THE DINING REPORT – Mediterranean Exploration Company

Where Israel is no father away than the Pearl (Oye Vey!)

IMG_4294As many people who have read my blog know, I love John Gorham’s restaurants. Toro Bravo has been in my top five since it opened, and Tasty N’ Alder moved way up on my list the first time I ate there. It was with much interest I watched the headlines for the opening of the Mediterranean Exploration Company in the summer of 2014. For one thing, any John Gorham restaurant opening strikes me as definite cause for celebration. Couple this with the fact that his new place was introducing a selection of food from Eastern Mediterranean locales little explored here, places like Israel, Turkey, Morocco and Greece, how could a Portland foodie not be excited? We have a small amount of Middle Eastern food in Portland, largely represented by Lebanese, but as far as countries like Israel and Turkey, we just do not get that kind of food here, and the main Moroccan spot is the rather goofy Marakkesh. We have our Greek places, but none is a standout. Levant has an unusual menu that touches on these regions, and is generally recommended, but I haven’t eaten there, as it’s another place that makes it really hard to take a group, especially on the weekends.

This was my second dinner “back from the brink”, and interestingly, except for two carry-overs from LeVieux, a totally different group from last time out. IMG_4278It was so nice to see Heidi and Julian again, I had not seen them since late Summer of 2014, and Hank has changed from a toddler into a pretty adorable “little man” in that time frame. I had a couple of newcomers at the table, Wendy, whom I had met at a Portland Food Adventures dinner a couple of years ago, and Greg, a potential fellow hiker who conveniently (and expensively) now lives in the Pearl. Both appeared to have a good time. And speaking of the Pearl, also in attendance, Michael, my first ever RR member, and a veteran Pearl dweller. We also welcomed old friends Sylvie and Harvey, Glenda, my stalwart, and old pros David and Shuhong. Later you will hear (read??) from Wendy, who I asked to do a guest review for me, as she is both a really experienced group diner and a contributor to examiner.com where she often writes about food and fitness (Wendy is also the “voice” behind walking.com.) (more…)

The Dining Report – Le Vieux

Touring the World in One Restaurant

As many of you know, our little group has taken a long sabbatical, in the beginning due to me unexpectedly losing my employment.IMG_4271 After finding a job 11 months ago, it took me awhile to get our dining cabal traveling down the local food expressway once again, but on January 24th we had our first dinner since September of 2013. Due to illness, my table wasn’t quite as full as I had planned, but the company I did have on this Saturday evening proved almost overwhelmingly enjoyable.

On this evening, It was extremely nice to be reunited with my good dining friends, most of whom I had not seen in a year or more, Tracy and Peter, Glenda, and David. Also joining me, a new member to Restaurant Roulette, Maya, accompanied by her food enthusiastic friend Teresa, filling in for Maya’s husband Will, who had to give us a pass this time out.

As is my usual modus operandi, I tried to select a restaurant that was fairly new, as any decent new Portland restaurant basically becomes impossible to get into on a Saturday night after a month or so, especially if you have a larger sort of group. IMG_4264I had been reading about the soon to open Le Vieux, and thought their rotating menu of classic European dishes sounded interesting. Also, I had dined in this space, that old house at NW 23rd Place and Vaughn St., almost 20 years ago, and wanted to see what they had done with the place after all that time. Unfortunately, this is one of those locations where no one ever seems to have much luck. While 23rd and Vaughn is a high visibility intersection, as that’s where the freeway off-ramp purges itself, NW 23rd Place and Vaughn manages to be much more tucked away, and since the restaurant is elevated from street level, it’s hard to notice unless you are going east down Vaughn. The acclaimed since it opened Ataula is right around the corner though, so maybe more people are lurking around this block looking for eats, especially when Ataula is full. (more…)


She’s Baaack!

As a “from the beginning” Portlander (my beginning, not the city’s) Ladd’s Carriage House is a lifelong memory for me. IMG_3265In long ago days, the intersection of Broadway and Columbia tended to be one of those you circled constantly, perhaps looking for parking somewhat near the movie theaters that used to line Broadway (I think they are all gone now?) or near the Paramount (the Schnitz) where you might be attending a concert and perhaps sleeping on the sidewalk the night before. The Carriage House was always there (unless you were born before 1883, not me) and while you never saw any activity there, you were happy to see it still existed, even with its somewhat gloomy charcoal and white paint job. As this isn’t Elizabethan England, the building was always a distinctive one here. Portland has been lame when it comes to cool looking timbered construction since the early 20th century, we used to have lots of cast iron (and still have a decent selection) but really no comparable buildings in the Ladd’s Carriage House style.

Yes, it’s true this building was erected to house horses and carriages for the mansion that used to sit across Columbia where that Chevron station has been abandoned for years. Can you imagine what this block would look like if the Ladd Mansion still existed? (Yes, thank god there’s an abandoned gas station there instead!) It seems an interesting juxtaposition though, from horsie stable to multimillion dollar eatery.IMG_3286 Luckily they cleaned up all the poo years ago. There was a time when some offices were in the building, but that seems to have ended decades ago, so all you had over the last 20-30 years or so was a fancy but drooping shell. I read a feature story with Lisa Mygrant, the owner of Raven and Rose, saying one reason the build-out of the restaurant took so long, 14 months, and surely cost so much, was because there was nothing really inside the building to work with, no ducts, plumbing or wiring. I’m not sure what happened to all the infrastructure after the offices moved out, maybe they were removed to make the building “easier” to move and to create more possibilities for a future buyer?


For anyone who is interested, check out my MysteryMeet podcast talking about Restaurant Roulette, Portland dining, and Ox restaurant. Here’s the link: http://mysterymeet.org/find-dining-podcast/podcast-episode-21-ox-in-portland-oregon/.

For all of you who listened to my recent podcast on MysteryMeet and want to know more about what MysteryMeet is all about, there’s a video …http://youtu.be/_RSk4xqHVyk.  Enjoy!

THE DINING REPORT – TRADER VIC’S PuPu Plates, Potted Parrots and Over Active Cleavage

IMG_2464Many people around my age have underage drinking stories of the original Portland Trader Vic’s, which for many years was located in the S.E. corner of the Benson Hotel, where El Gouge-O has successfully been hanging out for a number of more recent years. I don’t think I ever had one morsel of food at the original TV’s, but I do have fond memories of a few Potted Parrots there, this fruity rum drink that comes with a parrot on a stick you get to take home. I was never one of the under agers (that’s me, Miss Law and Order) but I do remember a group of us taking a friend along on a weird late night jaunt there, and I don’t think she was even out of high school. The thing I remember most was having a Potted Parrot delivered to our table for this guy who had run to the bathroom, and since he wasn’t around at the time, we all put a straw in and took a slurp. I think at least one person left their straw behind. Anyway, once Mr. Potty Break came back to the table, he immediately protested, saying no, he had not ordered another drink (we were poor youths, and weren’t dripping in cash) and made the waitress take it back. About 15 minutes later we saw this exact same drink being delivered to another table, slightly slurped and with an excess of straws. Truly appalling, but it did provide a big laugh.

I have this foggy notion (after all, I am OLD) that sometime after that, maybe about 20 years ago, a slightly known date and I meandered into Trader Vic’s during the Starlight Parade, when I again sucked up a Potted Parrot.IMG_2434 I’m pretty sure that was my last brush with the Old Trader Vic’s, and not too many years later they folded up their beach umbrella and left town. Except for a few employees and some major rum hounds, I don’t think anyone really cared much, it’s not like people other than hotel guests and perhaps some other misguided tourist ever ate there. That was my memory of the old Trader Vic’s, except for some alcohol crazed types in the bar, it always seemed pretty empty, although it might have been that it was always so dark that you just couldn’t see people. I also remember they had some incredible blowfish and puffer fish hanging from the ceiling, probably a good place to keep the prickly little objects, to avoid confrontation from all the inebriated people stumbling in and out of the lounge (I think back then the drinks were nice and strong.)



Spock’s In The Potty and the Pork Rinds Are Humongous

Recently a member suggested that we have a dinner on a specific day to benefit a good cause. On April 29th, 2010,  Dining Out For Life International was the beneficiary of a collection of dinners at several Portland restaurants, each of the participating restaurants donating a percentage of their proceeds on this one evening to HIV/Aids research.IMG_1481 The Gilt Club, on Broadway, was donating one of the highest dollar figures per diner, 30%, and Melissa suggested that we should have our tri-weekly dinner on this rather unusual Thursday evening. As it happened, I had recently read in one of the local rags that the Gilt Club had ramped up their dinner offerings with a new chef with very sophisticated leanings, and had been thinking of maybe having hosting an RR dinner here, so I told Melissa I would send out an RSVP notice to see what sort of response we could get.

The response was good (of course three of those people were Melissa and her immediate family) so off we went to the Gilt Club on an unseasonably cool late April evening featuring annoying rain barrages seemingly every few minutes. One nice thing about this rather no man’s land of downtown (not quite Chinatown and not quite the Pearl) it’s not as hard to park as closer to Old Town or farther west by Powell’s.