Saturday, March 14, 2009

On the road again: Portland, day 5

There’s nothing I like more than going to bed late, sleeping badly, and getting a wake-up call at 5:45 in the morning from a hotel clerk so cheerful that were he to awaken me in person I might tear his head from his body, throw it into whatever light he had turned on, and go happily back to sleep. Fortunately, the phone separated me from him, so after taking several deep breaths I forced myself to thank him politely and then hung up.

The flights home were remarkably uneventful, albeit periodically bumpy, but work crises made my time in DFW a bit trying. So it goes. I really can’t complain too much about any trip that gets me home safely, without significant incident, and on time.

I am exhausted and still have work to do, but I am home, and that is good news indeed. I'd write more, but to work I go.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

On the road again: Portland, day 4

My workday began with a 6:00 a.m. phone meeting, and I'm still working. Aside from a shower, thirty minutes on a treadmill, and dinner, work has been my day. Not my favorite, but so it goes.

Dinner tonight, though, was a treat at another marvelous Portland restaurant, Sel Gris. Chef Daniel Monduk, whom I've mentioned before, and his kitchen team served us a wonderful, four-course tasting menu--which we stretched to five courses with a cheese plate addition.

Well, to be completely accurate, we ended up with six courses, because Gabriel Rucker, Chef/Owner of Le Pigeon, was eating at Sel Gris as well, recognized us, and treated us to a plate of the most delicious calamari I have ever tasted. I was quite surprised and thanked him very much on the spot, but I'm also going to send him a few autographed books.

I'm heading toward my birthday and fighting my usual birthday depression, but I expect it to grab me soon enough. So it goes, I suppose, but I keep hoping to avoid it.

I have to get up in a little over five hours, and I haven't packed yet, so I'll wish everyone a great Friday the 13th and get to work.

On the road again: Portland, day 3

I know I write a lot about food when I travel, but it's not just because I love great food; I also can't write about my work meetings. They're confidential. So, you'll have to know that I am attending tons of interesting and good meetings but just can't discuss them.

Tonight, we ate at Beast, where Chef Naomi Pomeroy and Sous Chef Mika Paredes develop a menu and serve it to you--with "Substitutions politely declined," something you see at multiple restaurants here. Our menu tonight included six marvelous courses; I even enjoyed the beet salad, though not as much as the foie gras bon-bon, which was heavenly.

One wall of Beast is essentially a chalkboard, which included the following bits:

Unleash the Beast

Never eat more than you can lift. Miss Piggy
and my favorite
Vegetables are interesting but lack a sense of purpose when unaccompanied by a good piece of meat.
I highly recommend this place and intend to return to it on future trips.

For late-night and early-morning fuel, and because we hadn't been there yet, we also stopped on the way back to the hotel at the justly popular Voodoo Doughnut. These folks make some of the best doughnuts I've ever tasted, and we picked up entirely too many. (Of course, I could argue that one is too many.) You definitely need to run by here if you're in Portland.

For reasons too complex to explain, I have a 6:00 a.m. phone meeting, something that brings terror to my heart, so off I go to other work and then to grab a little sleep.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On the road again: Portland, day 2

I love this city, but if I lived here I swear I would balloon to something north of six thousand pounds. The food here is just too good.

Tonight, I ate at one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Le Pigeon. I've sung this place's praises many times before, but if you've missed those entries, let me keep it simple: If you're in Portland long enough to eat a dinner and don't do it at Le Pigeon, I will put you over my knee.

One of the things I love about Le Pigeon is that if you're lucky--and we were tonight--you can sit at the bar and watch the chefs cook. Tonight, I got to see them prepare our pork belly and foie gras starters and then our pork shoulder and beef cheek main courses, all of which were strong in flavor and perfectly cooked.

I also love the fact that everyone who works at Le Pigeon seems to care deeply about it. That's the way it should be, and it makes me happy when I encounter it.

Next to us at the bar was a couple that included a chef from Ten-01 Portland, a restaurant that has won honors here and where I will hope to eat next time I'm in town.

I really couldn't afford to live here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

On the road again: Portland, day 1

Awakening after less than ninety minutes of sleep is not a good way to start a day. In fact, it sucks. I worked a bit in the airport, then nodded off as best I could through much of the first plane flight, reading between catnaps. On the second flight, I got a bit more rest and also completed a fair amount of work.

Portland greeted us with rain that turned to hail and then to sleet. We waited until the sky was clear and blue, then went walking to get soda and water; I hate paying the outrageous minibar fees. Before we were halfway done, a wet gray blanket covered us, and rain fell hard and thick. Fortunately, we spent time in shops and so avoided getting wet.

After more work, we had a very good dinner at Paley's Place, the best meal I've enjoyed there in quite some time. Standout dishes included the rabbit salad and the pork two ways. My last few trips had left me tempted to drop Paley's from my regular Portland restaurant rotation, but its place on that list is now secure again.

Lying in bed last night, unable to sleep, I had a revelation about a plot point in Children No More. That made me happy, and so I finally drifted off with contentment.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Weather flirting

The sun wrapped us in a warm, golden glow today, as the temperature hit the low 80s and the sky stayed blue with touches of white sprinkled here and there, as if the clouds existed only to charm us. Over the next several days, Raleigh will turn colder (while I will be in Portland, where it is already cold, though not terribly so), but a day like today teases with the promise of the spring that is now not so very far away at all, a friend, even a lover who will soon visit.


Watchmen: Yes. Solas: Wait.

I liked The Watchmen a great deal. I can see plenty of legitimate reasons for panning it--Silk Spectre is weak, the stylized look can get old, sections are definitely preachy--but I watched every moment of it intently and came away happy to have seen it. I'll buy the DVD and watch the extra stuff as well, though I expect to conclude that they were right to trim the film to its current already long running time.

The central problem with this movie for many folks, I suspect, is that it is not a typical superhero offering. It's something quite different, far more satire and social commentary (as the original author, Alan Moore, is prone to write--and write well) than action film. It's also more brutal than many will expect.

If you're at all interested in the movie, and by now you've had trouble avoiding the hype and so have had a chance to have your mental taste buds whetted, go see it. As long as you're not expecting an early spring action flick, I think you'll be glad you went.

By contrast, our dinner before the movie was at a locally hyped newish place, Solas, that fell far short of its press. The menu looked delicious, and a few dishes, notably the truffled frites, were quite good, but most of the time the kitchen failed to deliver on the menu's promise. A prime example was the foie, which arrived on a very pretty plate with two pieces of foie, one thin and one thick, stacked on small rectangles of brioche toast. That's a classic presentation and a dish that is not simple to prepare but that a good kitchen should be able to handle easily. I started with the thin piece. The brioche toast was a bit gummy, but tolerable, and the thin piece of foie was very good. Call it a B+. The thick piece, however, was cold in the inside; that's an F. Almost certainly the chef who prepared the dish put both the thin and the thick pieces in one pan and took them out at the same time, an error you might make at home but one a pro should know to avoid.

If you live here and you've been pondering Solas, wait, and while you're waiting enjoy a meal at The Mint, where Executive Chef's Eric Foster's kitchen has, at least in my experience, always delivered.


Blog Archive