Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tried & Trues

Food carts pods weren't the only places we go when we're entertaining out-of-town guests. But with the plethora of great places to eat in Portland and the limited number of days and meals to be eaten in a visit we had to carefully decide which places to try or introduce to our friends. We mostly selected particular dining establishments according to what else we have planned for the day and what part of the city we'll be in. This surprising led to not trying any new restaurants during our good friends Dret's recent visit. However the places we chose to eat at we hadn't been to in awhile and we were looking forward to revisiting them. Guess these restaurants can be officially labeled our "Tried and True".
First up was a little bit of gear and window shopping, which naturally means pastries and espresso while we stroll and shop.

We biked up to our neighborhood patisserie and after a quick look around decided brunch was in order, gear and shoes could wait.

And we still got pastries and espresso.

A couple days later, after checking out a local outdoor store, army surplus and bicycle shops we had another great meal at an unplanned, but always-up-for-a-pit-stop at one of the city's best Lebanese Restaurants. We started with always rock-solid hummus and baba ganoush appetizers that came with the largest pita bread.

Creamy, refreshing, light and hearty, the best hummus and baba ganoush is the only thing we can say about these two appetizers.
We also had tried a vegetarian sandwich and two lamb sandwiches, a shawarma and a gyro. The shawarma and gyro tasted completely different. We like the thinly sliced soft texture of the gyro meat and the char-herbiness of the shawarma meat. All three sandwiches were stellar, as usual.

As a special thank you for living in beautiful Portland and providing a place to escape the extreme summer heat, we were treated to a night on the town. We were given prior notice and advised to think of where we want to celebrate. Numerous places immediately came to mind and we wanted to enjoy the city as tourists as well, so we decided to start with cocktails and happy hour at one of Portland's trendiest bars.

We ordered special happy hour cocktails, which were a steal at $5 for $11 drinks. Let's hope the mango cooler is the drink special next time we're there, it was terrific. We ordered three items off the happy hour food, which were a great start to an evening of bar hoping and a celebratory dinner. We wouldn't recommend this happy hour menu if you were hoping to have dinner for happy hour prices. These were teaser bites, but perfect for getting our appetites ready for the rest of the night.
Ume shiso roll - perfect combo of tangy sushi rice, tart ume plum and refreshing earthy leafy herb shiso to get the digestive juices jump started.

The curry puffs were light, crispy and filled with a sweet non-spicy curried chicken. Rolled in the same wheat wrappers used for egg rolls. A simple dish we'll be recreating at home.

The pork shumai was the item we remembered the most from previous visits to the bar. With only three to an order, the size made up for the fact that two of us had to share one. The steaming process heightened the porky, sweet and light flavors of this dish. Just the way we remembered it. Delicious.

An indication of a good restaurant is when you call to make a reservation and they tell you what time is available. So we had some time to kill before our dinner reservation with more cocktails and beers at another bar and some poking around another outdoor store. We built our appetites up by walking through industrial green spaces and sustainable parks in the neighborhood. By the time our reservation was ready we were ready for a serious dinner. We walked in and realized this is gonna be good. When you immediately wished your house smelled like the restaurant, yes, it's gonna be good.
Portland has become a mecca for innovative-fusion-ethnic-local-organic-unique-traditional-with-a-twist-northwest cuisine and restaurants. So it may be surprising we decided on a traditional Italian restaurant, which may seem boring among Portland's dining options. But after the terrific meal documented previously here, we knew our friends would love the authentic vibe, fantastic food, reasonable prices and a tried and true meal.
We eased into our dinner with an antipasta plate, a caprese salad and a tuna salad. Thank goodness our friends are salami and cured meat fans, because it would have been tough to power through the large plate of mortadella, pancetta, proscuitto, salami, fontana cheese and tart olives, with endless baskets of spongey yummy Italian bread and constant olive oil and balsamic vinegar refills.

Next came our pasta entrees. The portions were perfectly sized so we could try dessert and one of the best cappacinos. The pictures are a bit blurry (blame - lighting in the restaurant and only having a few seconds before everyone digged into their dinners).
We ordered three of the pasta specials, a wild boar ragu on flat sheets of rusticly torn pasta, the spaghetti and meatballs and the fresh linguini and scallops. The one item off the menu we ordered was the linguini and clams in white wine. The seafood pasta dishes were typical seafood pastas where the scallops and clams were the star and the pasta adds a carby heaftiness to the dish. A traditional and Italian way to combine seafood and pasta while keeping the whole dish light.

Our favorite pastas for the night was the traditional red tomato based pastas. Who doesn't love spaghetti and meatballs? The spaghetti topped with simple tomato sauce, two melt-in-your-mouth meatballs and a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan, simple, comforting and totally yummy.

The winner of the night was the wild boar ragu. The lean porky boar was expertly combined with the rich tomato ragu, tasting like a pork roast shredded, marinated in an earthy tomato sauce and tossed with perfectly cooked flat sheets of pastas. Every last bit of this pasta was mopped up with the remains of the bread basket.

Upon being seated we promptly advised Dret to leave room for dessert and an espresso.

How does a Semifreddo Caffe (creamy Italian gelato with a shot of Italian espresso) or an incredibly rich and creamy tiramisu sound? All topped off with an expertly pulled espresso drink? No pictures because it all quickly went into our bellies. It was the perfect evening and just what we needed to get our stamina up for tomorrow, another day of eating.
Other Tried & True spots we hit up during Dret's visit were typically places we wouldn't visit in the summer. The dark European styling of both these tried & true establishments made for terrible photos, but great for food and places we knew our friends would love.
After an afternoon of playing in the park we headed down to the Horse Brass Pub and ordered up what we think is the best fish & chips around. We know the secret to these fabulous bits of flakey halibut deep fried in not-so-English inspired batter. The chips are baked potatoes, cut to order and deep fried - no wonder they're so good! The Horse Brass also has a mean Scotch Egg. On this particular day the homemade pasties were lukewarm and plain ol' nasty. Skip the pasties and just go for a great beer from the owner's own selection of the "little guy" taps.

Later that week we found ourselves hungry after a show and decided some late night grub was in order. We instantly knew the one place we should go, Le Bistro Montage - a Portland late night institution. We knew the strange European decor and vibe, random under-the-bridge location and stellar cajun/creole inspired food would be a major hit and it was.
After a night of grooving and cocktails some mac & cheese is exactly what we needed. Like all the places listed in this post it's been awhile since we've been here and the last time we were here our tried & true dish the BoBo was overly peppered and all around disappointing. But we decided to suck it up and it was the dish of the night! The BoBo is a cajun/creole inspired biscuit and gravy made with a cornbread biscuit and andouille sausage gravy served with mash potatoes. Seriously mash potatoes on the side! YUM!

There you have it, a sampling of places you may find us when we really just want some good food. By the looks on our friends' faces and multiple declarations of "this is the best (insert food item here)" we think Dret liked it too!

1 comment:

Loli Go said...

The BEST dang food ever!