Archive for August, 2010

Eating in Portland

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Portland, Oregon has captured quite a bit of attention on the food scene; and during my recent short stay I could certainly see why. I ate several dishes that were spectacular, and the restaurants had a real energy about them.

One night I ate at Le Pigeon (website). It was a small cozy place with communal tables and  an open kitchen. The menu was well edited and creatively reflected the best local ingredients. I started with Pork Belly; two luscious lardons of pork cooked to perfection…so good for the soul, but so bad for the heart. For the main course I had a Beef Cheek Bourguignon that would have made Julia Child smile. I loved the vibe of this restaurant; it reminded me of Provence.

Irving Street Kitchen (website) is another restaurant I was really impressed with. Irving Street is a large open place with a vibrant bar scene and a lot of energy.irving-street

The restaurant is in the Pearl District, a revitalized section that feels like Tribeca in NYC. There were 6 of us for dinner and everybody raved about their food. As a starter, I had Angels on Horseback (oysters wrapped in bacon) that were rich and succulent. I sure had a lot of pork fat in Portland. For my entree I tried the Duck; it was a combination of grilled duck sausage and a duck leg confit. It was was served over basmati rice and the flavors were fabulous. For dessert we split a huge Butterscotch Pudding that was served in a mason jar. Wow, so rich and creamy…pure heaven.

I know I just scratched the surface on the Portland food scene, but I have certainly got off to a good start. If you are heading to the northwest, make Portland part of your itinerary because there’s some great food just waiting to be eaten.

Penner – Ash – A Willamette Valley Gem

Friday, August 20th, 2010

The Willamette Valley is a great Oregon wine region that showcases Pinot Noir. Known to have many of the attributes of Burgundy, this wine region has really blossomed over the last ten years. Last week I had the opportunity to visit it for the first time. The Willamette Valley is about 45 minutes south of Portland and spans about 60 miles. There are over 200 wineries in the Willamette Valley, most specializing in Pinot Noir.

Penner Ash Wine Cellars is a small winery in northern Willamette Valley. Lynn & Ron Penner-Ash started the winery in 1998, producing only 125 cases of Pinot Noir. Today they produce about 8,000 cases of wine, and the quality is outstanding. The winery is located on the top of a hill, and the views will leave you breathless.

The Views from Penner-Ash

The Views from Penner-Ash

Most wineries are quite pretty, typically located amongst acres of vineyards. What caught my attention as we walked to the Tasting room was the abundance of flowers: lavender, cone flowers, black eyed susan to name a few. That jolt of color woke up my senses; I was ready to taste some wine. Since Pinot Noir is their specialty, we focused our tasting on four Pinot Noirs: ’07 Palmer Creek Vineyard, ’08 Elevee Vineyard, ’07 Dussin Estate, and ’08 Willamette Valley. All four wines were excellent. They were medium bodied with layers of fruit and spices. The wines stood out because they were perfectly balanced and had an incredibly long finish. I though Palmer Creek and Dussin needed a bit more aging to reach their full potential. My favorite wine was Elevee because it was complex, smooth, and ready to  drink now. This wine was lively, yet very elegant. The Willamette Valley Pinot is another great pick. It’s a blend from about ten vineyards, and the result is superb.

Lynn Penner Ash started the winery with her husband and is the winemaker. She was the enologist at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars for 4 years.

Winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash

Winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash

She joined the Oregon wine industry in 1993 as the winemaker for Rex Hill Winery; and produced many award winning wines. At Penner-Ash she has been very successful, consistently making high scoring wines. Harvey Steiman of the Wine Spectator recently reviewed several of their Pinots, and most scores were 90+points. You may want to visit their website here. I have visited many wineries over the years, and Penner-Ash rates very high on the list. The wines are excellent, and the surroundings are beautiful,yet there was a third factor that made their winery so special – the staff. I met a number of them as they were making their way to the outdoor terrace to share lunch and some pinot noir beer. You could tell everyone enjoyed working there.

If you like Pinot Noir, then I think you need to try Penner-Ash. Cheers!

Pier to Peak – Santa Barbara

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Are you still looking for a vacation idea for Labor Day weekend? Do you need an excuse to visit Santa Barbara? Do you like a challenge? Well, you’re in luck. The Pier to Peak half-marathon is September 5th, and there is still time to register. Click here to register.

The race starts at Stearns Wharf, meanders through Santa Barbara, and ends at the top of La Cumbre Peak. The course is a bit hilly, but just think of the beautiful views.

Are you in? Isn’t this the best vacation idea you ever heard of?

Five Favorite Bites in the Hamptons

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

I just returned from a two week vacation in Bridgehampton and ate some great food. I wanted to share my five favorite bites…

Eating a pot of mussels at Sunset Beach on Shelter Island is what the summer is all about. The mussels are always delicious, and the setting is to die for. Overlooking the beach while the sun was setting was certainly a highlight of the summer.

Della Femina Restaurant in East Hampton had an appetizer of braised wagyu beef short ribs over a cuscino (little pillow) that was spectacular. The cuscino, which is a large ravioli, was stuffed with ricotta cheese and herbs; and it tasted like  a puffy cloud.  Wow.

Pierre’s is a French restaurant in Bridgehampton that is becoming quite the scene. Although the restaurant serves good food, my favorite part is the take-out section that specializes in pastries. Try the almond croissant; it’s amazing.

Almond Croissant

Almond Croissant

Mac & Cheese is not a dish that I typically associate with summer; but sometimes it’s fun to mix things up. I shared a plate of Mac, Cheese & Bacon with friends at Race Lane in East Hampton; and this decadent treat was gobbled up in no time. It’s interesting how much everybody loves comfort foods.

Ever get tired of the glitz in the Hamptons? Then try Oasis in Noyac, a non-pretentious gem overlooking the harbor. The miso-glazed halibut was superb, and the mini tuna tartare tacos were priceless.