Friday, May 04, 2012

An Oasis in Milwaukie

If a food desert is defined as any area in the industrialized world where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain, it would make sense that a restaurant desert would be a place where there aren't many good places to find a meal.

The delicious blackboard. (Can I say that?)

In the past, the town of Milwaukie on Portland's southeastern edge would have qualified, in my book, as just such a place. As far as I could discern, the opportunities for dining were very few, and the drive from our restaurant-heavy Northeast neighborhood seemed not worth the time or cost of gas. But now that Pascal Sauton, chef and former owner of the trés Français Carafe Bistro in Portland, has opened Milwaukie Kitchen, I may have to rethink my desert map.

Needing a place to go for lunch with friends who live in the Sellwood area, we agreed to meet there and check out the scene. We walked into a bright and welcoming space, the day's offerings posted on a floor-to-ceiling chalkboard. The opposite wall was populated with a broad selection of wines from trés cher to not so, with other shelves lined with specialty grocery selections, mostly French and Italian with a nice representation from local producers, as well.

To-die-for duck fat roasted potatoes.

Sauton, no fool he, has tailored his menu to fit both duck fat roasted potato-fancying foodies and those looking for a good, simple deli sandwich, with the devilishly clever ploy of offering breakfast items all day, always a good call. There are plenty of tables scattered across the floor for sit-down dining, but this place caters to the take-out crowd, too. As a matter of fact, dinner is pretty much strictly take-out, since the place closes at 7 pm. The dinner menu has some amazing sounding, and reasonably priced, dishes that had me considering putting together an easy evening meal for my family.

Roasted lamb and pipérade sandwich.

As for our order, my roasted lamb sandwich was comprised of a sturdy ciabatta roll that soaked up the juices from the meat and the roasted peppers with harissa mayo tucked inside. My companions chose to go with breakfast items, the first an egg pipérade, roasted peppers beneath baked eggs swaddled with two generous slices of serrano ham (top photo), something that has brunch written all over it.

The warm croissant breakfast sandwich made from a Ken's Artisan Bakery croissant, white cheddar, Tails & Trotters smoked ham and a sunny side up egg is what other breakfast sandwiches, if they're very well-behaved, will get to be in heaven. The egg is cooked just enough so it spills out over the pastry, making it fork-rather-than-finger food. But it's so good, who cares?

With a place like this, and the wonderful Milwaukie Farmers' Market cranking up on Sundays, you can bet Milwaukie will be looking more like a food oasis than a parched desert.

Details: Milwaukie Kitchen and Wine, 10610 SE Main St., Milwaukie. 503-653-3228.

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