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Entries in Portland (8)


Tin Shed, Portland

Breakfast and Brunch in Portland is an institution. Every time I hear about a “great breakfast spot” from friends that live in Portland, the next words out of their mouth are, “but it probably has an hour wait”. Pine State Biscuits, The Screen Door, Tasty and Sons, wait, wait, wait.  The IFC show Portlandia had their season finale on brunch spots in Portland. All true, very funny, and certainly captures the Portland experience.

Tin Shed did have a wait, but only twenty minutes. Considering our first stop was Tasty and Sons and their “probably an hour and a half” wait was too long, Tin Shed was perfect. Now don’t think that I was settling for second or third place on the Portland Brunch Scale, simply because I’m ravenous in the morning. Tin Shed has street cred. 

My guide around town, Mary, claimed Tin Shed had three things that made it different than other breakfast spots, besides good food of course: 

  1. Outdoor Seating
  2. Serve your own coffee
  3. Snuggies

Yes, as seen on TV, Snuggies. I mean, what reasonable restaurant wouldn’t offer their patrons a Snuggie if they were sitting on the patio during a cold and wet Portland morning? If The French Laundry served breakfast on the patio, mere heaters wouldn’t do. But a Cashmere Snuggie would.

During our wait for a table, I looked at as many dishes as possible coming to the tables. Huge plates of food. Mounds of potatoes, eggs, biscuits and gravy on most plates. I’m hungry in the morning, but I don’t think I could have finished anything that I saw come out of the kitchen. 

Something I didn’t see on any of the plates was The Roll Over. Potato cakes are used instead of biscuits in the classic country gravy and eggs underneath name-your-starch. I was sold. I happen to love hash browns and country gravy with bacon seemed like a no brainer. 

When my pile of food came, it was actually a bit smaller than the other plates, but it packed oh’ so delicious flavor. In my experience, country gravy meals, regardless of the starch and protein, tend to be gut busters. Whether it’s a greasy spoon diner or my much talked about experience at Searsucker in San Diego, country gravy equals gut buster. 

The two grated potato cakes where cylindrical, about an inch thick and perfectly browned on all sides. The scrambled eggs were moist. The country gravy with bacon was one of the best on record. Beautiful, tasty, delicious, and kept me satisfied until dinner that night (which was at Laurelhurst Market…yes). 

This marks the second breakfast I’ve had in Portland that tops the charts. The first was The Reggie, from Pine Street Biscuits, not just an award winning breakfast for me, but won high marks on Food Porn Daily as their Food Porn Picture of the Day, several months ago. Maybe there is something magical about Portland brunch spots? 

So get out there, grab your own coffee and eat at the Tin Shed; because Tasty and Sons doesn’t offer you a Snuggie and they don’t have a patio.

Tin Shed Garden Cafe on Urbanspoon


Little Bird, Portland, OR

I’ve heard mixed reviews from a few of my foodie friends in Portland about Little Bird. If you like simple classics, steak tartare, marrow bones, steak frites, etc and they’re well executed, what's the problem, right? Simple meals are often the most satisfying. I don’t believe  everything needs a twist. Often the twist gets in the way.

To start, Bone marrow with apricot chutney. The chutney was a wonderful contrast to the richness of the marrow. Not only did the chutney provide a nice acidic bite, it was sweet and brought out richness in the marrow. Similar to the contrast between a sweet wine with a foie gras. I liked the combination.

Second up, a classic steak tartare and one of the best I’ve had since I can remember, maybe since I was last in New York. I like hand-cut steak, not ground meat. The dish was cold, well-seasoned, and had a nice pop of dijon and capers.

Cleansing course, Endive salad with chevre, good, clean and a big help after the Tartare and Marrow from before. It's salad, it's endive, not too much vinegar, not too much salt. Done.

Final course, Pork belly with pickled green bean salad. The Pork Belly was no match for my recent meal at Searsucker in San Diego. The belly was well prepared, but the garnish was a distant second. Honestly, I could have done without the pickled green beans. A bit brown in color, rather than bright green and awfully acidic, I was disappointed. There was a flavor clash rather than a harmony of acid and fat. Not the best combination.

One item of note from the bar that I'd never seen before from Cana's Feast Winery: Chinato! This stuff was fantastic after dinner. A great Italian-type digestif produced here in the USA.

Overall I had a good experience at Little Bird, other than the funky green beans. I love classic, well-prepared French cuisine in a casual environment.

Little Bird Bistro on Urbanspoon


The People's Pig in PDX Expands

The People's Pig is the king of sandwiches in the PDX cart scene (at least according to The Cured Ham). Upon each visit from The Bay Area, I make it a point to get at least one lunch sandwich here. The only other restaurant I have this rule for is Frontera Grill in Chicago.

Cliff actually has 6 pork sandwiches to choose from now, rather than his highly specialized single sandwich, the original porchetta with arugula and lemon.

At the suggestion of Cliff, I ordered the Cuban sandwich. The Cuban has a lightly dressed slaw on top with a pinch of cumin on it. The pork is moist, well seasoned and delicious. He’s getting quality bread for the sandwich as well, no cheap hoagie, but durable well made artisan bread.

Simply put, I love these sandwiches. Keep it up Cliff!

The People's Pig (Food Cart) on Urbanspoon


Brix Tavern, PDX

Went in for lunch for a quicky Prime Rib sandwich with “French onion soup au jus” and “house made Swiss cheese sauce” horseradish cream and just O.K. french fries.

The Good: House made Swiss Cheese Sauce and the thinly sliced Prime Rib. They took the Velveta concept of runny cheese sauce and made it a quality product that I would put on my sandwich again and again. The Prime Rib itself was moist, medium to medium rare and sliced thinly with a decent ratio of fat, but not too much. Good elements.

The Bad: The Hoagie Roll.  This soggy hoagie was a disappointment. I would have preferred a sourdough roll or something more substantial. Wet hoagie is unappealing to me, cheap in a way. Portland has good bread, go buy some.

The Ugly: French Onion Soup Au Jus. Not quite soup, not quite a dipping sauce. I didn’t know if I should just drink the sauce with a spoon or dunk the wet bread in there. The hoagie certainly didn’t need moisture.

Brix Tavern is new, so I trust these are just kinks. The sandwich shows promise, but needs work.

Brix Tavern on Urbanspoon


Beast, Portland

Chef Naomi Pomeroy was featured on Top Chef Masters, Season 3 and is obviously a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen. I have a beef with Beast with regard to the delivery and logistics, not Chef’s execution.  Additionally, the manner in which each plate it is served, immediately reminded me of a high-end catered party for 24 people or a private wedding reception. Finally, the indifferent service of the front-of-house staff simply rubbed me the wrong way, especially with all the hype surrounding this restaurant.

Execution vs. Delivery

Chef shows wonderful execution with regard to ingredients. A main course of lamb that was evenly seared and served right-on medium-rare. A lobster bisque that was wonderfully smooth, full of flavor and comforting as a first course. An obvious expertise with charcuterie and the tour of her skills in our second course.

"But all of this culinary execution falls short due to poor delivery."

The charcuterie was well executed, served at room temperature, and assembled while I was drinking my soup. And as a result, the various breads, crackers, and pastries underneath each were soggy. Additionally, the steak tartare had oxidized to a brownish color and awfully warm.

A scoop of palate cleansing sorbet was half its size when it reached my guest and me, simply because we were the last ones served.  Our poor, lonely sorbet languished in the heat of the service area, melting away. Too bad, it tasted good.

The main course of lamb was served on cold plates, with a room temperature veal and duck demi-glace. The potato, mushroom, and cardoon gratinee that accompanied the lamb was nowhere close to oven hot. Why? All 24 plates in the restaurant were set up for the entire restaurant to see, like an assembly line in a manufacturing plant. No way any course is going to be hot when it reaches me . While I can’t be specific because I wasn’t using a timer, dishes were being assembled in the delivery area ahead of time, and not 2 minutes ahead for sure. Literally impossible for a dish to be hot.

Our salads had already begun to wilt under the heat of the kitchen and the room in general.

Service vs. Order Taking

Indifference. Complete indifference with regard to our presence at the communal table is how my guest and I interpreted the staff’s attention toward us. Another way to put it, the service I receive on an airplane in First Class is akin to the service at Beast. Food is served, quickly explained and the server is off to place dishes in front of someone else. And when expediting is over, go hide behind the bulk head. At least in First Class, my ration of wine isn’t measured to the milliliter.

In the positive category, the wine pairing supplement was well chosen. Not since Menton in Boston or DOC in Portland, have I had such a well thought out pairing. However, I thought I may have participated in a university experiment complete with scientific measuring instruments to demonstrate the affect that pouring small, precise quantities of wine have on the dining experience. They claim a 3 ounce pour per course, but I think even the Swiss pour more liberally. Wine is an up-sell, an additional revenue source. I actually asked for more wine for the lamb course. And considering they had to open up another bottle of the wine, proper wine service was not observed. The wine was not sampled by me prior to service.

To complete my service indifference and wine rationing argument, not a single server asked if we would like an additional half-glass or full pour of wine. Not once. It was finally clear mid-way through dinner the staff were expeditors, not servers. They didn’t do much more than bring us our meal, with only a brief explanation of the dish, no more than I could have read myself from the menu provided. Never once was I asked how the meal was. It’s as though they never really wanted us to settle in, get comfortable and have a full glass of wine.

"Why? Next Course is coming and don’t get too relaxed, the Second Seating happens in 29 minutes."

When the last course was served and finally removed, the indication became very clear that it was time to leave and indifference turned to overt dismissal. Insert the most blatant “Get the F$%! Out” message I have ever received at a restaurant, really loud Rap music gets played until the last customer leaves, which of course was me. Two full songs were played, so give it 6 minutes for people to clear out, before song 3 came on. I waited until the entire table was cleared before I paid. No chance I was leaving, just to see how long the music was played. The arrogance as my bill was flicked in front of me without so much as a “Thank You”.

Final Analysis

Beast in PDX has garnered the attention of many across the country. A limited menu that offers no substitutions and dinner is served only Wednesday through Saturday is at the height of cool in Portlandia. The two tables are communal, unless you’re lucky enough to sit at the service counter where only two seats are available.

I felt somewhat taken advantage of. Somewhat duped into believing like so many others that because of the Chef Pomeroy’s reputation, set menu, the difficulty obtaining a seat, the limited hours of operation, “substitutions politely declined” attitude of Beast that somehow Beast was the best in Portland.

"With all of the strict adherence to rules, precise execution, limitations on portions, and indifferent service, Beast becomes nothing more that expensive, individual plated airline or wedding food experience, in an atmosphere that while communal isn’t neighborly or relaxed, but rather unemotionally looking toward their second seating at 8:45pm. I would have felt that a countdown timer above the kitchen hood would have been appropriate indicating we only had 6 minutes and 13 seconds before Round Two of Diners."

Queue Rap Music...

It’s time for you to pay up and get the F%&! Out, Suckers!

Chef Pomeroy, I appreciate your attention to detail in the kitchen, I can see it and taste it. But I walked away disappointed, perhaps with expectations that don’t fit the venue. Simply put, I’d rather eat at Ad Hoc in Yountville and sit at a table as long as I want with a staff that seems to actually care.

Beast on Urbanspoon