June 23, 2010

I didn't document our Portland food adventure as well as I did in Seattle, so I'm just going to focus on the highlights. Prior to our holiday, we did a bit of research into places to eat. We went to the James Beard Foundation website, who give out the most prestigious culinary awards in the US, in search of some chefs that might interest us.

The first restaurant the intrigued us was Beast, namely because 'beast' is actually one of our pet names for each other. awww.

Beast is run by chef Naomi Pomeroy, who was nominated for Best Chef in the Northwest in this past years James Beard Awards. Each week, Beast prepares a new six course prix-fixe menu, so each time you go, you will have a truly unique experience. The restaurant only seats about 30 people, so the reservations are set for two times during the evening, with everyone seating at two large farm tables, all being served at the same time. It felt like a simple and exquisite dinner party.

We can brag and say that we had the best seats in the house, sitting at a large table facing the open kitchen and plating area, with no one sitting across from us to obscure the view. It was fabulous. Here you can see Naomi preparing for the next service.

It was really great to get to watch the team prepare and assemble all the food and makes you appreciate how much work goes into some of the plates. The courses consisted of a soup, charcuterie, meat, salad, cheese, and desert. The charcuterie was easily one of the most impressive things I have ever seen and eaten. As they were doing the plating, we were mesmerized watching them keep adding all the little details. It made the actual eating part so exciting and memorable, as we were filled with so much curiosity and wonder watching them assemble it all.

Overall, it was an amazing meal and an amazing experience, and I was so happy we made the effort to seek out such a great place. And the best part? It cost only $60 a person for the food. For six courses. Correction. Six of the most amazing and decadent courses that I will remember for a long time. Loads of admiration to Naomi for what she has done and continues to do. So many restaurants could learn so much from her simple appreciation and love for food.

So while at Beast, we got to chatting with the party next to us, who eventually asked why we had chosen to eat there. When we mentioned James Beard, he told us about another Portland treasure that we had to try, which was the onion rings at the Ringside. Apparently James Beard himself said they were the best onion rings in the US. So we indulged. And they were delicious.

And that brings us to another great restaurant. Le Pigeon was actually right next to our hotel, which was funny, because a friend had recommended it to us. The name also sounded familiar to me, and that's because it's chef, Gabriel Rucker, was also nominated for a James Beard award for Best Chef in the Northwest.

We risked going without a reservation, and they shuffled some space and accommodated us immediately. Off to a great start. I have to say that we sat down here only a couple of hours after we had shared that huge onion ring basket, so we weren't hungry at all, but when in Rome, or Portland in this case...

Again the room was homey and simple, focusing all the attention on the tiny open kitchen and the sumptuous plates of food being passed from it. The food was largely classically inspired, with some twists thrown in, as Rucker is known for taking great risks with his food. Portland is known for so many great restaurants and their commitment to utilizing local and sustainable products, and it has created this amazing creative culinary scene.

The standout from this meal was the Lamb's Tongue, which Dave ordered as his starter. It was easily one of the best things I have ever tasted. I wish I had paid more attention to it when I was eating it, because everyone has asked what the texture was like, or how the meat itself tasted. I just remember wanting to remember that mouth watering morsel forever and being blown away that a tongue could taste like that.

Unfortunately, at the end of the meal we were too stuffed to try their Honey, Bacon and Apricot Cornbread and Maple Ice Cream. I've found a recipe here, but maybe someday I'll get to go back to give it a try. I sure hope so.


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