Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Last of It

OK even though I've been home two days now I still have a slew of loose ends that I want to blog about before I close the book on my recent trip to Portland and Vancouver.

There are so many restaurants in both these towns. I did have a few meals I've yet to mention at places that are really worth checking out if you are in either of these amazing cities.

The place pictured above is called Maenam a kick ass fancy Thai restaurant next store to Refuel (same owners). Sadly I only got to eat at Maenam which is a beautiful sleek room with equally beautiful and delicious food, it isn't cheap and the portions, as I have noted before in other Vancouver restaurants, were on the small side. However the ingredients are locally sourced and the preparation for all the dishes we had were spot on. The only slight criticism I would have was that the Som Tam (green Papaya salad) was a little plebeian. The Fraser valley Duck Broth with Winter Melon and the Burmese Curry of Sloping Hills Pork were outstanding. The Stir Fried Water Spinach (often called Morning glory in Thailand) with crispy pork was delicious but at $15 for what amounted to a very small side dish of vegetable seem like a rip off to me.

I ate at Clyde's Common in the Ace Hotel in Portland twice. I loved the high ceiling and the huge windows, the room looks like a big army tent with strings of old fashioned light bulbs draped along the mezzanine level. Downstairs is all big banquet tables upstairs smaller more intimate tables of two and four.

Both times I ordered two dishes, both times one was a real winner and one was so dull I wanted to scream. At lunch I had a Dandelion salad with, farmer's cheese, walnuts and raisin vinaigrette and I splurged the extra dollar and had it topped off with a poached egg. A perfect sweet bitter and unctuous combination of green, raisins and egg yolk adding up to one super salad. Then came the spiced chickpeas with aioli. I don't know what they were spiced with, but the day I had them even copious amounts of salt and pepper couldn't help liven them up. I thought aioli was suppose to be redolent of raw garlic and lemon juice? It was almost as dull as the chickpeas.

Dinner was less successful, the Asparagus looked beautiful and the Tarragon vinaigrette had a wonderful pungency, but why par boil the carrots and make them kind of mushy? The braised lamb sounds great with spring onions, mint, orange oil and grilled bread, but again soooooo bland it was three or four pieces of stewing lamb in some jus. The mint was a nice idea, an interesting reference to the traditional mint sauce, but was to skimpy an amount to really make a difference, I didn't taste the orange oil and the bread was good for soaking up the sauce, but I would much rather have had some potatoes, or really anything with a little more substance, at $21 this seems skimpy so much so the wait staff should inform you that you need to order a side or too or risk going home hungry.

Nonetheless, I did really enjoy the experience of eating at Clydes, I just wish the cooks would lean into their bolder more aggressive side and be freer with the salt and pepper or at the very least have it on the table (I fucking ate this trend of always having to ask for salt and pepper) no two people's tastes are the same, put some salt and pepper on the table when you serve the entree and take them away when the meal is done. That way you don't risk people running off with them and you make grumpy people like me happy. And to digress totally for a moment I feel the same way about coffee shops who don't let you put your own cream in your coffee.

Lastly, go to Alma's Chocolate and stock up on treats for your hotel room or to bring home to friends and lovers. I bought Neil a gold leaf covered dark chocolate statue of Quan Yin.

I ask you where else on the planet are you going to find that? If you're not into eating chocolate goddesses of mercy you can always try the equally heavenly truffles.

The room at Clyde's:
The great Dandelion salad:
The blandest spiced chickpeas I ever ate (or attempted to eat before I got bored and pushed them aside.) They look nice tho don't they?

And finally a very special thank you to my friends Matt and Jim in Vancouver who gave me the inside scoop on all the places to go to and for being such amazing hosts.

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