I visited Portland for the first time this past week on a business trip from Scottsdale, Arizona and I was quite impressed with the food and drinks I had the entire time. Lots of thanks to all the great Chowhounders for all the information and recommendations, all of which were winners.
First night, I went to Oven and Shaker for a margherita pizza and a bourbon cocktail. Both were solid and well done. A margherita is my litmus test for Naples-style pizzerias and this one was almost as good as the best I’ve had in the US. The bourbon Old Fashioned I had was well balanced between tart, sweet and bourbon flavors.
Afterwards I headed over to Teardrop Cocktail Lounge for another drink. I had the Twenty Three Skidoo which was quite sweet with the rich demerera sugar, but still very good. I appreciate the level of cocktail craft here and I enjoyed the space, but I was never offered a second cocktail even though I was there for more than an hour, much of that with a drink that was nearly finished and it took a LONG time for the bartender to notice I was ready to check out. He was quite engaged in several long conversations (more than 10 minutes) with certain customers while ignoring others for equally long periods of time. That’s not good service in my book, so I left less than impressed.
I didn’t realize Nostrana was the same chef as Oven and Shaker, and I had a reservation there the next night already and was meeting friends, so I had similar food two nights in a row. Our table ordered a couple pizzas and a couple pasta dishes created by guest Italian pasta maker Francesca Tori. I had penne with a brandy/cream/tomato sauce with prociutto and arugula. I was expecting the pasta to be a little more of a standout, but I think it was a little undercooked, just a hair too al dente and not exceptional in flavor. This dish was a bit disappointing. The Bolognese lasagna was better, but not necessarily because of the pasta. The brown meat sauce was rich and full flavored, maybe a touch too dry after being baked with the pasta, but still very tasty.
The pizzas were good, one was a wild mushroom pizza with uncooked arugula and pecorino cheese. Arugula had a vinaigrette that I could not indentify, something quite lemony which I thought distracted too much from the mushrooms. The other was a margherita, just as good as the one from Oven and Shaker, no surprise there. A whiskey sour was just fine, but not a standout.
I avoided food at Clyde Common, but went for drinks and ended up going two nights in a row. I enjoyed the loud, boisterous energy in the industrial-feeling space and hanging out in the lobby of the funky and hip Ace Hotel. Good bartenders and a great selection of bourbons and whiskeys. They take their time making the cocktails and you can taste the attention to detail. Their Bourbon Renewal with cassis liquer is a very nice drink.
My favorite dinner was a Little Bird. As a starter I had some very good Pacific oysters raw with a delicious mignonette and a glass of champagne. The Duck L’Orange was wonderful, with a side order of chantrelles, lardons and thyme. Perfectly crispy duck skin on the whole leg with the meat moist, tender and rich, just like it should be. It paired very well with a La Sirene Pinot Noir. I love French food and a lot of it has to do with the focus that is often put on nearly perfect execution of classic dishes. Little Bird did not disappoint, I’d highly recommend it.
Almond Croissant at Nuvrei was excellent and I enjoyed cappuccinos from Coava and Stumptown Roasters.
I wanted to go to Luc Lak, but they were closed for lunch on Sat, so I didn’t get to. I had pho from one of the food carts, it was the only disappointing meal of the trip.
There was a long list of places I wanted to get to, but did not have time on this trip. I really enjoyed my visit to Portland. Its so nice to have so many friendly and like-minded people around who all seem to have excellent knowledge about good food and drinks. Its also nice to be able to walk so many places downtown and in the surrounding neighborhoods. Thanks, Portland, for being so welcoming and thanks again to all the folks who contribute here who pointed me in the right direction without fail.