Privates Flashing Through The Darkness

Yes, the is the Restaurant Roulette Dining Report, not a porno blog, but you’re going to have to wait until later to find out just what this edition’s title means (I’ve got to force people to read this stuff somehow.)

Three years ago, In February of 2007, RR visited Acadia. Originally the “guest list” was for 18, two tables worth, but as often happens, attrition took its toll and we all ended up tucking into one table as a cozy 13. There were 8 new people that night, including two new couples, and fun and good food were had by all. Back then Marnie had Leo had become regulars, and Marnie and I blabbed on and on in the blog what an entertaining evening it had been.

Fast forward, three years ahead. Marnie and Leo established themselves as Oregonians long ago (at that time they were relatively brand new) and have moved on to choosing their own restaurants and alternate social activities. IMG_1399Only one person from that dinner remains a regular, although back then he was part of a couple, and now he flies solo. I’m lucky enough, since last fall, to still number one really fun couple amongst my regulars, but each dinner, I seem to have to scratch and claw for five or six attendees. The economic crisis has spread gloom and doom throughout the restaurant scene, and several of the places our little group has visited are gone (Olea and Assaggio being a couple off the top of my head.) Acadia seems to still be Acadia though, largely a good thing.

On this evening we welcomed two new members to our fold, friends Martha and Cherie. When she replied to the RR member ad I posted, Martha mentioned that she was new to Oregon and hoping to go to some new places and meet new people. I suppose “new” is a relative term, since it turns out that for Martha and Cherie, “new” meant less than three years. I have had others join the group who were also “new” after about four years in the region, so I suppose newness or oldness can be a state-of-mind, rather than a strictly chronological concept. It might also have something to do with geographic locale, as Martha and Cherie both live in the Newberg area, and had not spent a ton of time going places outside of wine country. Somehow, I can imagine it might be rather easy to feel isolated in an old-fashioned little place like Newberg. Our table had expressed surprise when Martha and Cherie mentioned coming from Newberg, as it sounded like such an ordeal, but they said it was no big thing, clearly indicating they were probably from Southern California (bingo! L.A.) Considering I’ve had other members from Newberg (I remember you Lisa, 911 specialist) and even Hillsboro, I suppose Newberg isn’t that far, it’s mainly just traffic choked travel.

Two new bodies aside, I still managed only six for this dinner, but places like Acadia can make even a dinner for two seem lively. There’s just something fun about Southern food, especially New Orleans based cooking, maybe it’s the goofy names like Etouffee, Jambalaya, and Hoppin John.IMG_1398 I don’t remember Acadia having quite so many small plates in previous visits, but maybe with the explosion of small plates at restaurants here over the last couple of years, I just pay more attention than I did when they were called appetizers. Whatever the case, people were genuinely wracked over choosing between all the delicious starters and entrees, and I don’t think I remember a dinner where people had such a difficult time selecting just a couple of items, and also ended up taking so much of their main dish home.

Due to recent financially poopy events, I decided I would do what I could to at least economize a little, in this case foregoing a cocktail in favor of dessert later (Acadia has always had excellent desserts.) Interestingly, my moonshine-deprived mind seemed even more addled than usual, and I kept doing loopy things all night (I even forgot the group photo, and a picture of dessert!!!) Heidi had her usual red vino, and David boozed it up in hopes of soothing the savage cold virus that had attacked him earlier in the week. He heartily proclaimed that the special Bloody Mary’s at Acadia just the cure for what was ailing him.

One thing a bit different I did notice on this evening, which I haven’t observed on previous trips to Acadia, they seemed understaffed. The service was still decent, and the waitress was both personable and very pregnant, but the servers and the kitchen seemed like they had a bit too much to do at all times, so the meal was probably longer than it should have been. IMG_1408Of course, since at least half the table got two rounds of starters, that might have made things seem more drawn out than usual, but several times I saw people stranded at the door, waiting longer to be helped than they should have. I don’t feel like I can put too negative a spin on this though, as I know for at least a year now my company has been running with the smallest staff possible, and sometimes you can’t help but be overwhelmed, but you just can’t afford the additional staffing.

As at least three of us at this dinner were absolute Southern victuals freaks, ordering was not an easy affair, especially because Acadia has so many great Cajun and Creole standards. Ordering was also made harder by the fact that it was as dark as a crypt, and the two candles were so tiny. This is the third time I have eaten after dark at Acadia (I love their Wednesday only lunches) but I don’t remember seeing being such a problematic ordeal before.IMG_1395 This is the first time I’ve dined on the bar side though, so maybe they keep it darker over there for potential hangovers. Whatever, it was too dark for “Over 40 Eyeballs” to read the menu comfortably, so they really need to get some bigger candles or something. As fate would have it though, this was one dinner where I had selected my food in advance, and it paid-off, although I had to ask my fellow eaters if certain things were still on the menu before I tried to order them.

It was kind of nice having people so torn over what to order, because to me, it means I have selected a good place. It was especially nice to have Heidi so fraught with choice, since as a fish eating vegetarian, she often has so little to select from. Not at Acadia, however, seafood and other non-meaty items are abundant, I suppose not too surprising, since Louisiana is a Gulf state. The good thing about the South and seafood though, it counteracts all that fish healthiness by frying almost everything to a tasty goldeness.

It’s been really nice lately, because everyone makes a big effort to share (harking back to those Grace days perhaps, the Queen of sharing) and a great deal of that went on this evening. As has been his habit, recently, David ordered something that the whole table could try, and on the waitress’ recommendation, ordered the “Louisiana Barbeque Shrimp with Worcestershire, butter, black pepper and lemon.” IMG_1397This was a spicy little dish, and the shrimp were all giving us nasty looks, since they still had their heads on. David, perhaps feeling a little goofy with his illness, had great fun jousting with the shrimp, although a bit later in the meal the waitress scolded him for continually playing with his food.

Heidi and Julian also had starters before their mid starters, Heidi selecting the “Crawfish, Shrimp and Blue Crab R ilettes with toast,” sort of a seafood pate concoction.IMG_1396 I had a bite, and it wasn’t bad, but sadly, whenever I try Rilettes, it always makes me think of Deviled Ham. Julian had something I tasted as well, I think it was the “House Boudin Sausage with red bean puree” but not having a translation menu in front of me, I’m not quite sure what Boudin Sausage entailed. Chances are, the less we all know about what sausage “entails”, probably the better anyway. Now I’m wondering though if instead of that he had the “Catfish Boulettes with jalapeno tartar”, it seems like someone had that, it’s amazing how fuzzy my mind was from lack of alcohol.

Obviously, I had made a commitment to life’s lowly eatables this evening, as I had decided in advance I would try the “Fried Chicken Gizzards with smoked andouille aioli.” Originally I had thought this small plate was supposed to be chicken livers, not gizzards, because what decent restaurant actually serves gizzards, and when David told me it was gizzards, not livers, I was a bit disappointed, as I have had some yummy chicken livers over the last year.IMG_1400 Gizzards also seem a step down from livers, because while liver becomes pate, gizzards usually become only garbage. I must admit, I have sampled a gizzard or two in my time, usually a turkey gizzard before it gets hacked up and tossed in the gravy, and while their flavor is much milder than liver, they can be chewy, rubbery devils. Acadia’s gizzards really weren’t rubbery at all, or even gizzard like, they mainly just reminded me of breaded and fried pieces of chicken. Quite innocuous, even Julian agreed, and he seems to be one of those “texture” guys who has difficulty with textures more than tastes (cheese phobias!!!)

David, whose eyes were certainly bigger than his stomach, was one of the people so wracked by menu decisions, and he managed to order way too much food for himself, especially considering he was under the weather. At our previous trip to Acadia, ha had eaten something hot and spicy that he really loved, and I don’t think either of us was sure if it was gumbo or jambalaya. IMG_1403To avoid getting the wrong one, he ordered both. The gumbo starter was “Gulf Shrimp, blue crab and crawfish with andouille, okra, and popcorn rice,” and was a hearty portion at $9. Heidi had the Caesar Salad next, a really big amount, so Julian and I benefited from the spoils (or did he have Caesar Salad too?) and I thought it was really flavorful and tasty.

By the time the main dishes even got to the table, people were starting to get somewhat full, too many preceding tasty treats and tastes. I had ordered some cornbread, supposedly a “large portion” for $4.00, but was rather disappointed when it arrived, as it was only two moderate sized pieces for basically $2 each. IMG_1402It didn’t really matter at this point, as everyone was filled up on everything else already, including free bread, so I was the only person that ate much more than a nibble. It was extremely unusual cornbread, really soft and almost void of any particular taste, although glopping on some of the accompanying honey was a vast improvement. No cornbread really tastes that great to me in comparison to what I had at Tapalaya the first two times I ate there, although sadly, on my third visit, it no longer seemed as fresh and wonderful. Cornbread really is one of those things with a tiny window of enjoyment, it just does not age well.

As mentioned previously, David was in a soupy, saucy mood, so next up for him was “Cajun rice jambalaya with house made lamb sausage, andouille, smoked chicken and tomato relish.” IMG_1405This was a really big, fancy looking portion, but I don’t know if David even made it through three bites, as he was already pretty stuffed at this point. I’m sure he had a really nice dinner the next evening or two though.

Our new friends Martha and Cherie seemed like they were mostly trying out the group for size and having a light meal, and as far as I know, mainly just had Red Beans and Rice and “brussel sprouts with bacon, apples and white truffle oil.” These women have much to learn about gluttony (and sadly, I could teach them.) Even with the modest food ordering, however,  they also had too much food this evening, and ending up taking sizable portions home. Incidentally, Julian, a big B.S. fan (brussel sprouts) absolutely reveled in this particular preparation, saying the apples and bacon the most wonderful combination imaginable, and while his praise was tempting, neither David nor I sampled any, in my case largely because I had so much other food.

Heidi, who also was interested in the “Goat Cheese Gnocchi with apple, roasted garlic, spinach and pecans in bleu cheese buerre fondue” finally decided instead to have the “Fried soft shell crab and crawfish etouffee with Falcon Farm popcorn rice, hollandaise and jalapeno tartar sauce,” an entree I remember garnering rave reviews at our last dinner here. IMG_1409Another gigantic portion, and another person too full to have more than a few bites, but grateful whisked home for a later meal. Julian finished up his evening with the “small plate” of “Crawfish Pie with pecan romesco” a really decent sized serving for only $8, and absolutely delicious. Julian shared, and it was most definitely one of the best things I had on the evening, with a rich pie-crust and mild but tasty crawfish flavor.

Although I certainly would have enjoyed several of the entrees at Acadia, as i said earlier, I had selected what I was going to have in advance, and didn’t even really glance at the menu (probably a good thing, as I couldn’t see it anyway.) IMG_1404Glenda has said before that often she is not interested in the restaurants because they are not the type of food she would prepare at home, and she likes to compare the food she orders in restaurants to similar items she makes at home. I am totally the opposite, when I go out and eat, I want anything but the swill I sling at home, and especially like to order things I find extra challenging or just don’t want to bother with. For this reason, I decided earlier I wanted the “Bacon Fat Fried Catfish with Chantrelles, olives and cucumber tarragon remoulade.” (Like I said earlier I was going for all those classy dishes this evening, gizzards, garbage sucking fish, etc.) As most of the fish markets in Portland have evaporated over the years, except for the really expensive ones in the natural food grocery stores,IMG_1406 I rarely am successful buying decent fish, or even attempt it, and there’s nothing worse than substandard catfish. Also, breading and frying fish at home not only tends to yield disappointing product, but P.U., SCHTINCKY HOUSEHOLD! So I like to leave fried fish to the pros, tempura being one exception. Although it was good, and I ate almost every bite, I must say my entree was a poor second to Julian’s crawfish pie (after all, there was no pie involved.) It was decent catfish though, it just seems to me that nothing compares to the deep fried catfish at Miss Delta, the absolute best, and if you are going to eat something that goes around sucking up garbage, you might as well have it deep fried to boot!

A total oddity on this evening, the only person who really wanted dessert (okay, not counting me, but that’s because I know how good the desserts at Acadia are, not to mention that I’m a pig) was Heidi. Heidi always says she doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, and while she’ll share a bite of Julian’s dessert most of the time, she generally doesn’t have much interest on her own. Acadia had something unusual on the menu, though, something I’ve never even heard of, Malted Chocolate Cake, and as it happens, Heidi loves malted chocolate. As fate would have it, I myself enjoy malted sweet things too (no beer please) and sadly malt has never been particularly popular in this region in my lifetime. Once my local Dairy Queen bit it (what a perverse development!) about 4 years ago, my supply of malt basically bit it too, no more banana or vanilla malts. So I was glad to share an order of Malted Chocolate Cake with Heidi.

In the interim, I had decided to make my way to the restroom, since it always makes my drive home so much more relaxing, rather than leaping out of the car at the old homestead and having a sprint to the finish line if I’ve slurped a lot of beverages at a restaurant. As I mentioned before, although I didn’t imbibe this evening, for some reason my rapidly aging brain seemed even foggier than usual, my guess being that this might have been the result of some prescribed migraine medicine I had taken over the last couple of days for headache issues. I know on preceding occasions over the years, when I might have had a couple or drinks or so and was feeling a bit too zippy, right in the middle of “certain activities” one associates with visiting a bathroom, I have thought, did I get that door locked? Geez, I sure hope so. This is especially alarming in these days of Unisex bathroom chambers. Acadia, as many people might know, is located in a pseudo-Tudor block on Fremont, and whether the bathroom doors are originals or just replicas meant to look antiqeee, they don’t have many of those new fangled contrivances like easy to understand locking mechanisms. Dumbo that I was, when I couldn’t easily see a lock in the normal place on the door, I just assumed it was one of those doors that when you push it closed, you can open it from the inside, but not from the outside. Why did I think a ridiculous thing like that? Why, oh why, oh why????

Well, sadly, we all know where this story leads. There I was, “going about my business”, exposed in all my toilet glory, when I suddenly thought, I sure hope that door is really locked, it looks pretty low tech. More panic, when suddenly I heard voices approaching, and ULTIMATE PANIC, when the door came whipping open, and someone started to enter, when I was still in an “involved, sitting position.” I suppose I should feel consolation, as it was at least a woman, and I’m not sure which of us was the most embarrassed (ME, ME, ME!!!!!!.) I suppose much of my shame was that she was relatively classy looking, and she could not help but think I was either the dumbest person alive or super perv woman, trying to expose her most personal regions to a full dining room (the restrooms at Acadia and the dining room are close to one another, and the cubicle I selected had a door that faced toward the dining room.)

After this, I really just wanted to flush myself, I was not at all looking forward to venturing outside that door, where my surprise visitor might be lurking somewhere, in the dining room, in the bar, maybe joining our table to point and jeer and say “there she is, Miss Peek-A-Boo Naughty Bits!” On the way out, I glanced again at the offending door, and saw the small little sliding deadbolt, there at the top of the frame, hidden by a very dark paint job (which Julian conferred he found somewhat lacking himself.) So out I skulked, back to the table, luckily not seeing my “viewer” anywhere in my sight-line. My major hope, she visited the restroom on her way out of Acadia, or she worked somewhere deeply hidden in the restaurant. I really did not want her seeing any more of me.

My only consolation, the Chocolate Malted Cake was really good, an excellent choice by Heidi. I’m sure I wouldn’t have thought to order it on my own, as for one thing, I couldn’t see it, or anything, on the dessert menu. Also, if I had seen it, I might have mistaken it for some frostingless, flourless, intense chocolate cake thingee, and those rarely appeal to me. This was real cake though, my favorite kind, with moist, light layers, and frosting in the middle, and on the sides and on the top, and it was lovely, and distinctive, because of the malt, so thank you Heidi for wanting it, and letting me share it. It was a yummy solace after my total disgrace.

Heidi had told me earlier that she and Julian had never eaten at Acadia, because the one time they had tried, the restaurant was basically full, and they were told that they could only have a table if they were willing to hurry through their meal, then leave when the reservation showed up. They didn’t go for this proposition, or the way it was said, so they had turned their interest in Southern food to other places like Screen Door. IMG_1410I do think this dinner won them over and put Acadia back in good graces with them, I believe they enjoyed all their food, and thought the menu selections tremendous. I myself like Screen Door, and also Tapalaya, but I still find Acadia maybe one step above, the food is such a wonderful collection of New Orleans’ best, and the atmosphere is always classy, but still friendly. I just wish they would do something about those bathroom door locks. Those suckers have got to go, at least unless you’ve had two or three drinks.