My honey took me out on a date yesterday, for a movie and dinner – I think she’s reporting that I took her out – but, what does it matter? We don’t do much of that kind of stuff now, since we entered into our forced austerity phase – actually, all our austerity has done is to reinforce the sense that home cooked meals -well thought out and well prepared- can easily knock the socks off of most restaurant meals, to say nothing of the cost difference, which is of course the reason why we no longer indulge freely.
We decided to go to the afternoon, pre-dinner showing, and of course, that’s the discount showing – add that to our “senior” discount, and it was only $6 to get in! $6!!! Apparently, the recession hasn’t touched the movie industry – but I must tread lightly here, friends, since I have family who’s livelihood is tied to that industry, and I’m sure they would take exception to my observations. OK, so be it – I’ll confine my remarks to the movie itself, which is a little safer ground for me.
The movie we saw was “Julie and Julia”, a rather perfect pre-dinner movie! Light, frothy, and enough eating to stimulate the appetite for dinner. But, as a blogger, what I took from the movie was the great experiential irony of being in the right place at the right time – which actually was hard at work with both ladies here. I have seen or heard little evidence that Julie Powell either loves food, or is an accomplished cook, and in fact, there is a good probability that having undergone the forced agony of her project, not only would that experience not lead one to cooking proficiency, but there’s a high likelihood of developing a hatred of food and cooking for life. How can a person who refuses to taste an egg until age 30 be a food writer? And yet, her food fame is sealed! Ain’t America wonderful!
Similarly, although I am among those who love who Julia Child was, and what she gave to us who love eating as much as did she, in all honesty, what she did was accomplished more on the strength of personality than on expertise and depth of knowledge. And let’s face it, Julia had a lot of personal contacts that normal folks simply wouldn’t have had, and those contacts eased the way through some tough passages. When she first stood before the TV cameras at WGBH in Boston in 1963, she did so as an admitted amateur cook, howbeit with some professional training while in Paris – there were certainly hundreds, maybe thousands of other U.S. citizens with a greater depth of French cooking knowledge and experience than Julia at that time, but perhaps none with her charisma and TV presence, to say nothing of her deep desire to spread her love of French cooking to America.
For this special occasion, dinner would be at a relatively new (2 years) small restaurant named Porta in North Bend – This little restaurant is easily our best local choice for fine dining. Why do I think this is true? Come on friends – I live for food – I’m a foodie – and every new restaurant that opens hereabouts gets a visit from me within its first few months. They come – they go. And sadly, it’s often the best that go and the mediocre that live on! But this one bucked the odds and has lasted for the past two years – good sign. And an even nicer sign is that if you go on a weekend night, as we just did, you’ll need reservations. Wow – that means that others feel just as I do! Maybe this one’s got a chance.
I especially like this place because they’ve obviously thought about what their target customers might want out of the dining experience – that’s reflected in the quality of their chosen ingredients – and as we foodies know, if you start with top quality ingredients, you just might end up with something delicious to eat! I also love their chosen available wines – they are not expensive, but still all quite drinkable, and in fact, enjoyable. And that’s enhanced by their choice of wine stemware – last night we noticed that the beautiful, delicate crystal glasses being used for our wines were Spiegelau, a lux touch well above the expected here in SE Oregon, where molded glass seems usually sufficient and quite the norm.
Our server, with whom we had several interesting food discussions (good restaurants hire servers who love food!) suggested we try the Salumi starter (I will always ask my server their opinion of what’s best today, especially if they love food too!), so we did – it was a huge plate of various paper thin slices of Italian cured meats, along with freshly pickled vegetables – wow! That alone was worth the visit.
For our entrees, San picked the Seared Scallops with kitchen fresh fettuccine, and a butter/wine sauce – it was wonderfully done, and perfectly reflective of the restaurant’s stated specialization, Northern Italian. I had the double pork chop from Carlton Farms, arguably, the area’s premier pork source – it was a perfectly done huge hunk of moist, but well seared meat, served with baby carrots and oven roasted new potatoes. The meat was topped with a half of a roasted peach, and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. I told our server that I’d prefer the meat on the underdone side – her response was that the kitchen was sensitive to not drying out its meats, and that she was sure I’d love the result – and I did.
We can only hope that this superb restaurant is able to survive the usual starvation that falls to any new place whose meal prices are as high as its quality. Judging by the fact that I witnessed walk-ins being turned away on our last visit, that may suggest that Porta has become established – or maybe what’s happening is that enough knowledgeable, food loving folks are moving into this area that perhaps there’s a chance for such a restaurant to exist on its own merits – wouldn’t that be wonderful!