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Trip Report Dec. 5-8 (Little Bird, Davenport, Blue Star, Imperial)

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StarryFork Dec 17, 2013 04:56 PM

Hello Portland hounds, I just wanted to say thanks again for all your great advice and tips for our recent trip to Portland. I'm posting a short report of the trip in appreciation.

So after we arrived in town on Thursday night, we headed over to Little Bird for what ended up being overall the most enjoyable restaurant experience of our trip.

It was a great dinner, very fun space and welcoming server. We both started with the gnocchi with the goat cheese gnocchi with oxtails, caramelized orange jus and piquillo pepper, and we were very happy that we each had our own portion and didn't have to share the deliciousness.

Moving on to the entrees, I ordered the crispy crepes, not the kind of thing I'd usually order, but they were beyond my wildest dreams. Smothered in delicious mushroom sauce and the crepes were the perfect tender texture inside, full of veggies and brilliantly crispy outside. I don't know if they are fried in a pound of butter, or deep fried, but it really works.

My husband had the hangar steak w blue cheese, popovers - he stated that everything was excellent - the best he's had in a while. He also had great wine pairings for both courses, recommended by server/sommelier. A great start to our trip :)

Friday morning we got an early start at Tasty n Alder. I couldn't resist ordering the chocolate potato doughnut, what with my doughnut predilection. It was good, but not great. My preference is definitely for a crispier doughnut, and this one definitely is of the softer variety. Also I have to quibble that if that's creme Anglaise it was plated with, it was darn thin. Husband ordered the Duck duck steak, which is a great idea, and a pretty good plate. The duck fat potatoes that came on the dish were absurdly good though.

I ordered the fried chicken biscuit, which looked very modest when it came out, but packed a hell of a gut punch. Delicious, but I was in a food coma for some hours afterwards.

While noodling around the neighbourhood, we made our first of several visits to Blue Star - I obtained their apple cider fritter, which we split - everything I want in a fritter and more. Unlike Tasty n Alder, this guy had a lovely thick crispy dark crust.

So I may as well say here, if you read my "looking for advice" post, you'll see that I had very high expectations for my abilities to eat lots of small meals through the day, and I'm here to admit that I failed miserably. Grayelf, I don't know how you do it. We didn't make a single happy hour :(

Long story short, we ended up skipping lunch today.

However, early afternoon found us heading over by bus to Davenport, where we arrived a bit after 3 pm to an almost-empty restaurant. This place is a very austere room (grey walls, minimal lighting, no art), facing a grey concrete wall out the big front window.

We were told that it would be a bit of a wait for the agnolotti, so we ordered various other things, and watched what came out for the tables around us. We regretted not ordering the octopus and most definitely the hungarian goulash with Betty's noodles.

To start we had the fritto Misto - salsify, caldoon and delicata w anchovy aioli - this was delicious, nicely battered, salty and lemony and anchovy-ey. Interesting selection of veggies.

Subsequently, the duck breast w brussels and pomegranate - great texture and colour on the salad, we both enjoyed that component much more than we'd expected. The duck breast was tasty and expertly cooked, though not earthshattering.

Grilled radicchio salad with egg and anchovy and Meyer lemon - this was a great course, perfect grill on the head of radicchio but we both agreed that you had to carefully formulate each bite to contain all the components, or else it wasn't nearly as good. mmmmm

Finally it was time for the agnolotti - deceptively simple, they were potato and onion, with really complex, rich flavour, overall very perogy-like. We really should have ordered the goulash though. It smelled freaking amazing when it came to our neighbours' table.

The one negative experience that we had was not even really the restaurant's fault. Since we had no car, and it was a very cold night and we were full and happy, we asked them to call us a cab. Well it was a full 30 minutes later before the cab finally showed up to pick up two over-tired, over-fed, somewhat cranky passengers. By that time it was 5:30 pm, and the restaurant was definitely starting to fill up, though there were still quite a few tables to be had.

No dinner possible after that feed.

Saturday morning we skipped brunch and headed back to Blue Star for the two best doughnuts of the trip: Meyer lemon and key lime filled donut - just amaaaaaazing - so sweet and sour. And the second, a raspberry sour cream doughnut - again, wonderful crunchy crust. Possibly the best sour cream doughnut I've had? Though the raspberry glaze (though good) is a bit of a confounding factor in making this statement.

We then headed over to SE Division Street for a stroll through the antiquey stores. It was earlier in the day, so we cased Salt and Straw to potentially go back and do a tasting flight later, but naturally we didn't have the stomach-room when it was time, after lunch.

Since it was still early, we hit up Lauretta Jean's to warm up. Husband had a mini coconut cream pie (which I'm told was good) and I had a cranberry scone which was absolutely scrumptious. We considered staying for brunch, but I was determined to try:

Sunshine Tavern! Again, very good service, seems like this place is a real neighbourhood fave.

I ordered the burger w cheddar n pickles added on - the meat had a delicious taste (I'm sure it would have been even better if I'd not had to order the burger well done for food safety reasons - and I very much appreciated that they took this order seriously in the kitchen. I heard the chef confirm several times with the grill guy that the burger should be well done), and those pickles got some real bite to 'em!!

Mr. SF ordered the fried chicken sandwich w gravy cheese fries - the bite I tried was good, though I was not a fan of the sausage gravy that came on the fries. Glad I decided to get my fries plain, as I greatly enjoyed them that way!

For dinner, we hit Imperial (The Imperial?) where we fortunately got one of the last seated tables with our reservation and didn't have to perch on bar stools. We enjoyed the funky wallpaper and modern decor. I was sad that they were all out of porterhouse rolls by our late dinner hour.

To start, we split kale n raw veggie salad - which I'd heard good things about online. So very tasty! It feels wrong to eat candy with a salad but it works.

My main was the fried rabbit, which is basically the reason I'd been keen to visit (the) Imperial in the first place - so good! I could NOT believe that it came with a piece of chicken fried bacon - completely OTT (though of course it was also delicious). The watermelon pickle was yummy and a great contrast to the various fried foods. Hot sauce was equally very good, I used quite a lot of it. The fried rabbit could have used a pat down (it was a touch greasy) but still crazy tasty. I liked how it came in a skillet on a high tree stump, both to keep the dish warm, and also to bring it closer to your mouth so you don't feel like such a weirdo for digging in with your hands.

Husband had the duck three ways - I didn't even try it due to rabbit overload. It looked good, generous portion of liver. He enjoyed his bourbon cocktail, though I don't remember exactly what it was.

For dessert, Mr. SF chose the chocolate cream pie daily special - this was just fantastic. The toasted coconut garnish was a great touch.

Sunday, for brunch we went back to tasty n alder due to sheer laziness. It was only a bit after 9 am, but the Sundays are clearly busier, we got the second-to-last 2-top.

We ordered the french toast w blueberry syrup, which we'd admired on a neighbouring table on our last visit, it was excellent. The blueberry syrup was none too sweet, which was a pleasant surprise.

The Tasso hash was tasty, perhaps a wee bit underwhelming. Again, sadly, I had to veto quite a few menu dishes we would have enjoyed due to food safety restrictions.

For lunch, we hit up Lardo. Truly, this burger is to die for, meat so incredibly tasty, cheese perfectly melted with requisite little toasty crispy bits, lettuce, all on a good bun. Would have liked to try their fries, but we knew we couldn't do it... and live.

Husband's meatball bahn-mi was very fresh n good, but the burger was the true star of the picture. Mmmmm, still dreaming of it.

After checking out of the hotel, we made one last trip to Blue Star for a passion fruit doughnut and another fritter for airport consumption.

Long story short, it was a delicious visit - we were welcomed and well-fed everywhere we went, and we can't wait to head back and try more of what you have to offer.

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    Leonardo RE: StarryFork Dec 18, 2013 08:31 AM

    Thanks for the report!
    My faves at Blue Star are lemon-lime, chocolate crunch, creme brulee, & pear fritter.

    1. JillO RE: StarryFork Dec 18, 2013 08:39 AM

      Nice report! Glad you had a good time!

      1. grayelf RE: StarryFork Dec 18, 2013 09:08 PM

        Hey, Starry, you did well! Sounds like you and I have similar doughnut tastes, as I adore that apple fritter, and thought the choc one at Tasty (n' sons in my case) left much to be desired. I really want to try the pear fritter at Blue Star...

        It's taken us five years to figure out how and what to order to allow for multiple/extra meals in a day when travelling, and sometimes we still miscalculate. Note to self: don't order everything deep fried on the menu at happy hour and then go to a top end resto 2.5 hours later, even if you order off the bar menu there too :-).

        Thanks also for the deets on Davenport. I think we will chance it next trip, maybe do what you did and make our own happy hour there.

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