Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Portland, Je T'aime - Part 1 Day 1

It was an all too natural progression. It snuck up so quickly. First there was an eager anticipation, then a sudden meeting. There were moments of laughter, comfort and passion all intertwining into a genuinely sweet disposition. Portland, je t'aime and I didn't even know it.

Sadly, this is not a love story. And while I have the gut feeling that Portland may be the right city, you made your appearance at the wrong time in my life. And, timing in life, as the equally unmotivated say, is everything.

So, I sit here with only fond memories and sweet cliches of love and loss - ready now to recollect my beautiful 3 perfect days of Summer with Portland.

Day 1 - Thursday morning: How Do You Do Voodoo?

The second I stepped out of the airport tunnel, I found the Tri Met station in front of me. The second I stepped out of the Tri Met train, I found my hotel right in front of me. Either the stars were lined up that day for me or somebody was very smart about his hotel selections. Yes, that would be brilliant and modest me.

30 minutes of ooohing and aaaahing later in the Nines hotel, my group and I were off to Voodoo Donuts for a glucose induced seizure - one that can only be brought on by countless combinations of sugar made sprinkles, sugar made glazes, sugar made fillings and fried/raised dough. I find it surprising that the American Diabetic Associations can stand so idly by - especially when the PETA spider monkeys are trying to dry hump every restaurant pole that has a menu with the word "foie."

30 more minutes elapse while we stood in line with all types of people. Finally, we are in the donut shop. The menu is dauntingly complex and I couldn't even figure out where the hell a regular donut with jelly was listed. Why didn't they just call it the "policemen special"? Well, maybe because policemen find all the donuts special (oh snap, no, you didn't). Anyways, the group went with variety of 9 donuts, my choices being the raspberry powder filled, the miami vice berry and the lemon chiffon crueller. Some donuts were quite restrained and some were fairly ridiculous.

Sad to say, aside from being loads of fun to look at and try, the donuts weren't particularly special. Not sure if it was worth all that insulin I had to pump into my veins. They are fine donuts, but not particularly exemplary once you're through the looking glass. But mild disappointment aside, everything was okay because we had decided to eat these donuts at the perfect place: Stumptown Coffee. I love me a good rebound.

Some Voodoo Pic Action:

For those that are in the dark about Stumptown Coffee, it is Portland's version of Blue Bottle and it is getting bigger. I personally went with a double latte so I could mask the guilt of punishing my body with unnecessary amounts to frosting. Rich, smooth smells and tastes of familiar and complex roasted beans is always an out of body experience. Things felt downright Parisian when I paired my espresso latte with the rare comfort of an unplugged Thursday morning and the sight of a disarmingly attractive and charming coffee clerk (who happen to have Audrey Hepburn-like good looks). Hmm...physically unavailable, just my type.

Raspberry powdered...check
Double latte...check
No phones ringing...check
Cute coffee girl...check

Oh yeah, and the company was good too, I guess. Just kidding guys.

Stumptown Pic Action:

Day 1 - Thursday afternoon: We've Got A Lot In Common

3 hours later, I was fiending for more coffee. Lucky me, we found a Pearl district place appropriately named Barista. Barista is a wonderful and serious coffee-craft oriented place with a great rotating bean menu including SF's own Ritual, Stumptown and others. The best part was that there was no line and no wait for a pot from their Siphon, something that I begrudgingly deal with at Blue Bottle Mint Plaza.

The coffee was great at Stumptown in the morning, but this was better. I was officially hooked in a wired tizzy.

1 hour later, we were getting hungry and found ourselves serendipitously located 2 blocks away from Clyde Common - a well recommended restaurant tucked in the quirky Ace Hotel. It was all too convenient to enjoy my lunch and my "suburban-housewife happy hour" there.

[Hot Food Porn would like to coin and define the term Suburban Housewife Happy Hour (SHHH, as in don't tell anyone that you're almost an alcoholic) as a happy hour that can start anytime as soon early as 10AM and well before 4PM. SHHH drinks may or may not (generally do) involve large glasses of indeterminable chardonnay or a sour apple martini equivalent.]

For my drink, I enjoyed an amazing local gin in one of my own cocktails; Ransom gin with champagne and citrus bitters. I also introduced myself to Jeff, the main man at the bar, who just happened to be a friend of a friend, Jacky Patterson - the main woman behind the bar at Heaven's Dog. The exchange approximately went like this:

HFP: "Hi, does a guy named Jeff work at this bar?"

Jeff: "Why are you looking for a Jeff?"

HFP: "You must be Jeff?"

Jeff: "I could be."

HFP: "Oh, my friend Jacky Patterson told me to that if I should stop by, I should tell you she said 'hello'"

Jeff: "Ohh, Jacky, yeah Jacky! How is she, _____ and _______ doing at Heaven's Dog?"

(the blanks are people and places I pretend to know about)

HFP: "She's doing pretty well it seems last time I saw her was about a week ago at her bar."

Jeff: "Yeah, she was in LA with ________ doing [an event]_________ _______."

HFP: "Oh yeah..."

Luckily, Jeff is good at closing conversations without awkward pauses and I happen to be good at shaking my head. He also did a nice job of indulging me with a random bantering about the local gins including 12 Bridges and Ransom. Thanks, Jeff.

After a round of drinks at the bar, we were seated in a big community table (an increasingly trendy restaurant choice and seemingly common in Portland) and inhaled excellent lunch sandwiches. I ordered a smoked chicken salad sandwich with a vichyssoise. I was happy and full, but I was already excited for dinner.

Barista and Clyde Common Pic Action:

Day 1 - Thursday evening: Fly Me To The Moon

At the hotel, I took my sweet ass time cleaning myself up underneath a shower head that looked to be actually bigger (circumference-wise) than my own head. This would only amaze you if you actually saw how big my head was. Unfitted caps and the words "one size fits all"are not my friends.

3 hours later and 1 hour before dinner, I curiously investigated the upstairs hotel bar named Departure. The bar has quite a view, one that overlooks Portland's downtown and can only be enhanced by the $10 Hitachino white in my hand. However, be aware of the fortysomething year olds, sad suits and NY-inspired doucheyness that appear at this bar in full abundance. As for the food, I didn't eat it, but the corner of my eye seems to have spotted pan-asian fusion inspired tapas. No, thanks. I wouldn't ruin my appettite for the meal I've been waiting months to have.

At 6pm, I was at one of Portland's most beloved restaurants, Le Pigeon. Le Pigeon is a restaurant that garners ridiculous amounts of local and national attention, and for the most part, has been sitting on my "must dine" list for more than a year. I had booked my reservations almost a month in advance because I really wasn't taking chances here.

Dinner was everything I expected it to be. I had foie (terrine) for a starter and I had foie (profiteroles) for dessert. When you bookend an exemplary cooked halibut entree with two plates of generous foie, there's really no way you can fail in my eyes. Here are all the goods off the menu I got to sample that night:

Pork Belly - wedge salad, blue cheese
Foie Gras & Avocado Terrine - lemon brioche, cherry tomato jam
Hamachi - oysters, cilantro
Blood Pudding - green beens, egg, cherry vinaigrette

Beef Cheek Bourguignon
Steak - duck fat potatoes, bone marrow
Pork - peaches, pickled peppers
Halibut - fregola, lobster mushrooms(replacing trumpet royales), clams, ham
Burger - potatoes and mixed greens

Foie Profiteroles
Creme Brulee
(forgot last dessert...)

What really separated a lot of what they did from many basic places were the balance of main protein and detail of the accompanying items. For example, the foie terrine was divine, but the cherry tomato jam almost stole the show there. It was tart, sweet and texturally perfect for the terrine. The lobster mushroom slices in my halibut were every bit as necessary and exciting as my fish itself. I can see that many of these dishes could easily be quite boring without their appropriate partners on the plate.

Normally not much of a sweets or dessert person, I though it was absolutely necessary to have them at Le Pigeon. The second the words "foie gras profiteroles" rolled off my waiter's mouth, my brain put up a sign that read "Sold." I thoroughly enjoyed and devoured my dessert even though the texture of the foie in the pastry could have been slightly softer. I thought it would be important to note that I had a sweet and salty foie dessert. If that's doesn't make Le Pigeon badass, I don't quite know what does. Dinner was cerebral and harmonious without ever being boring or bland.

We left and ended the night at the Lucky Labrador microbrewery and a weird music venue called Holoscene (I think).

Le Pigeon Pics:

Day 1, Part 1 in the books...

Miscellaneous Pic Action:


  1. foie gras profiteroles? i think my brain just caved in on itself.

  2. I knew you would love Portland. Come back to the NW anytime!

  3. didnt you just love the foie gras profiteroles at le pigeon? sadly, i ate at toro bravo before, so my stomach only allowed myself an appetizer and 2 desserts. next time i'll have a full course!