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Bacon Revisted

Friday 29 April 2011

A while back I wrote about bacon and how we had eaten it in various different ways. I also wrote about what may be The Best Breakfast Anywhere (Or At Least Outside of Ashland).

What I found on this trip may transcend both.

Some background:

I had to travel this week for work. I don’t often have to travel for work; I could, more often than I do, but that would obviate much of the point of living on Ashland, and probably be a great source of confusion and/or amusement among many former co-workers. It could have been a not-so-good trip, back to the Bay Area (a fine place, but a longer trip than I’d like for a one-night stay), or to the deep outskirts of suburban Portland. I’m sure the western ‘burbs of PDX are a fine place to live and work, but for a short trip during which most of the daytime will be spent in windowless conference rooms, I want a known-good or likely-great experience for eating, and I wasn’t getting that vibe from searches of Yelp, Chowhound, and Opentable. Also, I strongly prefer not to drive in new areas, which is very limiting in the suburbs.

But luckily the meetings were moved late in the game to the Hilton Towers in downtown Portland. This is perfect for me: cheap transport to and from the airport, great food within walking distance, and a great selection of hotels. My company has The Nines on their approved travel list, and, I have to say, it’s a really nice hotel. It’s odd in that the lobby is on the eighth floor–most of the lower floors are not part of the hotel at all. I got a room on 14, nice sized and very, very quiet. The noisiest thing was the compressor in the mini-bar refrigerator, and that was very quiet, too. Retro 50s decor, heavy in pastels and light earth tones; Don Draper would feel right at home there. Of course the lounge on 15 was closed that night, might be a different story had it been open.

Anyway. So here I am in Foodieville West with at least a couple of meals to myself. One of them, a very early breakfast (for ne, anyway) I spent at Red Star Tavern and Roast House. Now, those of you who know me will say “what?!? A bar for breakfast?”. And I would have agreed. But inside, this is no dive bar. It’s a very well-appointed restaurant, at least from the 4th and Alder Street entrance, all dark oak wood and leather with rivets, and very, very quiet at 7AM. It’s not cowboy, or even urban cowboy, and I think ladies would feel comfortable there.

I had noticed the short rib hash on the menu the night before (on the Web!) and as One Who Enjoys Hash, felt I had to give it a try. It’s a good portion of diced and quartered Yukon Golds, large-dice beef that likely had been short ribs in a more whole prior form, and the usual mix of peppers and onions. It’s a fine rendition of hash, but I suspect that the next time I will go with the waiter’s recommendation of the salmon has. I’d definitely go back at least once or twice to try other options on the menu.

“But what about the bacon?” you ask. I’m getting to that. For lunch, of course I went back to The Original, which has The Best Chicken Fried Steak In The World. And I sat down, ready to order the same as I’d had before: chicken fried steak, bottled Coke.

But wait! What’s that on the menu: a maple-bacon milkshake! Portland is well-known for its unusual ingredient combinations; the bacon-maple bar at Voodoo Doughnuts is a staple.

But bacon, and maple, in drinkable form? My waitress assures me that I will not be disappointed, so I give it a try. Here is what it looks like:

Yes, that’s crumbled bacon on top. And the slightly yellow color foretells a very light, not at all cloying maple taste (not at all like a maple-bacon bar, which is intensely sweet). Mixed into the shake is yes, you guessed it, more bacon, in small enough pieces to be sucked through the straw. Real bacon, and really good bacon, too.

The chicken fried steak changed a little, too:

A little broccolini, to make Moms everywhere happy. Steak piled on the potatoes; I think this is a good thing, as long as they don’t go nuts with stacked food (which is old, even when Gordon Ramsay does it). But see those (not-so-) little round bits in the gravy? At first I thought, mushrooms. Then I looked closer.

Vienna sausages.

Mmmm, they figured out a way to get even more pork into the meal. This was not part of the gravy the last time I was there; the chef apparently tinkers, which is definitely A Good Thing.

So there you have it. More ways to enjoy bacon in a city that seems to really go hog-wild for it (hog-wild, get it? Eh, yeah…)

Happy eating!

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