It’s been a while since I’ve done a simple, less-guided entry, hasn’t it? Ever since the move out to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve had to re-establish a few things that I generally took for granted in my daily (and writing) life: favorite dives, favorite restaurants, local bars that I’m pretty comfortable walking home from when I’ve had too many. With Portland’s fairly-excellent public transport, “stumbling distance” can mean a few miles- provided you can keep straight enough to hop the right bus/train combination.
- Good food and drink (obviously)
- Friendly service.
- Homey or at least welcoming atmosphere.
- The presence of customers/staff I know and like- particularly professionals.
All things change, and we change with them- and I am in Portland now.
Time to explore and find new haunts in my new home.
Like so many places, all the chefs in Portland talk to each other- and while Chef Lisa didn’t have a spot for me, she gave me a laundry list of places that I might ask, and even put in a few calls on my behalf. With that kind of person in charge (a Jewish Philly transplant, no less), and a great staff in front and back, it was a good place to sit, reflect, and enjoy some REALLY good lox.
They have really good salmon here- who’d-a-thunk it?
Some months ago, back in New Jersey, I was hanging out with a couple other chefs right after we’d finished up a Chaine dinner. A couple things had come a little close to the knuckle- there was miscommunication about the menu, facilities, friggin’ PLATING AND FLATWARE, who was in charge of what. It got a little hair-raising and tempers flared. Everyone was bouncing around the kitchen, but in the end- we did what we were meant to do. The dinner was a huge success. From first to last, the courses came out like magic, and our diners were ecstatic. Now came the quiet after the storm- we all sat and breathed in the wet, warm air of the late summer rainy night. After a while, we wound up at a local bar. We toasted a job well-done, and I sat back and listened as the older hands shared stories and ideas.
Moments like that are one of my favorite things about doing what I do.
It’s a very esoteric, insular sort of life we live, and the only people who truly understand it are those who live it, or have lived it. Since moving here, I’ve craved evenings like that one in Jersey, and conversations like the ones I’d have with Joe, Jim, and Kevin.
You’d think that a city with as many restaurants and as much of a food culture as Portland has, you could find a bar that’s open past midnight? What’s more, with all the food carts and tiny little snackeries in this city, you might find one that’s open after 6 PM?
Where do the post-shift drinks happen? Or the booze-mop munchies when you’ve had too many? As a baker, I know that I’ll probably be fine- my hours are from 6am to 2pm. My post-shift drink would be LUNCH. All the same, sometimes I whomp up the energy to join at least some of the culinary throng and enjoy an evening out.
Maybe I’m being immature or foolish- hell, I’m probably both. I might well also just really be homesick.
Either way, at the moment, I have beer, whiskey, and a tasty Scotch egg with a chantilly-light deviled yolk.
It’s not home, but it’s not bad. Not bad at all.