Wednesday, October 28, 2009

P-town Primer

Back from a short trip to the Cleveland of the West Coast. Saw some nice stuff, ate some good food. Up there is Haystack Rock, just a short drive up the coast from:

Tillamook Cheese Factory. Possibly the best place ever. All you can eat squeaky cheese, gratis. That packaged stuff available around the UP isn't bad, but there's nothing like the fresh stuff. Clean and loud. Not a bad app to be followed by some really good ice cream. Mountain huckleberry for me. I love Jeni's as much as the next guy, but seriously . . . mountain huckleberry.

Also on the coast, Bell Buoy, for the of the best smoked fish around. Selection varies, but we got some smoked salmon collar (chinook), smoked sturgeon (pictured below), and a little tub of bay shrimp (also pictured below). Those are good shrimps.

Man can't live on smoked seafood alone, so we stopped by Ecola Seafoods for some post snack dining. I had forgotten whether I liked Mo's or Ecola more when I was out there. Turns out, I think I had liked Mo's. No big deal. Just had some awful chowder, crappy bay shrimp and dungeness crab, and really great fried razor clams. All washed down with some Widmer Hefeweizen in plastic cups. Classic.

The coast was only a short part of a trip that started with late night eats at Clyde Common. Limited evening menu, but some decent fancy popcorn, ridiculous ham board, good onion goat cheese pressed sandwich, and really nice simple salad. That was next door to Stumptown--perfect for morning macchiatos.

After coffee, breakfasts couldn't be easier. Pearl Bakery one day, Ken's the next, and Milo's rounded out the standards. All great places, but my favorite brunch out there, and likely my all time favorite brunch, is the all you can eat soul food at Yam Yam's. It doesn't open until 12:30, but who really needs catfish nuggets, meat loaf, succotash, choice of pork or turkey greens, candied yams and the like any earlier?

Breakfasts/brunches were good, but so were lunches and dinners. Tabor schnitzelwiches, Pok Pok for very good, but maybe overrated, poultrycentric Thai, and Moonstruck, for a dessert for lunch type thing.

Dinners weren't too bad either. Beast for one of the best all around dining experiences I've had. Two seatings a night, room for around 25, and a set menu. Tomato-orange soup w/ cracklings; charcuterie plate including foie bon-bon, tartare, chix liver mousse (ridiculously good), and rabbit liver terrine; lamb rib chops w/ creamed spinach and chanterelles garnished with (and reeking of) little matchstick cut black truffles (which for the record, isn't my favorite way to enjoy the fungus--see Komi post); an odd combination of potatoes (a little too joe joe like for me) and a great escarole cesar; some great cheeses; and finishing up with a nice and rich chocolate truffle cake. There was a sorbet in there somewhere too.

The meal as a whole exceeded the sum of the generally excellent parts, but I'm a sucker for the format of dining offered there. Two strange things though. The wine pairing, generally pretty excellent, was old world with the exception of one offering. This from a restaurant that doesn't stray too far for most of its ingredients. But I think that's a a trend in a lot of nice places (of the 15 plus offerings paired at Alinea, only one was from the US). Second, did you notice what was conspicuously absent from the offerings. No seafood. Not missed, but not present.

We also ate a Beau Thai, for some pretty normal PDX Thai food. There's just a high standard for that stuff out there, so it was a nice low key dinner. Fat Tire to wash it down.

Probably the best food we had was at Navarre. No "real" website. Awesome. Small, intimate place possibly hosting the hardest working chef I've ever seen. Great, not in your face, really carefully sourced food prepared freshly and amazingly. $1 gets a bunch of great bread. Another $1 for choice of olive oil. Foie on cumin toast for a few bucks. Boudin, just because. Another great salad. Great pate. Everything was just spot on. The service too was understated and really nice. We choose a $26 bottle of Spanish red and were informed they were sold out. Server recommended we go with $22 one--the least expensive on the list. Either I have cheap taste in wine, or the server was just being honest and more concerned with us enjoying the meal than running up the bill. Either way, it was appreciated and an all too rare occurrence at most places.

A little note: ordering is sushi shop (or Happy Dog) style. There were a few things crossed off our list b/c they weren't available at the time. But subsequent lists had different items crossed off and reappearances of the old ones. It's one full time guy and helper in the kitchen. When things are sold out sometimes they just needed time to prep some more. All I'm saying is, it's good we ordered in parts, because we would have missed some things if we didn't.

We also had crappy food in a nice venue at McMenamins Kennedy School. It doesn't matter how inexpensive the happy hour food is, it's not worth it. But the place, in my opinion, is a must see, if only for a drink and to use the bathroom.

We drank too. Samples and purchases at Clear Creek (NYT approved), same at Rogue (pretty decent gin), and some Mirror Ponds at the always classy Union Jacks ($5 cover). Also, great service for picking wine to take home from this place. And of course a quick drink at Ash Street, because we were downtown. And doughnuts at Voodoo.

Hikes, neighborhood tours, and some shopping rounded out the trip. Long flight(s), but without question worth it. Even with that mother of a bread thieving bird pictured above. Anyway, joke was on him b/c that bread sucked.


Heidi Robb said...

Looks like a fantastic trip - why Cleveland of the West Coast?

The CFT said...

why not?