Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Le Pigeon- Table For Twelve

"Damn Pigeons!" Jen cried out to me with tears glistening in her eyes when I walked into our most recent Table for Twelve at Le Pigeon: The "Percy and Priscilla Were Good Pigeons Until Dad Put Them In A Pot-au-feu" Edition. I asked her what was wrong and she couldn't even talk, she was so upset, and then I saw it-- someone in the kitchen was wearing a hat that said "Damn Pigeons." Jen turned to me and said, "We are here to honor our deceased pet pigeons that Dad made us kill (click here for the story) and we are greeted with someone damning them?" I told her she had snot running down her face and to wipe it before we approached the man wearing the hat. He was a shy guy, who painfully told us he was forced to wear it. He assured us we were in a place that truly honored pigeons, so with that reassurance Jen and I put on our big girl pants and were ready for our celebration dinner for Percy and Priscilla (um, our deceased dead pigeons, that's who? Don't you READ THE BLOG?)

We had a great showing for the commemorative dinner and everyone was craving an adventurous dining experience, so it made it difficult to order... we clearly needed a strategy! So, Jen and I, being the resourceful TableTalkPortland employees that we are, and slightly manipulative as well, coordinated all the ordering to ensure that we didn't order duplicates and got to try almost one of everything ...
After the stress of ordering and seeing the "Damn Pigeons" hat, we unwound by watching Chef Gabriel Rucker prepare our exquisite appetizers while sipping on chilled Terre dei Beatiʼs Cerasuolo Rosé.
Out came the appetizers....

Starting with the fried sweetbreads served with cod, tomatoes, and a curry sauce... I loved the lightly fried sweet breads but the majority of us agreed that the curry overpowered all the flavors on the dish.

The definite crowd pleaser was the seared savory creamy foie gras served atop a crispy vanilla waffle served with candy almonds and rhubarb. It was honestly one of the best preparations of foie I have ever tasted... SORRY PETA.

Another favorite was the panko fried cows tongue served with spicy horseradish sauce atop a mixture of arugula, marinated cows tongue and potatoes. The spiciness of the horseradish and arugula perfectly contrasted the earthy flavor of the potatoes and tongue.

While we were waiting for our entrees, Jen and I told stories of Percy and Priscilla. Our food arrived just before we got to the juicy story when Jen was grounded for blindfolding Percy and letting our cat Henry chase her... it was all fun and games until Percy flew into the window and had to be resuscitated.

Out came the perfectly cooked rare duck topped with a tomato concoction served atop spätzle with bacon. I was worried that the tomato would be too acidic for the duck, but the tang was mellowed by a slight smoky flavoring and the salty spätzle.

The lamb was served atop a cucumber, radicchio, and blue cheese salad. The preparation and flavors were good, but nothing too unexpected. A nice classic dish.

Now the beef cheek bourguignon is something to write home about! The rich glazing and the tenderness from braising the beef cheeks creates euphoria in your mouth.

The only disappointing dish was the Sea Bass served atop leeks, snails and potatoes, that I forced Jen to order, and which I am sure I will be hearing about for another 10 years. The dish was rather bland and pretty forgettable.

After such a marvelous meal, we were more than ready for dessert. Since we ordered almost the entire entree menu we decided that we should try one of every dessert. We ordered Le Pigeon's most famous dessert--corn bread with bacon served with a scoop of maple syrup ice cream, and we ordered the goat cheese cake, foie gras profiteroles, and chocolate pot de creme. I was in dessert heaven!! One of our guests was so excited about the corn bread she ordered an extra one and refused to share... smart girl! I thought the profiteroles sounded a bit over the top, but they were to die for. The puff pastry surrounds foie gras ice cream, the foie brings a very rich taste to the cream and prevents the dish from being overly sweet, and to add a hint of sweet the profiteroles are topped with light caramel sauce. The only disappointment was the pot de creme and I really think it is probably a great dessert, but we were comparing it to the others, which were amazing.

So, we started the meal with Jen in tears and we ended it with her in tears. Jen turned to me at the end of the meals, eyes glistening with tears AGAIN, and said Percy and Priscilla would be proud.

RECOMMENDATION TO READERS: The Le Pigeon Menu is not descriptive at all, so make sure you ask their fantastic servers to describe the dishes. They definitely know their menu and you won't be surprised by one of their many creative preparations! We ended up having the waiter describe every single dish on the menu!


Le Pigeon* 738 E Burnside* Open everyday 5-close* (503) 546-8796* reservations for 2 or more at communal table

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Passport To Pinot is NOT on Saturday

We were hard at work today at Farmer's Market this morning, distributing samples of a delicious smoked salmon, fennel and apple salad to the masses and poking fun of Kenny and Zuke's Ken Gordon as he went on and on and on and ON about pastrami and bagels on the Chef Demo stage across the way, when super cute brother Elias strolled up and offered to trade us six magic beans for our last cow, which of course, we eagerly accepted. Oh wait, that's another story, something about a beanstalk. Actually, Eli offered us something better: his tickets to the International Pinot Noir Celebration's Passport to Pinot, occurring THIS VERY AFTERNOON! 

There was a wee tear in Elias' eye as he told us that alas, he had to slave behind the stoves of Castagna today and could not attend Passport to Pinot, but wanted us to go in his place and have the times of our lives and find rich, dashing, winery-owning husbands so we never had to climb that dumb beanstalk again and steal the giant's gold to replenish our stock of 1947 Cheval Blanc. *

Naturally we accepted his kind offer, and a few hours later Michelle, sister Georgia, nieces Alexis and Aleathia, and myself were all sailing down 99E towards McMinnville's Linfield College, and the wine tasting of all wine tastings. Our progress was momentarily halted by an impromptu trip to one of the most fascinating places on earth. 

It is possible that Slurpees were purchased. And some cheese. It sounded good.

We arrived at Linfield College and Michelle donned her best Sunday hat, the one she wore to the Kentucky Derby.

The crowd was small, and oddly subdued as they clustered around a few rows of tasting tables. Conversations were being conducted in normal voices, and there was no obvious staggering. Snoooo-ooooze, we thought privately, but we were willing to give it a chance. "Is this Passport to Pinot?" we clarified with someone with an official looking shirt. "That's tomorrow," she said slowly, with a look in her eyes that screamed "idiots!"

A jaw dropped. Mine maybe. Michelle muffled a scream. We pulled the tickets out. Yup. 
There was a small scuffle as blame flew through the air like wineglasses at an Italian wedding. Some people were pinching other people, and someone was accidentally scratched but only because she was pinching people.   

I was really sad.

Michelle said to cheer up or she'd flip my dress up and show everyone my underpants. I knew she'd do it too, because she did this very thing immediately following our last Table For Twelve dinner as I stood saying goodbyes on the sidewalk outside Le Pigeon and I've never fully recovered. So we did what anyone in our situation would do.

First, we stopped at the skeeviest minimart we could find, and bought Powerball tickets. Fate had brought us to McMinnville on the wrong day for SOME reason. 
Determined to drink some Pinot, we drove around looking for wineries that were still open, and came upon Vista Hills Vineyard and Winery's (open until 5 pm) Treehouse Tasting Room, nestled in the hills with a spectacular view of the valley. We felt a little better as we tasted their 2006 Estate Pinot Gris, a very nice white wine with crisp apple notes and nice acidity ($18/bottle), then four of Vista Hills' Pinot Noirs, my favorite being the 2003 Pinot Noir, which had a heady blackberry and cherry nose and a very intense cinnamon flavor ($35/bottle).

Onward to Dobbes Family Estate Tasting Room, on SE 5th Street in downtown Dundee, open until 6 pm.

We tasted the 2006 Wines By Joe Pinot Blanc, a nice light white wine. Our Hospitality Associate Jennifer, told us that winemaker Joe Dobbes calls this his Monday through Thursday drinking wine, a "serious wine with no attitude." So in other words, Michelle's polar opposite. We were fans of the 2006 Joe's Rose, a pretty light-bodied wine with a creamy strawberry flavor and grapefruit notes. The price was right too, at $10 a bottle.  

All this tasting made us hungry, so on we went to Crush Wine Lounge and Bistro in Newberg, a beautiful little restaurant with a Victorian feel and a "Cheap Date Night" Saturday Special, 3 small plates for $21.

We tried the Vintner's Cheese Plate ($11), a nice spread that included a delicious creamy blue cheese, a sharp Gouda, and a Manchego, served with sweet sliced apple, a cluster of red grapes, salty Marcona almonds, and two raspberries. Yes, I said two. They were good. 

We also tried the BBQ Pork, two saucy tender pork ribs with mini cornbread muffins and a corn, black bean, and cherry tomato salad that could have benefited from more aggressive seasoning. The pork was delicious though. 

We finished with the brownie dessert, which was pleasantly moist and studded with hazelnuts and white and dark chocolate chips, and one of the brownies was cut into some sort of curious flower shape, which was unusual for a brownie, but why not? Brownies don't always have to be square, or triangular, they can get crazy too. The brownie had three raspberries on it. 

So I cannot tell a lie, while Crush is darling and very comfortable and we enjoyed the pork and our porch seating, the food was a little underwhelming overall, which means we needed a second dinner. And what were we craving after our exhausting day of ups and downs? Comfort food, that's what. We pointed the car towards:

There's nothing like a DQ cheeseburger and dipped cones to make you forget all about the fact that you drove all the way from Portland to McMinnville on a flower-brownie-shaped cloud of joy, thinking you were going to get to go to Passport to Pinot only to end up buying lotto tickets and tasting wine in a treehouse and eating Dairy Queen dipped cones instead. Come to think of it, it wasn't an unhappy ending, though. And, as I type, Michelle is downstairs honking the horn on the Miata to indicate that I should get downstairs pronto, so we can actually drive back out to McMinnville RIGHT NOW to experience:The Real Passport to Pinot. We will keep you posted on how that goes, and we will let you know if we won the lotto. Dairy Queen dipped cones for all our readers if we did!

*Just kidding Brian! Michelle specifically said she does NOT want a rich, dashing, winery-owning, husband. To which I said, "Suit yourself, but don't expect me to share mine!"


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gareth of Wales Celebrates His 2nd Bday at Lucky Lab!

It's not every day your doggie nephew, Gareth of Wales, turns two years old. Darling Gareth celebrated in style, with a good old fashioned birthday party at Lucky Labrador Brew Hall on NW Quimby, complete with a Costume Competition, Talent Show, and Gareth's Choice contest, and of course, a doggie birthday cake made by Bone-Jour GourMutt Bakery in West Linn.

The party's official motto: You Sniff My Butt, I'll Sniff Yours. 

The menu was for the dogs, and included bowls of people crackers on every table. From what I could tell, they were in the shape of a dogcatcher, a mailman, and a Russian Cossack dancer. 

Thankfully, Gareth provided people food too, and more importantly, people drinks, chosen from Lucky Lab's colorful beer board. 

Bad news: Super Dog, a popular Double IPA, was OUT, and needless to say, SuperDog was not happy. 

After he calmed SuperDog down, Gareth ordered pitchers of  Organic Golden Ale, a German-style, malty golden ale, and the Irish Stout, a black beer with roasted hops, coffee and licorice notes. For any dogs on the wagon, Lucky Lab makes their own root beer, too. 

After a few glasses, Gareth's buddy Charlie was ready to par-tay!

Gareth also ordered a few pizzas, like the Dog Breath--spicy sauce, roasted garlic, fresh minced garlic, red onion, and black olives ($19.50); and The Big Dog--pepperoni, Italian sausage, salami, green pepper, mushroom, yellow onion, red onion, broccoli, tomato, and black olives ($24.50). The pizza was tasty, but if you're into thinner crispier crusts and a more sparing application of toppings a la Ken's Artisan Pizza or Apizza Scholls, you'll be choking on the 3/4 inch thick crust and slew of cheese and ingredients on top.  

Steve Lanning liked his pizza.

The devil, aka Jack, arrived, and the party was ON.

There was some stiff competition in the costume contest, but Spartacus triumphed. He was totally unmoved by his victory and remained ever vigilant, refusing even to sniff his prize as he watched the crowd suspiciously, sure that an enemy gladiator was going to leap out from under a picnic table and pillage the people crackers.

Next up, the Talent Show. Leigh and Lavi perform some very elaborate maneuvers, including The Between-The-Legs-Weave. 

Gareth chooses Lavi as his favorite friend in the "Gareth's Choice" competition.

Eric cuts the cake (peanut butter studded with fake doggie chocolate bones), and Thalia distributes it to the canine guests. 

Like any good party, the guests do a little dance,

make a little (Eskimo) love,

And get down tonight! Look, Brian had the See-Food pizza! Ha ha! 

Everyone goes home happy. Except maybe Homer, who gets a goodbye Wet Willy from Gareth.

If you are into photos of dog birthday parties, click HERE to see the TableTalkPortland Picasa Web Album chronicling Gareth's entire celebration, complete with plenty of captions that make believe that the dogs are actually talking! Who has too much time on their hands?!