Oregon 2014: Pigeon party!

My dear amigos, I am tuckered. Exploring the reaches of a city that I’ve never visited is even more of an adventure than I anticipated. However, the events are fresh and I am primed to regale them.

I found myself ready for action around 5:30 pm. I came dangerously close to falling asleep on my bed, but I soon realized that I, the ever-running engine, just needed a little fuel in the tank. I decided that my second dinner in Portland would step it up yet another notch. Enter Le Pigeon, the crown jewel of East Burnside:

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While small and set inconspicuously in the industrial district, this place really is truly top notch. It’s got that fancy Parisian flair sans snob and has incredible food – so much that I will NEED to walk you through each thing I got.

Appetizer: Eel pie – broccoli ice cream, radish, grilled broccoli

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The broccoli ice cream that led to my delectable pie was like a mini scavenger hunt of complimentary tastes. Salty, crunchy broccoli combined with sweet and tender ice cream was a flavor combination unexpected, but powerful. Topped with thin and subtle sheets of radish, I pretty much had all taste types covered. When my fork hit the butter crust, it withered down like a sand hill being stepped on. Perfectly flaky and even more perfectly flavored. The pie has two types of eel in it and with this amazing crust, made the perfect savory culmination. While I normally dispose of everything my mouth touches in its entirety, I HAD to stop 3/4ths of the way through to ensure I saved room for my other courses.

Entree: Duck confit – goat cheese hummus, radish, avocado, cilantro

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I pushed my boundaries a bit for this one. While it’s common knowledge that I LOVE my eel, my octopus, and my bone marrow, the more normal things tend to get me. Avocado? Not a fan. Cilantro? Eh, I’ll pass. But tonight, I went with my server’s recommendation and just launched into this one, despite the disturbing amount of green things on it.

I was pleasantly surprised. The cool tones of the radish, hummus, and cilantro helped balance the strong umami of the duck. The avocado even pitched in a bit by neutralizing the radish spice. Overall, it was scrumptious. I probably would have omitted the cilantro, but hey – I’m not a food snob or anything. 🙂

Dessert: Creme Brûlée – seville orange pot de creme, burnt honey meringue, cinnamon rugelach

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I don’t think I can ever have creme brûlée ever again after this. There’s just no possible way that any other can compare to this one, ever! I don’t know if it was the orangey-marshmallow-esque thing on the side, the mini cornetto it included, or the hot dish of Heaven itself, but MAN, did this thing pack a punch! It was like all of a sudden I was sitting in a fluffy dream world with nothing but my dessert and I, floating in the air…PERFECTION! Needless to say, this dish spoke for itself, and I couldn’t have been happier. Another dessert gone excellently.

Overall, I cannot recommend my friends at LP enough. Is it ridiculously expensive? Yes, it’s easily the most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten on my own. But is it good? In my opinion, it’s well-deserving of the praise it gets. Moreover, it’s super cool to see the chefs in action – other than a Japanese teppan restaurant, you’re not going to be able to get that intimate. The staff are also incredibly attentive. Plus points for the exquisite 80s music playing during my meal (Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, and Simple Minds, OH MY) That, in my opinion, does a perfect restaurant make.

Now for the rest of the night. This is where it gets interesting. I’m comfortable with admitting that tonight I essentially “bar hopped” alone. Mind you, I’m not a drinker and I frankly know little about drinking and drinking accessories. I do, however, admire the craft involved in beer and wine making. As such, I make it a point to visit breweries and wineries whenever possible. After all, effects aside, it is extremely fascinating.

Stop numero uno was a wine bar in southeast PDX known as ENSO. I have no idea what didn’t possess me to take a picture of the decor, but it was spectacular. Again, a true throwback to the enotecas of Italy, particularly the one that my mother and I went to in Roma. It had a classic feel, with stone walls, dark wood, and dim lights. The front, however, was a large, glass garage door…eh, I’m telling you all this, but you should just Google it.

I spoke with the bartender for a good hour and occasionally got to talk to the other patrons. The most interesting points of our conversation were those around where we grew up. I have a certain perception of Oregon as an incredible outdoor paradise, and Oregonians seem to think of California as largely the same. I reminded my conversation buddy that there is PLENTY more to my SoCal city than meets the eye, good and bad. We may have perfect weather near year round, but we are stockpiled with chain restaurants, have horrible public transport, and have a disjointed social framework. This is not to say that I don’t absolutely adore where I’m from. But like everywhere, it has its minuses. My buddy went on to say that Oregon is removed from things, is rainy way too often, and has high regulation. I’ll take not being able to pump my own gas over cold stares any day, personally.

My next stop was, in a word, “perplexing”. I decided to head to Lightbar nearby for some, er, “ambient electronic music” being performed. If by “ambient” and “electronic” they meant “dissonant” and “pots and pans”, then alright, they nailed it.

Set to the sound of "PPPFFFFF qwshhhhhhhhhhh pppppoooofffffffffff woooooooaaaaaachhhhhhhccchhcchchchchcxxxoxoxo"
Set to the sound of “PPPFFFFF qwshhhhhhhhhhh pppppoooofffffffffff woooooooaaaaaachhhhhhhccchhcchchchchcxxxoxoxo”

While the bar was cool to see, and the displays on the walls kept me somewhat awake, I definitely put in my courtesy half hour and bailed thereafter. Weirdo trash music aside: these experiences, my friends, are what make some nights the best nights.

It’s now 1:00 am and good gosh, am I ready to turn in. As I said earlier, tomorrow is the road less urban. And hopefully, less expensive. That being said, I regret NOTHING about today – I have conquered the city and will conquer even more of it tomorrow. Before I get too Alexander the Great, now is the time for rest.

– H

Thought of the day: It’s okay if not everything goes perfectly. What’s funnier: smooth sailing, or a sail breaking and knocking someone clean off the boat?

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