Our Seven Favorite Portland Dinner Places

Author: , November 20th, 2013

Here’s the third in our series on Portland, Oregon’s great places to eat in or close to downtown.

Andina#1 Andina (http://www.andinarestaurant.com)

This Peruvian powerhouse is owned by Peter de Platt and his wife Doris Rodiguez de Platt – and Doris makes a point of coming around to visit her guests and make them feel comfortable. Andina has a warm, almost fiery decor that suits its cuisine – flavorful, colorful and always top-notch.

This trip, we started with some bread and three sauces – one was mild and peanut-based, one had a little kick and was a mango-based, lick your plate clean salsa, and the last was something green that was hot enough to strip the skin off your tongue. We followed that up with the cheese plate, with a blue cheese, a soft goats milk cheese, and a hard, parmesan-style cheese, surrounded by homemade cornnuts. The main course was an amazing petit filet, served with fresh veggies and an amazing corn masa – like a tamale but flavored more like a delicate cornbread, but with a pepper kick in the middle.

At the end of the meal, Doris sent over a little desert – two powdered-sugar-covered cookies with a sweet caramel center. One note about Andina – they are always packed, so they can be a bit strict about putting you at a smaller two person table if you’re a couple. If you have a friend or two in town, take them and get there early – you’ll be much more likely to snag a nice booth for four by the window, anbd your friends will thank you for bringing them.

Oba!#2 Oba! (http://www.obarestaurant.com)

A spanish tapas place with a warm, friendly atmosphere and staff. Funny story – we wanted to try Piazza Antica just up the street, but when we walked in, we were ignored for ten minutes, and finally offered a lousy table that’s given to people who don’t make reservations. We were literally told that by the rude host. So we left, and went to Oba!, where they found us a wonderful corner table by the window,and served us some fantastic beef skewers and a wonderful tortilla soup. Everything was fantastic.

Tasty & Alder#3 Tasty and Alder (http://tastyntasty.com/alder/)

This is one of our favorite new restaurants on the Portland scene – Sandwiched between Downtown and Goose Hollow – the perfect place for dinner before a show at the Artists Reparatory Theatre. This cute little restaurant has a nice modern, with open pipes and distressed wood lending it an industrial vibe. Fifties music played over the restaurant speakers.

We really liked the cheese tray here, filled out with candied walnuts, figs and cherry jam (really good, by the way), and a wonderfully crisp salad in a frosty bowl. For our main course, we had a divine potato dumpling dish in a tomato sauce. Everything was beautiful and (as promised) tasty. We also noticed a number of other gay couples here.

On beautiful summer nights, they open up the windows to the street, and you can people watch and enjoy the beautiful stone church across the street – spoiler alert – it lights up at night.

Speaking of the Artists Reparatory Theatre, it’s a beautiful new community theatre – we saw the play “The Big Meal” there, a frenetic family drama set in a restaurant with a cast of six playing a huge batch of characters. And, surprise, Queer as Folk’s Scott Lowell (Teddy) plaid one of the main roles.

Serratto#4 Serratto (http://www.serratto.com)

This restaurant, just up 21st from Cinema 21, is one of our favorite finds. It’s a large restaurant on a corner, with a warm and welcoming decor.

We started here with a beautiful charcuterie and cheese tray, with choriso prosciuto, salsmi, soft cheese, almonds, pickled onions mustard and mustard seeds – I don’t even like mustard, but the mustard seeds were delicious.

The bread served with the meal was divine – a soft, holey bread with a nice, crispy crust. For my main meal, I had the scallops with quinoa pasta, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, and basil pesto. mark ordered the empanadas with manchego cheese and cilantro. We both paired fries with our meals – fries go with everything. The black tea is also really good here.

The restaurant offers a mixed mediterranean menu in a warm, airy dining room with a bar sandwiched in-between the two main wings.

Cha Taqueria#5 Cha Taqueria (http://chapdx.com)

A new favorite over on 21st, just three blocks from the Cinema 21 movie theater, where they host the annual Portland Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. This place has a great covered patio on the corner, as well as indoor dining. They were very friendly, and the atmosphere is casual and fun.

We shared the steak and chicken fajitas – they were really good, and one plate was enough for two, unless you’re really hungry. The fajitas are served on a skillet with bell peppers, onions, guacamole, salsa and sour cream, along with corn tortillas (flour also available). The guacamole and chips were good, too, and the prices very reasonable.

#6 Pastini Pastaria (http://www.pastini.com)

Just a couple blocks west of Pioneer Courthouse Square, this place offers an engaging atmosphere, some great parmesan bread with a killer marinara dipping sauce, and some really good cheese-filled pasta shells.

Pink Rose#7 Pink Rose (http://www.pinkrosepdx.com)

Located on the north end of The Pearl, this restaurant has two parts – an upstairs deck open when the weather is good, and a downstairs basement space that feels like a jazz lounge. We had the baked brie here, which was served in a small skillet with thick slices of buttered, toasted bread and grilled vegetables – delicious. Then we split the chicken and basil sandwich – with grilled Draper Valley Chicken,a basil vinaigrette, pickled red onions, mixed greens, bacon and swiss cheese. The food here was good, but it was cold out so we ended up downstairs – I’d rather come back on a sunny day when we could sit outside.

Tuscany Day Three: Dinner With Bella in Firenze

Author: , July 4th, 2012

Ciao, Bella

Pitti PalaceAfter Lucca, we returned home to the B&B for an hour to shower and relax, and then went on to Florence for dinner with Bella.

We caught the bus at the corner, and it was, of course, ten minutes late and packed.

Pitti Palace's PiazzaAfter a slow commute into town, we arrived at Palazzo Pitti, a museum full of lovely murals fronting a garden with fantastic Florence views, and went to the ticket office, which was supposed to close at 6, at about 5:35 PM to get our passes for the Florence Museums.

The biglietteria (ticket office) was, of course, already closed.

But there was a woman still at the sportello (window) so Marco engaged in a five minute argument with her about the closing time, and would you believe it, the window re-opened.

Ponte VecchioWe got our tickets, and were still considering trying the Accademia later in the night to see Michelangelo’s statue of David at night, but there was some sort of terrorist attak down in southern Italy, and all the museums were closed.

Ponte VecchioWe walked across the Ponte Vecchio, watching our wallets and taking photos, and made our way along the Arno up toward i Latini… we still had about an hour to kill before meeting Bella, so we took our time, exploring some of the side streets and shops.

We found ourselves in the upscale shopping district of the city, so we didn’t actually buy anything, but the windows were pretty. ūüôā

We also took a side trip up to Santa Maria Novella, a beautiful church close to the train station that shares its name, for a few pictures.

Finally, the moment arrived, and there was Bella, with her fabulous friend Susan in tow… it was so good to see her!

Fabulous SusanWe’d planned this same dinner two years before when we were both going to be in Florence, but had to cancel that trip, so we finally made it, at the same time, to the same place here in this beautiful city.

The thing about Il Latini that you have to know going in is this – they will serve you way too much food.

We never order off the menu here – we just let them bring us selections for four courses. This time, this included:

  • Wine
  • Proscuito and Canteloupe
  • Liver Pate
  • Caprese Salad
  • Bread
  • Ravioli
  • Gnocchi
  • Another Pasta Dish
  • Steak
  • Lamb
  • Rabbit
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Biscotti with a Sweet Wine
  • Chocolate Pie
  • Apple Tort
  • Two Other Desserts I Can’t Name

Dinner with Bella at Il LatiniThe trick here is to skip lunch or have a very light lunch, and then just have sample bites of each thing as you go. If you make the rookie mistake of finishing the early plates, you’ll be stuffed before the meal is half finished.

It was a fantastic meal, made all the more special for us because some of our dearest friends finally met each other. We were a little worried initially because Bella has a hard time with Italian and Marco and Fabry have an equally hard time with English, but everyone spoke slowly, we worked as translators when needed (which was surprisingly rare), and the wine and conversation and good-natured ribbing flowed easily around the table.

After Dinner in FlorenceWe arrived at the restaurant before opening time at 7:30, and spent close to a full three hours together.¬†It was, truly, one of those evenings you don’t want to end.

We left Il Latini and walked Bella and Susan back to their apartment, passing the Duomo on the way – beautiful at night! We bid her goodnight with Italian kisses and a promise to get together back home soon for lunch, took a few more night photos of Firenze, and found a cab to take us back to the B&B, where we collapsed once again into bed.

Rome Day Six, Part Three: Dinner in the Trastevere

Author: , June 25th, 2012

Trastevere in the Evening

At 7:30, we left the B&B for our last dinner in Rome. Marco and Fabry arranged for us to have dinner with Laura and Fabbio, an Italian couple they had met in Las Vegas n their last visit to the USA.

Laura handles investments for retirees, and Fabbio is a computer programmer. Fabbio is trying very hard to learn English, and he asked if we minded if he tried to speak in English during the dinner.

He practices whenever he can, speaking with others and watching english-language movies, and as our teachers have told us time and time again, the most important thing is that he was able to get his points across to us in our native language.

He also said we spoke better Italian than his sister – we loved him for that!

Piazza Santa MariaOur restaurant, called the Ristorante Tavena della Scala, was located in the Trastevere, about a twenty five minute walk from the B&B – this time it was on the far side of the Viale di Trastevere from where we were a couple days before.

We discovered a whole maze of little streets and alleyways filled with shops and restaurants, including a beautiful little Piazza called the Piazza Santa Maria, where we met the friends of Marco and Fabry.

Dinner was good, made better by the waiter, who joked with us throughout the meal. When I said I didn’t drink wine, he replied “in vino, verit√†”, in wine there is truth. I said that Fabry said I was always lying, and he suggested that wine would make a truth-teller out of me yet!

Mark had a tomato pasta and I had a really delicious ravioli stuffed with spinach and mozzarella, covered in a pomodoro sauce as well as my beloved basil.

Fountain in Rome at NightAfter dinner, we begged off dessert, instead going back to a little gelato place, Blue Ice, on the square, where I once again found green apple, and made a delicious combination of this with strawberry gelato. Fabbio treated us, and we thanked hin gratefully.

We also ran into a family here all the way from Boulder, Colorado – I love meeting people from back home here in Italy.

Vittorio Emanuele II at NightWe exchanged emails with Laura and Fabbio and kissed each other goodbye in the Italian way, and boarded the bus in a hurry to get back into the storico centro. Fabry wanted to show us some of Rome at night. As it was already 11 PM, we got off next to the monument of Vittorio Emanuele II and walked back down along the forum from there.

It was brutally cold for May, so we shivered our way down the street to stop, oh so briefly, for a photo of this or that.

Finally, exhausted, we reached the B&B and dropped into bed at midnight, too tired to even begin to pack for the next day’s trip to Firenze (Florence).

Dinner With An Italian Family

Author: , May 11th, 2012

The Montanaris

Fabry, Sorella, e NipoteLast night, we had the good fortune to have dinner with our friend Fabry’s family. His mother’s home, where she lived until she passed away last year, is in the neighboring town of Cesena, about 20 minutes from our friends’ apartment in Forli.

Every Sunday afternoon, Fabry and his three sisters get together at their mother’s home for coffee, a few sweets, and to catch up on each others’ lives. This time, they arranged a family get-together in our honor.

Fabry and his Sisters

We arrived, after a day exploring San Leo and San Marino, at a modest-looking home on a quiet street in Cesena. As we entered, Fabry’s three sisters were there to greet us, with big Italian hugs and kisses.

Fabry gave us a little tour, including the beautiful kitchen, where his mother used to prepare meals for him, and the room that was once her bedroom, now repainted and filled with photos of the family, with Fabry’s mother and father together in an honored place.

It’s in this room that the siblings gather every Sunday to chit-chat, with the photos – and spirit – of their beloved mother around them.

FlowersAnd here they had a little surprise – three tables decorated in red, white, and blue, with flowers to match, in honor of their American guests!

We sat down at the center of the table and watched the life of the family swirl around us as sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and three adorable little nephews arrived. The children punctuated the atmosphere with laughter and the occasional unprovoked shout, brining everyone to attention.

Dinner was simple but delicious – 11 pizzas for 15 people – and there was only one left at the end!

SweetsAfterwards, there were sweets prepared by the family – and o mio dio, were they delicious – cookies, something like fudge, and a flat “torta” – sort of a pie, but more like what we’d call a tart.

It was a pleasure just sitting and conversing with the members of Fabry’s family. They talked a little more slowly than usual for us, but we were able to grasp most of it, and to engage in an enjoyable conversation all night.

Fabry e NipoteOne of our favorite moments was just watching Fabry sit and talk with one of his sisters. Their connection was palpable, and it was a beautiful thing to see.

Like most Italian families, the Montanaris are loud, gregarious, even playfully aggressive at times, and it was an honor and a privilege to spend an evening with them.

We hope they invite us again the next time we’re in town.

Carlos Melia learns Tango at El Querandi Tangueria

Author: , January 13th, 2012

Carlos Melia learns Tango at El Querandi Tangueria ¬†| ¬†Buenos Aires, Argentina ¬†| ¬†Aside from being my favorite tangueria (aka. Tango House) in Buenos Aires, today, once the show was over, I took my own private lesson of Tango with one of the leading dancer of the prestigious El Querandi Tango Show. I know I know… Argentinean, Porte√Īo and I do not have a clue on how to dance Tango, shame on me. Well that is why El Querandi Tango has came to my rescue to give me the basic steps of my native dance. > Check the Full Post and more at www.carlosmeliablog.com

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Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at Mandarin Oriental

Author: , September 29th, 2011

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at Mandarin Oriental
 |  London, England  |  Tonight invited by my fabulous host Sarah C. РDirector of Communications at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London, to experience Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. For those not familiar with Heston Blumenthal, an English chef and owner of world renown The Fat Duck, a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Bray, Berkshire voted Best Restaurant in the UK by The Good Food Guide 2007 and 2009, and voted best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine in 2005. Dinner is along with Bar Boloud the signature restaurant of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London. Read the full post @ www.carlosmeliablog.com

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