Accanto – Portland Dining Month + Urbanspoon

Disclosure: This meal was complimentary/provided by Urbanspoon, but they did not require that I write this review.  The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own, and I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences regardless of whether they were complimentary or not.

I am running out of steam for Portland Dining Month, and thought after the date night at Quartet (upcoming post), that would be the end of it. But, I was thrilled to see in my email inbox from Urbanspoon an invitation to attend an event at Accanto. Accanto is the more casual enoteca sibling to its next door neighbor, fine dining prix fixe and historic Genoa. Both share the same pasta making genius and executive chef Jake Martin and sommelier Michael Garofola, who stopped to chat about Accanto with us for a while about the goals of Accanto and admire the sunshine streaming through the windows. Apparently they keep him in the dark wine cellar :)

The airy bright space of Accanto with clean lines of natural wood feels warm and open. There are seats by the window for casual glass of wine and small plates or at the bar, or you can sit at the countertop by the open kitchen to watch the magic happen, or to the sides of the long rectangular space for a bit more privacy with your dining party. Be sure to check out the chalkboard by the bar, which lists the specials. I forgot to take any photos of the insides- I’ll try to correct that in the future.

I was so excited to receive an invitation from an Urbanspoon Event Planner for its first Urban Hour in Portland. This event gave me an opportunity to visit Accanto to sample some of Accanto’s signature dishes and the opportunity to meet and network with other foodies in the Portland area who also participate in Urbanspoon as reviewers, and also an opportunity to meet Carrie Welch.

Carrie is the co-founder of Feast Portland, organizer of an amazing food festival this coming September that includes speakers, panels, chef collaborative brunches and dinners, outdoor markets, cooking demonstrations, competitions, classes… it’s like high quality food channel, but all LIVE and IN PERSON over 4 wonderful days in a setting that is as intimate as a an industry conference of just a few hundred people. And Carrie was so laid back and cool and excited about food, I guess I had this impression that someone who helped produce the insane awesomeness of Feast would be intense and maybe a bit frenetic, but she seemed so approachable and like you could just hang at the bar. I think I successfully held myself back from squeeeing. I think.

I came in to Urban Hour expecting just perhaps a cocktail and a few small plates, but was blown away to hear we would get to taste the Portland Dining Month menu… which means you still have an opportunity to also have this wonderful meal yourself!

You may think Accanto is like any other moderate Italian neighborhood stop, but that’s where you would be wrong. They really take advantage of unique, perhaps even previously never heard of ingredients and bring them to your tastebuds to help you explore how much more is out there. Do not expect your regular Italian food here.

For instance, the first course started with marinated olives and spiced almonds. Sounds simple enough right? But what the heck were these teeny tiny olives I see placed before me- they were almost the size of the almonds, most were half the size. Seriously, if I had the sense to have asked for a piece of bread, I think I might have also poured the marinated olive oil on the bread and eaten that to finish the little container.
Accanto, Portland, restaurant: first course of marinated olives and spiced almonds

Meanwhile, I couldn’t resist trying a few cocktails. I did it for you, it’s all for you. I sipped a bit of my friend’s cocktail, the Lion’s Tail with Temperance Trader Barrel Strength Bourbon, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, lime and simple which had a nice refreshing beginning that then swirled in spice for an interesting complex but light sipper. Meanwhile, my Guadalajara cocktail with Espolon Blanco Tequila, St Germain, lime, honey, rocks and salt also was refreshing with a nice balance of sweetness and hint of sour that made me long for ocean waves and a beach umbrella over my lounge chair.
Accanto: cocktail of Lion's Tail with Temperance Trader Barrel Strength Bourbon, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, lime and simple Accanto: Guadalajara cocktail with Espolon Blanco Tequila, St Germain, lime, honey, rocks and salt Accanto: Guadalajara cocktail with Espolon Blanco Tequila, St Germain, lime, honey, rocks and salt Accanto: Guadalajara cocktail with Espolon Blanco Tequila, St Germain, lime, honey, rocks and salt

For the second course we had the soup of the day, which was described as a potato leek soup with a cream base, everyone was surprised that it was a chilled soup. I found it quite tasty, with a bit of the black pepper lingering to balance out the soft smooth thick soup. The other option for the second course was the salad with arugula, radish snap peas, basil and ricotta salata, I had to wipe my face from the long slivers of arugula and radish punctuated by the bits of the salty ricotta salata and pretty edible flower petals.
Accanto: second course of a chilled potato leek soup Accanto: salad arugula, snap peas, radish, basil vinaigrette and ricotta salata, and a few edible flower petals for touch of pretty

My cocktail was replaced by a new one I ordered, the Meads’ Knees with Beefeater Gin, GL Dansk Mead, honey and lemon up. I can drink this all summer long baby, this was so crisp, light and lovely, with an airy sweet carefreeness to it. You know after you pull all the weeds in the yard on a Sunday afternoon and then come in and have that tall glass of lemonade- that’s what this feels like, just the “aaahhhhhhhhh….”.
Accanto: Meads’ Knees with Beefeater Gin, GL Dansk Mead, honey and lemon up

The main courses, the third course were two pasta options, one of potato gnocchi, lamb bolognese, mint and pecorino that had a chewful of doughy gnocchi and nice tangy savoryness to the sauce, though part of me wish they could have seared the gnocchi a bit or added something for a bit of a crispy or crunchy hint to the softness of the dish. I often hear how gnocchi should be pillowy soft, and I have had some that were ethereal and just melted in my mouth. I had to hold myself back from forking too many of my friend’s dish here also though, but these gnocchi are more substantial soldiers that are a bit more toothsome but definitely not tough, they were staunch, hearty little bites of comfort. Think of them as firm pillows instead of feather pillows, both kinds I would be glad to rest my head / take bites of as they gallantly balance and carry the rich lamb bolognese to me.

I really liked my dish as I took each bite of the capellini with samphire, garlic, chili, and fennel seed. Samphire, which I had never heard of, and which was my word for the day, is a grassy vegetable that reminded me a bit of water spinach, but much thinner and younger, sort of the texture of the adolescent years after a baby microgreen has grown up but not quite to the teenage years of a rapini.

This went beautifully with the capellini: as you can see they are basically the same size between noodle and vegetable. So they intertwined as equally matched dance partners as I twirled it on my fork, punctuated now and then by the red pepper and garlic and fennel for some interplaying types of heat that never got spicy, but yet was there, bringing it all together by providing the simple music, making this capellini and samphire pairing seem so natural.
Accanto: potato gnocchi, lamb bolognese, mint and pecorino Accanto: capellini with samphire, garlic, chili, and fennel seed
Accanto: capellini with samphire, garlic, chili, and fennel seed Accanto:

We then wrapped up with dessert (yes, there was more!!) of Rose panna cotta with strawberries and lambrusco. I couldn’t bear to leave a bite behind even though I was so full from the generous portion of the above pasta, which I also made sure to leave no strand behind.
Accanto: Rose panna cotta with strawberries and lambrusco

See what I mean by how Accanto seems like the so casual next door neighbor, but can surprise you with sophistication because it turns out your neighbor is actually a multi-millionaire living below his means and it turns out he has some really interesting vacation stories to tell.

They had the menus on the table briefly as we were chatting with cocktails before the olives and almonds and I already wanted to be back (before they mentioned we were eating a 3 course meal, I was already wondering if they would find me weird/stalkery/gluttonous if I stayed and ordered more plates after the event… turned out I had no room after dinner) to try out a small plate of “Burrata  strawberries, favas, wrinkled crinkled crumple cress “. Crumple Cress? What are you?? WHAT?! I WANT YOU.

Make your Portland Dining Month reservations via OpenTable so that Downtown Portland will also make a donation to the Oregon Food Bank if you go this month! Remember, Portland Dining Month only lasts until the end of June!

Thank you, Urbanspoon, for helping to introduce me. I also really enjoyed chatting with other food lovers- while not everyone was a food blogger specifically (though several were bloggers), we were definitely all appreciators of foods that have opinions and like the ability at Urbanspoon to explore a wider deeper resource for researching deliciousness, since Urbanspoon allows linking to more full content. Particularly, I like looking there to read reviews in the media as well as on blogs where I can get full stories of the experience as both professional and amateur reviewers are aggregated there on a restaurant review page.

I was pleased to see Urban Bliss Media again, and also meet in person for the first time the wonderful authors of Salt. Water. Coffee. and Talk. Eat. Drink. Portland. who made me wish my blog name had more clever dramatic statements to it (hee), as well as make the acquaintance of Mommy Travels and Urbanspoon reviewer Navalis and… man, I should have taken a photo of the signin sheet we dutifully all signed at the end of the night, I will stalk everyone from the event that was there dutifully and see if I can update this. Make sure you check out these other peeps for more good food advisers to add to your list, and perhaps see their take on the event!

Disclosure: This meal was complimentary/provided by Urbanspoon, but they did not require that I write this review.  The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own, and I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences regardless of whether they were complimentary or not.

Accanto on Urbanspoon

Check out my other Portland Dining Month escapades: I ate at Quartet, Accanto, Urban Fondue, Fratelli, H50 out of my initial list!

Signature

Comments

  1. man, i have been stressing about which places to try for PDM… this one might be added to my list!

  2. That potato leek soup looks amazing!

    • It was, and I like the idea of maybe having a silky potato leek soup chilled during hot days in the summer instead of only for comfort during cold days!

  3. Navalis says:

    Pleasure to meet you last night. Wonderful recap & pictures of the Urban Hour event!

    • It was also wonderful to meet you, and I’ll have to let you know if my husband and I ever visit your area to help provide additional excuses to try new things for a dinner or something!

  4. Looks like you got some great shots of the cappelini! It was a pleasure sharing such a fantastic meeting with you!

  5. Bahahaha- “I did it for you. All for you!” Love that line lady. The meal looks amazing. I can’t wait to try the place!

  6. Potato leek soup sounds amazing…but cold?! That sounds interesting for sure. I haven’t done any PDM and I need to get out to at least one!

Trackbacks

  1. […] time I was at Accanto was for dinner in June, but something caught my eye on their starters menu that had me returning back a few weeks later. […]

  2. […] out my other Portland Dining Month escapades: I ate at Quartet, Accanto, Urban Fondue, Fratelli, H50 out of my initial […]

  3. […] and recapped as example Portland Dining month experiences dinners at Firehouse Restaurant, Quartet, Accanto, Urban Fondue, Fratelli (since closed but still a great example of what a great way to discover […]

Speak Your Mind

*