Did I mention the Portland gods smiling on me yesterday? Well, I must have done something to pi$$ them off yesterday, because cold, rainy Portland was knocking on our door this morning. But I had come to Portland prepared. Armed with black rain boots, black leggings and a black raincoat, I was ready to face the day.
A day that began as a glorious little bakery, Little T American Bakery. We ordered large lattes and a few pastries to share. The Kouign Amann is a Brittany style cake of buttery, flakey pastry coated with caramelized sugar. If you don’t mind lines, Dominique Ansel in Manhattan does a great (my favorite) version of the Kouign Amann pastry. The Oat and Fennel scone was moist and not too sweet, but could have had a bit more fennel flavor. My favorite pastry of the morning was the Gibassier Roll (the boring looking white roll, below).
I’ll admit, when Chelsea first suggested the Gibassier Roll, I wanted to overrule and suggest something else. It looked like a dry, white roll…way too boring to blog about. But I know I raised a smart girl and she did not steer me wrong. The Gibassier is a sweet yeast roll made with orange flower water, anise and candied citrus. Moist, light, sweet, it is the perfect breakfast roll. I’m going to learn how to make them for you, I promise. You’re welcome.
Adequately fueled, we headed out to taste some Pinot Noirs in the Willamette Valley. Unfortunately, many of the wineries were closed, but we did stop in a few that not only had tasty Pinots but beautiful scenery as well. Props to Plum Hill Winery for the great port-like dessert wine and Kramer Vineyards for some great reserve Pinot Noir.
Back to Portland for lunch, as I had Lardo on the schedule for today. If you had asked me this morning where to get the best sandwich in the U.S., I would have told you of a place in New Orleans. But move over, Cochon Butcher, because you now hold the number 2 spot.
Perhaps it was the Dirty Fries with pork scraps, marinated peppers, fried herbs, and parmesan.
Or maybe my sandwich, The Chip Kelly (a sandwich homage to the former University of Oregon head football coach who now coaches the Philadelphia Eagles), with its thinly sliced top round, mushroom-cheddar cheese sauce, pickled peppers, and fried red onions. Almost like a Philly Cheesesteak. Except for WAY better.
I’m not sure what exactly pushed Lardo to my number 1 spot. I may have to return tomorrow, just to be sure. Perhaps I’ll get the Double Burger with porkstrami, cheddar, lettuce and lardo sauce. Or the Rapini with aged provolone, red pepper agrodolce, and caper sauce. But not now, because I’m off to a date with Salt and Straw, the ice cream shop that I have been waiting to try since hearing about it from Chelsea several months ago.
The super friendly staff gives generous tastes of as many flavors as you wish. There were 14 flavors, and I tasted all of them. Except the Sweet Pepper Jam and Goat Cheese. Because everyone knows I don’t do goat cheese. Was I still hungry after tasting so many? Yes. I went for a combo of Arbequina Olive Oil (supposedly Oprah’s fav) and Strawberry Honey Balsamic Vinegar with Cracked Black Pepper. The Olive Oil was lightly sweet and creamy and delightfully olivey. It paired perfectly with the sweet strawberries and slightly tart vinegar. Another plus, they are committed to using local, organic and sustainable ingredients. LOVE! Tomorrow I want to go back for Cheddar Apple Pie and Cinnamon Snickerdoodle. I’ll keep you posted.
I spent the afternoon watching depressing episodes of the A & E show Intervention and a documentary on dying with dignity. Yep, that’s how we roll. Spend a cold, rainy afternoon watching tear-jerking episodes of television. Thankfully, we were able to rouse ourselves for dinner.
By far, the most special meal in Portland (so far) was our dinner tonight at Little Bird. Granted, we were treated like queens because a friend from New York knows the Little Bird people and warned them of our arrival (champagne, extra desserts!). But Little Bird is one of those warm, welcoming bistros where everyone feels like a VIP.
We started off with some lovely local oysters from Netarts Bay, Oregon. The briny oysters paired perfectly with a glass of ice cold champagne.
Now, I’ll warn you. The restaurant is dark, and food doesn’t look as pretty photographed with a flash. I use all natural light when photographing food for my recipes. My I-phone does not do this food justice.
We started tearing into the perfectly presented Roasted Pork Crepinette with Apples, Sour Cream, and Caramelized Apple Puree when I suddenly remembered I needed a photo. Now, I thought the Crepinette would be a little Crepe. Haha, I was wrong. A crepinette is a small, flattened sausage-like patty wrapped in caul fat. Well, I don’t care what this roasted pork was wrapped in….its was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside and I am hooked.
Over the years I’ve learned that if there is a soufflé on the menu of a French bistro (especially when the menu warns of a 20-minute wait), you order it. And the Gruyere Soufflé with Caramelized Onion Cream did not disappoint. Nor did the warm salad of chanterelles served alongside the soufflé.
The Hangar Steak with Sweet and Sour Basque Pepper and Blue Cheese Gougeres almost pushed us over the edge with perfectly cooked and seasoned hangar steak and the amazing sauce of peppers. The gougeres turned out to be more like fried balls of cheese, and if you don’t like to eat fried balls of cheese you probably won’t like me.
Chelsea was trying to keep it light and simple with her order (to share, of course) of Mixed Melon Sorbet. Light and refreshing with one perfect, freshly baked madeleine on the side. But oh, we were VIPs, and VIPs get extra dessert!
I will forever be thankful for this gift. Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee with Honey Meringue and Lavender Graham Crackers. Perhaps one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. And I was prepared to leave this place with a bite of sorbet.
Can tomorrow get any better? Beast, we now have VERY high expectations!