The highlight of this week was a dinner date with my coworker, since both our husbands left us for work travel, and in a fun extra credit I introduced her to my JnJ- she also has a JnJ. We had quite a list to pick from, and after lots of careful menu deliberation I went with Nostrana.
I enjoyed two delightful beverages from their Rooster bar: one was the "Bubbling for Apples" which is carbonated to order in a Perlini shaker and composed of Liquore Strega, Jonagold apple juice, fresh lemon, Laird's bonded applejack, quince peel syrup, served on the rocks. I started and ended my meal with this fizzy drink. I also tried "Yesterday, today, & amaro" which was less apple forward with its mixture of Flor de Cana extra dry rum, Averna amaro, spiced quince puree, lime, sparkling apple cider, served up in a martini glass. Although this latter drink definitely was better looking, it was hard to compete against the Bubbling for Apples.
For dinner, on Thursday's Nostrana has Gnocchi Thursday (dinner and for lunch as well), in which they offer three gnocchi treatments of their handmade potato dumplings in the Roman tradition of ‘giovedì gnocchi'. I was torn between the one in lamb & salsify ragu and the other with taleggio, savoy cabbage, leek, caraway and black pepper and decided on the latter lighter one. It is as melt in your mouth as it looks. I ate the whole thing so fast it was so good…I think when I originally ordered it I thought I would share it, but after the first bite, it was like that thought never existed (I did share tastes).
Nostrana also has an wood fired oven and serve their pizza uncut with scissors they give to you at the table to cut up your pieces as you'd like. I went with the Funghi Verde pizza with shiitake mushrooms, house mozzarella, garlic, arugula, pecorino sardo, lemon oil… yeah, lots and lots of arugula so I could feel like it was a healthy dinner despite the gnocchi.
The apple and pear crisp takes 20 minutes to prepare, and is well worth it- but is definitely large enough to share between 4 people. Based on the foursquare recommendations I had to get the Budino with caramel and salt which is indeed so decadent.
Thank you J of JnJ and my coworker for such a wonderful dinner date. The kitchen brought out food quickly and our server very well versed on the menu and wines, with the atmosphere even though it got full for dinner quickly, still being easy to have conversation and privacy so that it felt intimate and warm, although as you can see from the photos, the lighting is dim. While the restaurant is casual, the staff seemed to treat it like it was higher end with their smooth service that is in and out of your way quickly and professionally- which is nice to see in the super-informal service industry Portland seems to allow.
Beard Nominee and owner Cathy Whims also opened Oven and Shaker in the Pearl, and I definitely want to visit there soon to see what she has done there. They change their menu daily, so it was exciting to be teased about what would be for dinner as I looked at the Wed dinner menu and the Thur lunch menu (the Thur dinner was not up when we went for dinner- it seems they are behind on uploading it online, though they always do eventually update it that day-I looked at it the next day in writing this blog). There had been a crab pizza that had been offered the day before which wasn't that day- next time I'll find it online and go that day.
It felt a little Portlandia when on the back of the menu was a list of 20 some local farmers and purveyers she sources all the food from the menu from- but in a good way… it was clearly about sourcing locally so it is fresh and seasonal, not for the absurd guilt reason of "was this animal happy before it was killed so I could eat it". Not quite as awesome as when my coworker bought eggs which a sticker on the box listing the "Hen of the Month" including that her favorite snack is cracked corn and favorite pastime is "scratching the dirt looking for seeds". Heh, the hen, not my coworker.