Fab 40: Portland food
Portland is the kind of town where everybody might not know your name, but they probably know your friend’s. Some of the clichés are true: bicycles and beards are as universal as tattoos and high-waisted shorts. Mostly, though, it’s the ingrained childlike sense of excitement that makes this town the home of America’s best food. Everyone is here to have fun. And some of them do it best.
A tiny open-kitchen room that embraces each of the city’s greatest stylistic hits – chalkboard walls, a supperclub feel, communal tables – and renders them flawless. Naomi Pomeroy and her sous chef Mika Paredes work together with a balletic grace that makes what could be a high-pressure six-courser feel like a leisurely dinner at your favorite friends’ home - if your friends served foie gras bonbons and quail egg toasts.
[B]Le Pigeon [/B]
Gabriel Rucker’s open-kitchen spot that brings a new level to the word ‘intimate.’ Fighting the myth that expansion is the only way forward, Rucker just brought general manager Andy Fortgang in as partner, lending more stability and longevity to this tiny home of specials like chopped beef heart in a grilled peach or the Proustian nostalgia-inducing sundae. It’s the game hen, though, that’s the must-have: confited, cooked under a brick, with just a few little claws to remind you it once ran.
Named for a Wire character and as popular as that genre-defying HBO series. The sandwiches here are gargantuan, combinations of meats and cheeses and peppers and confits and salt cod and tongue and snails. They are reinventions without novelty, progress without preciousness. They are also, megalomaniacally, unforgettable.
Run by a husband and wife team who really like Basque cooking and head to Spain for ‘research’ every few months, Viridian Farms is the only place to get Pimientos de Padron (everywhere on late-summer menus), Piment d’Espelette, and the alien-looking glacier lettuce. Not to mention the best and biggest blueberries—the secret is a seaweed fertilizer—around.
[B]Beaker & Flask[/B]
A Southeast Portland cocktail lounge and restaurant that opened in the dog days of August. Run by Kevin Ludwig, with the aid of just about every bartender in town, Beaker & Flask is the ultimate collection of Portland superstars, all under one chalkboard-walled roof. The happy hour menu, there to accompany the ambitious cocktails, is sometimes funny—pork rillette tater tots—and sometimes obscene—the mac and cheese doesn’t quite need that square of crumbly blood sausage.
The latest venture founded by the Simpatica crew. Essentially a fancy bacon sammy, the pork belly sandwich layers slabs of Laurelhurst Butcher Shop’s pork belly with Pimientos de Padron and housemade aioli. It’s dark, earthy, and feels profoundly dangerous.