Have you ever had one of those dining experiences where you taste something that is so delicious that you cannot help smiling ecstatically as you struggle to chew each bite? Well, I've had two of those experiences in two days! Despite all of my eating escapades, these moments are rare. Two old friends came into town this weekend from NY and LA. The three of us met in college in seattle, and bonded over saturday night dinners on the floor of our dorm rooms. As I recall, fresh salmon and asparagus were regular menu items (how very northwest, no?).
This past friday, we strolled the sunny streets of portland, up to NW 23rd's tree-lined sidewalks and had a seat at the cafe tables outside of Papa Haydn's famous dessert shop. We pretended to be there for coffee, but couldn't resist their confections. Sharing one thing turned into two, and we had a deuce of key-lime cheesecake (perfectly tart with clusters of key-lime curd) and a german-chocolate cake layered with coconut and pecan praline. Soooooooo heavenly.
On saturday morning we made a pilgrimage to the Portland farmers market. Carlo Petrini, founder of the slow food movement, supposedly said "there are farmers markets, and then there's the Portland farmers market." It was a colorful festival of prepared foods and raw ones--farmers, bakers, cheesemakers and lunch vendors. Musicians played and kids danced and people ate under leafy trees. We shared a homemade sweet northern sausage (white wine and spices), grilled and served on a fresh-baked bun with sauteed onions and peppers, AND a pita sandwich. The latter was made of a pita stuffed with organic lettuce tossed in a balsamic vinagrette, goat cheese, and asparagus grilled in a stone oven that they had right there at the market on a trailer! so fresh and amazing! oh, and to wash it down, we had raspberry-lemon-sodas, with real raspberries floating in it, lemon juice and mineral water. needless to say, i'll be returning to the market for lunch every saturday when i finish working the breakfast shift.
Saturday night was crowned by a dinner at Andina, a peruvian restaurant in the pearl. They have an eclectic list of house cocktails, made with infused vodkas (banana, coconut, honey) that sit on shelves above the bar. I had one of the best drinks of all time--the Atardecer Porteno ("sunset on the port"). Guava nectar, lime juice, honey vodka and ice were shaken and poured in to a martini glass with a fine sugar/anise coated rim, and topped with a floater of port and dusted with lime zest. I don't think I've sipped anything tastier (well, wine excluded).
Bread was brought to us accompanied by a trio of sauces: peanut garlic, a peppery one and jalapeno-lime paste. All fresh made. We started with ceviche mixto (they have at least 5 ceviches), which was super-fresh mussels, fish, baby scallops (melt in your mouth fresh), and shrimp cooked in lime juice, herbs and a hunk of yam on the side. Then we had a lightly smoked white fish (trout?) sliced 'sashimi-style' with yellow pepper sauce over it and a long strip of an accompanying salad comprised of red onions, white corn and other goodies. We shared an entree of halibut filet crusted with ginger then steamed and served in a broth full of shiitake mushrooms and baby bok choy. The fish was fork-split moist. It came with a little mound of white rice dotted with toasted quinoa and chopped asparagus. Que bueno!