I'm sure you know the feeling. We'd had a couple of beers at a pub, talked with a few folks we knew, then left with the sense that the evening wasn't quite over, particularly in the food department. I mean, beer is a meal in itself, but doesn't quite hit the same spot as a nice nosh.
Produce Row Café, founded in 1974 and the very first pub owned by the McMenamin brothers. We were there for an event put on by Megan Flynn (left) to celebrate the summer issue of her magazine, BeerNW. It prominently features an article on the Row, but more importantly it also has an article that includes my recipe for paella with chorizo and mussels. Cool, huh?
So finding ourselves in the eastside industrial district, we opted for a bite at Olympic Provisions, Nate Tilden and Jason Barwikowski's emporium of cured meat products. I hadn't yet been there in the evening, and on this weeknight we found it about half-full, with tables available and plenty of room at the bar.
We ordered the meat board, which came tout de suite and contained a sampling of three of their salumi, a wedge of chicken liver mousse and a pistachio rillette with pickled onions and rhubarb, cornichons and mustard. They're definitely finding their way with the salumi, which is getting more flavorful and distinct each time I try it. The mousse and terrine were fantastic, though the three thin slices of toasted bread were only about half of what was needed.
Shining like crossed swords, the seared fresh sardines came with a salad of baby potatoes and asparagus dressed in a mustard vinaigrette and topped with half of a soft-centered boiled egg. Perfect for sharing, it was a great pairing I'm going to have to copy here at home when sardines are next in season. The best dish, though, was the pork belly with clams that had been cooked in a spicy tomato sauce with greens and carrots. Rich and brilliant, this blew us away.
I'd tell you about the drinks we had, but we'd abstained due to the beers consumed beforehand. And, amazingly, we didn't really miss them, an observation I wouldn't have expected. (Note to self: sometimes the food is enough!)
Details: Olympic Provisions, 107 SE Washington St. Phone 503-954-3663.
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My idea of the perfect neighborhood has, it goes without saying, friendly folks who like to hang out and chat with neighbors passing by with their dogs and kids. It should also be walkable, bikeable and close to public transportation. There has to be at least one good grocery store and a farmers' market nearby, and great cafés for coffee and a really good low-key restaurant for those nights when you don't feel like cooking, a place where the food and conviviality is more important than the decor or the toniness of the crowd.
We're lucky to live in exactly that kind of neighborhood, and to have a restaurant like Lucca only a ten-minute walk away. On the way home with friends Ivy and Gregor the other night, we stopped in for a bite and a glass of wine and had a spectacular meal that started with a wonderful antipasto platter, probably the best I've had recently and by far the most reasonably priced.
Several slices of excellent charcuterie were accompanied by stuffed dates, a pile of assorted olives, a pickled vegetable salad, a liver mousse with a small pile of salty crisp chips for dipping and a pile of crunchy deep-fried vegetables. More than enough for three, this plate would be well worth ordering on its own with a drink at the bar or, as we did, the starter for the terrific meal to follow.
Details: Lucca, 3449 NE 24th Ave. Phone 503-287-7372.