A Night at Le Pigeon

June 27, 2011

I think I first heard about Le Pigeon drinking some post softball game beers at Amnesia Brewery.  A fellow food enthusiast mentioned that this was the place to eat in Portland.  Since I am an avid food dork, I immediately went home and did Google search and learned that the Chef at Le Pigeon, Gabriel Rucker, is kinda the bomb and among other things, won the James Beard best rising star award in 2011 .  After about a month of endless chatter to Ben about Le Pigeon and James beard, I finally made a late reservation for a Friday night.

Immediately after walking in the door we were greeted by friendly staff and seated across from each other at a community table.  The cozy location has long dark wood tables and a bar surrounding the three chefs hard at work in the kitchen.    At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about spending our romantic evening in close quarters with others, but after a few minutes we started chatting with our neighbors about their deserts and got some great suggestions.  We had a dialog about the food and about the restaurant and suddenly our two person meal turned into a five person dinner party.

At the waiter’s suggestion, we started our meal with the gnocchi and foie gras.

Gnocchi with trout roe, broccoli and creme fraiche 
Foie gras with artichoke, green pepper corn, and brioche 

Both starters could only be described as special but the gnocchis really stood apart. Gnocchi is a dish that I have had in a range of places – from Cinque Terre, Italy to my great grandmother’s Bay Area kitchen. I feel like it’s safe to say that I have had my share of  gnocchis, but this was the only time that I can say that the dish was truly unique.  The broccoli and what I assumed was dill? had a very powerful green taste at first bite, but after chewing for a moment the pillowy texture of the gnocchi and the creaminess of the creme fraich dominated the palette.  Just when I thought my tasting journey was almost over, I was surprised with a splash of salty from the trout roe.

One of the very helpful waitresses pointed us toward a bottle of Xinomavro to share with our main course.  I had never tasted a Greek wine before and was excited to try something that was, again, unique to my palette.  The only way that the staff at Le Pigeon and I could describe the wine was “weird, but in the best kind of way”.

For dinner Ben ordered the Lamb and I had the Beef Cheek Bourguignon.

Lamb with green garlic risotto, pepper, and fennel 

Beef Cheek Bourguignon

Just like the starters, both dishes were fantastic but I think I liked Ben’s a little better.  The green garlic risotto had small pieces of radish which gave it a little pop.  And the fennel on top was pickled…with curry.  The bite of the acid from the fennel mixed with the creaminess of the risotto made the lamb dance on the tongue.

The best part of the meal was the only unpictured course from Le Pigeon, which may be a testament to how delicious it was.  Not unlike our other two courses, dessert had that combination of tastes that really gave the dish complexity.  All the desserts on the menu that evening seemed to have some savory component.  Our choice, the honey bacon apricot cornbread with maple ice cream was no exception to this rule and was brought out by Chef Gabriel himself. Because we were one of the last customers in the restaurant (we had a late reservation) he spent a little bit of extra time talking to us.  After gushing about the meal and about how happy we were with our night, he hooked me up with a sweet Le Pigeon T-shirt.  He was great fun to talk to and it was so inspiring to meet someone who is so accomplished, yet so down to earth.

If you haven’t eaten here yet, you need to put this place on your dining bucket list. The location is small and intimate; the prices are reasonable for the quality of the food; and all the staff are fun, knowledgeable, and very unpretentious.  The menu seems to change regularly, so I will definitely be back.  Furthermore, I often pass by Gabriel Rucker’s second restaurant, Little Bird, on my way in to work.  After literally having the best eating experience of my life at Le Pigeon, I know a lunch at Little Bird is in my very near future.  See you soon Little Bird!

New Cookbook Fun

June 13, 2011

Recently, I met my favorite cookbook author, Heidi Swanson, while she was in Portland for a book signing.  I purchased her book Super Natural Every Day, and have since found myself conflicted between trying not to dirty up my signed book in the kitchen, and trying as many of her recipes as possible.

Two of the recipes that I have tried so far are her little quinoa patties and the wild rice casserole.  The great thing about these two recipes is that they were easy and I got the opportunity to use herbs from my tiny balcony garden!

Little quinoa patties with chives from my own garden and a strawberry, artichoke spinach salad.

Wild rice casserole (with Italian parsley from my garden). Happy reading and happy eating!


Changes

May 22, 2011

My black Friday vegetarian project ended on January 1, 2010.  Since then, I moved to Portland and had every intention of continuing on with this blog.  However, shortly after moving to Portland, I started eating meat again.  I felt like a fraud writing a blog with the word “vegetarian” in it while slurping down clam chowder and oysters on the half shell. Therefore, my postings became few and far between and eventually my blogging subsided.

But my little vegetarian experiment wasn’t a complete loss.  Going completely veggie for months at a time made me more conscious about exactly what I was eating.  When I cut out the meat, I ended up eating more vegetables and fruit.  I’ve incorporated this habit into my eating regime now that I’m omnivorous again.  I also eat less meat.  In fact, when I am cooking at home, I almost always cook vegetarian meals. When I do eat meat, it is usually while eating out or on special occasions.  Now that I’m back to eating meat, I also am more conscious about the source of my meat.  In most cases, I try to eat meats that are local and humanely raised.

I want to continue writing about my food adventures in Portland even though I am technically omnivourous again. Therefore, this blog is changing a bit and instead of vegetarian blog, it is now a blog about good food and my life in Portland.

So to honor the new direction here are a few of my Portland favorites:

Farm Fresh Eggs

I used to buy the cheapest eggs that I could find at the grocery store, but after getting a little more socially conscious I bought only organic.  Now, after going veggie and living in Portland for a year I only buy local, free range, organic eggs. Lots of people keep chickens in the greater Portland area, so fresh eggs are easy to come by. When I can’t buy farmers market eggs, I buy eggs from Phoenix’s Egg Farm.  They are farm fresh and taste amazing.  And look, blue eggs!

Fresh Urban Herb Garden

Cooking with fresh herbs is delightful, but can also get expensive.  Now that spring has sprung, I planted this little garden on my balcony.  Spicy basil, sweet basil, Italian parsley, and chives are now only six steps away from my kitchen.  The sweet basil is having a rough time though 😦

Amazing Restaurants

My boyfriend Ben and I love to eat out and Portland is an amazing town for foodies. The last restaurant we checked out was Clyde Common.  Clyde Common is a European style  tavern in downtown Portland that uses locally sourced ingredients in their menu.  I feel good knowing that what comes out on my plate is “happy” food.  Check out our appetizer of broccoli raabe with salted pistachios, Clyde Common ham, and a Scotch egg on top. My main course was arugula papardelle with beef sauce and goat cheese, while Ben had a shoulder of lamb with peas, mushrooms and orzo pasta. So delish.

Festivals

Food, wine, and beer festivals are commonplace in Portland.  Whenever the price is right, I love to attend and try something new.  The last one we attended was the Astoria (remember the movie Goonies?)  Food and Wine festival.  Willapa Bay Oysters and Oregon Pinot Noir…amazing!

The View

How can you not love this city?

What is your favorite food location in your home city?