weekend in Portland: day two

Portland Japanese Garden

A full day of walking and eating in Portland! We started out with coffee at our most excellent guesthouse, then headed down the street to the highly recommended Detour Cafe. After our last visit to Portland, we figured any good breakfast place would be crammed full of people on a sunny Saturday morning, but there were plenty of free tables.

Detour Cafe

an awesome breakfast sandwich

The Detour’s a great place – sunny, colorful, and casual. Good coffee, of course (it is Portland, after all). Then menu isn’t huge, but it looked like they had some good stuff – we both got breakfast sandwiches, and were very happy with them. Mine had a fried egg, mixed salad greens, bacon and fresh tomato on foccaccia – my dream breakfast sandwich, really. It reminded me of one I had in Tofino, on Vancouver Island, and have remembered fondly ever since.

octopus tapa at Andina

After spending the morning in the Hawthorne district, we took a bus over to the Pearl to look for a bit of lunch. I had been thinking Fenouil, but we ended up at Andina quite accidentally, and they were (amazingly) able to seat us right away. Andina is a rather hip and stylish place, and they specialize in Peruvian cuisine, which you don’t get to try every day. We weren’t very hungry, so we just got glasses of wine and two plates of tapas: red peppers stuffed with quinoa, serrano ham and cheese, and a grilled octopus tentacle with herbed mashed potatoes. Both were delicious. The octopus was firm and chewy, but the suckers were amusingly crispy. We admired the large plates of fried things going to the other tables, but were very happy with our selections.

stuffed pepper at Andina

There was bread for the table as well, cute little deflated quinoa rolls with a trio of dipping sauces: a slightly spicy peanut sauce, a spicier passionfruit jam (I hate passionfruit, but J liked it) and a really great, really hot green chile puree.  I had a glass of verdejo that went fantastically with everything, and J had a very good petite syrah.

Oregon Anjou

Later, after a lot of standing around at bus stops and a tour of possibly the most beautiful Japanese garden I’ve ever seen, we made our way back to the Pearl for happy hour at Ten-01. The food was great – perfect oysters with mignonette, and hot and crispy truffled french fries. To drink, J got a Bentley, which he seemed pretty happy with. I ordered the Oregon Anjou, which sounded promising – a mix of pear puree, vodka, pear brandy, lemon and pinot gris syrup. Nowhere in the description, though, did it mention the large sprinkle of cinnamon on top. It was really kind of disgusting. If you were adding cinnamon to a cocktail, wouldn’t you tell people about it in advance? Oh, well. Better luck next time.

kitchen at Sel Gris

On to dinner! We had reservations for the “chef’s bar” at Sel Gris on Hawthorne, and we were very excited about it after reading many rave reviews on Chowhound and elsewhere. It’s a small restaurant with the tables really crammed in tight, but at the bar you have an open view of the entire kitchen staff at work, with the final presentation of the plates happening right in front of you. It was great fun.

chef's bar at Sel Gris

We started with glasses of brut and an order of the duck agnolotti. This was up on my list of Best Things I Ever Ate: firm little filled pasta with foie gras and a few leaves of meat-scented radicchio that rocked my world, if you’ll excuse the expression. I’m afraid I don’t remember a lot of details, we were too busy scarfing it. For our second course we got the grilled escarole with preserved lemon, olives and chickpeas. This couldn’t have been more different from the agnolotti, which was mellow and rich – the escarole was both bright and bitter, the lemon and olives combining to create an extra depth of bitter saltiness, with feta and chickpeas providing a hint of creaminess to set it all off. Delicious, and the last of our sparkling wine went perfectly with it.

from the chef's bar at Sel Gris

For our entrees, we both got fish, but with very different presentations. J got the ono “mac and cheese,” a piece of sweet fish on a pile of Israeli couscous with mimolette cheese melted into it. It was tasty. I ordered the hamachi with foie gras, and I’m sorry to say it didn’t really do it for me. Some of the fish was rare and very tender, but other parts were overcooked and tough. The foie was lovely, but the broth that it all sat in was oddly flavored with soy or sesame – not the flavor that I would have gone for had I known. Like the drinks menu at Ten-01, a little more detail might have been helpful. Still, I enjoyed the dish, and especially enjoyed watching new orders getting prepped (and listening to the orgasmic moans of the people next to us as they ate).

We finished off with an astonishing dessert that they were calling a “moon pie.” Actually J ate most of it, but I had a bite – marshmallow, chocolate cake, caramel and a bitter chocolate and nut crisp. As with everything at Sel Gris, the presentation was flawless.

A good day!

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