Portland seems to be on the tip of everyone's tongue these days. Artsy, progressive, hip, creative, green, and bike-friendly are common descriptors of this magnetic city. I went to Portland last week, as an attendee at the annual IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) conference, curious to see how much of the hype was, well, just that.
I came away, infected with 3rd degree P.O.S. : Portland Obsession Syndrome. Man, they're doing some really cool stuff there. And everywhere you look there's something beautiful and hand-crafted, be it in garden, in glass, or on plate. It's so easy to get around, and the people are friendly, and there's this immeasurable quality of hominess, even downtown. The sprawl has been contained, leaving emerald green vistas around it's borders, and it kinda kills me--now that we bought a house in Missoula-- knowing that surfing is only an hour away.
Portland, I get it. I totally and completely get it. You have taken the sparkle from my new home town, and given me a major case of the P.O.S. Blues.
Below is a photo essay detailing the responsible parties and purveyors. Suspect number 1 is Ivy Manning, author of The Farm to Table Cookbook and The Adaptable Feast. She led a couple dozen of us through the streets of Northeast P-Town on an unforgettable Urban Bike and Bite Tour.
That's her in the yellow jacket, as our little biker gang is parking in front of our first stop: Toro Bravo . We walk into this warm and romantic little restaurant and they have the tables set for us with roasted nuts, olives, bread, sherry-spiked chicken liver mousse, pickled beets, and of course, wonderfully juicy Sangria.
That was just the beginning. Plate after platter of food was delivered to table: grilled local asparagus with serrano ham, split prunes stuffed with foie gras, impossibly fluffy salt cod fritters with aioli, and this scrumptious pan of Fideos.
The memory of that Fideos will plague me with longing until my next trip to Portland. It was with great reluctance that we pushed ourselves away from the table, but Ivy had many more stops planned for our tour, and the road beckoned.
Next we toured the main commisary kitchen of Grand Central Bakery, with Piper Davis, co-author of The Grand Central Baking Book .
Next stop was The Meadow ,
a little shop filled with beautiful things. Proprietors Jennifer and Mark Bitterman
have impeccable taste and it shows. Everywhere you look, something precious, pretty, aromatic, or flavorful entices your senses. What the shop is most known for is it's collection of finishing salts from around the world:
They have the most extensive collection of salts in the world. In fact, Mark Bitterman is a Selmelier; in other words, a bona fide expert on salt. His upcoming book, Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes (Ten Speed Press), is due out on October 12, 2010.
The Meadow carries more than just salt.
There is also Chocolate,
These Himalayan Salt blocks are one of the big sellers at the store.
Not only are they a lovely rose color, but you can heat them up and use as a cooking stone. How cool is that?!
Just across the street-- Missisipi Street, that is-- is Portland's favorite taqueria,
Translation: Why not? That's a good question. Why you wouldn't eat here, I don't know. We got to sample much of the menu, including carnitas tacos, pollo verde tacos, and surprisingly good veggie (verduras) tacos. I was especially impressed with the Pescado (fish) taco.
It struck the perfect balance of sweet, creamy, salty, and crisp, and it's the first thing I'll order next time I go.
This place got me really fired up. It may have had something to do with the fact that the primary cooking source in the restaurant is a wood-fired oven. Ned Ludd, you see, was the father of the "Luddites", a term now used to refer to those who reject technological advances. There's something very primal happening at Ned Ludd, with it's stacks of chopped wood, and artful rusticity.
We dined on meat pie, house made pickles, and greens wrapped in porchetta. It was all very earthy and low-tech and outrageously inspiring. If you ever have the chance, GO THERE.
Our final pit stop was restaurant, Lincoln: