Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lauro Kitchen "Rocks"

Since I happen to live just mere blocks from Lauro Kitchen the restaurant on SE 34 Ave. & Division has been a big favorite of mine since it opened in late 2003. The owner, Chef David Machado has been a long time favorite of mine. I loved his food at Pazzo in the early 1990's and I personally thanked him for bringing back to life one of the most delicious appetizers ever when he placed the Radicchio wrapped in Pancetta served with a Basil & Goat Cheese dressing. If it is on the menu when you go, you have to order it. I can remember literally wiping the plate clean with bread to get the last morsel of dressing.
To be honest, when we stopped by the other night it was more out of convenience than the desire for an inspired meal. The past 3-4 times we had eaten at Lauro the food had been good, but not "great". Monday we showed up at 6:30pm, grabbed the best seats in the house (in front of the grill station) and had an exceptional meal.
Jennifer Buehler and David Machado have put together a stellar fall menu.
A squash soup spiced with cinnamon, ginger and some nutmeg was wonderful and the Cafe Salad of Endive, French Blue Cheese, Apples and Walnuts jumped in my mouth as it hit all of the flavor senses on the tongue (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, savory).
We ordered the Butternut Squash Tortellini with Hazelnut, Sage and Marsala Sauce and also the Braised Oregon Lamb Shank with Caramelized Pears and Shallots. The tortellini was fantastic and this is a pasta dish that I probably wouldn't do at home. It is a very nice dish.
The lamb shank was perfectly braised and the combination of shallots and pears (still slightly firm) was nice. This dish too had a great combination of sweet, salty, and savory).
We combined the meal with a nice Domaine Khalkhal-Pamiès,Minervois, Plaiser des Lys, 2005 (This Languedoc adds the traditional Rhône Valley grapes of Syrah and Grenache to the more typical Carignan and Cinsault. It is balanced and rich, with jellied black fruits, spice, plum, and a pepper note).
All I can say is that Lauro Kitchen has definately got their Mojo back-good for them, and great for us. On the Yuk or Yum scale: Big time Yum!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The "Mythic" Bacon Pizza

Not that they need anymore press, but last nights visit to Apizza Scholls confirms that they are the top of the pizza pyramid in Portland.
I have visited the restaurant on upper Hawthorne Blvd. 5-6 times and had yet to be seated in less than 30 minutes. I had also never been able to actually sample the Bacon Bianca because they were always "out of bacon". My son had actually come to believe that the pizza was a myth, much like Santa or the Easter Bunny. Well, last night we showed up for dinner at 5:30pm and to our chagrin we were both seated and able to order the Holy Grail of Portland Pizza.
The upper end of Hawthorne has been re-developing for the past 10 years and now the food scene is starting to catch up with the rest of the drink scene (Barmuda Triangle).
The Pizza is New York Style with an amazingly crispy, paper-thin crust. Toppings are fresh and for cooking reasons the limit is 3 toppings. I have heard comments that this is akin to the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld. Trust me, these guys know what is good for you.
The Bacon Bianca pizza has whole milk mozzarella, grana padano, pecorino romano, lots of fresh garlic, herbs, black pepper, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil & house made bacon. This is unlike any pizza you have ever tasted. The thin crust, savory cheese and the smokey bacon make this a delight.
We also decided to go whole hog and order the Apizza Amore. This is basically their standard Margo'rita pie with capicollo.
These guys do a great Caesar salad and the only gripe here is that the wine list could be notched up and for Portland the beers on tap are not on par with the food.
The space has been a number of restaurants in the past and the old Compass Cafe was a fav of mine.
I am glad to see this space make a comeback and Apizza Scholls is worth the trouble.
Plan on having dinner at 5:00pm or be prepared for a wait. On the yuk or yum scale, this is a big time YUM!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Sel Gris-Portland, Or.

Daniel Mondok's new restaurant called Sel Gris on Southeast 19th Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard is a welcome addition to the SE food scene. I had a chance to dine there a week ago with my buddy Sam Sundeleaf. We both appreciate food and wine and that evening we arrived not knowing what to expect. The dining room is compact, very sleekly designed with a distinctly modern architectural edge. The open kitchen is brand spanking new and the seats at the counter should offer foodies a ring side seat to seeing what is coming out of the kitchen.
The menu leans toward French, Spanish, Italian/Meditteranean. The price points for all dished compare favorably with Lauro's, Three Doors Down and Castagna. We started with Mussels Piperade and a Duck Confit Salad. Both appetizers were top notch and we commented that the Mussel dish was the best we had ever eaten. For fans of Carlyle this mussel dish was one of Daniel's creations when he worked at that restaurant. The Duck Confit Salad was a contrast of the crisp, luscious duck and the tart and crunchy frisee bed of greens it was served upon, very nice.
For the Entree's we ordered a Braised Lamb Shank and a dish called Halibut Mac & Cheese. The Lamb Shank was good (I have probably made better at home, but then again I know how to cook). The Halibut Mac & Cheese was a seared piece of Halibut over a post-modern rendition of Mac & Cheese. This dish sounded interesting, but the flavors were a bit out of sort-Halibut being a touch too fishy and the pasta too creamy and could have been substitued for polenta or a nice risotto. On the scale of yuck or yum, lets just say "not a yum".
That said, the meal went well with the 2003 Archery Summit "Red Hills" Vineyard Pinot Noir and the Torbreck GMS-2005 (I think).
Dessert was a great cup of coffee and a deep fried berry cobbler.
Score on a 1-10 scale =8 (we will be back)