Monday, May 16, 2011

On the road again: Portland, day 1

Saturday night, I went to bed at 5:30 a.m., which is a fine time and doesn't bother me at all. This morning, I had to get up at 5:30, and that sucked. Having only two and a half hours of restless sleep didn't help, but man, I hate early morning flights.

RDU airport provided an exercise in self-control to the hundreds and hundreds of people winding in snakelike queues through the TSA system. Our RDU terminal recently added a new airline and a lot of gates, but it didn't look like the security folks had planned accordingly. Everyone stayed nice despite the pressure, and the lines plodded steadily forward, so it could have been worse. That said, I was not in the best of humors by the time I reached the end of the process.

No upgrades were to be mine today, but at least I had been able to book exit-row seats, so I had leg room, if no space for my shoulders. The first flight provided bandwidth, which was nice; the second, alas, did not.

The three-hour layover in DFW let me catch up on email at the Admirals' Club and grab a salad and a delicious Red Mango parfait for lunch. I am definitely a fan of that place.

The second flight was long but uneventful and even arrived early.

The usual travel transit milestones followed, and then much work.

At the recent Beard awards, chef Gabriel Rucker garnered the Rising Star award. That's not, though, why we ate dinner at Le Pigeon. We dined there because it's one of my favorite restaurants in the world. Period. I've been going there for years. If I lived in Portland, I'd probably eat there a couple of times a month, maybe more. I love its vibe, the fierce dedication of everyone on the line, the clear passion for doing the work--and, of course, the brilliant food.

Rucker wasn't on the line tonight, but John (whose last name I am embarrassed to admit I do not know) and his team were in superb form. I tried the cold foie with fried oyster on top, and it worked amazingly well. My main was a pork chop on a bed of smashed peas mixed with house-made creme-fraiche and several seasonings, and it was magnificent. I would happily eat a bowl of those peas any time. Between the two, in a slow spell John made us a surprise: a vegetarian version (so all of us could share it) of the gnocchi dish with asparagus and light sauces. It captured spring perfectly.

If you have any reason to be in Portland, you simply must eat at Le Pigeon.

I've now been up 22 hours on well under three hours of sleep, and some work remains, so I'm going to get to it and hope to crash soon. I very much hope for a less demanding day tomorrow.

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