Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Portland Food: Riffle NW

Before you start freaking out that this is turning into a food blog, calm down. Notice I used the term ‘food’ not cooking since the last time I was in the kitchen gasoline was under $3.00 a gallon. Sad but true. Or, as I know many of you are longing for a husband who cooks, I’m just one lucky gal. Still, it just happened that we’re on a food streak and I think it’s a nice break from my usual whining, yes? 

With our little heat wave last week and J’s birthday dining out was more appealing than anything that might involve braising, searing, or turning on the oven. When we awoke Saturday morning and it was already 84˚ J thought maybe our Saturday lunch date should turn into dinner. He had a new seafood restaurant he’d been tracking and thought it was time to check it out. 

We’ve only been in Portland four years but with the Great Recession that’s long enough for us to walk into a restaurant and ask ourselves, “Didn’t this used to be so-and-so restaurant?” and the answer will be yes. In this case what is now Riffle NW used to be 50 Plates—a fun place that had regional dishes from each of the states. They made a killer shrimp and grits that I still crave so I’m a little sad they’re gone. 

Given that by 7pm Portland had hit 100˚ (which I know is nothing to some of you) I felt a little crazy and decided an icy cocktail was in order. And because it is far too boring to just name a drink by its ingredients, I had a Freudian Slip (which happens about once a day, the slip not the drink). It’s watermelon, vodka, lime and Aperol—a Campari-like liquor with less sugar and alcohol. It was delicious, the sweet watermelon tamed by the lime and perfectly chilly. 

J started his meal with a half dozen oysters whose names I can’t remember as I find them to be largely slimy and unappealing. He said they were quite tasty. For entrees, I had the halibut cheeks and he had mackerel. The halibut was gorgeously tender, served with fresh corn and tomatoes but what was the most unique item on the plate were the green garnishes that look like small succulents. When you bite into them you get a very distinct burst of lemon flavor. Bizarre and pleasing! I was so enamored I was all set to storm the kitchen to find out what this was but our waiter was already informed. It’s something called ice lettuce and it is a leafy succulent. It’s not common in the U.S. but is now being grown in California and Oregon, which would explain how I got so lucky. A delightful counterpart to the richness of the fish. 

Love sushi but don't get this at all. Apparently, with a Sapphire martini they're fabulous

Halibut and my new favorite greens- ice lettuce 

 A little creepy, right? A de-boned mackerel with the skin and skeleton deep fried so they're nothing more than a satisfying mouthful of crunch. Or so says J and I'll take his word for it.

 I'm including this photo for the potential male readers out there and because it engendered such a wave of rhapsodic reminiscing between J and the server. Apparently, this is a new beer made a very old-school way. Not just the can, but pre-flip top, and most often opened using a churchkey (hence its name). I don't fully understand but the guys thought it was very cool and the beer tasted great, so not just a gimmick.

Don't love the sides costing extra but am I going to pass up crispy polenta? I think not!

This was another enjoyable meal and Riffles NW definitely knows their seafood. It is a bit spendy as they embrace the entrĂ©e only, side dishes extra mantra, meaning prices add up. And if you do want oysters, which aren’t on the menu be sure and ask how much they are. That was a bit of sticker shock, especially as we live within an hour of an oyster producing coast. 

Finally, if you’re anywhere near my age you’ll also want to ask your hostess for a table on the side of the restaurant. The bar is an open area and with an exposed industrial ceiling the noise level ratchets up quickly and makes hearing your dining partner difficult. Being the mature adults we are, J and I used this as an opportunity to make up horribly inappropriate topics and yell them at each other to be heard. It's quite surprising we don't get invited out more often...

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