Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me! Celebrating PDX Style

boy, am i glad i was born. friday was my birthday, and it's been a non-stop celebration over in these parts. my sweetie was working on friday night, however, so we didn't get to celebrate together how we would have liked. instead, i took an hour-long bus ride to eat a slice of pizza with him before he had to go back to business. luckilly, on saturday, we had the chance to do things up right.

last night, we had dinner at higgins as part of foodbuzz's 24, 24, 24 event. why higgins? it's an old portland favorite, in tune with the food culture here that seeks out local, seasonal, and organic ingredients as the starting point for a quality meal. i mean, the owner has a quote from wendell berry in their philosophy statement that graces the back of the menus - this must be my kind of place. luckilly, on saturday, we had the chance to do things up right.

also, my friend saw john kerry eating there with samwise the brave once. so you know it's cool.

to start, brian had a red wine from tuscany, and i had a "greg" from hair of the dog. i ordered it because it was the only one that was from oregon that i hadn't tried before; i had no idea that the greg is named after greg higgins, and available only here and at the brewery. it's made from squash (!) of all things, from the restaurant. there's a local food loop for you. local farm sells squash to restaurant, which gives them to local brewery, which makes beer for the restaurant. the beer had no hops, and i love hops, so it wasn't my favorite. i got jealous of brian's wine, and ordered an oregon pinot for dinner.

squash as decoration by our table:

i suppose it's a good thing when you and your life partner have very similar tastes, though it doesn't always make the most exciting blog fodder when you end up ordering the same thing. we both got winter green salads with hazelnuts and blue cheese. just prior to the salad, we got kalamata olive bread. the salad was well-dressed, and the cheese was fantastic. over 98% of hazelnuts grown in the united states come from oregon, or more specifically, the willamette valley. yum.

thanks to higgins for having more than one vegetarian entree. it was either roasted winter squash cannelloni or risotto. i went with the risotto, with roasted root vegetables, chevre, and crispy onions. oh, those crispy onions. to be honest, the risotto by itself was kind of bland, and i wished the cheese was something a little more assertive. but with a little crispy onion in each bite, it was very good. didn't knock my socks off, but it was good. when was the last time you've had a risotto that knocked your socks off?

my sweetie was much more impressed with his steak. it was a flatiron steak from oregon country beef: grass-raised, grain-finished cattle from independent ranchers.

it came with kale, potatoes, and roasted beets. alas, the roasted beets were tried, but mostly left alone. the steak was really the star here - brian says it tasted "less chemically" than a grainfed steak, and that instead of taking bites of steak mixed with potatoes, he ate savored the steak by itself. he rated it as one of the best steaks he's ever eaten. here he is: a happy man with a good glass of wine and a good steak.

for dessert, we stayed in our classic patterns. for him, a rich chocolate mousse bombe with a peanut butter truffle center. it was incredible, with an intensely peanut butter-y sweet center, but too rich for me to have more than just a bite.

for me, an apple-cherry tart with brandy ice cream. i wished that the ice cream had a little more brandy flavor, but by that point i think i was making passionate speeches about how i was afraid of being mediocre in life, and how i want to be you know the pinot was doing its trick. and that maybe i wasn't paying as much attention to my dessert as i could have been.

we both had stumptown coffee, another local favorite. and after dinner wine: for him, a tawny port. for me, an apple dessert wine, or pommeau, from white oak cider in newberg, or. the waiter apparently was concerned that i wouldn't like it, so he brought out a taste of that and of a late-harvest gew├╝rztraminer. or maybe it was something "like" a gew├╝rztraminer. again, the pinot and conversation have blurred the details. this wine was delicious, to be sure, but the pommeau had a deeper, more interesting flavor, and complemented my dessert. i always enjoy dessert wines when i've been wine tasting, but it's hard to justify buying them. maybe i'll have to reverse that policy. just a little sip of a late-harvest riesling and a square of dark chocolate is a treat that should come a little more often as far as i'm concerned....

thanks, foodbuzz, for helping make this delicious meal possible. i think my favorite part (outside the fruity and balanced pinot noir) was spending a couple of quality hours with my main man here. and enjoying all these things this region has to offer: beer, wine, nuts, vegetables, talent...sometimes we need to take a couple of hours to savor what the world is offering to us.

when it was time to leave, it was snowing outside. beautiful portland snow - big, fat, fluffy flakes that don't really stick around. it was a chilly walk back to the car, but a happy one.


Megan said...

mmm. i want!

Sippity Sup said...

I love this post and I love your "sustainable" aspirations in general. GREG

Anonymous said...

The mousse bomb looks amazing! Full of chocolately and peanut butter goodness. Oh man. What a great meal. Fab 24 post!

Nate-n-Annie said...

Congratulations on being selected for a "24" post, and Happy Birthday!

We were also selected to do a "24" post, a cioppino done Chinese hot pot style. Come check out our post!

Nurit "1 family. friendly. food." said...

Hi! Happy Birthday!
Hello from Bellevue, WA.
I love your opening: "boy, am i glad i was born".
Sounds like a lovely meal overall. Most importnat - with someone you love.

Chef Gulzar said...


you wrote a nice blog! great meal. Thanks for sharing this.

James Parker….
Gulzar Husain

Zubaidatariq said...


nice blog! The mousse bomb looks amazing! Sounds like a lovely meal overall.I love this post.thanks for sharing this.

John Williams
Zubaida Appa