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Monday
Apr272009

Price and Quality Make Abella Worth the Drive...

By: Valerie Brockbank  Wilsonville Ore. is a small city on the south-side of Portland. It’s a twenty minute drive to downtown Portland, about 30 minutes to the vineyards of Salem or the Willamette Valley, and is still surrounded by farms and orchards. The town was built around the ferry crossing, which was the way across the Willamette River until the I-5 freeway was built.

Wilsonville has a lot to offer, but as a resident, I know fine dining isn’t on the top of the activities list. An exception to that is Abella Italian Kitchen, a comfy, friendly meeting place in a mall next to the library, run by owners Mark and Sue Nelson, and their chef Luis Cruz. A little hard to find but once you do, the food and wine selections will keep you coming back. In fact, this is my weekly spot for Sunday Brunch; the Amaretto, hazelnut and seared pear french toast is my favorite.

But what draws the local culinary crowd to Abella is their monthly wine dinners. In April, the wine dinner featured the wines from Small Vineyards, a wine importer that represents “the best wine from small places.” They are involved with the wine from the time the cork goes into the bottle in Italy until you pull it out to drink several countries away; Small Vineyards calls this Tappo a Tappo: Cork to Cork.

The Abella menu reflected the same attention to detail. The antipasto course featured smoked mozzarella and a dry ricotta cheese with roasted peppers, roasted garlic and marinated vegetables, served with a Trevisiol Prosecco, a very mineral-tasting wine that paired very well with the cheeses. Jeff, from Small Vineyards, told us that the hill where these grapes are grown was once a sea bed—terroir matters!

caprese saladThe fresh, perfectly-dressed caprese salad was paired with a Perazzeta Sangiovese “Sara” 2007, a wine named for the winemaker’s daughter. The good acid and black pepper finish really boosted the basil flavors in the salad. My favorite wine of the night, a 100% Salento Negroamaro 2006, paired with the black olives, capers, basil and anchovies in the Pasta Puttanesca was exceptional. The deep black wine, with its trademark barnyard and freshly-dug earth nose and spicy dark chocolate, plum and cedar palate, is an amazing bottle of wine.

double-cut pork chops The Le Diacce 2004 Merlot was a crowd pleaser. This small-batch, older wine was a stylish and elegant match with the double-cut pork chops with dried bing cherry marmalade. The night ended with a rich Zabaione custard with fresh berries paired with a Tre Donne Moscato D’Asti—certainly not your super-fizzy, college-days Asti. The three-sister, fifth generation winemaking team created a 100% Moscato, slightly effervescent dessert wine with a rich honey nose, a cinnamon, caramelized-lemon palate and terrific acid—a stunning palate cleanser.

Zabaione custardA perfect pairing of food, wine, and stories from new friends and small winemakers.

Abella Italian Kitchen’s next wine dinner, featuring Napa’s Trinchero Family Estates, is Thursday, May 7, at 6:30 pm. The regular 1st Thursday wine dinners average around $65 per person, and reservations are recommended.

otv rating (0 to 20)

food: 17
service: 16
vibe: 11
$$-$$$$


Abella Italian Kitchen
8309 SW Main St. Wilsonville, Ore
(503) 582-1201
online 

Trevisiol Prosecco - 85
Perazzeta Sangiovese “Sara” 2007- 86
Salento Negroamaro 2006 - 95
Le Diacce 2004 Merlot - 92
Tre Donne Moscato D’Asti - 89

 

Wednesday
Apr152009

Alf of all Trades...

By: Laura Sabo  Drive down SE Belmont Street in the inner southeast section of Portland, and you’re sure to smell the aroma of potage, aka, soup bubbling out of the kitchen of Alf’s Soup Haus. The Belmont District is a combination retail and residential area that urbanized around the first trolley line in East Portland in 1888, with Belmont developing commercial businesses at the trolley stops with housing in between.

Scattered among the coffee shops and restaurants of today are a mix of Victorian, Craftsman and Bungalow-style homes, and in the middle of it all sits Popp & Co. Catering and Events housing Alf’s Soup Haus, which had its opening day on April 6, 2009.

Chef Alf ladling soupThe owners of Popp & Co. and Alf’s Soup Haus are the husband and wife team of Alf and Dorcas Popp. Chef Alf was born in Austria, cooking his way through Switzerland, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, The Philippines and various parts of the United States, including Washington DC, New Orleans, Oklahoma and Oregon. Dorcas, hailing from Texas, has a background in the food and beverage side of the hotel industry.

With the decrease of catered events and the increase of people looking for opportunities to cut corners, the Popp’s are offering Land-of-the-Giant sized portions of soup and bread for $5.00 during the lunch and dinner hours. All soups are seasonal, organic, and affordable, and are available for take-out or dining inside their catering kitchen at one of three large wooden tables.

On the day of my visit, there were four tantalizing choices — Buffalo Chili, Clam Chowder, Vegetable Beef and Gumbo. While there are not many things I like as well as soup, it was painstakingly difficult to choose only one so Chef Alf, in his inimitable Austrian demeanor, generously offered me two bowls. Actually, he offered all of them but I regained composure at two.

The Clam Chowder was rich and velvety smooth with the perfect amount of spice and the Gumbo was chalk-full of okra, sausage, red pepper and celery. The soups were accompanied by a homemade biscuit, warm and bubbly fresh from the oven served with pats of butter. Frequent soup slurpers earn one free soup after they have 10 soup purchases on their punch card. Better yet – Alf’s Soup Haus will donate the free meal to a local soup kitchen.

When Chef Alf’s not ladling soup, he caters, prepares Studio Dinners for 10-30 guests and features a Weekly Chef’s Table on Friday nights with wine, nibbles and a four-course dinner for up to a maximum of 30 fortunate individuals. The Chef’s Table has a seasonal menu alternating between meat and fish every other week.

So if you are feeling down in the dumps because of the weather, the economy or just want a piping hot bowl of awesome Austrian soup, head over to Alf’s Soup Haus. Like their business card touts, “We Put Our Reputation on Your Plate.”

www.AlfsSoupHaus.com(Monday-Friday 11-2 and 4-6)
www.poppcompany.com
(503) 233-8121
2420 SE Belmont, PDX