Monday, March 12, 2007

Way up on Northwest 23rd and Vaughn Street, far past all of the shops and twinkling lights of Nob Hill, is a little restaurant called Filberts. Yes, like the hazelnut. It is a little nut: a little nugget of delicious, tender goodness sheltered from a tough outer shell of the surrounding industrial zone, freeway on-ramps, and budget hotels. Inside the door of the cottage is a cozy room with warm colored walls, and an equally warm staff that invites you in as if they’d been expecting you at a dinner in their home. It’s quiet, tiny, and intimate, and the food is equally comforting.

Subtle and unpretentious, I felt like what we had to eat there was just the best of what someone (well, a highly skilled, professionally trained someone) might put in front of you if you were having dinner with them at home. Everything was just really good—nothing too showy, nothing too salty (you know how, you go out, and something really pops in your mouth, the flavor is huge, and you go home, unable to get enough water down your throat, realizing, that in fact it was just REALLY salty? I feel like this happens a lot with French food and sauces).

We started with mussels (undoubtedly from waters somewhere very close) in the classic white wine butter broth—so plump, so fresh...dare I use the word...succulent. They really were. We began to wash down our feast with Brooks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, decidedly the only choice to accompany the diversity of flavors that we intended to devour (sea, land, garden, dessert tray).

I could not resist the Carlton pork chop, which, upon ordering, I was given a short exposition on how the chef prefers to cook them medium rare, being that they come from
a town only a short drive away, and that there’s yet to be any concrete evidence that consuming raw pork will cause illness. I agreed to the preparation, because, hey, if that’s how the chef says it’s to be done, that’s how I want to eat it (although when it did arrive, it appeared fully cooked to me). It came out beautiful, thick cut, over atop a bed of tiny parsnips and ham hock, delicately cubed into the exact same size, with strips of lovely fennel. All of that was over this delectable caramelized cake that they called a “carrot rosti,” basically shredded carrot with shallots and seasonings, formed into a little patty and browned on the outside. The combination of the sweet root vegetables with the savory salt-pork flavor was perfect. Perfect. I do believe that I had the best thing on the menu, though my friend’s trout was delicious as well—pan fried light and crispy. Despite the fact that it was served with black-eyed peas, ham, and shiitake mushrooms (an interesting take on the southern combo), I was impressed at how the fish maintained it’s crispy crust throughout the meal.

We finished with the best creme-brulee I’ve ever had (I have to admit, I haven’t tried TOO many, because normally I don’t care for sweets of the custard persuasion). It was more creamy than custardy, smooth and silky. There was a tiny little portion stuck to the side of the ramekin when our smiling server came by to clear our plate, and she sweetly encouraged us to eat this last bit--what she called “the angel’s share” (or something equally whimsical). I love how the staff appreciates the food so much, that, like a good friend, they can't help but tell you to go ahead and finish that last spoonful.

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