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Thursday, December 31, 2009

This Week’s Mercury Food Section: More Bests

Posted by Patrick Alan Coleman on Thu, Dec 31, 2009 at 12:49 PM

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The week’s Last Supper focuses on the best dishes I enjoyed most in 2009. I’ll stress that most of these dishes were consumed during review. I’m more than happy to admit that I’ve probably missed some great food. (I hope you’ll enlighten me in the comments.)

Unfortunately, space for these list-heavy columns can be limited. The equally worthy are often cut. Here are the dishes that I reluctantly struck to keep my word count:

Hit The Jump for More Bests!

Ocean City Seafood
Salt and Pepper Squid

I know that there are rival Salt and Pepper squid dishes in the city, many of which I haven’t tried. But when stacked up against the bulk of the dishes I ate over the last year this Salt and Pepper Squid stands out. It’s just one of many dishes Ocean City does well. In close running with Multi Flavored Tofu, and XO anything.

Gilt Club
Elk Tartar

This was one of the last dishes of the year, and I was quite impressed. I know that there’s hullabaloo about how deconstruction was one of the worst food trends of the decade, but when it comes to this burger that’s not a burger, I respectfully disagree. Tender, juicy, robust meat. Two slices of toasted bread for de-facto bun. Greens to add the fresh crunch. It’s all there. Essentially a great rare burger.


Al Forno Ferruzza
Any pie

The fellows at Al Forno are some very stony cats. But they make one helluva pizza pie. To quote the review:

First, their sauce is bright and fresh, with a lush tomato tang, just enough fragrant garlic, and lovely oregano herbaceousness. Second, the dough is superb. It's a good thing that the ceiling of Al Forno's Alberta shop is so lofty. These guys toss their dough to great heights until it's impossibly thin—the glutinous elasticity creating a pie with a just-chewy-enough center and a light, crisp outer crust yielding a pleasant crackle between the teeth.


Honorable Mentions

Pixti

One of the best new restaurants in the region may not have actually been in Portland, but in a refurbished dive bar in Sandy, Oregon. Honestly, I only had a single brunch at Pixti. But, goddamn, it the best brunch I had last year.

Amazingly light cheese soufflé. A chicken breast dish prepared in such a way as to cause the meat to have the consistency and taste of fine sausage. Fresh shaved black truffles. A potato pie creation that rivaled Chicago style pizza in terms of wow factor, heft, and flavor. All simply amazing.

The good news is that after their lamented closure in Sandy, they may have recently found a new place to open in Portland. I’ll be one of the first through their doors. Will they make Best lists for 2010. If they do what they were doing in Sandy, my guess would be “absolutely.”

Beaker and Flask

You may have noticed that I haven’t reviewed Beaker and Flask. The fact is, I doubt I ever will. Writing a feature about the opening of the restaurant earlier this year compromised my ability to be anonymous in the joint. They know me. I know them. I try not to say much about the place. This pains me to no end.

So, take the rest with a grain of salt: When writing the feature about Beaker and Flask, my focus was mainly on the cocktails. However, while sitting in on a cocktail development get-together, chef Ben Bettinger surprised me with an incredibly delicious steak he’d cooked up for the gang.

He continued to surprise me every time I went in to eat. One of my favorite dishes of the year was from Bettinger. It was a simple, grilled corn on the cob, and it was a delight. Slightly seared from the flat-top, amazingly juicy, and topped with a chili aioli and cheese. I ate it every chance I could. Bettinger deserves all the kudos he gets.

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