A lunch at Glyph Café & Art Space

When I first walked past Glyph Café & Art Space, which was one evening after The Big Legrowlski by the Pearl/North Park Blocks, I thought it was, at first glance, an art gallery. The space inside just looked so carefully crafted artistically and well, so tasteful with a mix of open space and interesting art pieces.

Then I realized how many tables and chairs there were, even though quite a few of the tables actually looked like they were showcasing art themselves since they were shadowboxes. I then assumed it was an artsy coffee and tea cafe.
Glyph Café & Art Space Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details

Well, then Irene Squizzato (of Watershed Communications – my first visit was a complimentary meal though I have since visited again on my own dime) invited me to try Glyph for lunch. And, so the answer turns out to be even better. So much better that I believe that Glyph Cafe is totally a secret hidden gem right now, it’s totally being under-appreciated and under-rated because of that, and I am excited to spill the beans and share it with you.

First of all, there is no denying the space is beautiful. It is full of light, but also lots of little details that make it feel lovely and loved. Little things like the tiny but incredibly arranged small flowers around the room. The one solid wall in Glyph has art that rotates out to showcase a new artist. The light fixtures of wood that dangle by the window on the other long wall another one of many details that bridge the airy high ceilings with the occupied space below. There are the odd shaped tables that are easily re-arranged as needed for groups, the different shapes of round chairs and triangle chairs and metal stools that are all functional and even comfortable but also are fun for the eye – they are all part of the variety of textures and shapes and colors that make the space of Glyph itself art.
Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details  Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic detailsGlyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details

When you first enter you will see what I thought was a Wish Wall, but which owner Sandra Comstock officially has named the Poetry Wall. Evoking a Portland version of the Western Wall, you can see folded notes of hopes and wishes tucked into the wooden wall. But, that’s only a physical manifestation of the sanctuary feel of Glyph and the community of people it represents.
Glyph Café & Art Space Wish Wall Glyph Café & Art Space Wish Wall

As Sarah explains, “Our poetry wall was inspired by a story I happened to hear on NPR (on the Wailing Wall) as we were developing our plans for Glyph.  It seemed to me initially that it would be lovely to have a wall where people could exchange poetry, haiku or what have you. But over the last year people have made it their own – some place notes of gratitude – even some to us. Others draw cartoons with funny captions – my daughter has an ongoing character called fake fang girl who is pictured doing different dastardly deeds. ”

“Some of our baristas have started very funny stories or collaborated – one drawing a picture with the other inventing the caption.  In other cases people have written out laments, jokes, or longings.  I now often think of it as a sort of our crowd-sourced, interactive fortune cookie –   like fortune cookie fortunes – it is a mystery what words of wisdom or silliness or seriousness one might receive. I always encourage people to take or leave as many as they like.”
Glyph Café & Art Space Wish Wall

“Design wise – the wall is made of charred cedar planks and niches built by Reed La Plant – an exceptionally talented and kind architect turned furniture makers. In the niches are a series of en-caustics created by my friend Rio Wren – she goes through abandoned industrial buildings collecting old nails, gears, – the detritus of industrial society – and then rusts them on to silk and finally coats them with  wax.  I asked Rio to make what I refer to as “post-industrial glyphs” for our wall – that is images that reference glyphs found in the caves and walls around the world made by earlier civilizations – but produced from shapes and items left over from the height of 20th century factory life in the US.  In any case  – I get great satisfaction from looking at the wall and watching people interact with it … I also have some really nice pictures of that interaction which i will include.”
Glyph Café & Art Space Wish Wall

The seating at the counters and tables and couches do a wonderful balance of allowing personal space for your choice of deep or light hearted conversation while also being comfortable and plentiful enough to easily find a seat. At the same time, there is a communal feel in everyone sharing this open space and those little flowers (which by the way, are fresh from the garden daily).
Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details. These flowers are fresh from the garden every day Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details. These flowers are fresh from the garden every day Glyph Café & Art Space interior is clean yet welcoming with carefully curated artistic details. These flowers are fresh from the garden every day

Restrooms at Glyph Café & Art Space are through a hallway marked by a restroom sign which is the nicest sign I’ve ever seen. Through the hallway is where you then have to use a key (attached to a paintbrush of course as a whimsical artistic nod) to get into the individual restroom
Restrooms at Glyph Café & Art Space are through a hallway, where you then have to use a key attached to a brush (a nod to the artistic slant of Glyph) to get into the individual restroom Restrooms at Glyph Café & Art Space are through a hallway, where you then have to use a key attached to a brush (a nod to the artistic slant of Glyph) to get into the individual restroom Restrooms at Glyph Café & Art Space are through a hallway, where you then have to use a key attached to a brush (a nod to the artistic slant of Glyph) to get into the individual restroom

Second of all, Glyph also boasts an amazing chef who truly has a local, seasonal, farm to table and sustainable vision. Chef Doug Weiler literally goes to Portland Farmers Market on Saturday with his sous chef with no preconceptions in mind, sees what is fresh, and starts to make up the menu from there. The menu is written in chalk, and is carefully curated to only a handful of items, literally – only 4-7 options of plates (separate from pastries and beverages like coffee, tea, wine, cider, and beer of course). Doug also embraces a philosophy of rising to the challenge of trying to use the whole ingredient, with little to no waste.
Sandra Comstock and the Menu at Glyph Café & Art Space. The ingredients are picked out at the Saturday Farmers market everyday by the chef and sous chef and then they prepare the menu weekly from there Menu at Glyph Café & Art Space for teas Menu at Glyph Café & Art Space for alcoholic drinks and some pastries Menu at Glyph Café & Art Space for alcoholic drinks

At a lunch I shared with Irene Squizzato and Emily Katz (whose design taste makes me wish she could decorate my entire house and maybe life), I got a taste of some of this sustainable and whole method for food in dishes like their featured Whole Vegetable Special, which is intended to be a regular feature with the Glypp  menu.

When we visited, we tried the Heirloom Carrot version of the Whole Vegetable Special of Carrots that included Heirloom Carrots in a carrot emulsion, carrot top pesto, salted green garlic and toasted farro.
Glyph Café & Art Space Whole Vegetable Special of Carrots with Heirloom Carrots in a carrot emulsion, carrot top pesto, salted green garlic and toasted farro Glyph Café & Art Space Whole Vegetable Special of Carrots with Heirloom Carrots in a carrot emulsion, carrot top pesto, salted green garlic and toasted farro Glyph Café & Art Space Whole Vegetable Special of Carrots with Heirloom Carrots in a carrot emulsion, carrot top pesto, salted green garlic and toasted farro Glyph Café & Art Space Whole Vegetable Special of Carrots with Heirloom Carrots in a carrot emulsion, carrot top pesto, salted green garlic and toasted farro

Other Whole Vegetable Dishes in the past include Beet Green Yorkshire Pudding with Salted Greens and Raw Shaved Marinated Beets, Pasta with Market Greens and Preserved Stems, and Mushroom and Trevisio Toast with Poached Egg  Yolk (the toast had roasted mushrooms, and a mousse was made from the stems that would otherwise be too woody to eat on their own).

Another recent special from Chef Doug was called Rice and Herbs where a risotto cooked with an herb stock made from the stems of herbs picked for an herb puree to finish the risotto and the herb salad that would also garnish the risotto. The dish is further garnished with shaved raw sunchoke, and a house-made rice milk drizzled over the top and then finished with a sprinkle of bee pollen and olive oil. Chef Doug proudly stated that “From start to finish, this dish was made with nothing being thrown away.”

“If we can’t utilize the entire product in one dish, we will do our best to preserve it in some way to utilize in another dish in the future. This is done by pickling, dehydrating, making into a jam… The goal is to eventually have 100 percent utilization of all product brought into the cafe. As the summer approaches, there will definitely be some really exciting Whole Ingredient dishes being featured. The goal is to keep them vegetarian, or as close to it as possible.”

Chef Doug Weiler explains his dish of Chicken leg confit with chicken breast roulade over cracked rye porridge, sunchokes, potatoes, green garlic, and chicken jus at Glyph Café & Art Spac

Chef Doug, similar to owner Sandra and her eye for detail in terms of decor and art, also has lots of details down in terms of execution technique and balance for those dishes. There may only be a few options on the menu, but every dish option is carefully constructed and crafted.

For instance, another special dish at Glyph I tried during my visit was Asparagus, Collard Rabe with Beeswax potatoes and Bee Pollen and Whipped Egg Yolk. This dish really helps illustrate the detailed thoughts Chef Doug uses to create a dish. He explained that in conceiving this dish, he referenced Caneles de Bourdeau, one of his favorite pastries because of it’s crunchy outside and creamy custardy inside but that is difficult to master because the Canele needs to be coated in beeswax before baking. His research also brought him to influences around the world, such as Chef Heinz Reitbauer of Restaurant Steirereck in Vienna, Austria who has been using molten beeswax to cook fish.
Collard Rabe with Beeswax potatoes and Bee Pollen and Whipped Egg Yolk, at Glyph Cafe and Art Space from Chef Doug Weiler

Chef Doug explained that in formulating this dish “When I was at the market last Saturday I came across two women selling honey, bee pollen, and beeswax. My mind was immediately filled with ideas about how I can best utilize this beautiful product with the spring ingredients that were available. I wanted to experiment with cooking potatoes in the beeswax. It took a bit of trial and error, but I finally figured out a method that creates a crispy golden brown skin of the potato with a creamy center that has a very subtle honey flavor.”

“I have always been a fan of the floral quality that honey adds to things, and have always used honey as a way to being out more flavor in vegetables such as asparagus and bitter greens such as rabe. I figured that the wax would provide the same balance. The bee pollen sprinkled on the plate was more to bring out the honey flavor in the potato than anything else.”

“The last component of the plate was whipped egg yolk. This was my way of not simply serving asparagus with Hollandaise or a poached egg. The yolks were infused with rosemary for two days, and then cooked at 62.5 C for 6 hours. Once cooled they can be whipped either by hand or in a Kitchenaid. The result is a beautiful rich airy egg mixture that I hoped would tie all the ingredients on the plate together, while adding some sort of fat to the dish. That is really the story of how this plate came to be. It is a simple plate of food, but something that i have been developing in my mind for quite a few months now.”

Collard Rabe with Beeswax potatoes and Bee Pollen and Whipped Egg Yolk, at Glyph Cafe and Art Space from Chef Doug Weiler Collard Rabe with Beeswax potatoes and Bee Pollen and Whipped Egg Yolk, at Glyph Cafe and Art Space from Chef Doug Weiler

For a simpler example (because despite what Chef Doug said, I wouldn’t call that Aspragus and Beeswax Potatoes dish simple…), see below. Despite the brownness of the plate, what you’re looking at below is a dish of Warm Pork Rillette with oat crust, some slices of citrus, pickled shallot, and Fressen seeded rye bread slightly warmed/toasted. (loooove Fressen Bakery, the bread is so seedy and German!). The dish was a wonderful balance of textures and flavors and even hot and cold, from the soft rillette that was warm and savory to the seedy yet sweet of the bread and punches of acid in two different ways from the cooler citrus and the pickled shallot. This dish is available both at breakfast and lunch.
Warm Pork Rillette with oat crust, some slices of citrus, pickled shallot, and Fressen seeded rye bread at Glyph Café & Art Space Warm Pork Rillette with oat crust, some slices of citrus, pickled shallot, and Fressen seeded rye bread at Glyph Café & Art Space

This is just my individual portion of the Salmon and Endive Salad that includes smoked Coho salmon, belgian endive, oregon hazelnuts, herbs, potato, and goat cheese (there has also been a version sometimes that uses housemade ricotta), but it too, was a balance of textures and flavors. I also enjoyed the bowl presentation of the Liquid Jade/Matcha, an organic powdered green tea from Japan.
My portion of a Salmon and Endive Salad that includes smoked Coho salmon, belgian endive, oregon hazelnuts, herbs, potato, and goat cheese (there has also been a version sometimes that uses housemade ricotta) at Glyph Café & Art Space My portion of a Salmon and Endive Salad that includes smoked Coho salmon, belgian endive, oregon hazelnuts, herbs, potato, and goat cheese (there has also been a version sometimes that uses housemade ricotta) at Glyph Café & Art Space My portion of a Salmon and Endive Salad that includes smoked Coho salmon, belgian endive, oregon hazelnuts, herbs, potato, and goat cheese (there has also been a version sometimes that uses housemade ricotta) plus Liquid Jade/Matcha, an organic powdered green tea from Japan at Glyph Café & Art Space

Meanwhile, the latest pasta dish (there is always one on the menu) when I visited was a Torchio Pasta dish with market greens, oyster mushrooms, parmesan, cured egg yolk, whipped egg yolk, and preserved tatsoi stem. After mixing it all together, it was as warm and comforting as mac and cheese but with a lot more depth of flavor. The oyster mushrooms had literally come into the kitchen that day. I loved what the tatsoi was like here wilted as well, and now I know to look beyond wilting just regular old spinach, kale, and arugula into my pastas.
Torchio Pasta dish with market greens, oyster mushrooms, parmesan, cured egg yolk, whipped egg yolk, and preserved tatsoi stem at Glyph Café & Art Space Torchio Pasta dish with market greens, oyster mushrooms, parmesan, cured egg yolk, whipped egg yolk, and preserved tatsoi stem at Glyph Café & Art Space

For something on the non vegetarian entree side, there is always a chicken entree, such as this Chicken leg confit with chicken breast roulade over cracked rye porridge, sunchokes, potatoes, green garlic, and chicken jus teased me all day when I took the leftovers after lunch to work, tempting me with how incredible it smelled even in the box.
Chicken leg confit with cracked rye porridge, sunchokes, potatoes, green garlic, and chicken jus at Glyph Café & Art Space Chicken leg confit with cracked rye porridge, sunchokes, potatoes, green garlic, and chicken jus at Glyph Café & Art Space Chicken leg confit with cracked rye porridge, sunchokes, potatoes, green garlic, and chicken jus at Glyph Café & Art Space

As a third point, Glyph also functions as an event space. A small stage that usually houses a couple comfy chairs for perhaps reading with coffee and tea also serves as a location for poetry readings and live music, and event and community space.

Don’t be surprised to see lots of cool artsy people here: the location of Glyph also happens to be the first floor of the Pacific Northwest College of Arts (PNCA) ArtHouse dorm. That will also explain why you might see a lot of laptops with people working on it- but rest assured, Glyph is indeed open for the public. Although they are open mainly for breakfast and some lunch and mid-day bites/drinks (they close at 6 on weekdays and 5 on Sat, closed completely Sunday), they are also part of First Thursday every month in the Pearl and other special events as they come up.
Glyph Café & Art Space Hot cocoa at Glyph Café & Art Space

Now the only question is, which of these seating areas best suits you?
Hot cocoa at Glyph Café & Art Space Hot cocoa at Glyph Café & Art Space Hot cocoa at Glyph Café & Art Space Hot cocoa at Glyph Café & Art Space Hot cocoa at Glyph Café & Art Space Hot cocoa at Glyph Café & Art Space

I hope this post has gotten you intrigued about this little hidden gem in the Pearl/North Park Blocks. Have you heard of it before, what are you thoughts of my little visual tour? Did any of these dishes, whether vegetarian or not, interest you? Would you contribute to that Poetry Wall?
Torchio Pasta dish with market greens, oyster mushrooms, parmesan, cured egg yolk, whipped egg yolk, and preserved tatsoi stem at Glyph Café & Art Space Chicken leg confit with cracked rye porridge, sunchokes, potatoes, green garlic, and chicken jus at Glyph Café & Art Space

Disclosure: My first meal was complimentary, but I visited again on my own dime. I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.

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A Happy Hour at Teardrop Lounge

I organized a happy hour for a group of ladies this past Thursday at Teardrop Lounge. One half of JnJ had mentioned it several times, raving about it, and I was glad to finally get to see that those reviews were so very well deserved. It was also awesome to get all these wonderful ladies who I knew worked downtownish together for some gushing over A’s recent engagement and catching up with each other- the time just seemed to fly by and I felt like I didn’t get to talk to everyone as much as I wished. I guess we’ll just have to do it again.

I started out with one of the three Happy Hour Special drinks for $5 (they also discount off of any wine or beer)- the “House Sake Sangria” of Junmai Ginjo sake, brandy, Oregon pinot gris, spice blend, citrus, and Viridian Farm berries. The fact they serve it with chopsticks for fruit picking is genius and thoughtful. As I watched them spoon it out of a punchbowl, I wonder why at all the sangria I’ve had this summer I have yet to see a punchbowl. Are punchbowls only for old fashioned people?

House Sake Sangria of Junmai Ginjo sake, brandy, Oregon pinot gris, spice blend, citrus, and Viridian Farm berries, Teardrop Lounge, happy hour, cocktails House Sake Sangria of Junmai Ginjo sake, brandy, Oregon pinot gris, spice blend, citrus, and Viridian Farm berries, Teardrop Lounge, happy hour, cocktails House Sake Sangria of Junmai Ginjo sake, brandy, Oregon pinot gris, spice blend, citrus, and Viridian Farm berries, Teardrop Lounge, happy hour, cocktails

I also felt nurtured by the “San Francisco Swell” $10 (Brooke Arthur, Wo Hing, San Francisco), created from Appleton Reserve rum, lime, mint, blackberry honey, Angostura bitters, egg white, Chandon brut sparkling, and clearly touches of love. I believe the information in parenthesis is the name of the original mixologist, their cocktail place where they offer that recipe, and city, so I felt a bit like a fancy traveler doing sophisticated drinks around North America.

San Francisco Swell, Appleton Reserve rum, lime, mint, blackberry honey, Angostura bitters, egg white, Chandon brut sparkling, Teardrop Lounge, happy hour, cocktails San Francisco Swell, Appleton Reserve rum, lime, mint, blackberry honey, Angostura bitters, egg white, Chandon brut sparkling, Teardrop Lounge, happy hour, cocktails San Francisco Swell, Appleton Reserve rum, lime, mint, blackberry honey, Angostura bitters, egg white, Chandon brut sparkling, Teardrop Lounge, happy hour, cocktails San Francisco Swell, Appleton Reserve rum, lime, mint, blackberry honey, Angostura bitters, egg white, Chandon brut sparkling, Teardrop Lounge, happy hour, cocktails

Next for me was “Beer & A Smoke” for $11 (Jim Meehan, PDT, NYC), a concoction of del Maguey Vida mezcal, lime, Cholula, Dos Equis Lager, Bitter Truth Celery bitters. This tasted both dirty and healthy at the same time. You have to like smokeyness… which I do.

Beer and a Smoke cocktail, del Maguey Vida mezcal, lime, Cholula, Dos Equis Lager, Bitter Truth Celery bitters, Teardrop Lounge, happy hour, cocktails

Final beverage(s) of the night: Vuelo de Agave “the way they do it in Mexico, kind of” as recommended multiple times by Alyssa. This was a flight of Siete Leguas tequilas (helpfully all labeled- so there was from left to right the Blanco, Reposado and Anejo) and 3 house interpretations of sangrita made with heirloom tomatoes (Spanish Style which the bartender rattled off a long list of ingredients that made my head spin, Tomato Water, and a Roasted Tomatillo that called for a slow roasted careful roasting process). The tequilas gave me a friendly burn, but those sangritas were really kickass- I can imagine a life where I drink all those sangritas everyday. It took a lot of self-restraint to not knock down those sangritas and instead take little sips from each of the 6 glasses back and forth, exploring combinations of tequila and sangrita.

Vuelo de Agave, flight of Siete Leguas tequilas, Blanco, Reposado and Anejo tequilas and 3 house interpretations of sangrita made with heirloom tomatoes, Teardrop Lounge, happy hour, cocktails

All the drinks here are beautiful and tasty. Because we are enjoying an Indian Summer the front wall was basically thrown open so we could enjoy the sunshine and breeze while we waited for our handsome bartenders in striped shirts and suspenders and bow ties to shake up and create the works of art that are our sexy drinks. You can’t help but feel the dedication to the liquid arts in every sip.

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Karam Lebanese Restaurant

I’ve heard good things about Karam from a reliable foodie friend, but it was only relatively recently that I finally was able to visit this Middle Eastern cuisine restaurant. It is located not far from Al Amir, the home of my favorite baba ghanouj. I wondered going in how Karam would stack up, including to my Chicago standby Reza‘s.

To be fair, Reza’s is Persian, while Karam is specifically described as Lebanese. So I forgive them for not having dill rice, and my interest was peaked by their offering of kibbee, a national Lebanese dish made with ground meat, onion, and bulgar.

Our dinner entrees came with a fresh side salad, and we were excited to see some interesting beverages, especially the fruit infusion one I had that was made with homemade yogurt. I could see myself craving those drinks during the summer.

Karam Lebanese Restaurant Karam Lebanese Restaurant

I passed on specifically ordering the the kibbee this time to try their Baleela, their take on hummus served hot, steamed garbanzo beans mixed with garlic, cumin, olive oil and tahini sauce. Really really good, definitely would recommend it. I did get to try the kibbee as well- more in a moment.

Karam Lebanese Restaurant

I ate almost that whole plate on my own, because he got the huuuge Veggie Mazawat, which is a sampler of, from left to right and back to front row, taboule, baleela, falafel with tahini sauce and grape leaves (on the same plate), baba gahanouj, veggie kibbee nayee, hummus, and labne their homemade Lebanese cheese and the wrapper is from the basket of fresh oven baked pita bread! If you are coming in for your first time, this is a good way to try a little bit of everything, obviously.

Karam Lebanese Restaurant

After the full Veggie Mazawat shot, you can see closeups of what made up the sampler. First photo is a look at the taboule, baleela, and baba gahanouj. I don’t think the baba gahanouj is as good as Al Amir, but that baleela still is awesome and unique. Following that is the closer look at the baleela, falafel with tahini sauce and grape leaves (on the same plate), veggie kibbee nayee, hummus. Very filling sampler that filled our table with 7 plates of goodies to try

Karam Lebanese Restaurant Karam Lebanese Restaurant

For my entree, since I would get to sample the kibbee from the Veggie Mazawat, I decided to try something else. Based on a foursquare suggestion, I went with Lamb Couscous, a dish of tender lamb shawarma topped with feta cheese and tahini sauce. I think I only ate 1/4 of that lamb, it was good but this was a really big plate. When we asked for a box, they brought us boxes for *everything* so we didn’t waste any food by throwing it away… and it did still taste delicious the next day. Despite the lack of dill rice, this place is the closest to giving Reza’s a run for my money, and is my pick for Portland for Mediterranean food right now.

Karam Lebanese Restaurant

The restaurant is a family business with the men greeting and serving while the wife gives you a taste of her incredible (probably literally) home cooking based on recipes that have been passed down. They take great pride in their food- giving you lots of choice including ones that are unique, lots of it on a plate to make sure you don’t go home hungry, all executed well, they check to make sure you are enjoying your meal and heap new fresh in house pitas onto your table. Whether you are someone who already enjoys Middle Eastern food and is looking for a new take on it or someone trying to expand their ethnic cuisine palette, Karam is going to pleasantly surprise you with flavors – look past the simple traditional plating and indeterminate mush look and put it in your mouth and enjoy.

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Portobello + Beermongers

An all veggie restaurant! Portobello is a vegan trattoria that offers food from the regions of Italy, Spain, and France. I had seen great reviews on Yelp, but going to a vegan restaurant also made me temper my expectations. Was it only so raved about because of the vegan adjective in front of it?

We had a great time though, and would visit again. The atmosphere was lovely, a combination of laid back and homey with the friendly openness of the servers in their casual dress and wildflowers in vases, yet a bit of fancy to feel like you are indeed dining out and it is going to be a nicer than an everyday meal, thanks to chandeliers and an interesting wall of wood with little artsy details scattered. I found a little owl in a corner particularly endearing.

 

Drink selection was full of creativity that perked a lot of interest for us. He settled for a mocktail called the "Ginger Rawgers" which was a mix of housemade kambucha called "herbucha" mixed with blueberry, ginger, and lime. We were also tempted by another mocktail called the "Red Scare" of beet, ginger, lemon, apple, and strawberry shrub. In terms of actual cocktails, the same dilemna. I ended up with "Lila's Limeade" with cherry-vanilla bean vodka, lime, and soda. Though I was tempted by the "Harper" with black pepper ginger vodka, strawberry puree, ginger, and prosecco. It was fun to see such a flirty and fun drink menu, they obviously put it together thoughtfully.

We started off with white truffle mushroom pate with accoutrements. This first appetizer didn't impress me- the pate just didn't have the soft almost buttery texture that spread and rich flavor that balanced the perfectly fine other accompaniments of fresh crusty bread and tarty cornichons. Using white truffle and mushroom I really expected more as mushrooms really can be rich. Next time I'll try the beet tartare.

For the first course, a half order of pan crisped polenta topped with a sweet and sour eggplant tomato ragout had a perfectly executed polenta that balanced the crisp exterior and creamy grit interior, and the ragout was very flavorful, a chunky sauce that gave you both the sweet and tart of tomato.

For the mains, the red wine braised seitan short rib with olive oil mashed potatoes, amaranth, lemon and fried garlic (we ordered a half portion) was more of a typical vegan dish (albeit excellent for being vegan) where it was clear that the seitan couldn't compare with real meat. But, the dish itself, if judged on its own and not as a short rib, was flavorful although texturewise all soft. It would have been a nice touch if the fried garlic has been more fried, adding some crispness. Look how meaty the seitan looks appearance wise though I missed the richness and tiny bit of gristle that real short rib would have had. As a vegan dish it was good- but the short rib adjective set the dish up to where it couldn't reach.

The "stravagante pollo falso", with gardein chick'n topped with thinly sliced daiya cheese and field roast mushroom loaf, herbs, and marsala wine jus (also a half portion pictured here!) was really outstanding. This was something that could definitely compete with a real chicken dish, and even trounce many normal implementations.

The "chicken" here, the gardein chick'n topped with the mushroom loaf, was the texture of if you had taken a chicken breast and pounded it to tenderness, and the mushroom loaf gave it a tinge of salty toughness on top almost like a skin. The cheese and the jus gave the whole dish a creamy richness almost like it had been cooked in chicken stock, and the entire dish was juicy. Throw in a starch and veggie onto the dish and you could believe it was up to par with any normal meat entree dish at any other restaurant… and the fact it beats the moistness level of most chicken dishes makes it even better. I wish it had come with olive oil mashed potatoes like the short rib dish or some sort of side to absorb those juices.

 

So my overall impression? Like any restaurant there are some hits and misses- but the misses aren't terrible, just didn't live up to full potential.  Sometimes vegan food can be very dry or limited in taste because they dial back not only the meat but also unhealthy components like fats that make food taste good (heh my opinion anyway), but Portobello doesn't suffer from this at all. It draws from ingredients that already pack a lot of flavor, and they buy it fresh. If you have a veggie or vegan dining companion, they will definitely enjoy this, "a night dining out" with all food done vegan- and the whole menu to choose from instead of just one or two choices and sometimes after verbal negotiation with the waiter/chef.  

If you are looking to replace a restaurant dining experience that offers meat on the menu with an evening at Portobello and do eat meat, go in looking for something that tastes good, but doesn't necessarily need to compare/replace meat. It would be like going to a French-Japanese restaurant and lamenting that the food isn't French enough even though the food is tasty. As a restaurant, Portobello gives you what it advertises- a trattoria experience, simple, casual, but good, but defined on its own terms. The flavors their dishes offers that seem simple are not simple at all because the flavors have been carefully constructed to parallell traditional dishes in a vegan way. Sometimes this makes it better then the traditional dish- and sometimes it just makes it a different kind of dish.

As for dessert? After being torn about the tiramisu, we passed (though we sorta wish we hadn't in retrospect). Beermongers is basically next door, so we stopped there for some interesting beer. Dogfish Head's Theobroma peaked our interest first since no Dogfish beer has been disliked. Theobroma ("food of the gods") is an ale brewed with honey, Aztec cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, ancho chilies and ground annato.  

We also tried two Mikkeller barrel aged Black Hole bottles- both were stouts brewed with coffee, honey, and vanilla. However, one was aged in rum barrels (giving it a smoky flavor), and another bottle had that same beer aged in red wine barrels (giving it more acid background). There are two other versions of this- aged in scotch peat whiskey barrels and aged in bourbon barrels- which unfortunately Beermongers didn't have anymore. What an awesome series though, and it was very cool to be doing vertical tasting with that same stout backdrop. 

All these beers gave us a little munchie craving, so we got a takeout Arrabiata pizza from Portobello. Beermongers doesn't serve any food, but they allow you to bring any food you want in. The Arrabiata had chile-fennel marinara, hot cherry peppers, "sausage" and daiya cheese. It's a thin crust, and we wish it just had a little more sauce. The sausage is cut into slices and spread, rather then crumbled I would have preferred to to spread that taste out all over and I could get that meaty burst in every bite.

This little corner at SE 12th and Division, with Portobello and Beermongers which both change their menu offerings per what is available and seasonally, certainly has some unusual tastebud offerings if you want to try exploring the definitions of traditional flavor profiles of food and going to whole new places in drink. 

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Deschutes Street Fare 2010

Deschutes Street Fare was a street festival event that featured sampler size street fare from ten food carts, paired with Deschutes beer tasters, to benefit Morrison Child and Family Services. It's just getting summer-like hot in the past day or so, which meant that when the gates opened at 5pm there was full on sunshine and sweat as everyone seemed to come directly from work. Within a few hours, it started to calm down so everyone was no longer elbow to elbow, and half the street started to get some shade as the sun went on its way down.

Except for the crowd (which was a good thing for Morrison, but meant that when the space got full it was very uncomfortable and they even limited admission for a while because of reaching capacity… not sure how you calculate capacity on a street but I'm sure there must be an algorithm), I have no real complaints. Obviously, they were not sure what the turn-out was going to be, and since they had only set aside the outside block between Deschutes and Armory and no space inside Deschutes itself there wasn't a lot of space to go to. As comparison, the Beer n Burgers Event had also only been a block and that space had been fine (not even included the sidewalk), though they also only had 5 stands, not 10, and no musicians or stages.

I got a sampler pass, which got me in the door and also 7 tokens for $25, allowing me to sample 7 out of the 10 pairings. I carefully tried to plan my calories for the day based on this. When I arrived, the line for prepaid vs at the door was the same, so apparently the only advantage was that online you could pay with a credit card while at the door was cash only, and even those who had already decided what to buy got to enjoy everyone at the door reading through how many carts there were and trying to guesstimate how many tokens to get. I wish there were more reward for those who plan ahead and guarantee a paid sale before the event, but I also had the advantage of already knowing my cart visit order.

First was Slow & Low, for their cantonese pork belly Bahn Mi with housemade kimchi, kimchi mayo, cilantro, iceburg lettuce, and fennel pickle, paired with Cascade Ale. This was very satisfying, though there was a little too much bread competing with that tasty pork belly. Needed less doughy bread, or more belly (fat and all, as I would expect from a traditioanl bahn mi). Cascade went so naturally with this I didn't even think about it.

Next was a stop at Grilled Cheese Grill, which has been on my wishlist for a while, and still is after this tasty example of a jalapeno popper sandwich of roasted jalapeno peppers with colby jack cheese, cream cheese, crumbled corn tortilla chips on grilled sourdough bread. It was matched with a green lakes organic ale to try to cool the spice. Extra love for them because they gave out branded frisbees, which were great for balancing food and drink while standing. I saw that some thought this had too much heat and couldn't finish it, but I had no problems.

Garden State came with their famous meatball parmesan sliders with all natural beef and pork in a big meatball covered with mozzarella and marinara, paired with Mt St Hellens keller beer. It is as seriously filling as it appears. 

Mum's Kitchen offered a South African influenced Indian spicy garlic pork curry with fresh squeezed IPA, a pairing which just didn't work for me.

My palatte was immediately refreshed and cheered by Flavour Spot's sausage&maple dutch taco (waffle sandwich) and their maple pecan version, both paired with maiboc. Extra shoutout for providing their branded wet naps for sticky finger cleanup, so thoughtful.

 

Potato Champion's poutine from Spudnik, paired with alma NWPA, met expectations. Really though, getting the real deal from the cart at SE 12th and Hawthorne after a few drinks where it is more loaded with gravy and chunks of rogue cheese can't compare to a sampler.

The excellent finish was Oregon Ice Works strawberry gelato, which I had with Green Lakes Organic Ale. The strawberry was the best of the three offerings they had, the other three being peach and chocolate black butte porter.

This means I passed on Whiffie's bbq brisket and mozzarella fried pie paired with Hop in the Dark- I was tempted for the beer alone, it being the only dark beer, but I had Whiffie's already at the Bite. For similar reasons of having experienced them before, I passed on Pyro Pizza and their margherita pizza on wheat crust with Twilight ale. I also passed on Ali Baba's gluten free chicken and kabob with gluten free pale ale, though the gluten free pairing was clever.

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