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Monday
May182009

Affordable Gourmet Flights at Uptown Billiards

By: Valerie Brockbank  I am a member of a dining club organized by a group of women friends. It is our goal to try all the best restaurants in Portland on a monthly basis. The food we are encountering is so good that we have been upping that to once every two weeks, with some repeats in-between.

Good or even great, doesn’t have to make us poor, in fact the invention of happy hour gourmet fare has made this endeavor down-right affordable.

One of the best happy hours we have come across is the Uptown Billiard’s 5-course tasting menu that features a different vegetable every two weeks. Yes, this is an upscale old-world billiard hall with beautiful tables and velvet curtains, but as the owner, Kent, says, “We’re not all fun and games!

The food, in the small library inspired dining room, is amazingly inventive and fresh. Their chef, Mark Potovsky, was named the best seafood chef in Canada, and has worked at one of my favorite places to visit and to dine, The Sooke Harbour House Bed and Breakfast and dining room, perched above the Pacific Ocean in Victoria, British Columbia.

Last week’s Happy Hour Menu featured asparagus from Martinez Farms in Canby, Ore. The menu can be sampled alone or with wine pairings; $10 for the dishes or $20 with the wine pairings. If you have a hefty appetite these dishes may be an appetizer, but for me they were satisfyingly filling.

We started with a leek, asparagus and watercress soup garnished with Rogue Creamery blue cheese and almonds; that was paired with a 3 Stones New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. This was my favorite wine of the evening; crisp, and fruity with a vanilla nose and long finish, and it was a great match for the richness of the soup.

Course two was grilled asparagus with micro greens, shaved Regianno cheese and orange oil served with a Garofolio Verdicchio from Marche, Italy. This wine, although a little one dimensional, had a bit of smokiness to match the asparagus and a fruitiness to march the orange oil. Dish three was my favorite; a large seared scallop with pickled asparagus, on a bed of roasted carrot puree and tarragon pesto cream – I loved the roasted carrot puree. This dish paired beautifully with the mineral qualities of a Chateau Gaudrelle Vouvray from the Loire Valley.

The meat course featured perfectly crusted rare lamb slices on top of an unusual mushroom asparagus bread pudding, with apple-mint chutney and rosemary jus; it was served with local Yamhill County Marina Piper Pinot Noir. The tannin was just right for the lamb and the bell pepper finish complimented the bread pudding. We were all wondering how the chef was going to work asparagus into a dessert, but he did! The lemon asparagus pound cakewith Chantilly cream was earthy and delicious; the sweetness came from pairing it with a GD Vajra Moscasto d’Asti from Peidmonte, Italy.

Five dishes, a plethora of ingredients and many new cooking ideas later, we were making plans to come back every two weeks, as they change their featured ingredient. In fact, we’ve already made reservations for their Sorrel inspired menu next week. Now I can take this lovely herb way beyond soup!

 

3 Stones New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 95

Garofolio Verdicchio from Marche, Italy 80

Chateau Gaudrelle Vouvray from the Loire Valley 90

Yamhill County Marina Piper Pinot Noir 85

GD Vajra Moscasto d’Asti from Peidmonte, Italy 92

otv rating (0 to 20)

Food: 19 

$$ for happy hour, $$$$ for three course dinner

Vibe: 17 
Billiards $10/hr week nights, $12/hr on weekends.

Uptown Club
120 NW 23rd, Portland OR - (503) 226-6909

Tuesday
May052009

A Fusion of Food and History on Trendy Alberta

By: Valerie Brockbank  After being disappointed at not getting into Beast, for dinner last saturday – what was I thinking - we dallied through North East Portland hoping our saturday search in one of Portland’s “it” neighborhoods would turn up a winner. As we drove up and down the blocks looking for a parking place, Mount Hood’s snow-capped peak bobbed on the horizon.

Once we found a place to park, we set out on our hunt for an acceptable place to eat in the neighborhood. We found a interesting mix of fusion at The Siam Society on Alberta Street; mostly Thai, with a little French and a little Indian - housed in a one hundred year-old historic power sub-station. The building alone, is worth a visit; the amazingly high ceiling, slit windows and remnants of machinery cast a diffused sepia-tones light across the wooden and cracked concrete floors.

The Siam Society is known for it’s imaginative drinks and happy hour, but we wanted something more substantial. I started with one of their muddled drink specials, a Hibiscus Mojito with rum, organic mint, hibiscus-flavored tea, lime juice and splash of soda. What could be better on a sunny Portland day than a pink drink to sip on!

For dinner we decided on a big pot of “Thom Kha”, coconut milk simmered with Kafir lime, lemon grass, onions and mushrooms. Not quite traditional; but it had a clean, comforting layering of sweet, salty, savory and acidic. I think I may replace chicken soup with this version on Thom Kha, the next time I’m under the weather. The two main dishes we ordered were the pan-seared scallops sauteed in Brazilian red palm or “aziete de dende” oil, coconut milk, garlic limes and red peppers; and Carlton Farms roasted pork, which was brined first and then roasted in banana leaves. The fish and meat stood out as fresh, expressive focal points to the spices. The scallops were crisp on the outside and rare on the inside, the pork was soft and silky.

The wine I picked to go with both dishes was a Grüner Veltliner, Velt. 1, 2007 from Austria, which retails for about $13 a bottle. This wine is drunk young and has a loyal following in Vienna clubs. Grüner Veltliner, grown in the clay soils of North East Austria, can age well and often takes on some of the best French Chardonnays in blind tastings. The Velt. 1 has grassy flavors with a hint of spiciness that goes well with the scallops, and and silky tropical finish was a good match for the roasted pork.

The Siam Society also has vegan, vegetarian and wheat-free menus on request. If you are just in the mood for drinks and a small bite to eat, the Soi Cowboy Lounge is located above the restaurant, or now that the weather is warming up plan to dine al fresco on their secluded patio.

An evening out that was elegant and relaxed; stepping forward into fusion and backward a century into local history. A rare find.




OTV Rating (0 to 20)

Food: 17
Service:17
Vibe: 18
$-$$$

siam society bistro & bar
2703 NE Alberta
Portland, OR
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