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First Notes from Portland (more coming…..)

September 22, 2014

Bisque

“Go to Ox.”

I heard that so often while I was in Portland it made me skeptical. It can’t be that great, right?

Wrong. This is the most amiable restaurant I’ve been to in quite a while. It’s not just that the food is straight up delicious, the service sweet and the room casually comfortable. Somehow an aura of happiness permeates the place; I can’t imagine anyone going there and not having a good time.

And the food (like that intense little cup of tomato bisque at the top) really is wonderful.

Tripe
The dish I remember with the greatest clarity is this spicy braised beef tripe laced with little threads of octopus. The combination sounded odd to me, but once you taste it you think – how come I've never had this before? The octopus becomes little jolts of texture tangled in the luxurious softness of the tripe. And that mint aioli underlines the flavors in the most attractive fashion. I could have stopped right there and gone home happy.

Chowder
But that would have meant missing the chowder – a signature dish. And for good reason. It’s a tour de force of flavor and texture, two kinds of clams in a briny creamy soup enriched with smoked marrow, which you scoop from the bone until it runs crazily through the soup. What keeps the dish from going over the top are those jalapenos, green heat zinging right through all that richness.

There are other wonders to begin: homemade ricotta, baked in balsamic brown butter and topped with a rich mushroom mixture. Fantastic steak tartare. Grilled salmon belly (it has been a memorable salmon season in this part of the world), with tomatoes…. But this is meant to be a meat-centric restaurant, and they have the big manly grill up front to prove it. The menu is indeed a carnivore’s delight.

Ribeye
The ribeye is wonderful.

Rosemary lamb
and the lamb shoulder chop arrives with a burning spear of rosemary perfuming the air. But in the end it’s the vegetables that really knock you out.

Artichoke
 Whole artichoke, roasted in the coals.

Onion
Grilled onions with walnuts, bits of beet and blue cheese.

Beans
 Local beans with charred romesco sauce.

 

Cauliflower

Cauliflower with golden raisins and peanuts.

The wine list is worth noting too: varied, beautifully chosen, nicely priced.

Portland's a food-obsessed town with great markets, fantastic sandwich shops, memorable ice cream (Salt and Straw always has a line for its fascinating concoctions) and some of the best Thai food in America.  But should you happen to be there, I can only echo what everybody says – go to Ox.

 

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From Portland, with Love

June 11, 2010

The box was sitting at the door when I got back from the farmer’s market today. I slit it open and a cornucopia spilled out: nuts and beans, jams and grains. The note says, “Miss Ruth’s Portland Care Package” – a selection of favorite products from two of my favorite people, Karen Brooks and Teri Gelber.

Half are from Ayer’s Creek farm in Gaston. They include two different kinds – on white, one yellow -of freshly ground polenta. I put them right in the freezer, but I’m itching to cook them.

The jam (black currant) is from Ayer’s Creek too, as are the Purgatorio beans. Karen’s note says that I won’t need to soak them – and that they’ll cook in about half an hour. If that’s true, it’s amazing; the last time I cooked white beans they took forever.

There are also fat hand-roasted hazelnuts from Freddy Guys, so irresistible that I ate half the package on the spot.

And granola from Tracy’s; the proceeds help fund Urban Gleaners, a food-to-homeless table program. Crisp, crunchy, delicately sweet.

Just looking at all this food sitting on my counter made me miss Portland. One great food city.

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1. Gift Guide 2017: Gorgeous Tea

November 25, 2017

Tea has never been hotter, and all sorts of people are offering interesting offerings.  But I haven’t found any I like so well as the gorgeous creations of a small Portland (Oregon) shop, T Project.

Organic, hand-blended, whimsically named and beautifully packaged, these teas make really wonderful presents.

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