World of Weenies and Other Elongated, Stuffed, Cured, and Tasty Tidbits

Summer is finally here, kinda, and consequently my mind had been imploded into little bits and pieces by a yard project that should haven taken about two weeks, but took me two months to bring to completion, despite my having devoted almost every daylight hour of my spare time to it. Consequently, the Dining Report on our dinner at Olympics Provisions NW is more or less bits, pieces, recollections, and photos, but here’s what I’ve got, choppy but true …………………

A weird use of the former Carlyle space, which previously struck me as large and classy (although for some reason, the lunch I had there was greasy plus, but good.) IMG_2233If you didn’t know that you were eating there, you would not recognize it. I assume OPNW (Olympic Provisions Northwest) wanted most of the space for working their sausage and other charcuterie magic, but the dining area that is left is pretty basic looking (and really bright from lots of windows) modern, sleek, but really crowded (especially as some of the tables are communal) and loud. When we first arrived, the place was packed, perhaps with people picking up sundries for their Friday night dinner and weekend noshes at the meat counter, and you could barely get through the door, or be heard at all. Later it settled down a bit, and wasn’t quite as crowded, and you could actually hear yourself think (or in my case, clunking noises were emanating from my cranium.) I’ve never been to the original OPE (East) but Barbara commented that she appreciated all the light and bright in this space opposed to the hulking warehouse atmosphere of the original OP (no flashing, broken MEAT sign here.) A couple of our late arrivals were confused by our communal table, however, and kept thinking the people at the end were new group members.

Just like Cabezon (oh, boy!) Gilda’s, Piazza Italia, and other such places, I don’t really enjoy the ambiance of a retail counter in the dining region (Gilda’s it was just a wine counter, but it looked the same) and at least at Laurelhurst Market they have the good sense to put it in a separate area so it doesn’t “declassify” the whole dining area. IMG_2217I suppose what really harshed my vibe at OPW was the fact that not only did I spend way too much on dinner, but then I spent extra money on the way out the door on some bacon for my upcoming quiche (good bacon is SO hard to find.) As mentioned previously, however, OP is totally about making and selling that charcuterie though, so in their case the dining area might be the fluff, where that counter is the “meat and bones” of their operation.

New additions to the group (besides the strangers at the end of the table who weren’t, but were co-habitating.) IMG_2218Liz, who we are so glad to have back for a second dinner after her several month break exploring  a world of medical mis-diagnosis and bland diets, brought her really personable friend Ryan, who seemingly stopped at the “Mr. Wonderful Shoppe” on the way over to pick-up an attractive wardrobe, good hair, and delightful manners and personality too. Not only that, but he doesn’t eat meat either. On the way home, Glenda and I were both wondering where we could order our own, slightly older version of this really impressive individual, can you get them at Do they come with Overnight Shipping?? Sorry Ryan, I don’t mean to embarrass you, we are just ALWAYS glad to have new joinees.

Hey, and what about those turnips! One of the reasons people were slightly confused whether the people at the end of our table were with our group is that they were really friendly, and talked quite a bit about the food and restaurant. IMG_2219They strongly recommended to Ryan that he check out one of that night’s specials, which was a turnip presentation (sorry, I have no idea how they were prepared, normally when my mind registers words like turnip, rutabaga, or parsnip, my eyes shut down and lose the ability to comprehend the symbols.) As well they should though, I’ve noticed the non-meat eaters in our group embrace the scarier veggies, after all, who wouldn’t want as many choices as possible? So Ryan decided he would give the turnips a go, and they were a pretty presentation, this beautiful, well scrubbed bunch about 2 inches in diameter, complete with greens and all. Obviously, this was a dish based in minimal preparation and simplicity, so after contemplation about how to eat them, Ryan carefully applied knife and fork to the beasts, only to have one of the little monsters go shooting across the floor and lodge itself over by the restroom door, as those rooties were barely cooked at all. Poor Ryan, he was so polite and embarrassed, this was his first dinner, and he clearly didn’t understand at this juncture that Restaurant Roulette is a dining event of often non-stop eating faux pas, most all of them perpetrated by yours truly (what do you mean, the food goes in my mouth???) It was nice to see someone else trying to coral a rolling sphere of food shooting across the floor, hoping to escape notice (sorry Ryan, not with annoying sorts like me around, especially when I am relatively starved for amusing dining adventures to detail for my reader(s).)

As far as how the turnips tasted, although he kindly offered me one, I just had to decline, as it was my one Friday a month when I abstain from eating crunchy, white, eyeball looking objects, but Ryan seemed ever diplomatic, and said that while he might have appreciated a tad more cooking, the flavor was really nice (maybe he mentioned a hint of lemon?) IMG_2220It turns out they were: Japanese turnips, olive oil, sea salt, lemon He did say, however, that if he had to do it all over again, instead of the turnips he would have gotten the salad that both Melissa and I had, Spinach, strawberries, buttermilk blue cheese and balsamic-roasted onion, which had an unusual treatment of the strawberries, cooking.

Poor Glenda, who had taken public transportation, like a true proletariat, had had a rough time getting to the restaurant, and came drooping in many minutes after the rest of us. There had been some driving rain and hail showers about half and hour earlier (better than tornados, tsunamis, and radiation leaks though) and Glenda had gotten stuck outside in one, and her parasol had gotten shredded to bits. The faithful implement had faithfully shielded her famous do, but ended up tattered in a random waste receptacle. IMG_2216Consequently, the minute Glenda sat down she started bellowing for a drink (okay, bellowing in a quiet librarian’s tone, but insistent none the less!) The waitress, rather harried as she was, since the place was a madhouse, did the best she could getting Glenda her drink, but no booze could really be served rapidly enough for this rain battered soul.

Luckily, Glenda calmed down a touch when her big honkin’ bowl o’ soup arrived, which might have been because it was potentially large enough to take a bath in. There are generally three kind of places our group ventures into, those which have a menu set in stone, those that shake it up now then, and those who’s online menu is updated relatively frequently, but is still out of date constantly, as they are changing things up every week or even every evening.IMG_2223 I mention this because when OPNW opened I noticed their online menu stayed in the same basic tiny form until the week of our dinner, then changed slightly, and was still different when we got to the restaurant. Noticing this I should have been sharp enough to grab a menu for the evening so I could actually talk about the food we ate, especially since I’ve been doing this for 5 years now, but duh, yet again I forgot. Now trying to write about the food, three weeks later, isn’t working out in the best possible fashion. which brings me back to those big bowls of soup that both Glenda and Barbara were trying to at least consume a decent portion of (Glenda mentioned numerous times, oh, this is a meal in itself, and we all know that gal has a hollow leg, some areas of which she stores food in, unlike those hollow legs Liz has, those are put to far different, more humanitarian uses, like swatting her roomies with.) Anyway, looking at the latest online menu, my guess is that the vat of soup was this “Sorrel soup, black pepper cream, croutons.” Now that I think of it, I don’t even know what sorrel really is, I thought it was a color horses came in. Do you suppose the soup was full of horse meat? Maybe that’s why it was so large.

Although I found it painful to put out the money, as I was also having a salad, entree, and dessert, it seem disgraceful to come to OPNW and not order charcuterie, after all, that’s what this place is all about, so I ordered one to share with our end of the table (the Halle’s had one going at their end of the table.) It was a nice little platter of ground items, sausages, mustards, and gerkins, but they were awfully stingy with the toasted bread slices, three of four thin slivers for the entire platter, so we had to ask for more bread, as did the Halle’s. Seems kind of a funny decision to make, give an adequate amount of the more expensive, labor intensive items, but then ration out tiny toasted bread slices. IMG_2229Perhaps we were being charcuterie infidels and putting too many items on the bread, and that’s why we needed more than they planned on. Whatever the case, since it seems like this is a busy sort of place, it might be easier on the waitstaff if they gave out more bread to begin with, saving the servers always having to run back to the kitchen for three or four more little slices.

As far as entrees, here’s a few comments on what we got –
Porchetta, cannellini beans, piquillo peppers, balsamic roasted onions, spinach and radish greens- Someone at the table asked what Porchetta was, and it was explained it is pork stuffed with sausage. John had this and seemed to think it was pretty good, although it seemed rather odd how many greens you had to dig through to find the pork.

Chitarra, basil pesto, walnuts, grana padano – Liz ordered this solely because she’s an adventurous type and didn’t know what Chitarra was. Although it was by no means bad, I think she was relatively disappointed, as it ended up being just a plate of pasta with pesto, walnuts, and cheese.

Trout, asparagus, sorrel, basil, almond-citrus relish – IMG_2227Glenda has really been “boning-up” on her trout these days, as she had it both here and at St. Jack, the previous dinner. At St. Jack the trout came on a bed of lentils and here it was served with a yummy looking side of asparagus. Glenda said it was fine, but not as delicious as the version at St. Jack, but perhaps that was really the Francophile within Glenda coming out, not her taste buds talking.

Polenta, spring vegetables, sunny side egg, cheese broth – This was certainly an unusual polenta presentation, sort of like a polenta soup. I didn’t really hear Barbara’s opinion, but Ryan seemed to like it, and was disappointed when he had to leave in a hurry and almost lost his leftovers (the waitress came sprinting at him at the last second with his little brown container .) I never did hear if the cheese broth was like liquified cheeze whiz though.

Not long after Olympic Provisions NW opened I read a review somewhere, maybe Portland Monthly online, that mentioned that they had an incredibly wonderful piece of beef on their menu (I can’t remember if it was a Rib Eye or a NY) that was really amazingly prepared for the amount of money they were charging for it, which was somewhere in the low $20s. IMG_2231Me, being a shameless beef gobbler, was all ready to try this, but naturally beef wasn’t on the menu this evening.

So instead, although I find somewhat intact chicken carcasses hard to deal with these days (it’s those little clucksters at home) I went with my second selection, the rotisserie chicken with schmaltz potatoes, scallions, and bacon, which came in half or whole. IMG_2226This was another item I had read OP did an excellent job on, and it was nice, relatively moist with good flavor, as one would imagine, far superior to that drippy, greasy, twirling hulk you pick up at the local market. The schmaltz potatoes weren’t bad either, little rich, round orbs of potatodom, made better by the little hunks of bacon and green onions scattered around the plate. As the official definition of Schmaltz mentions being dripped in fat, I don’t know if this means that the potatoes are cooked beneath the chickens, so the fat drips off onto them from above, if they are covered with the fat from the chickens, or if they are merely prepared with a hearty dose of some sort of fat or other.

IMG_2235Three desserts were ordered, a pretty standard looking chocolate,-hazelnut torte, tiramisu, and chocolate salami. Glenda is somewhat of a tiramisu connoisseur (someone better tell her it’s not French) and orders it quite often, but I really did not hear how yummy she found this one, but she certainly ate it all up.

I had the chocolate salami, which was one of those deconstructed desserts, some slices chopped off a dark chocolate/nut roll, a pile of cookie/cracker/biscuits that had a really nice texture (buttery) and a salty aftertaste, and a puddle of some sort of orange marmalade concoction. IMG_2237The biscuits were yummy, the chocolate was good, but the orange accompaniment was relatively so, so, although Melissa enjoyed scooping it off my plate to liven up the chocolate hazelnut torte the Halle’s were sharing. One thing I’ve noticed about Melissa, she won’t hog all your food (she’s not much of a meat eater) but she will nibble at the corners, a potato here, a glop of orange substance there.

Our verdict on Olympic Provisions NW?  Not bad. Kind of a Portland scene, and not the most relaxing spot for a quiet dinner, but good, innovative cooking in a fresh, clean atmosphere.IMG_2236 The owners are young, the servers are young but professional, and the menu is smallish but evolving. Certainly leaps and bounds above a meal at your local deli counter. And what about that bacon? Well, I’ve been eating bacon and other smoked goods and sausages from Otto’s Sausage Kitchen my entire life, so I know good cured meats. Flavor-wise, I don’t know if I liked OPs bacon any better than Otto’s, which probably is my favorite tasting bacon. Decent though. As far as the quality of the pork, however, OP wins handily, as much as I love Otto’s, they are often plagued by fatty bacon, sometimes I don’t buy it because the fat ratio to the meat ratio is too high. This was not the case at OP, the night I bought it, it was as lean as you would want bacon. That being said, the prices certainly reflect this fact, Otto’s bacon tends to be less than $5 a pound, and OPs was double that price. You get what you pay for I guess.