Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On the road again: Portland, day 2

You know I won't tell you about my work meetings on these trips, so don't even ask. Sorry, but that's the way it is.

What I will tell you about is dinner, which was an oh-my-God, how-did-I-not-eat-here-earlier extraordinary meal at Castagna.

Let's start with your action item: If you live anywhere near Portland or will be coming here, make your reservations now. Go for the tasting menu, as we did. Yeah, the $95 per person cost isn't cheap, but if you need to sell a little plasma to pay for it, you'll be glad you did.

Every single dish we tasted--the ten on the tasting menu, plus five small warm-ups evocative of bar snacks that have gone through a magic machine and come out heavenly--was delicious and beautiful and playful and told a story. Every one involved your taste, your smell, your vision, your heart, and your head.

Woodward combines the most modern food chemistry techniques with local ingredients and a strong focus on the season. Evocative of the way Adria never let his love of cooking and science techniques overshadow his love of the food of his region, Woodward's dishes always told stories even as they appeared in unexpected designs with amazing flavors.

For example, a dish innocently named on the menu as

Chanterelles with young pine, leaves and watercress

appeared almost as a bit of forest undergrowth, brown and rich and fertile--and also amazingly delicious.

Many restaurants that focus on modern techniques are all about subtle tastes, but not Castagna. Woodward embraces strong flavors, so that each dish delivered a powerful set of tastes, all of them complementary.

I've also found that many of those same restaurants fall down in the dessert department. Again, not Castagna. When we talked with him, Woodward mentioned having spent time making pastries at WD50, and that experience showed in the extremely strong three desserts on the menu.

For example, the dish called

Huckleberries with walnuts and fig milk

was like a cobbler that had grown up, gone to New York, gotten a three-piece-suit job on Wall Street, and then returned years later wiser and ready to embrace the virtues of its home town. A delicious sprawl of all those ingredients and more, every bite of this deconstructed dessert was a treat.

I could go on and on, but you get the point: Go to Castagna and let Woodward and his team work their culinary magic on you.

No comments:


Blog Archive