Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Alive and Kicking It

Excuse me if I seem a bit distracted. I was just going to write about a recent delightful evening spent at Three Doors Down on Hawthorne, but Amelia Earhart just walked by my window and has distracted me from my keyboard. At least it looked like her: reddish hair, flight suit, aviator's hat, goggles. But instead of her Electra 10E airplane, she was accompanied by a rather large, docile-looking golden lab. Go figure.

The house Caesar, one of the best in town.

Now where was I? Oh, yes, dinner at what is truly one of the standbys of really great Portland dining. It's a place we don't go often, but every time we do we wonder why we don't. Well-made cocktails shaken by a knowledgeable and affable hand. Reasonably priced snacky bits from the bar, with an attentive staff that keeps track of your reservation and knows where to find you even if the bar is packed.

Seafood Fra Diavolo.

Without, to those of you restaurant owners who use them, one of those unbelievably irritating buzzing, beeping, whirling and/or vibrating pagers that seem so popular these days. Doesn't everyone have a cell phone they can be called on if your staff can't be bothered to fetch customers or your place is too cavernous?

We were there (at Three Doors Down, remember?) for the annual staff dinner of my brother's wine shop, Vino, in Sellwood. It was a large table, the jeroboam of Barbaresco he'd brought was decanted, to be supplemented by other, smaller-but-not-lesser bottles off the list, and we set to on the various appetizers, entrees and desserts that came flowing, almost literally, out of the kitchen.

Pasta with vodka sauce, messy looking but totally intoxicating.

I'd ordered the short rib of beef on a risotto with chard, expecting a boney hunk of chewable beefiness, and out came a dark and fall-apart tender, heart-shaped slice of beef glistening atop the most delicious, al dente risotto I've ever had. And believe me, I would have said that without the benefit of the cocktails and wine consumed to that point. It was drop-dead gorgeous, and my opinion was backed up by the other diners at the table, whose forks I was (unsuccessfully) forced to fend off.

Bread pudding with hard sauce.

Dave chose the clams and mussels with fettucine, but because this place believes in giving you bang and then some, they also threw in shrimp and olives and called it Fra Diavolo, the seafood-swollen sauce it was swimming in perfect for dredging with their house bread.

Several others ordered the house specialty, their sublime penne ala vodka, though this time it was made with tortiglione, a slightly thicker, striated and blunt cut extruded pasta. It's also devastatingly easy to make at home, and the restaurant has supplied the almost-unheard-of courtesy of an accurate recipe on their website.

Desserts were also ordered, all sublime, with the standout a richly liquored-up bread pudding with hard sauce that, despite the fact that we were full-to-bursting, was taken down and finished off with nary a trace remaining.

Oddly, rather like Ms. Earhart herself.

Details: Three Doors Down Café, 1429 SE 37th Ave. 503-236-6886.


Liz Crain said...

That shot and descrip. of the spicy penne with vodka sauce and sausage does terrible things to me! As in, it's hard to keep working after seeing it because I love Three Doors' version so much. I've got to get over there soon...

Thanks for another delicious post.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Liz, you are too kind! Coming from a pro like you it means a lot. Thanks!

And ditto on the mouthwatering aspect of that vodka sauce. We'll be having it again soon, believe you me!