Portland Dining Delights

IMG_0526A three-day visit to my home town of Portland, Oregon, and all I did was eat. Really. Thai food, bar food, fancy tasting menu, homey crepes. It was divine.

One highlight was a five-course lunch at Bleu, the restaurant of the Western Culinary Institute. Now, I don’t need five courses at lunch, but at $14.95, I managed to put them away, having skipped breakfast in anticipation. My very accommodating lunch date agreed to go halvsies on everything, and most courses included two choices, so we covered most of the bases.

Soup: potato leek or butternut squash puree.

Salad: shaved fennel and red onion, (too) lightly dressed with orange, garnished with orange and blood orange, or butter lettuce with peeled cherry tomatoes (had they been canned? in any case, very nice! they absorbed some of the excellent dressing) and bacon.

Appetizer: salmon mousse with asparagus tips, awash in beurre blanc, or a charcuterie plate showcasing two kinds of salumi, with 3 mustards, sliced apple and cornichons.

Main: clams (5 of ’em) with wide noodles, seasoned with curry, or pork loin with curry sauce and lentils.

Dessert: chocolate souffle with creme anglaise, or creme brulee.

All this, plus a coffee, tea or soda–a screaming deal. While the food was neither transcendent nor sublime, it ranged from fair (the fennel salad, grievously under-seasoned) to delish (the salmon mousse) and nicely portioned. We cleaned our plates throughout, until we were met with the substantial creme brulee, which defeated us both and returned to the kitchen unfinished.

Perhaps we ate too much bread: slices of an excellent baguette, served with three kinds of butter: plain, herbed, and honey-saffron. This last was delectable, although I’d prefer to see it on the breakfast table, not with my savories. On the whole, I will gladly be dining at more cooking schools.