Monday, December 28, 2015

When Everyone Else Goes Right…

No, this isn't about Hill vs. Don or Bernie. It's about perspective, and, from what I've seen so far, mine is pretty different from the pack. As background, Mattie John Bamman, the new editor for the Portland outpost of the restaurant-industry website Eater, sent the following request: "Would you be interested in sharing your dining opinions as part of Eater Portland's end-of-year coverage?"

Now, I met Mattie—yes, it is his real name and isn't short for Matthew (the reason he gives is that he had "hippie parents")—at a media lunch given by the wonderful Bette Sinclair. For whatever reason he decided to include me in this year's survey. Here are the questions and my answers. I'll include links so you can read what others felt was noteworthy.

What were your top restaurant standbys of 2015?
My husband and I don’t go out much because, frankly, dining out is way too expensive for us to do on any kind of regular basis, so I’m hopelessly out of date on the “hot list.” As a matter of fact, several of them will close before we ever get a chance to go to them. (Cases in point: June, Levant, Noisette.)

Nostrana's Cathy Whims (r) and one of her—and my—favorite farmers.

So our standbys are places that make the kind of food we love and source ingredients from local farms and farmers: Bar Avignon, Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty, Old Salt Marketplace, Nostrana, Lucca and Davenport. Tastebud has to be included even though it’s just opened (we’ve been twice) because Mark Doxtader and Sarah (of Lovely’s) are the god and goddess of woodfired pizza made with local ingredients. Burrasca has become a favorite on our hit parade, as well.  Read more.

What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2015?
Tastebud because of the reasons listed above (Mark Doxtader, right). Burrasca (top photo). Love their take on Florentine classics like ribollita, peasant food that uses the simplest ingredients like old bread, leftover beans and greens to make a bowl of comfort; pappa al pomodoro; the deeply intriguing combination of squid and kale that is inzimino.

I’m hoping they’ll find a source for the fourth stomach of a cow, the abomasum, so I can have the famous street food favorite of Florence called lampredotto. Read more.

Describe the 2015 Portland restaurant scene in one word.
Free-for-all. Read more.

What was the best dining neighborhood in 2015?
No place like NE: We live within walking distance of Alberta, Killingsworth, Cully, Williams and Mississippi. (Sarah Minnick of Lovely's Fifty-Fifty, left)

Cully has to be the up-and-comer. Read more.

What was the biggest dining surprise of 2015?
No idea.

What was your single best meal in 2015?
Overall, very few meals can match what we have at home on a regular basis, from roast chicken to braised beef neck to pig trotters in a pot of Ayers Creek Farm beans to steaks on the fire when we’re camping.

Ben Meyer (l) and Bill Hoyt.

Meals out, wonderful as they can be from any of the places listed above, become more special because I don’t have to cook them. Current crave is the beef tartare at Old Salt using beef from Bill Hoyt of Hawley Ranch in Cottage Grove. Read more.

What was the biggest restaurant grievance of 2015?
The focus on chefs and technique versus good food made simply using the best ingredients (preferably local). Read more.

What are your headline predictions for 2016?
No idea.


Susan@LunaCafe said...

Love it! Honest, unpretentious, real. As much as I love eating out, to experience other cook's ideas and inclinations, restaurant food rarely compares to what I cook every day in my own kitchen. Good home cooking is highly underrated.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks, Susan. I didn't mean to be cranky, but I think the writing about Portland's famed restaurant scene needs to include discussion of the ingredients (and agricultural base) that make it possible. And we are doing a disservice not to include home cooks—and to share how easy it is to cook at home—in that discussion, as well.

Lynne said...

This is great, Kathleen. And I love the summary of comments in the link from eater where you capped them all off! Happy 2016.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks, Lynne! Credit to Mattie at Eater for not just asking, but then for using what I wrote. Brave fellow.