This is food porn. If you’re into that kind of thing, read on.
Lately I’ve been waking up on Thursday mornings thinking, “Did that really happen last night?!” And then I realize that that thing did happen, and the kids get frozen waffles while I search for some caffeinated tea since we don’t drink coffee.
Last Wednesday it was the Portland Hash House run. That’s a story involving expletives and nudity that I’ll tell you later.
Last night it was the San Diego supper club Cellar Door’s Portland stop on its now infamous West Coast tour (there should totally be a shirt for this foodie nerd-dom).
The Cellar Door dinner club is not a restaurant. It is a donation-based private dinner party hosted by chef Logan and mixologist Gary, a dazzlingly warm couple with other full-time jobs. And you or you-and-a-guest may attend if your heart strings (and stomach) are tugged; and if you can find the special notch in the Hobbit door that tells you you’re in the right place.
Logan and Gary were only in Portland for one night. I found out about their dinner through my friend Lauren… a few weeks ago I got this email from her: Cellar Door is my favorite dining experience in San Diego. They’re coming to Portland. You have to go.
I will eat my way to oblivion/Nirvana/Heaven with Lauren. If I can’t be with her, then I can at least jump on her recommendations.
So that’s how my husband and I followed Google Maps to Tom’s house. Tom was our Bilbo Baggins and we were the trolls arriving to eat him out of house and home.
This is Tom explaining how Extracto is the most wonderful coffeehouse in Portland, because they are both low-brow and high-brow at the same time.
Tom–thanks to a friend who had connected him with Cellar Door–arrived home from work with Logan and Gary cooking and mixing things in his kitchen.
Our hosts for the evening and the shepherds of Cellar Door had prepared for us a beautiful dinner table that was waiting like a cozy, wonderful hug from the pages of Bon Appetit.
And then we each received half a bottle of house-vintage Gamay wine in a round-bottom flask. The wine was super bright and fruity, With hints of nectarine, the table said.
Which was foretelling of what was to come in the stone-fruit salad. And what wine isn’t enhanced by first meetings with delightful, down-to-earth company and the surprise of four love-filled courses? (That’s Tracie, above, who preserves her own Meyer lemons. She was perhaps hoping to convince us to preserve our own, but we more-likely left convinced we should raid her kitchen.)
The first course was scalded Padron peppers. You’ve seen these lovely green peppers at the farmers market. Padron is a city in Galicia in norther Spain. I lived near there for a few months, and there’s a Padron peppers festival each year where you can buy the peppers, roasted with sea salt. There’s a saying in Spain, “Peppers from Padron, some are spicy, others not.” (It sounds pretty much just as boring in Spanish…)
Then came mixed greens with Baird Orchards peaches (out of Hood River) and hazelnuts and chèvre. I hadn’t thought to put peaches with greens. Delightful!
The main course of braised pork shoulder was operatic. You know how you appreciate when other people do really well the things that are so challenging for you? This. Meat for me is like a prayer that it will all go right.
Sometimes my prayers are answered, and sometimes they are not. And rarely does a pork shoulder come out so tender and succulent… and then to eat it served over polenta and roasted delicata squash with celery root and scalded red peppers? It makes you fall in love with a rainy night.
Then fig and frangipane tart. I don’t really know how marzipan and frangipane are different. Jordan, one of our partners-in-crime, suggested frangipane is more cake-like. Whatever the case, I fall for anything that has the consistency of play dough and the taste of romance.
When the lovely slice of tart came out, I thought, where is the cream? There was no need for cream, especially with the toasted-almond crust.
I spend a lot of time feeding other people, and we have a lot of family commitments. So when someone else cooks for me and treats me like family, but with no other demands, it’s pure magic.
And I leave sighing and with a sweet glow to everything I see.
Everyone gets burnt-out, everyone suffers; but to go with the lows there are some really satisfying and soul-quenching highs. They don’t have to be lengthy or long-anticipated, just given with love.
Thank you Cellar Door! And thank you Tom, for opening up your beautiful home!
Isn’t this a great idea, Portlanders? Who’s going to start one up?