It’s becoming a tradition, when I fly into Portland, to head directly to the Gotham Bldg Tavern in NE Portland for a hearty breakfast. The first time I visited, only a few months ago, I managed to wolf down one of their famous, decadent breakfast sandwiches: a soft seeded roll piled high with an over-medium fried egg, thick applewood-smoked bacon, Vermont Cheddar, and housemade catsup. It is not for the faint of heart.
On this visit, with my entire family in tow and in town for the holiday weekend, we made a beeline for Gotham as soon as the plane landed. Early. Very very early, and I needed coffee (thank goodness, during my entire stay, I never had one bad cup of coffee; it is the home of Stumptown you know). One perfectly crisp waffle and an exceedingly fresh poached egg later, I was ready to hit the Pearl district for some last minute shopping. And, of course, a meandering trip to Powell’s (always a mandatory stop on my ever-increasing visits to Portland).
So this is how the weekend started. We had all converged on Portland to celebrate the holidays, and this year was special–it was the first time my brother was hosting the event at his new(ish) house. We, of course, went all out. And when I say all out, I am primarily talking about food. If there is one thing that bonds my family together it is food.
Months ago, my brother and I came up with an elaborate Christmas dinner menu, and he spent the time prior to our arrival making sure all the particulars were in place–from brewing 2 kegs of beer (check out his Kegerator) and building a tabletop large enough to accommodate all the dinner guests, to purchasing pasta bowls just for our first course and placing an order with Viande Meats for a beautiful rack of veal.
Over the days leading up to the big feast, we sipped rich, frothy lattes and sampled fig-anise bread from the Pearl Bakery (truly one of the best lattes I’ve ever had)…
…we overindulged on pizza from Apizza Scholls, and went all-out for our traditional “fancy night out on the town for Christmas Eve” at Wildwood, a Portland culinary institution which, after that exquisite meal, deserves its glowing reputation.
A sample of what we ate:
* Sweet local oysters with Champagne mignonette
* Endive salad with toasted walnuts and creamy blue cheese
* Potato-leek soup with Oregon truffles
* Porchetta with hazelnut bread pudding and grilled pears
* Mesquite-roasted chicken with braised Brussels sprouts, goat cheese gnocchi, and roasted celery root
On the day of Christmas Eve, we did our big shop in preparation for the feast–our first stop was to the upscale specialty market, City Market NW to pick up our beautiful free-range rack of veal from Viande, along with sheets of fresh egg pasta from Pastaworks, and a bag full of chanterelle mushrooms.
On Christmas morning, after gleefully opening our gifts and eating one too many slices of our annual Christmas kolache, we got down to business. Somehow I ended up as the chef barking orders to all those around me (this cannot possibly surprise anyone who knows me). But we were a well-oiled machine: my brother Mark, my mom, and Wendy were all tasked with specific jobs to chop this, stir that, prep those, peel these while my father stood guard at the sink, washing every dish that came his way. By 4pm, the nibbles were out, the Champagne chilled and the guests arrived. We were ready to eat!
Here’s what we made:
Rosemary flatbread with cheeses and salumi
Served with Kir royales
Homemade, individual spicy roasted pumpkin ravioli with brown butter and sage
Served with a white Italian Arneis
Roasted chanterelle mushroom and arugula salad with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
Balsamic-braised fennel and cippoline onions with thyme
Roasted Tuscan rack of veal
Served with an Oregon Pinot Noir
Chocolate-almond babycakes with wine-poached pears, bittersweet chocolate sauce, and creme fraiche
Served with Stumptown coffee
We rolled back to our digs at the Kennedy School later that evening and basically passed out. And it didn’t end there, but I’m full just writing about all this food.