten Frank a dessert whether he wanted one of not, (always to the advantage of the rest of the table). IMG_0990Glee and Frank both decided to try the interesting sounding “Pear Rosemary” cake, one of those strange combos that either really works or really misses. Although I am THE QUEEN OF CAKE, I wasn’t really tempted, as Rosemary is something I prefer in limited meat applications, and there was no frosting (beef frosting anyone?). The consensus was, too weird a combo, so a definite miss. Grace was fascinated by the idea of S’Mores, so decided to give those a whirl. IMG_0991I think long ago Frank mentioned that Grace spent her earliest years in China, so perhaps people there don’t sit around a campfire rotting all their teeth and sending their blood pressure into quarter digit range with a single dessert, as our biggest mama (after all, RR only has two) didn’t seem familiar with the gooey combo. She seemed to like her S’mores though, so maybe she and her little daughters sit around the microwave nuking this concoction into submission every evening now, or make daddy Frank do it (although I have the feeling this might not be a family big on cooking).

I had the apple tartlet, sort of a pastry pod filled with baked apples, and covered in melted caramel and whipped cream. IMG_0988Certainly a comfort type dessert, and while not exactly knock your socks off different, extremely tasty and probably the best received dessert of the evening.

One fun thing about having not one but two mommie dearests in the group right now (which says much coming from me, the Anti-Child) is having discussions on what the babies might be named. With Tori and Dave, there was that heart-felt suggestion that they name it Jimmy, after their dog (well, Jimmy II I suppose, and the pet crow can be Jimmy III). It sounds like Frank and Grace are also having a scrotum baby, and that Grace thinks Frank should name this offspring, as she was instrumental in naming their two daughters, both “A” children, one named after a goddess. Because of this, those classical name suggestions were flying. Frank claims to like Apollo, sure to get any adolescent boy beaten up on a weekly basis. I threw out Adonis, also classically fashioned (although I’m not sure how well Adonis goes with Hsu, or Chen, or whatever last names these children use). And then there was that third classical A name suggestion that was bandied about, Oedipus. I won’t mention who came up with this gem, only that they were educated in Forest Grove, which might say a great deal about the alphabet taught there.

Despite the fact that I was so late and could not get my bearings all night, I still thought Ned Ludd was an above average place, and has a great deal of promise and potential for creativity. It strikes me as a wintery sort of restaurant though, so it will be interesting to see what they do with their menu in the warmer months. Judging by the courtyard area out front, I would not be surprised to see them have some outdoor tables in the summer, it would certainly expand the seating potential. Somehow though, Ned Ludd just doesn’t seem like a sit around on the patio kind off place. Too frivolous for a restaurant based on the concept of revolt against the industrial revolution. There are certainly interesting minds at work here, so I wish them well.

IMG_0993Before they left for the evening, I heard Grace say she thought Ned Ludd was pretty good, more hits than misses. Over the next couple of days, however, Frank posted on his Facebook page that he and Grace did not like Ned Ludd, it “just wasn’t right”. Hmm, so who am I to believe, Grace herself, or what Frank states is Grace’s opinion? Obviously I have to keep an eye on this somewhat shady character (You know what they say, there’s nothing scarier than a Radiologist with a hidden food agenda).