Being on Julienne’s mailing list does not result in my inbox stuffed with minor drivel, they don’t write often, but when they do, it’s to announce some wonderful new thing on the menu. This time, it’s a supper club concept, called Common Table. With these dinners, held on a Wednesday and Thursday evening, one seating only at 7 pm, ten diners sit together at one long table in the center of the restaurant and enjoy a prix fixe meal.
I joined for their first round, and the theme was restaurants in Portland. The owners are originally from Oregon and visit Portland often. I happen to enjoy the great food of Portland as well, although I’ve only been able to visit there once so far. When this theme was announced, I knew I had to go.
Vo joined me, and we got the prix fixe, without wine pairings. The price was $50 per person, before tax and tip. With wine, it was $75. Instead of appetizers and mains, the menu was based on breakfast, lunch, and dinner – a day of dining in Portland. Each diner received a menu, with each course accompanied by a story about how it became a favorite of the chef’s.
The frittata was a hefty portion, considering there would be three more rounds of food following it, but we ate it all. The asparagus was bright, and crisp-tender, just the way I like it. The onions were sweet and toothsome. Overall, very enjoyable and could have been a sensible complete meal paired with some salad.
Lunch: pickled tongue & egg salad sandwich, with pickle spear, cole slaw.
Kenny & Zukes is a fairly tranditional Jewish deli, with two locations in Portland. Their pickled tongue and egg salad sandwich isn’t open-faced, which is how Julienne served it, and that was fine with me. Less bread, ya know.
We found that the tongue was very tender and good, but the pickled element was not strong. However, the green beans served on the side were pleasantly tingy with vinegar and when they were paired it balanced nicely.
Dinner: beef cheek bourguignon, with English peas, baby onion, mashed Butterball potatoes, red wine jus.
Le Pigeon’s chef, Gabriel Rucker, has recently won the Rising Star Chef Award from the James Beard Foundation. The restaurant normally has a small menu that changes weekly, but this is a signature dish that is always available. It did not disappoint at all. The beef cheeks were super tender and flavorful, and both of us were amazed by the accompanying mashed potato, it was really delicate and buttery creamy. In fact, not to downplay the beef by any means, we were almost a little embarrassed to admit that we were more enchanted by the potatoes. Turns out, these are sold at our local farmers market, at Roots Farm, and these potatoes are called Butterball. The chef said the incredible texture and flavor was all from the potato, not his preparation. Did I immediately seek them out at the next market? You betcha, nearly 3 pounds of them.
We enjoyed this dish so much, and it was a generous portion, that I ended up doling out a small plate of it to the couple next to us who were not part of the Portland meal. Then we learned that they were having a celebration meal for their engagement, which had occurred just 15 minutes earlier. OMG! How cool to be next to them for their memorable occasion. So of course they needed some of the beef cheek bourguigon. Right?
Dessert: bacon-maple bar and Spanish coffee ice cream.
This was really the item that made me drop everything to ping Vo about the dinner. I did not go to Voodoo Donuts on my trip to Portland, but certainly knew of its popularity, and its bacon donuts. It was spectacular. The bacon was smokey and both chewy and crisp, without feeling fatty. The fried dough was likewise slightly smokey, as if it had partially been fried in bacon fat. The cup of coffee ice cream went very well with it. There was no shame in gorging ourselves on this dessert and I was sure to make eye contact with anyone watching me, and nodded knowingly at them. One man nearly 10 feet away even called out, “I am so ordering that.” I bought an extra to take away, not even knowing who I’d give it to, and Vo ordered a dessert for the newly engaged couple next to us, unknown to them, to be served after we’d left.
I saw the bacon maple bars on Julienne’s instagram the following week, it sounds like it’s well popular. And why not, at $4 a pop, a la carte. I’d do that again.
Julienne has many ideas floating around for future Common Table dinners, mostly in the $50-$75 range. An extra $25 for wine pairings with each course sounds like a good deal. Definitely get on their mailing list to stay abreast of future meals.