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Restaurants & Bars 21

Confessions of a PDX rookie (long)

wasabi | Apr 12, 200503:08 PM

Thanks to all the PDX chowhounds who put in their two cents on the places worth checking out. Had a bit of whirlwind weekend that was shorter than I anticipated. But thanks to a couple of hungry friends, I got a great intro to PDX choice eats.

Park Kitchen was my first stop. Saturday morning and they served up from their brunch menu. I am a fan of breakfast/brunch at meal of the day, so needless to say, i was delighted. Opted for the Hangtown Fry with wilapia (sp?) oysters a couple of hours up the coast, morsels of bacon, and soft-cooked eggs and leeks. in a word, harmonious. the oysters weren't gritty or overpowering and blended seamlessly with the leeks and bacon. if there was ever a pudding flavor called "ocean", these oysters would be it. the egg curds were like pillows. i paired it with the housemade sausages at the suggestion of the server. Those two links with caramelized casing and perfectly seasoned meat were an epiphany--breakfast sausages need not be salt-laced bloat pills. washed it all down with grapefruit juice squeezed right in front of me. sat at the bar in front of the juice press and everytime anyone in the house ordered a glass, it was like aromatherapy. the best seat in the place. and a big nod to Steve and the gang, they were really gracious and had great eating tips of their own.

Made a pit stop to mio gelato in our wanderings. I admit that i am a bitch when it comes to gelato. i tried a couple of flavors, but nothing jumped out at me. so i opted for the standard hazelnut, which was good. i was hungry in another hour.

Luckily, it wouldn't be long before I hit up the mother of all tastings--A friend of mine from the area picked me up for our first top at paley's. We saddled up at the bar, where she knew the bartender. he offered me a glass of the evening's house pinot (jam, dried cherries & apricots, and smooooth). she ordered the mussels with pomme frites to share. the broth was a tad salty, but it was one of the few plates of moules where there wasn't any funk to them (i don't care how upscale a place inland is, it's HARD to get seafood this fresh) and the chopped herbs in the broth actually flavored the liquid.

We stopped in for a peek at wildwood, it was still packed and opted to visit another time in favor of trying out clarklewis. i snagged wildwood's menu on my way out of the stunning interior, taking mental notes along the way. i wish i had the time to linger for a bit.

ended up across the river at clarklewis. i'll be honest in saying that i was fearing a lot of hype. i mean, it was listed in bon appetit for god's sakes. but this place has got some integrity. the size options are nice. partook in some wickedly simple and good tagliatelle with favas, guanciale, and leeks. no complicated sauce, nothing drowning in liquid, every single ingredient spoke for itself and together, it wasn't jarring. quite the opposite. al dente pasta, that you could tell was still and eggy golden in the really dim light, the slightest toothy bite from the favas, and the crisp bits of guanciale here and there. garlic or onion would've been too much--the leeks were perfectly subtle. i couldn't stop eating it. they were out of the scallops, so we got instead the crostone with frisse, poached egg, and truffle oil. no chew to the frisee, it was delicate and a great inbetween for the crusty chewy whole wheat sourdough crostone and the soft poached egg. breaking the yolk is an act of luxury. there's nothing more intoxicating than truffle oil mingling with that orange goo. with a conservative drizzle of a shallot/sherry vinaigrette, it was like magic in my mouth. washed it all down with prosecco. the servers here were great as well and i respected ours a hell of a lot more when she spoke honestly about the desserts. "we're still working on them," she said. "i'd go somewhere else for now". reputation deserved.

by this time, i was pretty catatonic and after failed attempts to get to Pix (closed) and a Lebanese place for people watching, we ended up at veritable quandry. ended the night with a marcona almond cake that was heavier on "almond" (note quotations) than marcona, but it wasn't horrible. actually, the spot was a good place to unwind from that sensual frenzy.

Before heading off to the airport, ended up at Pearl Bakery on a Sunday morning. reminds me of a less grittier version of Tartine in the mission district. the breads were stellar. the croissants were decent. i was impressed with the brioche. tear a chunk off and you can smell the egg and butter. devoured that with a damn fine cup of coffee and bought a chocolate macaroon for later...which was five minutes after the fact. MAX makes you hungry, i guess.

thanks PDX, you've got a great thing going.

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