[Ben sez]: I am currently wandering through the culinary wonderland of Portland, Oregon. I caulked the wagon and floated across the river to get here, I lost two oxen, and Holly died of cholera, but by god it's been worth it (sorry, I played a lot of "Oregon Trail" in grade school). The food here is definitely great, but thus far the true standout has been the Pinot Noir, and other wines, which I have had the chance to taste while touring wineries and getting a crash course from my friend.
Pork and Pinot
I lost count, but I think I've been to at least 8 different wineries in the week I've been here, and that was mostly in one afternoon. I've tasted more Pinot Noir's than in the rest of my wine drinking life prior to this week, and it's been a fantastic time. These wines run the gamut from luscious and fruity to deep, earthy, even tabacco-like in flavor, subtle, complex - truly amazing.
Thus far my favorites have been Ponzi Vineyard's 2005 Willamette Valley Pinot, the St. Innocent White Rose 2005 and the Stoller 2005 JV Pinot Noir. They are all obviously young wines, but each completely drinkable right now, and will probably only get better if I have the patience to not drink the bottles that I've bought as soon as I get home.
For those of you who glaze over when people start waxing intellectual about wine, the Portland area has more to offer than just phenomenal Pinot Noir. After my day of laying siege to tasting rooms in the area I stopped at the Dundee Bistro located in Dundee, Oregon (shocking, I know) right across the street from Argyle Winery (makers of great sparkling wines).
Every Wednesday the head chef has a special "Pork and Pinot" menu featuring three courses of pork-centric glory and an optional pairing of Pinot Noirs.
The first course was a hearty tube pasta (1" diameter tubes cut into 1/2" sections) in a hearty smoked pork shoulder red sauce topped with a piece of summer squash. You may not know this, but I have a real thing for smoked pork shoulder, it might be one of my favorite foods ever.. hell, the first time I cooked it I had a heroin-like reaction and ended up curled up in the fetal position outside shivering with need, jonesin' for a THIRD sandwich, but I digress.... The fresh pasta was thick enough to stand up to the smoky pork flavor. Honestly if fresh pasta and smoked pork shoulder sauce doesn't make you a little weak in the knees you might want to make sure you're alive.
Pork'n'pinot part two featured roasted pork tenderloin on top of a mix of roasted potatoes, local mushrooms, and applewood smoked bacon, all in a pork stock. A little lighter than the first course, the tenderloin was juicy and flavorful, but really I think the vegetables underneath almost overshadowed it. The mixture of meaty mushrooms, sweetness of caramelized potato, all tied together with the magical culinary glue that is bacon fat and tossed with green onions and parsley.
Round Three continued to buck the general trend of serving courses lightest to heaviest via a light salad served on top of thinly sliced artisinal salami topped with ripe avocado. A refreshing end to the meal with the pepper and spice of the salami blending well with the vinaigrette and the bright, voluptuous taste of the avocado.
[Nate sez]: Avocados really are voluptuous aren't they? So soft and round... and well, fatty, but "voluptuous" sounds a lot better I think..
Add three glasses of Pinot Noir to that meal and you've got a guaranteed good evening in just about anyone's book (assuming the owner of said book eats pork).
My food/wine chaperon for this adventure had the Duck Confit which was the best example of said dish that I have ever experienced. Deep smokey flavor, duck meat so tender it falls off the bone if you so much as look at it, and of course a liberal amount of juicy duck fat. Oh Daffy, you taste so good...
I have some more things to eat during my remaining time here (anyone heard of Voodoo Doughnuts?) so you can expect to hear from me again sometime soon. If I disappear forever it's likely that I'm hiding in the hills of Portland with a bottle of Pinot and/or a dozen doughnuts.