american


THE DINING REPORT – Old Salt Marketplace

But Perfectly New Food

As Portland is now famous for its farm to table food ethic and its often unconventional approach to restauranteering (food trucks, pop-ups)  it’s no surprise we are now seeing places like Old Salt Marketplace on the scene.IMG_3767 What could be better than a space that has a deli, cafe, butcher shop, farmer’s market, bar, commissary kitchen, cooking school and quality restaurant all in the same space? Old Salt is the vision of Ben Meyer (Grain and Gristle) and Alex Ganum (Upright Brewing). According to Meyer, formerly of Ned Ludd, his idea was to open the type of establishment he wanted to see in his neighborhood, a place to stop in and grab the fixings for a meal at home, where you can also buy an already prepared meal to go, or even just sit down and eat or have a drink at the bar. Old Salt opened in early May, and the droves came immediately to their unique space. Somewhat similar to Ned Ludd with their wood burning oven, the Old Salt Supper house does most of their cooking in an open hearth, sort of like a fireplace. Where the cooking at Ned Ludd is Industrial Revolution Revolt style, the style of cuisine at Old Salt is billed as Colonial cookery, and the deli extensively features American products. There is also a heavy emphasis on butchery, supplying the meat market, Old Salt Supperhouse, and Grain and Gristle.

N.E. 42nd Avenue, in the Cully and Concordia neighborhoods, isn’t an area I am particularly familiar with. IMG_3764Basically you go there if you live around there, or you need something there. In the past ten or so years I have driven down 42nd a couple of times (which is a lot compared to none) so I knew the easiest way to get there, but was surprised how quiet and neighborhoody the street is around Alberta; I thought it was a wider and more traveled boulevard. Old Salt was easy to find, and when you have a reservation as early as ours (5:30) it is easy to park. I read somewhere later that Old Salt doesn’t take reservations, but when I called up for one, they certainly had no problem giving me one, the only stipulations the somewhat unpleasant 5:30 PM or 9:00 PM. Although they offer a million “services” at this modern day marketplace, the dining area at Old Salt isn’t really very large, and we actually sat in the meat market/deli side, not on the bar side where most people looked to be, so I can see why they would offer limited group reservations. Almost all the time we were there, people were queueing up by the door to eat. (more…)

THE DINING REPORT – THE COUNTRY CAT

Youngest Member Ever Plays Restaurant Roulette!

THIS DINNER WAS JANUARY 20th, BUT I’VE BEEN CREATIVELY LAME.

It’s hard to know what to say about our evening at the Country Cat. In December of 2008 we had a dinner there, and as per usual, I blathered on about Montavilla, the restaurant itself, and chef Adam Sappington. Adam is famous for knowing his way around a pig, and when he competes in local famous chef cooking competitions, he more often than not wins them.

IMG_2687Back then I whined (and am still doing that) about the fact that although for 13 years I lived about seven blocks from here, at that time this area of SE Stark Street was an incredible wasteland, and while Ya Hala got going toward the end of my North Tabor residency, it wasn’t until the opening of the Country Cat that things really seemed to hum around here, and now the entire area between 76th and 82nd is nothing but cool shops, eateries, bakeries, bars, and even a second run theater (The Academy.) Where was all this great stuff (the Observatory, Tanuki, Pastry Girl etc.) when I wanted to eat out and had to drive five miles away for yummy eats? I must say gentrification only goes so far, however, gingerly step one block North of CC and you are still in the sleazy, tavern ridden, drug house and tenement apartment neighborhood I used to always ride my bike through to go up fancier Mt. Tabor. Better one really good commercial street than none though, although that tavern right next to the restaurant still draws that charming sort of patron who rides, screaming, on the hood area of moving vehicles (yes, Glenda and I did enjoy that spectacle, or at least try to avoid it.)

The Country Cat is one of those restaurants you enter, and it smells wonderful, like BBQ pork, and the space is modern and attractive, but friendly and casual (word of warning to the feeble bodied, though, which must include me, the elaborate wooden door weighs several hundred pounds and can be quite a chore to open.) IMG_2677Usually there are neighborhood families and friends inside, and children, so it was probably appropriate that Heidi and Julian brought their young un, Hank, to his first dinner, at the advanced age of 4 months. Yes, we have a new “youngest member ever in RR”, 4 months old! Glenda didn’t seem to approve of the hat Julian wore to the dinner, but did not complain about Hank’s headgear, so I think we are making progress! (more…)

THE DINING REPORT- It’s Otto!!!!
Why not Toot???

CLOSED

What’s in a name? Well, if your name is Otto and you are a relatively new restaurant in Portland, there could be confusion. IMG_2349 Particularly if you are a relatively upscale restaurant, especially one without Bavarian leanings. I’m certain the couple behind Otto had a good reason for selecting the name, perhaps a beloved family member or dearly departed pet (do people name serious restaurants after their pets? Hmm) but whatever the case, if these folks were from around these here parts (I think I read months ago they hail from Michigan) it seems unlikely they would have latched onto Otto, since we already have Otto’s Sausage Kitchen, operating since the 20s, and a place I’m not familiar with (it’s in Beaverton, we all know I don’t go THERE) called Otto’s & Anita’s, which I’m told is some sort of whee-haw-lederhosen-special occasion place.

As they always say, you can’t judge a book by its cover, but whatever the reason, people here just do not associate Otto with fancy, and Glenda kept implying it reminded her of an alpine gondola operator.IMG_2353 When we went there, several at out table actually complained to the staff about the name, and I could tell they had probably heard it all before. It is a nice round, symmetrical name though, and what could make a better logo than a palindrome? That being said, Otto could avoid all these issues by keeping their same letters, but just internalizing those Os. After all, who doesn’t want to go out for fine dining at a place called Toot? Hey, it’s still a palindrome.

I suppose if Otto seemed like it was on a path that would rocket it to instant fame, it would be easier to not worry whether the rather confusing name would prove problematic in Puddletown. The major probleappears to be that Otto most likely has other bad karma mojo-ing its happiness, nothing at all to do with the good food or pleasant people who work there.
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THE DINING REPORT – OLYMPIC PROVISIONS
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.
 

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The Dining Report – Davis Street Tavern

Attack Of The Killer Croutons!

Most of the time I keep up pretty well when decent restaurants open in Portland, through reading various publications and the internet I try to find the interesting and well reviewed new places to take our group. IMG_1364For some reason, I have no idea when Davis Street Tavern opened. I’m not sure if this during a flurry of local restaurant activity or what, but as near as I can find, it opened in the last half of 2008, and I had not even heard of it until the middle of this year. I also had absolutely no idea where the exact location was, until I did a Google ground search and saw it lurking there in the bottom half of the always wonderful Butters Gallery building.

I was looking for a place at least semi-budget conscious for a day after Christmas RR dinner, and remembered that WW had included Davis Street amongst Portland’s 100 best restaurants, so I decided that although I had never really read anything about the place besides the remarks in WW, I would give it a try. I had also read that the space boasted two ambiences and two menus, the warm and convivial tavern with its small plates, and the more formal dining room with larger entrees and a selection of three fixed priced dinners for $25. Although the tavern side seemed to get the best reviews, I wanted people to have more substantial dishes to chose from, and everyone seems to like the bargain of a fixed price deal. So the dining room it was. (more…)

THE DINING REPORT – JUST TRYING TO CATCH-UP AFTER MY MASSIVE ATTACK OF LAZINESS –

BITS AND PIECES FROM RESTAURANT ROULETTE

First of all, let me clarify, I am not of a lazy nature, except when it comes to blogging. I have spent our warmer months doing PLENTY of yard work, housecleaning, exercising, even a mini building project, I just have not had the willpower to sit around plunking on my keyboard. Consequently, I have actually read many of those books I obsessively buy, so much nicer when sitting out on the deck surrounded by flora and fauna than my winter routine of reading huddled in front of a space heater. But heartbreakingly, the summer yard work season is already waning, my crazed trips to the gardening center are over, and in a month and a half, I’m sure to be stationed in front of that space heater once again. So it’s time to gather some discipline and start training myself once again to spend many of my home hours in front of this glowing screen, devoting huge increments of time documenting our latest RR dinner, instead of my summer computer activity, fantasizing about cheap Craig’s List vacation rentals I’m viewing on-line.

First of all, since I’ve been away (in late July) our good friends Tori and Dave managed to produce their offspring, Kellen Nunn Jones. Although we may not see them again for 15 years of so, I know we all applaud their effort and wish the best for Tori, Dave, young Kellen and brother Jimmy (hey, dogs are people too!)

I can’t really tell you what’s going on with too many other people in the group, as I haven’t seen or heard from them (HINT, HINT) but for those of you who remember those glory days when Marnie and Leo were wonderful members, they finally found a really swanky looking abode to their liking our in Aloha, and moved in a couple of weeks ago. So yes, now we Oregonians are stuck with them, until they decide to try to flip their somewhat rural mansion. I’ve also dined privately with a few people from our seemingly fragmented dining group, so have managed a couple of dinners at Toro Bravo, and meals at Tapalaya, Navarre, and the scary but festive food carts on Hawthorne (there’s nothing like a meal consisting of fries and a hand pie). I’ve also had lunches at The Blue Olive, Nel Centro, Meat Cheese and Bread, and Navarre. Really not much eating out over a three month time period, especially from someone who got sick of eating their own cooking over 3 years ago.

Restaurant Roulette did manage a couple of dinners in June, both with only a sprinkling of attendees, so I will include some comments on them to follow, as they featured good meals. I know times are tough out there, but things are supposed to be looking up, so hopefully we will see a few more of your food filled faces over the coming months.

So anyway, let’s begin with the review I started to write, In early June, on our dinner at Park Kitchen ….

THE DINING REPORT – PARK KITCHEN  – June 6th, 2009

A Palace of Ample Parking

Okay, you tell me. When is the last time you went to a dinner at a famous Pearl District eatery, on a Saturday evening at 6:30, and everyone in your group found metered parking either in front of or two doors down from the restaurant? True, we were a small group, but still, three cars worth of parking in the P.D. at a peak entertainment time, miraculous! So just remember, if you want a great meal and plentiful parking, head for Park Kitchen.

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Here’s a Guest Review from our old friends Frank and Grace, and their very mixed feelings about the relatively new 50 PLATES ….

 

It’s been a while since Grace and I have tried a new restaurant.  So when the chance presented itself, we selected 50 Plates.  Our selection process was easy.  We just went to Google, typed in “new restaurants Portland” and picked out the choices all-knowing Google spat out.  Kind of like using the Magic 8-Ball.  I must apologize for the lack of photographs.  We had to sneak out of the house in a hurry and forgot to bring our digital camera.

 

50 Plates is located on NW 13th and Flanders.  I think it was in the old Little Wing café site, although I could be wrong.  So on a muggy hot Saturday evening, my wife and I  made the trek to the Pearl. 

 

The décor is typical Pearl.  Sort of modern chic-industrial.  And while I thought 50 Plates referenced the menu (sorry, I am literal sometimes), I think in fact, it referenced the collage of license plates (aha!, 50 states, 50 plates!) in the entry. 

 

Since we cruised in around 9PM, getting a table wasn’t difficult,  We sat down and were presented the menu.  After ordering our initial drinks, we received our choice of “breads”.  Our choices were biscuits or cornbread.  My wife chose the biscuit and I chose the cornbread.  Unfortunately, I did not get to sample the biscuit.  Preferences for cornbread is a very personal thing and there are likely millions of different recipes.  I like mine slightly sweet, slightly on the moist side.  The 50 Plates version came in a small muffin-top version that was on the more  moist side and perhaps slightly too sweet.

 

The restaurant seems slightly busy and so the service was a little slow.  Later we were told that the owners were at this very boisterous (loud) table near us and that the staff were naturally giving them more attention. 

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Five Woody’s, Some Innards, Dead Bunnies, Veggies Masquerading As Buffalo, and A Big Box Full Of Fun

(and don’t forget to grab a piece of dental floss.)

Anyone who ever travels down NE Fremont through Rose City Park and Beaumont-Wilshire has to recognize Fife, that big wooden box that went up in the last decade. perhaps where the original Rose’s Ice Cream used to stand in long gone eras. Although I usually prefer rehabbing old buildings into new spaces, or at least making the new look old to fit in with neighboring structures (like those ridiculously expensive condos a couple of blocks east,) for new construction, I’ve always thought the Fife building relatively attractive and interesting, probably because of all the warm wood. IMG_0240.JPGEver since it was built, I wanted to eat there, and have heard good things about it, except for cold and breezy in the winter (all those windows on the front,) and terrible acoustics. If I didn’t take the group to restaurants with bad acoustics though, we would never go anywhere popular.

People who actually still read these juggernauts of dining excess know that since the beginning of this year I have had problems getting people to attend the dinners, or actually making the dinners once they RSVP (usually a reasonable excuse is sent my way.) Fife was a nice exception, as many people showed interest by RSVPing early. As it happens, I still managed to lose four people before the dinner rolled around, but we still had a healthy group of nine show up, a nice mix of old regulars, some of my mid-range always cherished regulars, and a new face in the crowd. Our new member, who blended in flawlessly, was Nancy, a lover of good food and dining out, who conveniently lives about three minutes away and loves visiting Fife (although usually not in groups of nine I would suspect.) As in my customarily somewhat rude habit, I sat right in the middle of the table, and with such a fun and interesting bunch, got whiplash by the end of the evening, turning my head abruptly back and forth to try to address the various people sending comments my way, and trying to horn in on as much interesting conversation as I could. Fife is indeed a very loud place though, and on many occasions I had to turn up the volume on my already jarring natural tones to be heard, and had a really hard time hearing those of a naturally soft-spoken (but forceful) nature like Glenda. Everyone had an old RR pro sitting by them to converse with though, so whether it was hard to hear the whole table or not, I think everyone got in on some good conversation and humorously repartee.

IMG_0241.JPGAs makes sense with a space that really is a big box, Fife is roomy, airy, and had at least three large tables of people going at the same time. Large restaurant, tiny parking lot, I think I noticed six spaces in there when I was tardily zooming by to find street parking. Driving around on this part of Fremont tends to be both a driving and parking nightmare, tiny, barely passable residential streets, terrible sight lines turning out from these dinky side streets, basically a barely two lane residential thoroughfare with about 15 commercial blocks. Big fun, no wonder the speed limit here is a crawling 20 mph.
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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…)

Part of the GangIt’s that Meatapalooza Friday Following That Eatapalooza Thursday.Thanks to the six other hungry souls (with one missing in action) who braved that nasty freezing wind and those other unpleasant coldnesses to join me in eating fatty BBQed meaties a day after everyone’s favorite November holiday for gorging (unless you are really big on Veteran’s Day, of course.) It was certainly the highlight of my extended weekend.

And thank you Russell St. gang for listening to me endlessly prattle on about my new digital camera, which I had braved intense shopper insanity to purchase that very Black Friday in hopes of regularly livening up this blog with pithy photography. I know I probably got a tad carried away, frantically prancing around the table forcing my camera in front of your food, and taking those pictures of the gum under the table and the server’s ear hair, but you just never know what will become that special shot. So thanks for putting up with me, especially since I barely know how to use this contraption and had only taken about eight photos before I unleashed myself at Russell Street. It was nice hearing peoplMore of the Gange’s holiday stories, Brian and his dinner of multitudes with the free flowing liquor, Grace getting up at 2:00 am to brave mall craziness with her two under age five daughters, (Daddy Frank still cozily asleep at home in bed,) and Tori and Dave, often our most colorful couple, with their enchanting tale of seeing their host’s holiday table start to burn up before their eyes, and everyone frantically pounding out the flames with spoons. I just hope these fire fighting implements weren’t part of the “good silverware.” Unfortunately, my only noteworthy story to contribute was how I had been hobbled for two days when I tweaked my back picking up some doggie poo from the yard Thanksgiving afternoon. And happy holidays to you all! (And now no one will doubt I have a maximum strength canine. I guess I need to switch her back to that light food.) (more…)

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