The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2017

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Page 120 of 124

120  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2017 WHERE WE'RE EATING T here's an infamous slogan in the terminally hip city of Portland, Oregon—"Keep Portland Weird"—that the locals seem pretty committed to upholding (watch an episode of Portlandia on IFC sometime to get an idea of just how strange things can be). But those locals are also doing a very, very good job of Keeping Portland Well-Fed. The city is a nexus of farm-to-table cooking, craft beers, artisanal products, and lots of food trucks, which are found scattered along both sides of the Willamette River with most clustered in downtown Portland. (For a map of food trucks, go to www. Honestly, you can spend a week's visit dining entirely at these carts (the term typically preferred over trucks); the choices are encyclopedic and glob- ally eclectic with a wild abandon that staggers even those who live in diverse metropolitan areas. Meandering through downtown is an exercise in culinary serendipity; pause for a plate of Hainan chicken with ginger rice at Nong's Khao Man Gai, a plate of brisket from Matt's BBQ that will make Texans swoon with envy, or lumpia and shrimp fritters from Guam courtesy of PDX671. There's even Norwegian chow at Viking Soul Food— not so much "weird" as delicious. But every now and then, a visitor does feel the need to actually sit down at a proper table and eat off of some- thing other than paper plates with plastic utensils. In those cases, Portland also rises to the occasion. Head for The Original, a self-described "Dinerant" where locals flock to sit at a counter and eat over-the-top creations like the donut burger slider (yup, a burger on a buttermilk donut), the chicken and waffle slider, and the taco and banh mi burgers. To the surprise of no one, there's a whole section of poutine for those who need the calories during the chilly days of winter. They also offer "boozy shakes" with names like The Salty Jim (bourbon, salted caramel, and vanilla ice cream) and The Dude (Kahlua, vodka, and vanilla ice cream). Vanilla has never tasted so good. Traverse east from downtown across the Willamette to the trendy Buckman neighborhood, where the Buckman Public House offers a setting and menu a bit less madcap than at The Original. It still manages to capture the Portland edge, though, with an extensive list of locally-brewed, well-curated beers like Modern Times Beer's Orderville IPA, Crux Fermentation Project's On the Fence Nitro, and Jester & Judge's Gunpowder Earl Tea Cider. There are also plenty of brews served in tall boys, short bottles, and big bottles, all of which go well with the lamb tartare with fish sauce, the deviled eggs with mustard caviar and horseradish, and the smoked McFarland trout salad with fennel and escarole—my favorite dish and a great taste of Oregon. Finally, there's the perfectly-named Smokehouse Tavern, where Top Chef veteran BJ Smith brings a world of high-end experience . . . to barbecued meats. Chef Smith has cooked in the kitchens of Le Bernardin and Gotham Bar and Grill in NYC, as well as at Citrus in L.A.; here, though, he's known for his fine hand with pig's ears, which he turns into crispy rinds flavored with smoked honey and barrel-aged Marshall's Haute Sauce. His food is an upscale take on downhome eating: bacon molasses cornbread, pulled pork poutine with Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery cheese curds, Frito pie with Texas red chili, smoked pork cheeks, and plates of what may be the most tender beef brisket with the crunchiest burnt ends imaginable. Show up for brunch, and there's a brisket Benedict with smoked hollandaise. The food carts of Portland may be where the culinary fire of the city burns, but there's plenty of smoke to go around. An Eclectic Experience PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ORIGINAL The deviled eggs at Buckman Public House come topped with mustard caviar and horseradish. PORTLAND'S CULINARY SCENE OFFERS UP PLENTY OF GEMS by Merrill Shindler PHOTO: LISA BOOMER The donut burger slider at The Original. Smokehouse Tavern's pig's ears are turned into crispy rinds with smoked honey and barrel-aged Marshall's Haute Sauce. PHOTO COURTESY OF SMOKEHOUSE TAVERN

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