It would not be hyperbole to proclaim that we ate (and drank) our way through Portland this holiday season. Some notable meals included a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at Bar Avignon that began with a perfectly seared foie gras and country pork pate and moved through duck leg confit with cranberry gastrique, cauliflower with pickled raisins and a roasted chicken with hazelnuts, blue cheese, beets and bacon. Our dinner at Imperial was also a high note – hitting the highest with the duck meatballs with prunes and orange gremolata as well as the quail with grilled figs and mint/walnut pesto. Our dinners at Urban Farmer and Lincoln were forgettable, except for the braised short ribs (Urban Farmer) and pig skin “pasta” with lamb ragout (Lincoln) – both unctuous and satisfying, but the rest of the meal fell flat.
We somehow managed to make it to Lardo for sandwiches three days straight – and after our second day, we decided to revisit rather than try our luck at Bunk. Our favorites were the lemony Italian tuna melt with olive tapenade and shaved fennel and the drippy Korean pork shoulder with house kimchi and cilantro. Both sandwiches deserve a revisit – as well as those spicy, salty, sweet, crispy homemade Korean BBQ potato chips.
As far as beverages go, the infamous Amontillado sherry and tequila eggnog (sounds disgusting, tastes amazing) at Clyde Common fortified us for the chilly Portland evenings. And, of course, we tried an array of donuts from Blue Star – blueberry/bourbon/basil, marionberry with PB powder, pistachio cheesecake and passion fruit/cocoa nib were some of the favorites we sampled in our assortment of eight flavors.
Among all of these great tastes, however, the food memory I bring back home with me like a souvenir is the breakfast bread from Pearl Bakery called gibassier (the pronunciation is difficult to come by, but I’ve read it’s zee-bah-see-ay). After doing some research for a recipe (I cannot live my life without another one – even if I must make them myself!), I realized that I’m not the only one to wax poetic about these humble little treats. Best consumed with a steaming coffee drink, these yeasty little fists of dough are subtly flavored with olive oil and orange blossom water and studded with candied orange peel and aniseed. Once they emerge hot from the oven, they are given a bath of clarified butter and coated with superfine sugar giving them a sandy crust worth licking from one’s fingers. If I could pop one of these in my mouth every day along with my morning cuppa, life would be grand.