Portland, Oregon

PortlandAfter a couple days in the moody, windy environs of Cannon Beach, Oregon, we drove off to Portland.

I loved staying at the Marriott Residence Inn in Portland’s Pearl District. We had a studio that felt like a home with modern design and lots of windows/light. We didn’t cook there, but there was plenty of room to do that if we chose. It’s a short walk to the stores, bars and restaurants of downtown, including the iconic Powell’s Books. I reverted to my high-school predilections and bought a pair of cherry Doc Martens boots, right across from Powell’s.

Voodoo Doughnut

We stopped by Voodoo Doughnut, which got a huge boost from Anthony Bourdain when he visited for “No Reservations.” The line snaked out the door in the evening, but it moved fairly quickly. We got a Homer doughnut, a frosted doughnut with sprinkles. I can’t say it was the most amazing doughnut I’ve ever had, but the quirkiness of the store’s decor and the wild toppings on the doughnuts make it worth the visit.

Swank beef tartare

I have to rave about Swank & Swine, a farm-to-table place where we had dinner our last night in town. It’s a hotel restaurant, which I typically am not fond of (usually expensive for mediocre food), but this place was something else. I could tell the chef cares about creativity, serving fine-dining classics with a twist.

Swank pork belly

The beef tartare was served with what looked to be house-made potato chips, red-tinged. The buttermilk and quail egg enhanced the unctuousness of the tartare. The roasted pork belly with caramel, another appetizer, was cooked to an almost melting tenderness and served with savoy cabbage that seemed to be deep fried to give them a potato chip consistency. There was also a dollop of peanut sauce that mimicked the taste of a mousse pâté.

Swank burger

The sturgeon entree kept it simple; sturgeon, when cooked right, is a perfect balance between toothsome and tender. I loved the Swank burger with foie; I think the chef was reimagining the Big Mac with McDonald’s “special sauce.” When the dish came out, I asked the server where the foie gras was, and he said the foie has been ground into a sauce topping the burger. At first I didn’t like the idea–when I order foie gras, I want to see a nice little hunk of it on the plate–but when I started eating, I understood. This burger was good. Really good. The ground foie brought so much umami, I wanted a whole gravy bowl of it. It gave the burger two layers of decadence: the juicy, big burger patty combining with the richness of the foie. Such a clever idea. Kudos to the chef for bringing playfulness, technical mastery and beauty to every dish.

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