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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 Billiards’ 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 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 match 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 cake with 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

Sunday
Apr192009

2nd Annual Eat Mobile – Portland’s Food Cart Festival 

By: Laura Sabo  One of the great many things about living in Portland is being reminded of the phrase “Keep Portland Weird” on a myriad of bumper stickers around town. The 2nd Annual Eat Mobile Food Cart Festival was no exception, although I prefer to use the term eccentric.

After winding around a city block in the historic Kenton District off Interstate during our 40 minute wait to get in, my friend and I wondered if it would be worth it. At the gate they were charging $5.00 but, much to our surprise, we were told that also included as much as you could sample. More lines inside. No problem. Worth the wait.

With more than 170 carts in town, you’d be hard-pressed to enjoy them all. The Eat Mobile Festival is an opportunity to appraise Portland’s food cart scene sampling palatable bites from carts sporting names like Fat Kitty Falafel, Flavour Spot, Lulu’s Confections, Moxie Rx, Todbott’s Triangles and Sip, Soup, Cycle. All proceeds benefitted Mercy Corps Northwest.

Feeling slightly out of our element because of our lack of tattoos, nose rings and youth, we carried on and battled the lines devouring as much as we could, most likely breaking even on our $5.00.

Paul BunyanThe vibe was funky and most definitely Portland. Smack dab in the middle of the picnic tables and lines was a ping-pong table. Did the organizers really think anyone would tear away from their morsels, let alone have the elbow room to break out in a game of table tennis?

Two standout entrepreneurs were Tabor Authentic Czech Cuisine and Leroy’s Familiar Vittles. Tabor’s choices were Chicken Paprikash and Hungarian Goulash. Sampling was limited at each cart so I opted for the paprikash. While the chicken was mouth-watering and fork-tender, my Hungarian husband’s paprikash tastes more authentic and flavorful – but let’s keep that little secret between us.

Leroy’s VittlesLeroy’s ‘cue was succulent and meaty with a slight vinegar tang served over crunchy slaw and a large breadcrumb. While their cart was next to the soon-to-be-opening The Grilled Cheese Grill, which had a line deep into the abyss of the festival, Leroy’s had none. This astounded me because, frankly, grilled cheese is grilled cheese, but how often do you get offered carte blanche pork ribs? No line = more ribs. Who’s counting?

Marbles were to be given out at the front entrance for foodies to vote on their favorite food cart but, unfortunately, we learned that after sampling many carts’ handouts. We weren’t about to get in yet another line for marbles.

Another night well spent in eccentric ‘ol Portland. We Portlanders wouldn’t have it any other way.

Monday
Apr062009

Portland Restaurants go Green At the Northwest's Big Show

By: Valerie Brockbank  If you have never been to a restaurant industry conference and trade show, make friends with a chef or your barista and get them to take you along as an “employee for a day”. You’ll get a ring-side seat at an event that is part education, part food tasting and part entertainment.

The Northwest Foodservice Show was in Portland this year. The focus was on helping the restaurant trade to “Go Green” and find ways to streamline their businesses in a tough economy. read more 

Monday
Mar302009

Norwegian Winemaker and James Beard Chef Bring-It-On

By: Valerie Brockbank  Wine shows off its best traits when creatively paired with food. And what better way to experiment than letting the experts do this for you. Wine dinners pair a winemaker and a chef; they put their heads together and come up with a menu that will delight your palate and educate your taste buds.

On a early spring evening, Johan Vineyards near Rickreall, Ore and chef Jeff James of j.james Restaurant in Salem, Ore, the State capital, created a five course feast that brought food and wine pairing to new heights. Both support organic and biodiversity farming practices. read more