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Redux Redux

Saturday 31 March 2012

When last we met, we had been discussing Castagna, a phoenix-from-the-ashes restaurant in Portland.

After that, we had a couple of more meals in Portland. First up was a rematch at Beast, that haute cuisine hole-in-the-wall in Northeast Portland. It remains solidly in our personal pantheon of Portlandia food temples, with its focus on excellence that uses locally sourced ingredients and amazing preparations.

The news out of Beast is that they are thinking of moving to a new location, maybe closer to downtown. As an out-of-towner, that could be A Good Thing, especially if they can get much closer to a MAX line, or at least more frequent and closer bus service. It’s an interesting trek to the Alberta Arts District and the Concordia neighborhood on a nice summer evening or fall day; not so much when it’s wet, or dark, or both, as it often is from October through April. Reliable rumor has it that this won’t happen until September or later, so you still have time with the old site. The format is supposed to remain the same, so that’s A Good Thing.

Lunch was interesting. The Alberta Arts District is also the location of one branch of Pine State Biscuits, home to The Reggie, possibly one of the best forms of biscuit-centered food anywhere in the Western Hemisphere.

Advice: when one goes out to a place known for clams, don’t get the calamari. I ordered The Chatfield, which is also fried chicken on a biscuit with cheddar but with apple butter in place of the gravy. WTH was I thinking? All around me, people were digging in to luscious, thick gravy; here I was with some vegan-like abomination (the apple butter) that just doesn’t work with the chicken and biscuit. The name alone should have been a dead giveaway. Also, the fries are fine, but absolutely nothing special. We’ll definitely be back, but I know which part of the menu to order from.

Second lunch misfire was the next day, at The Original. My usual chicken fried steak let me down, in that the gravy was on the thin side, and tasted somewhat of canned mushrooms (that metallic taste).

I think I am finding that I value crispiness more than gravy, so I may start going high-maintenance and getting it on the side:

However, in honor of (or sarcasm towards) Portlandia, The Original has a “Put A Bird On It” promo running that lets you put a really nice piece of fried chicken on anything. Herself was a bit of a wuss and got it on a salad (The Oregon), but it still looks good:

Portlandia, by the way, is also the name of a Really Big Statue on the side of a building in downtown Portland. It’s actually the second largest hammered copper statue in the United States (the largest is that really big one in New York).

That was about it for Portland. Oh, one more: Panda Express out at PDX. Huge mounds of palatably greasy Americanized Chinese Food (ACF). If you get the two-mains plate, it’s all on one divided round plate. If you get the three-mains plate, they put the extra on another, smaller plate. Definitely enough to carry even a big eater coast-to-coast.

That gets us to the Bay Area. If you’re from Tampa, or Boston, or maybe other places, this may be confusing to you, as The Bay Area is universally, as in the entire known and unknown Universe, meant to mean the San Francisco Bay Area, which includes the East Bay and the San Jose area. Sorry.

I don’t think we hit any new spots at all this trip, hence the title of the post. Highlights and low-lights:

Pizza My Heart, Los Gatos: I really miss the Big Sur pizza; tons of whole roasted garlic cloves on a pepperoni and sausage pie. It’s just so good.

I usually get one of those, and then the regular pepperoni to follow. Something about the Big Sur says to eat it first, then the pepperoni, which is arguably the meat-and-potatoes of the pizza universe:

Manresa, Los Gatos: Really good as usual, but I have a bone to pick with them about how they’ve changed since getting their (well-deserved) Michelin stars. The new bar is is excellent; especially recommended is the Santa Cruz 75. The bone is that, when we started dining there shortly after they opened and as recently as the last few years, their menu had the big tasting menu option, but it also had three- and four-course options that started at reasonable (for Manresa and Los Gatos) price points. Now, even for L.G., it’s gotten into the special-occasion only domain, with the entry point being the four-course menu at $125 (yes, each). With wine pairings, the big tasting menu for two is getting very, very close to four figures. Maybe I’ve been away from the Bay Area for too long, but this would have definitely put it into the special-events only range for us, maybe the once-in-a-lifetime level. Not sure, but it gives us incentive to try other places when we’re in town.

Dio Deka: I love what Dio Deka does with their Greek-influenced appetizers and special entrées. I’m not a fan of their steaks; as I’ve mentioned, I think I’ve gone off the giant-chunk-o-meat steakhouse experience in favor of a really, really good smaller piece as part of a longer, more varied series of courses. In short, I’ve gone tapas. Highly recommended there: the octopus, the dolmas, and the lamb chops. As much as I love abalone, I think they overdo the seasoning and saucing, and it interferes with the taste of the abalone. We still don’t get how they rate a Michelin star when The House has much better food, but there you are.

Nick’s on Main: Always a favorite for the abalone in lemon butter. The big news here is that Nick has acquired the old Tapestry site, and will be expanding into there in another month or two. Menu will be very similar.

Tour Eiffel: Our favorite egg rolls anywhere, also the best Thai iced tea anywhere. The owner gets dinged for being cranky or even rude with customers, but it’s just that she doesn’t know you. We’ve been regulars for a while, and she’s a sweetheart with us. It’s worth going back; good, reasonably priced food in Los Altos.

Thai Iced Tea:

Best Eggrolls In The World. If you don’t wrap each one with the lettuce and cucumber before dipping, you’re just missing part of the point:

Beef & Chicken Vermicelli:

Eggroll Vermicelli:

Icing on the Cake: Not a restaurant, but definitely a good source of carbs and fat in tasty form. Herself has decided that Saint Cupcake in Portland is her favorite, as her sweet tooth appears to have eroded a bit and Icing’s are definitely on the sweeter side. But that didn’t stop her from stocking up. And tasty baked goods, Mexican Cokes from Powell’s, and a good book is a great way to spend an afternoon.

That was about it for the Bay Area; we didn’t get into The City (San Francisco, also a universal constant, like Planck’s) because, well, we were lazy on Saturday.

Catching up on The Omnivore posts later. Get out the Prevacid; it’s going to be a bumpy night!

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