Food writer dinners are fun because you can pass plates of chicken liver pate around and no one says “What is that?” “I don’t eat liver.” or “Ewww.” No, quite the opposite. The pate is piled on the bread with gusto and pickled red onions. And there is no question that everyone at the table will try all the dishes.
Cabezon, a year-old restaurant on NE 52nd and Sandy, hosted a food writer dinner tonight, which I was delighted to attend.
Cornmeal blinis with Halibut ceviche – I’ve only ever heard Martha Stewart talk about blinis. Little cornmeal pancakes piled with ceviche, subtle flavors, little mini goldmines. Each one of them.
House made Pate with crostini, pickled pears, persimmons and red onions – I love pate. Rich, velvety, luxury on your tongue with little acidic bites of pickles. If only you would try it. It’s so good.
Arugula and frisee salad with port wine currant vinaigrette and pistachio chevre truffles - Chevre truffles. Are you kidding me? I got nothing. Except: Eat it.
Basil wrapped white shrimp with curry marinated eggplant and toasted almonds – I will be dreaming about the intense curried eggplant from this dish, and the buttery shrimp with a crunch from the phyllo.
Mediterranean mussels with Corona beans, fries and rouille – As the weather gets colder, eating mussels just seems like a natural response. Warm, perfectly cooked, enough spice for good flavor, and I could have eaten the rouille on its own, creamy, subtle and amorous with the fries.
Cioppino with white gulf shrimp, Dungeness crab, local fish, calamari, clams and mussels – Mmmmm. A soup that glorifies and objectifies the seafood with Mediterranean flavors and a crouton.
Local Ling Cod with artichoke Barigoule and buttered Dungeness crab - Artichokes and cod, together. Buttery, maybe a little lemony, made me smile.
Pan roasted Petrale Sole with red quinoa, Brussels sprouts and tangerine – This is one of those dishes that should replace the baked chicken breast with rice and steamed broccoli diet dinners. Because it’s so. Much. Better. The contrasting textures and colors were stunning. A visual feast that, even though I was full at this point, I could have eaten all by myself.
Mesquite grilled New York Strip Loin with fingerlings, Walla Walla onions rings and bordelaise – Medium rare is my favorite state of steak. Tender, just chewy enough. Extra crisp onions rings, onions melted and fused with the crust. Little. Buttery. Fingerling potatoes. Heaven.
Now I’m going to hit you with the rapid-fire dessert course:
Hood River Farms Bosc pear tarte tatin with caramel and house-made vanilla ice cream
Callebaut Belgian chocolate pot de creme
Warm ginger cake with Bellwether Farms creme fraiche lemon mousse
Lavender and honey creme brulee
Roasted Banana ice cream with toasted pecans
Richness abounded in the last course.
Jackie, the co-owner, flitted around with trays of silverware and bottles of wine, delivering dinner with a genuine friendliness. She didn’t even act the slightest bit smug or bursting with pride at the art she painted for the walls. She totally could be smug. But she wasn’t.
David Farrell, the chef and owner, sat at the table with us at the end. He has a good laugh and is not pretentious. And he likes the burgers at Slow Bar. Me too. He lives near a place that has a square dancing festival once a year, with callers and everything. He remembered two of the other writers that had been in before. Some of the other writers are real writers and asked good reporter-like questions. I just smiled and said the words “very good” 83 times. Then he said it was “Miller-time” and said good night. It was. A good night, I mean. It should be noted, though that he wasn’t going to actually drink a Miller beer. In case you were worried, you snobs.
And a shout out to the lovely new friends that I shared dinner with. Let’s do that again.
P.S. You can see lovely pictures of the meal over at PDXploration’s blog.