Last Thursday I was taken on a date for one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. The place was Le Pigeon (the tiny restaurant that’s been mentioned in Gourmet and other national media a couple of times this year for their head-to-tail cooking--the preparation of parts of animals that only a foodie could love). Upon our arrival, their three communal tables were packed, so we put our names on the waiting list for the bar surrounding the open kitchen. The menu, as we could already see, looked amazing, and we mused about what we would taste that night—foie gras over puff pastry wrapped peaches? Beef cheeks? Summer squash with a foie vinagrette? The kitchen staff wears a shirt that says “in foie gras we trust.” I don’t necessarily agree with or favor foie gras, but for some reason, the richness of the night called for it.
In the meantime, we strolled East Burnside and rode the elevator up to Rocket for a drink. Rocket is incredible for a number of reasons—it has a 300-degree view of the city of Portland, the building it’s in is Platinum LEED certified (the most sustainably built possible), it has a garden on it’s roof (where the cooks grow greens and herbs for their salads and side dishes), and it’s owned by Leather Storrs, one of the best chefs in town. As we enjoyed our well-crafted cocktails, I noticed an acquaintance of mine who happens to be a chef there, and he offered to show us up onto the roof. The three of us climbed the ladder to this rooftop with THE most breathtaking view of Portland—the twinkling lights, the neighborhoods, the clouds were mottled and you could see the stars. If there were daylight you would have been able to see the mountains. Anyway, the chef showed us around all of these interesting hydroponic plantings—kiddie pools with rows of herbs growing in them, eggplant growing out of a cement planter box, pvc pipe holding pots of baby lettuces. After taking it all in, we returned downstairs to finish our drinks then headed out the door and back to Le Pigeon.
We walked in to find our places set and waiting for us on the corner of the bar. Reading the menu, we were excited but almost overwhelmed by all of the choices. When approached by the server my companion asked “do you think the kitchen would be up for doing a tasting menu?” He replied obligingly “yeah, definitely, what do you wanna do, like 5 courses, 6 to share?” We decided on 5 (already so decadent), and my date followed with “and I’ll leave the wines up to you.” To the waiter. To pair! I was FLOORED. What a treat! I’ve never had the pleasure of a tasting menu before (when the kitchen prepares a coursed out menu of their choice—like a best-of-the-best chef’s choice menu). And wines to go with it! So impressive. Shortly, the feast began...
1. Sweetbreads done perfectly (lightly floured and pan-fried) with an uni (sea urchin roe) mayonaise and a relish of cubed pickled watermelon rind. The watermelon rind thing was delicious, and I thought ingenious, since it’s something that you normally discard. (paired with a white Bordeaux—sauvignon blanc and semillon)
2. Eel glazed with an Oregon truffle sauce over a thin piece of toasted brioche on a bed of lentils that had the most amazing sweet-savory taste to it. I don’t even know how to describe this dish but it was so mouthwateringly incredible. Definitely our favorite. (paired with a cab/merlot blend that fortified with brandy which kind of tasted like a port)
3. Beef tongue bacon (no joke) with a pickled egg salad. This may sound unsettling but it was amazing, I’d never had tongue before and may never again, but here it was sliced into squares and barbecued—the dish was like a high cuisine’s version of delicately prepared barbecue (the egg salad had the vinegar and celery of potato salad). [At this point the waiter just gave us a free wine to go with it, a Tokaji Aszu white because he said that it really needed to be paired with beer, but that would’ve been too intense mid-meal).
4. Pork chop cooked for three days—first rubbed, then confited in olive oil and finally cooked in some sort of cryo-bag in a pot of water, for the most tender and subtle flavor. It had this delicious curried fennel and potatoes with it (braised fennel and potatoes with a creamy curry-powder dressing). (Here the wine pairings get fuzzy, all I remember in the richness of the moment was that this one one was red and so was the next).
5. Duck roasted over butternut squash puree and chanterelle mushrooms with a sage/pear reduction/brown butter sauce. Oh my god. This dish was so rich (almost too rich to be the last) but I thought delicious. Seasonal perfection.
Needless to say, we were absolutely stuffed. For dessert, we took a walk.