Sweating It Out In The Parish

There’s something a bit disheartening about going to a recently opened (3 months?) restaurant in the Pearl on a summer’s day of nearly 100 degrees and not finding air conditioning. Are spaces even allowed to open in the environs of the Pearl without A/C? When this was a cooking school before, wouldn’t they have had A/C?IMG_3079 I mean, what the……….? (fill in with your own comfort level of disdain-laden language.) This is a weird complaint coming from me, as my body is nearly always cold and corpse-tempered, and although I had been dying from the heat for two days, I didn’t even turn on my car A/C until I was nearly to the restaurant. So if I was over-heated, it must have been uncomfortable. I know the South is supposed to be all hot and sweaty, but would an upscale restaurant really open in a upper class district without having A/C? It seems highly unthinkable, so I can’t help but wonder if maybe the A/C at The Parish had broken down, or was overwhelmed by the extreme heat, or just not effective in the little private room we were shuttled to, off the main dining room. You would think they would mention it to us though, if one of the latter scenarios was the case, as they had to notice we were hot, as we kept asking for pitchers of ice and saying “man, we’re hot” and because the waiter looked incredibly uncomfortable himself (although the young hostesses seemed fresh all evening.)

Actually, I had read and heard how nice the decor was inside The Parish, and that the owners (the EaT Oyster Bar people) had done their best to bring an upscale New Orleans dining house to Portland, so I would have liked to have seen more than our hot and noisy little room. Even a trip to the restroom yielded no results (so to speak) as it was within steps of our isolation chamber, so the only interesting thing I could see was jars of pickled goods under the hostesses station. As for our room, besides the big table and the torture chairs, the only other things to look at (besides the “winners” I was dining with, tee hee) was a rather ratty looking wild boar head mounted high on the wall opposite me (wild boars could use a comb and a toothbrush) and a rather creepy black and white old timey photograph of three youths dressed is very scary evangelical garb.IMG_3094 As is usual with these private rooms, not exactly decked out to the nines. I can understand why sometimes people put large, loud, unruly groups in these separate areas (for example, bachelorette parties or groups of prom-goers) but we are distinguished diners who have to be a good example to other patrons with our effusive ordering, so why wouldn’t restaurants want to show us off? (rather sadly, RR’s loud and crazy days of boisterous and improper behavior and subject matter (diddle rooms) seem to have ceased and desisted long ago. My current regulars are great, but I miss those occasional kooks.) The problem with most private dining areas, they lack the character of the rest of the restaurant (one exception, Aviary) so not only do you not get the flavor of the restaurant, your surroundings are often lifeless.

I’m very thankful that this summer I have been experiencing better than usual turnouts, once again due to my food-lovin’ group of current regulars. IMG_3083This time my roster of nine was very similar to the group we had a Carpaccio Trattoria, Glenda, Heidi, Julian, Hank, David, Shohong, Cora and Sam, with one notable addition, Sam’s father, Jerry, who was visiting from Chicago. Although it was between 95-100 degrees out, Jerry, in his 8th decade, was a real trooper. Over the last couple of days he had been at Smith Rock, Silver Falls, and now to a non-air conditioned restaurant. What endurance! Somehow, everyone had one thing in common this evening, we were too hot. Even little Hank, who was a model gentleman at the last dinner, seemed a bit more testy this evening, as he too seemed overheated, Luckily, on the couple of occasions he cried a bit, the acoustics were so bad we could barely hear him. He did seem to be sucking his bottle with incredible vigor though, perhaps wishing for a cool Mint Julep. Also, like his mother, he seems to have an appreciation for good books. In Heidi’s case, she savors reading them, in Hank’s case, he gnaws on them with great relish. (more…)

The Dining Report – Irving Street Kitchen

Wacky Lighting Fixtures, An Annoying Dining Area, and the Delicious Missing Lamb

Sometimes, when summer starts to wane, so does my poor old brain. I have a terrible time being inside tapping away at my keyboard, knowing that soon those toasty summer days I live for are becoming shorter, and cooler, and soon I will be, literally, huddled around my space heater trying to type circulation back into my freezing fingers.IMG_1743 Almost every substantial vacation I have taken in my life has been to a warm climate, Mexico, the Caribbean, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and France (all in late summer months) I seek sun and warmth and light whenever possible, and when they are no longer available, I basically want to shrivel up (or in my case shiver up) and die. So when the weather is nice, I’m almost always outside, whenever possible, not pasted in front of my computer plunking out those pithy (or marginally pithy) comments on our latest dinner, no matter how successful or enjoyable our last dinner might have been. So excuse me if this particular dinner report comes across as extra lame, but summer is dying, and so is a large section of my heart (luckily most of my brain went years ago.) (more…)


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. (more…)


The Dining Report – Tapalaya

Try Chewing Those Patooties Without Any Etoufees

Kudos to 28th for attracting another reasonably priced restaurant. Is there really another street in Portland that within about six to eight blocks you can find restaurants like Pambiche, Dove Vivi, Fonda Rosa, La Buca, Navarre, Esparazas, Ken’s Artisan Pizza, and now Tapalaya? Lots of good quality food at a moderate cost. Sure, Alberta and Mississippi have good places in close proximy to one another as well, but lots of those places will set you back more than a few bucks, where basically every place on 28th can be relatively inexpensive, at least as far as our trying economic times go and how much things cost these days.

Health nut that I am (????) I love Southern food, and basically when I hear a new Southern inspired restaurant is opening in these parts, I’m there.IMG_0873 Except for ribs though, Portland’s interest in the food from down South seems fleeting at best, so many of the Southern places don’t seem to last around here for too long. I’ve always been rather ambivalent about Bernie’s, but most of the other Southern places we have in Portland I love, Acadia, Roux, The Screen Door, Miss Delta, yum, yum, yum. So imagine my excitement when I read a few months ago that a New Orleans inspired restaurant with small plates would be opening soon in the space vacated by the unfortunate Taqueria Nueve, especially since small plates means you can sample lots of different things, which is just what out group of eight did this pre-inauguration Friday night.

It’s easy for me to make positive comments on the dinners, because as hostess and RR promoter, it’s my job, but I think this was a relatively fun and lively outing for us. For one thing, Southern food is almost always fun, much having to do with the names. Who can really take dishes with titles like Etoufee, Gumbo, Jambalaya, Sweet Patootie, or Hominy too seriously? IMG_0869Just ordering makes you feel goofy, especially once you get some of those extra strong New Orleans style beverages in you. Also, we had a couple of new recruits joining us on this evening, actual Southerners (originally Floridians) drawn by the promise of down home cookin’ and reasonable prices (one of the two is famously thrifty when it comes to going out to eat.) So thank you Betsy and Dennis, for finally giving RR a whirl. It was fun having you (even if I do see one of you over 36 hours a week,) I hope we see you again someday (I’ll let DM know when we have another inexpensive restaurant on the horizon.) Actually this was an evening when I had two of my co-workers join my table, so not only was my profession well supported, but we also had three people who work in the medical profession, at least three avid readers who obsessively purchase and borrow books, and several rabid Obamites at the far end of our table. (Although the way things are right now, I think we all need to be rabid Obamites and offer our support.) (more…)

View coming events here.
screendoor.jpgNormally I would be a generous hostess, and post the guest review first. But as I’ve tried to create a somewhat cohesive review (I only said TRIED), I’ve posted Marnie’s and Leo’s review after mine. You have my permission to skip directly there if you like.

The gang

Everyone’s palate is geared differently, and consequently everyone has their favorite styles of cooking. The two I most frequently hear people going on about are Indian and Thai. As far as Asian foods, Japanese and Thai are my two favorites “from the East,” but as my tastes for both of them go in streaks, I wouldn’t put them amongst my absolute favorite types of cuisine to eat as frequently as possible. What are my favorites? (hey, at least I’m interested in this topic.) They would have to be Mexican, Caribbean, Italian, and Southern (in no particular order.) Is it any wonder I’ve gained a clothing size over the last two years? (yes, we’ll leave it as a single digit clothing increase.) These aren’t exactly light and healthy fares.
Getting good quality Mexican and Italian meals around Portland is pretty easy, we have it all from cheap to expensive, from knock-off to authentic. Caribbean and Southern are always more difficult around here, they have their connection to each other through Cajun and Creole, mingling on multiple fronts, but for some reason the Pacific Northwest is just a little too North, and a little too West to make it a mecca for these two delicious cuisines. BBQ is one thing, Portland has some good barbecue joints, but other southern specialties, they just aren’t that wide ranging here, except perhaps in some of those humble little places in No Po I just never make it to.