Sunday, November 7, 2010

Portland Dining - The Screen Door

Last weekend I headed south of the (Washington) border for this conference on sustainability.  I co-organize a similar academic conference so attending was as much to learn good practices about such events as it was to absorb the content.  It's a work thing, so I won't discuss it here but if you're interested in what sustainability means on a massive scale, check out what Portland & the State of Oregon are doing.  Their efforts are really inspiring.

Hubbie joined me in Portland to extend my 2-day trip by another day.  We had a spectacular time.  Everything went right, from the weather to meals to shopping.  It made me love Portland all that much more and by the end of the trip, Hubbie and I were talking about where we'd live.  Not that we want to move but it's fun to dream.  I have a feeling that life in Portland is every bit as expensive as it is here in Tacoma. 

(Oof, an internet search just confirmed that the cost-of-living is 5% higher & salaries are 2% lower...)

This week I'm going to talk about some of the restaurants in Portland.  I tried three different places, one of them twice!  Oh, and none of these restaurants we visited did anything other than serve me a meal for which I paid.

The Screen Door
(photo from The Fire Wire)

Trip 1
My friends from work and I went based upon a recommendation.  The restaurant is nothing special to look at but it's clearly popular: on a Wednesday night it was packed with people from all walks of life: hipsters, young parents with children, retirees, dating couples, etc.  I felt like we'd found a hidden gem that locals want to keep to themselves, and with good reason.
(photo from Flickr)

The wall that goes to the kitchen is lined with shelves filled with canned goods, giving the decor a warm, homey feeling.
(photo from this blog, who says provided by The Screen Door)

Like most restaurants, there are daily specials but where it diverges from the norm is the local side dish menu.  The local menu is updated daily to reflect what's available on that day.  I asked if I could keep a copy so that I could tell you about it. 

Here it is, laboriously retyped for your vicarious pleasure:

Rainbow Carrots & Celery Root
sauteed with leeks in parsley butter

Green Bean Casserole
green pole beans baked in a rich wild mushroom cream sauce topped w/ crispy fried onions

Savory Butternut Squash Bread Pudding
w/ caramelized onions, roasted sweet potato & Gruyere topped with winter herb leek cream and Parmesan

Roasted Beet Salad
w/ red leaf, avocado, oranges, grapefruit, goat cheese, and toasted pistachios, in creamy red wine vinaigrette

Shaved Honey Crisp Apple & Black Mission Fig Salad
w/ mixed greens, spiced pecans, toasted pumpkin seeds & Teleme cheese, in a creamy mint-tarragon dressing

Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash, & Stewed Kale Gratin
sweet potato & butternut squash layered with stewed kale baked w/ cream & gratineed w/ herbed bread crumbs

My friends had the pulled pork and a pork special, every crumb of which disappeared.  I'd had a big sandwich for lunch so chose the option to have three of the daily sides as an entree, selecting the apple/fig salad, butternut squash bread pudding, and rainbow carrots and celery with leeks.

It was delicious.  I never would have thought to make a savory bread pudding with squash as the main flavor.  I never use celery root, though I should, so will try to think about adding it to my culinary repertoire.

The wait staff hustles.  They were johnny on the spot but never hovering.  That earned the waiter a bigger tip from me.  This really scrumptious meal came with a price... a low one.  Each of us ordered a drink with dinner and our bills, including tip, were just $22 each. 

Trip 2
The second time I went it was date night with Hubbie.  He loved it every bit as much as I had and I suspect it'll become regular destination.

We both ordered the night's specials, G-man getting the ling cod with heritage squash flan and chanterelle mushrooms with leeks, and me deciding to take a leap of faith on the pecan rice-stuffed quail with butternut spoonbread and roasted Brussels sprouts (not typically my thing).

Let me tell ya, both dishes were impressive.  G-man's plate was filled with unexpected delights, from the savory flan to the tasty mushrooms.  The cod came in a brightly flavored lemon sauce that was divine.  My quail had been boned - thank you, Screen Door chefs! - and laid atop a bed of dark brown gravy.  The salty-sweet spoonbread, which I'd never had before, was a subtle accompaniment to the teensy and delicate quail.  The Brussels sprouts, which I've never liked, were roasted to perfection and offset the rest of the meal by lending a slightly bitter tang.  Marvelous.

After dinner, we decided to splurge on dessert.  This was, after all, our belated anniversary trip.  The dessert menu, like the sides menu, features produce and flavors that are locally sourced and seasonally available.  Gene decided upon an apple dessert, which came with 2 ginger-molasses cookie sandwiches and a small scoop of ice cream.  I was delighted with the presentation of the dessert: it was an honest-to-god caramel apple with toasted pecans on a stick!  The kitchen wisely included a steak knife.

Both visits to The Screen Door were great, and for many different reasons.  The food, the easy-going atmosphere, the staff, and the prices make this a great place to go.  The next time you're in Portland, check it out.

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