I was recently down in Portland, Oregon, for the Wine Tourism Conference. While I was down there, a small group of us from the South Okanagan had a fabulous time outside of the conference hours sampling some amazing food and drink in and around Portland. On our first evening we followed the recommendations to Ned Ludd – An American Craft Kitchen. One of our contingent had eaten here on a previous visit and could not stop saying enough good things about the place, particularly the whipped lard, which made the rest of us a bit dubious. However, we all enjoy well-made seasonal local food so we hopped into cabs and headed to Ned Ludd. As we hadn’t made a reservation, we were told it would take a while to get us seated (it is a very small restaurant) but the staff happily gave us directions to a nearby cocktail bar to try until our table was ready. The Box Social – A Drinking Parlour had such a great atmosphere, not to mention one of the craziest cocktail menus I’ve ever seen.
- The RuPaul Sparkle Pony!
All of us at the table are fairly well versed with our different forms of alcohol; however we were asking what at least a couple ingredients in each cocktail were! The creations were simply divine, but all too soon our table was ready at Ned Ludd so off we went to eat. The ambiance is warm and cozy in the restaurant and the aromas that receive you upon entering are superb! All of the food is cooked in either the wood-fired oven or the smoker out back as is there is no stove or standard oven. The menu changes weekly, if not daily, to make the most of whatever is fresh and seasonal. Much to Allison’s dismay, the whipped lard was not on the menu the day that we visited though. For my meal I selected the salmon, with sunchokes, chard, parsley and chanterelle vinaigrette. The flavour combinations were amazing and my photo of the dish really doesn’t do it justice. We all had a lovely time and agreed it had been worth the wait for the table.
The following day, for lunch, we followed the recommendation that had been made by Chef Vince from Santé Bar & Grille at Big White Ski Resort. I recently introduced myself to Chef Vince at an event so that I could thank him for suggesting a meal at Andina as I have now eaten the best octopus in the world! Andina is a lovely Peruvian restaurant in the Pearl District of Portland. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable about the fairly extensive menu. We opted to share a few tapas plates at our table so that we could have the chance to try more of the dishes. We also decided that the cocktails sounded so divine that it really would be a shame not to try them. I ordered a Capirinha, while my lunchmates tried the Pisco Sours & the Sacsayhuamán – habanero pepper vodka shaken with pureed passionfruit and cane sugar, served up with a sugar rim and cilantro leaf garnish. Our server recommended that we order the medium sized dishes if we wanted to share, and that certainly did suffice for lunch. We ordered some bread and a salsa trio to start, then the Anticucho De Pulpo – grilled octopus kebobs with chimichurri and a caper majado de papa, the Pimiento Piquillo Relleno – sweet piquillo peppers stuffed with quinoa, cheese and Serrano ham, the Cebiche De Pescado “5 Elementos” – their iconic preparation of fresh ﬁsh in leche de tigre 17, the Causa Mixta Nikkei – a traditional timbale of lime-scented Yukon Gold potato purée, layered with spicy tuna and crab salad, topped with crispy breaded prawn served chilled with avocado. For dessert I ordered the Mousse De Valle Y Selva – a tiered semifreddo of velvety lúcuma and espresso mousses, manjar-blanco ganache, and crushed cocoa nib meringue, served with espresso shortbread. This was the perfect finale to an amazing meal! Some other desserts around the table included the Trio of Crèmes Brulées, Alfajores and chocolate truffles. I had never before eaten Peruvian cuisine but if this is what it is, please sign me up for more!
For the final evening in Portland, Allison and I had made a reservation at The Painted Lady Restaurant in Newberg, about 40 minutes southwest of Portland in the Willamette Valley wine region. Unfortunately we ran into some insane traffic (apparently there was some sort of event at the nearby stadium) and were over a half hour late arriving at the restaurant. Thank goodness for mobile phones so that we could at least call to let them know. I hate being late for anything that I’ve booked, be it a dinner reservation or a work meeting, but the staff at The Painted Lady were more than gracious upon our late arrival, taking our coats and escorting us to our table. The Painted Lady is located in a beautifully-restored Victorian house that is its namesake. “Painted Ladies” is an American architectural term that refers to Victorian or Edwardian properties that have been painted three or more balanced but contrasting colours that embellish or enhance their architectural details. The house is lovely and elegant, inside and out, providing a wonderful ambiance for dining.
We opted for the 9-course Chef’s Tasting Menu with the five wine pairings; figuring it’s impossible to not just go for the full experience when dining in a place as lovely and highly recommended as this. To start, a tray of amuse-bouches were brought out, including mushroom empanadas, parmesan gougères and poppadoms with edamame hummus, and flutes of the 2010 Argyle Sparkling Brut were poured. These miniature bites were simply divine. The gougere melted in my mouth, the empanada was lovely and savoury, and the poppadum with hummus had a lovely combination of flavour and texture. The Argyle Brut is a tasty blend of 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir. It has lovely aromas and flavours of lemon peel and a hint of strawberries. It has nice acidity and a lovely creamy mousse.
The first course was a Smoked Ahi Tuna Nicoise. This course was certainly all about the presentation – little silver pots were delivered to the table and placed in front of us. When the lids were removed the food emerged from a delicate smoky fog. The flavour and textural combinations of the dish were equally impressive.
The next course was one of my favourites of the evening, if not THE favourite. It was a Miso Custard with Dungeness Crab and Dashi. Again, the presentation was amazing. The dishes were placed on the table and the dashi was then poured over the delicate crab, miso custard and vegetables including edamame and mushrooms. The individual components of this dish were delicious and together they really did sing. This is one recipe I may have to work hard at replicating in my own kitchen! This course was paired with the 2010 Alexana Riesling from the Dundee Hills AVA. It is starting to have hints of petrol on the nose and palate – something that I love on Rieslings. The intensity is a bit subdued but the flavours are lovely, with clean lime, minerality, and a bit of pencil eraser. It is dry with medium acidity and a nice finish.
Up next was the House made Four Cheese Agnolotti with Maine Lobster paired with the 2010 Eyrie Reserve Chardonnay. The sweet richness of the lobster was balanced very nicely by the citrus flavours and richness of the wine. This was another course that ranked very highly – tough competition with the previous course. Such a beautiful presentation with the vibrant green of the fresh herbs and the yellow flower, against the pinky pale lobster, pasta, onions and cauliflower florets. And once again, the flavour was absolute perfection. The Chardonnay is a medium gold with a rich tropical nose and subtle oak. It is dry, with medium-plus acidity and flavours of apple, citrus and spice. It is lovely and elegant, with a long finish.
Course number four was a Seared Diver Scallop with Butternut Squash, Smoked Celeriac and Pinot Noir Gastrique, paired with the 2010 Trisaetum Estate Reserve Pinot Noir. The scallop was perfectly cooked and I enjoyed trying it with each of the different elements on the plate, as well as combining all of them together. Delicious! The Pinot Noir has aromas and flavours of cherry, raspberry, cedar, spice and a hint of earthiness. It is dry with medium acidity, medium body, silky tannins, is elegant and complex with a long finish.
The fifth course was Beef Two Ways: Dry Aged New York Steak and Braised Veal Cheek with Chanterelles, Red Onion Jam, Spinach and Potato Purée. The presentation was lovely (although my photos don’t quite do it justice) and the meat was oh so tender. The purée was velvety and the spinach, mushrooms and onions just helped boost the flavour of the beef. The wine pairing for this course was the 2010 Pamplin Family Cabernet Sauvignon, a deep purple with aromas of cassis, mint and baked apple on the nose. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, full tannins and flavours of cassis, plum, cherry and espresso with a medium-plus finish. It complemented the beef dishes beautifully.
The Artisan Cheese Plate was brought out but unfortunately I was so eager to try it that I forgot to take a photo until I had cleaned my plate! Originally there was Triple Cream cheese with a hint of blue on the rind, crostini, pear, candied pecans and hazelnuts, micro greens, quince jam & balsamic reduction. So many of my favourite things all together on one plate!
The Intermezzo (or palate cleanser) was a delicious Citrus & Coconut Granita, served in a little shot glass with a straw. This was a welcome break from the rich (albeit delicious) food, and it did its job well, preparing my palate for the incredible dessert!
I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen or eaten quite a well-conceived dessert as this. Again, a combination of so many of my favourite flavours: chocolate, banana and peanut butter. The Roasted Banana Ice Cream Sandwich, Bitter Sweet Cremeux, Peanut Butter Marshmallows and Malted Milk Custard were to die for! In part because, aside from the wonderful presentation, it was not a too-sweet dessert and therefore I managed to polish off the entire plate!
The meal was finished off by a lovely mirrored tiered tray of Mignardise – miniature confections including sparkling wine gelées, lemon poppyseed madeleines, chocolate toffee truffles, coconut macaroons, and chocolate earl grey macarons.
Chef, and owner, Allen Routt very graciously came out from the kitchen to introduce himself to us and to ask how we had enjoyed our dinner. In hindsight I should have given him a standing ovation. This however, may have caused a bit of a scene in such a lovely restaurant (it is definitely a bit posh). Bottom line, this is a fabulous restaurant and it is easy to see how much the owners and staff care about both what gets put on the table, how it is presented, as well as how their guests are treated throughout the whole dining experience, which is really special.
I have been happily raving about the amazing food I had in and around Portland to any of my friends and family who will listen, and probably a few strangers too! A return trip will definitely be in order one of these days.