Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On The Oregon Trail, Part I: Fleeing My Homeland

Well Hello my intrepid eaters. It’s been a few days but I have some new reviews and fantastic news to report. In a bold and exploratory fashion reminiscent of Jonny Appleseed or Daniel Boone (or is that Pat?), I hitched up my oxen, grabbed my Dutch oven, and some of Mr. McCulleys medicinal tonic water and wagoned (see "flew in a Boeing Jet") west. This means I was recently in the "other" Portland. That’s right, Portland, Oregon! This trip to see my family marked many firsts. I had never been to the west coast, never put my feet in Pacific Ocean, never saw Mt. Hood, all until now. I was over the moon excited to venture west because when you grow up not traveling all to often, these experiences seem larger than life. Arriving late last Friday night jet-lagged and hungry, I was prepped to begin my tour of the wild frontier with, what else, my taste buds. And did I eat… holy crap. I felt like Paul Bunyan or at least a flannel donned and bearded Portland Oregon local. (I'm hip to that kind of stuff, although my beard is slower to arrive).  

I could bore you here with the obligatory slideshow of Mt. Hood, (massive) my pilgrimage to Astoria and to the Goonies film locations around town there (Hey you guys!) and the amazing waterfalls dotting the Columbia River Gorge (breathtaking). Or maybe describe, in detail, my too full suitcase complete with my Tillamook Cheese Factory postcards, wackado knickknacks from hippy stores and my souvenir Oregon Ducks Tee shirt, but I wont even go there. What’s really important here is where I ate and what was good eats in the larger (but not necessarily better) Portland. So my cross country cavalcade must be split into at least 2 posts, if not three to fully encapsulate the Portland, Oregon foodie experience (I hate the term foodie btw, it sounds like gastronomic footsies or something… [He shudders]…)

So on to the reviews! To the Oregon Trail we go…

One of the first, and best restaurants I enjoyed while cross the country was Meriwether’s in the Knob Hill area of Portland

Meriwether’s Restaurant
2601 N.W. Vaughn Street Portland, Oregon

The Novice Fork gives this farm-fresh
spot 4 Forks for amazingly delicious food
but slightly pricy menu and rushed staff.

Meriwether's warm glow

The first thing you notice about this restaurant, naturally, is it’s how attractive the outside is. With bamboo and other rain loving plants everywhere, an outdoor deck with a fire pit, and nature inspired architecture, it exterior promises big things for the interior. Once inside, the wall-to-wall packed restaurant is just a beautiful, one part Provence, one part New England farm house with a very large and rustic wood burning fireplace, and extra wide floor boards it’s a cozy, gracious and beautiful place to enjoy brunch.

The food here is touted as being farm to table, and Meriwether’s delivers. The restaurant has its very own farm from which to construct it’s menu, Skyline Farms produced over 8000 lbs. of fresh ingredients to the tables of its restaurant. This type of control and sustainability makes for a very tasty menu. 

I ordered the Farm Scramble with Egg, Feta Cheese, asparagus and tomato. It was so good I couldn’t put my fork down. Presented with potatoes au gratin and sourdough toast, it was a simple, filling and perfect breakfast. I also had the “fruit salad” but really this was more of a giant plate of succulent and ripe strawberries, figs, raspberries, bananas, honeydew, cantaloupe and kiwi. Lightly coated with sugar syrup, this was the perfect companion to the savory eggs. All washed down with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, I was in heaven.  

The service at Meriwether’s was the only slightly sour note here (and I say slightly because they were pleasant but very busy.) Our waiter seemed preoccupied by the unseen forces of restaurant chaos and another poor server dropped an entire glass pitcher of water, spraying the table next door like a sprinkler. (I laughed silently.) 

However, all and all this place rocks! Whether its brunch, lunch or dinner, you wont be disappointed. Its simple farm eating turned elegant and it works very well.

On to the next review…

Masu Sushi
406 Southwest 13th Avenue # 202
Portland, OR 97205-2359
(503) 221-6278

The Novice Fork gives this sushi paradise 4 Forks,
or its top-quality sushi,
attentive wait staff, and hip/modern vibe.

The Sign... Love this place.

When visiting the Pacific Northwest, the traveler must have the local salmon and other aquatic life forms. If not, it’s kind of like traveling to Maine and not having Lobster or an Amato’s Italian. (Perish the thought.) It just isn’t done. So imagine my delight when my cousin introduced me to this stylish and metropolitan restaurant for a belated birthday dinner. Let it be noted that it was here that I enjoyed the best sushi I have ever had. In other words, this place is bomb. (Very tasty for all you non-street folk out there.) The place itself is up a flight of stairs in a mid-century modern warehouse type structure, on a tree-lined city street. However, when you ascend the stairs and turn the corner, you are greeted with inner city cool. A giant pop-art mural occupies one entire wall; the restaurant’s seating centered on a sexy and sleek bar area, natural blond wood chairs in a mid-century aesthetic and perfect lighting, creating the best upscale, mellow, warm and hip ambiance. (I just felt cooler being there… oh don’t judge… you would too.)

The food is the same way as it’s artful but familiar and approachable and above all fresh. Starting with the featured cocktail on their menu, I ordered the “Hello Kitty” a drink of muddled raspberries and Vodka with Lime Juice. (After ordering it, I had to retrieve my nuts because they deserted me from humiliation, but it was also one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had so it was worth it.) The house also brought out edamame for us to snack on while we ordered our sushi and this is always a hit with me. Salty, tender and addictive, I couldn’t get enough. After the edamame and miso soup I settling on several Sushi pieces and a few Maki, most of which involved salmon. This was a wise choice.   

The Pacific Northwest is salmon country and when eaten raw, the salmon is so sweet, tender, and full of the nuanced flavor that we just can’t get over here in the east. So I gorged myself on this frutti di mare and fully enjoyed every minute. Our server here was witty, corky and full of personality. He was attentive, and was always ready to make a suggestion, like leading me to order the mackerel, which was out of this world. His personality only added to the meal and made the experience all the more memorable. So, when in Portland Oregon and in need of your sushi fix, head to Masu, and eat it up, you wont find fish like this very often.

After this meal of meals, my cousin and I decided to head to her favorite cocktail lounge at The Nines Hotel, www.thenines.com

The Nines, enough said.

This place is over the top cool and full of funky style. With several bars in this ultra swanky boutique hotel, too choose from, including one roof lounge that overlooks the entire city of Portland, The Nines Hotel is the perfect place, after a long meal, to enjoy the September air, people watch, and toast to birthdays (mine) belated or not. Head to The Nines to pregame with Portland’s hip and stylish and to enjoy a little NYC in the Wild West

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