Sunday, July 15, 2018

PDX Gourmet Weekend

Chefs Naomi Pomeroy and Dominique Crenn

Our Food and Wine Experience in Portland


I am really liking my Marriott points because it allows us to take advantage of the Marriott Moments program.  This time I bid on an entire weekend in Portland that included 3 nights at the HiLo Hotel, a specially curated dinner at Ox, a day excursion in the Willamette Valley with Advanced Sommelier Chris Lara and a 10 Chefs for 10 Year Celebration at Beast Hosted by Chef Naomi Pomeroy with Guest Chef #6 Dominique Crenn.  This weekend had potential of really being very memorable. 
PDX is easy to get to there is a nonstop flight there daily on Southwest and since I have a Companion Pass and A-List Preferred it is an easy decision.
Egg Nachos at Mothers
We arrived on Saturday and it is an awesome day, we had left early in the morning so by the time we got there we were hungry decided to go to brunch.  I have this great spot for Brunch called Mothers Bistro, they have some tasty breakfast dishes therefor it is a very popular place so we put our name in and took a hike around several blocks just to Portland Outdoor Store, it is over 100 years old and full of the finest outdoor clothing and gear, they have plenty of helpers in the store and I bet some of them had been there for over 50 years.  after some hiking we got back to Mothers to be seated.  This is my second time at Mothers and I love their breakfast foods because they use a lot of Pork and throw a little heat into their dishes.  We started our with a Bourbon Slushy which was a great way to counter the heat, mine was thick like a slurpy and tasted like a Mango Mai Tai, what a great way to start.  I ordered the special Nachos with Scrambled Eggs, Carnitas, Salsa and Chips... Perfect... Wow I loved this dish.  After our Brunch we took a stroll to the get oriented and burn a little time.  Our hotel the HiLo was very convenient to the Portland Saturday Market in the Old Chinatown area and under Burnside Bridge.  It is a mixture of food, crafts and stuff that eventually ends up in a garage sale.  But it was a great day and a\there was a lot of energy there.  
Ox A Carnivores Dream
Dungeness Bruschetta

First Adventure Ox

The first part of food experience was at Ox Restaurant.  Ox is very difficult to get in, it has been nominated for several James Beard Awards and was one of two restaurants that are on my PNW bucket list.  At the restaurant we met our Host for the weekend Elle Jarvis from @revelexperiences and our Wine expert Chis Lara.  Both Elle and Chris have a passion for food and Wine so they were the perfect people to lead us.  Our group for the
weekend was small, there was only one other couple enjoying the experience so we got a lot of personal attention. The others in the group were Joan Doan @joandoan Fashion Influencer and Ben Xiang Food Entrepreneur from SoCal.  All of us were ready eat, drink, experience, learn and have fun.  
OX Roasting Guide
Bodega Catena Zapata
Lets talk about Ox, we started out with an Amuse Bouche of Bodega Catena Zapata.  The winery is 110 years old and one of the most renowned wine in South America.  Elle and Chris  met at a tour of the winery 2 years before, they stayed in touch and collaborated on the experience to include the wines to be paired with our dinner.  
Cauliflower Soup with a dash of Chile oil it was rich and creamy and a nice way to start our carnivorous adventure.  Tonight we were eating Family Style and sharing a selection of wines from the famed Mendoza winery  
Spicy Beef Empanadas



Baby Carrots
The First Course was made up of five selections and two Chardonnays from the winery.  The evening also was a chance for Chris and Elle to tell us why they picked these wines to pair with the course selections.  I had three highlights from the first course.  I love Empanadas and Chimichurri I first experienced Empanadas in Argentina 10 years ago, they are standard fare in Argentina.  Ours was stuffed with Spiced Beef, with great crust a little Chimichurri it was the perfect bite.  I also really enjoyed the Smoked Beef tongue a la Vinagreta. I have never had Beef Tongue so was apprehensive, but with the bite of the Horseradish Crema and Sweetbread Croutons it was a wonderful taste.  The last bite I really enjoyed was the Braised Tripe and Octopus terrine.  Another first for me eating tripe but it was spongy in texture and the octopus just melted in my Catena Zapata, Adrianna Vineyard "White Bones" 2013, Chris showed us the area it is grown and the pile of white rocks that
Endive Salad
intermix with the soil so the roots can grow in the gaps between the white rocks.  This was probably one of the best Chardonnays I have had.
mouth.  Is that even possible?  The sauce was spicy with a hint of mint with little fingerling chips on top.  What a wonderful way to start the meal.  My favorite wine was the
Roasted Rib Eye

The Second Course consisted of seven meats and vegetable dishes and three wines, is that even possible to eat and drink.. Yes! One of my favorites was the Maple Brined Pork Loin which was also a table favorite.  They brine the pork for 48 hours and then Roast it.  The Brining creates moist and tender pork loin and a infused maple flavor, what a great dish.  I also enjoyed the Maple Glazed Heirloom Carrot dish, it was sweet and savory, could have sworn it was a yam dish because of sweet rich taste of Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec Nicolas Catena Zapata 2010.

Tripe and Octopus
the carrots.  Of course we enjoyed the awesome roasted Rib Eye and Flank Steak it was cooked medium rare and caramelized from the perfect roast and paired with Chimichurri.   My last favorite was the Belgian Endive salad with fresh Cherries and Blue cheese it was a great way to cleanse the palette and experience another great taste without filling up.  Chris paired this with a combination of Malbac and Cabernet but my favorite was a
combination of both 
Of course we had to try samples of three of their best desserts.  This was a great meal obviously we sampled all of Ox's star courses and were stuffed, I even saw Ben going for the Rib Bone,  but it was well worth it to enjoy the great food and the company.

Chris Lara Wine Officianado
Tres Leches

Second Experience Wine

Day Two was Chris Lara's day to show us three great Wineries in Willamette Valley.  Chris had chosen all three and had made special arrangements with Elle at all each winery which included a private win paired lunch at Rex Hill Winery.  The Willamette Valley is world famous for it's Pinot Noir wine varieties it is due to it's special growing conditions

including weather, soil and geography.  The Willamette Valley is not like Napa it is quieter and definitely more focused on one varietal.  
Our Host Elle
We climbed into our personal shuttle and made our way approximately 45Argyle Winery in Dundee.  During the drive Chris who is studying for his Master Sommelier Test in 2 weeks was providing us a great overview of our day.  Argyle Winery is known for it's Sparkling Wines but also has several great Pinot Noirs.  Our hosts were Roslyn and Savanna, when you go with an Argyle Brut Rose Extended Tirage 2007.  I would recommend if you are on a Willamette Valley wine tour, visit this incredible tasting facility on a sunny day it is a wonderful place to visit.
Chris's Somm Badge
Industry person like Chris your entire experience changes for the better, we got a great individual tour and tried wines that are not available to the public like the
minutes outside of Portland to our first stop 
Our next Stop was at Rex Hill in Newberg to have wine paired lunch. The Rex Hill Winery is located in the heart of their vineyards and our lunch was inn this really cool Victorian styled interior house. I know you are thinking don't they ever stop eating and the answer is no the whole point is to find incredible eating experiences.  
Halibut in Pea Puree
We started lunch with a Smoked Salmon Mousse stuffed Raviolo and a wonderful Rex Hill GrandRex Hill Jacob-Hart Estate Pinot Noir.

Cuvee 2014.  The Beure Blanc Sauce was rich and creamy and worked well with the Smoked Salmon Mousse Raviolo.  My favorite dish was a Seared Halibut in a Pea Puree, the Pea Puree almost got licked out of the dish it was so delicious it was paired perfectly by a bright Rex Hill Pinot Noir.  We wrapped up lunch with a Roasted Lamb and Butter Poached early Carrots with a lovely 2015
After a few pictures  we headed to our last stop the Penner-Ash Winery, the  winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash was at Rex Hill as their winemaker and first female winemaker in Oregon in 1988, she left there in 1993 to start Penner-Ash.  I think this was Chris's most coveted stop of the day and it turned out to be a perfect place to end the day.  The tasting center is a great facility that overlooks the valley and on a clear day you can see the top of Mount Hood.  There are all sorts of colors bursting from the flowers and the bees were very busy sucking up all the pollen.  
Matt from Penner Ash
Rare Pic of TopChefTrail
Matthew our host was studying to take the Sommelier test and was genuinely excited to showoff Chris  an Advanced Sommelier and the group what a great Winery he worked for and how much he loved his job.  All I can tell you we were there for 2 hours and got to taste all the great wines Penner-Ash had to offer.  What a n awesome tour it was a great day of conversation, learning about wine from the Willamette Valley and tasting

the best wines the most knowledgeable people.





The following day was less sunny and a little cooler and we spent the day exploring Portland.  The highlights were the Rose Gardens and touring the Pearl District.  Portland's World Famous Rose Gardens were in the last two weeks of bloom and amazingly the most colorful place



we have ever been to. I will let you look at just some of the pictures but if you want to see a lot more just go to my Instagram account @topcheftrail, or visit before the first week of July.  The Pearl District is a great mix of really cool stores and restaurants and brew houses it is a great place to stroll and enjoy an afternoon.





Third Experience 10 for 10 at Beast #6 Dominique Crenn


Crenn Crew
Chef at Work
This evening was the highlight of the trip, Dinner at Beast for the 10 Chefs for 10 Years Dinner Series.  Chef Naomi Pomeroy reached out to some of the best chefs in on the Planet to collaborate with and hold these great dinners to celebrate Beast's 10 year anniversary.  Tonight, Chef #6 was Dominique Crenn who is the celebrated Chef from Atelier Crenn, Bar Crenn and Petit Crenn.  I wrote about Chef Dominique last year at another Marriott Moment event.  This was a great pairing of Chefs both fun, industrious, creative and world class.  When we arrived there was a small crowd gathered by the door, so we meandered among them until Chef Naomi opened the door.  When we got there we were offered 6 spots 2 were at the counter by ourselves, but right in the action.  Although the seating would be a little awkward we did come for the experience and what an experience it was.  Upon arriving we were stunned to be remembered by Chef Crenn who has had the most remarkable 12 months which included cooking a state meal for President Macron, how cool is
that.  Just shows that talent and hard work pays off.  Dominique gave us a big hug and we settled in for the night.  Honestly when you sit at the Chef's counter it is like you are the only one there and it provides for some great photo opportunities and conversations.  Chef Naomi is a very comfortable person she has a passion for life and enjoys her staff and her patrons.  Imagine this we are sitting a a serving counter that is 40 inches wide and 120 inches long and they prep and serve 24 dishes per course from there, we were on top of the action and our only job was to enjoy the food and stay out of the way of all the magic.  At any point in time there was a minimum of 6 chefs at the counter prepping, carving, pairing, tweezing, placing and blow-torching what fun.  The point of the dinner is for the guest chef to create the menu and lead in the preparation.  Apparently she is one of the few chefs that brought her people and their knives and then bought all the provisions from Naomi's local sources in Portland which shows a great respect for the local area.  
Geoduck Rose in a Tart Petals by Justin
Chef Crenn loves seafood and is responsible for me trying several things for the first time and loving every preparation.  Last time it was Uni, smoked Trout Roe and Caviar, this time it was Geoduck.  Justin her Sous Chef sliced very thin pieces of Geoduck and made Rose Petals to create a rose and put it in a little tart shell and served it with Stone Fruit and a dollop of Creme,  What a great bite, another one of my personal food myths blown just cause it is a little different like Geoduck if served
The Evening at Beast
properly it can taste awesome.
One of the things I really like about Chef Naomi is that she believes bread is for sopping up all the good stuff left on your plate when you have finished the main star of the plate.  This has been my main philosophy in my eating life, I will no longer feel subconscious of sopping up the good food juices with bread.  Our next dish was homage to Chef Crenn's upbringing and her main inspiration, her Mother.  It was a celebration of Tomatoes, a combination poached Cherry Tomatoes, Dried Tomato Skins, some Melon, Vinaigrette Soup, and a Tomato infused Creme.  It had a sharp bite from the skin, the sweetness from the Melon and the savory from the Creme, loved it! 
Beet Tartare
Chef Crenn likes to play with certain ingredients and the next dish was a play on a Beef Tartare instead she picked the richest of  Blood Red Beets and combined it with disks of White Miso and Black Truffle topped with a few Capers.  So this bite was sweetness from the beets and tangy from the caper but earthy from the truffle OK my taste buds are confused but they like what is in my mouth.  Did I mention that Michael, Beast's Wine expert had paired the entire dinner with some great wines in this case a local wine from Willamette Valley.
My favorite dish was Salmon with Sorrel with Beure Blanc.  This was my favorite because the Salmon was prepared so perfectly, a matter of fact it was the best I have ever tasted.  Let me tell you how make this dish cause I asked Chef Crenn.  You take a filet and cure it for 30 minutes with salt, ginger and sugar, you scrape the curing ingredients off and then smoke for 15 minutes, you then slow roast at 275 for another 15 minutes.  What you end up with is a piece of Salmon with a top crust and the center of the filet is incredibly moist and smoky, this dish is genius.  This was paired with a very nice Les Metheny Chardonnay 2011.
Do Not piss this Chef off
What about some spicy smoked Quail, Oui Oui Madame!  It is all about presentation and this was served on a Chinese inspired wrapping paper.  First time I have been excited about Quail, the Breast had been de-boned so we could just dig in and not worry about eating around all the little bones.  It was accompanied by Chicken Tea which was very much like a consomme.  
Wait there is more food, yes there was more food  I am getting full just writing this article.  
Roast Lamb With anchovy Butter
This course was a Roasted Saddle of Lamb prepared by Beast Chef de Cuisine Lucian Prellwitz.  Lucian walked me through how he had roasted it using the method of where you roast it at 500 for 10 minutes and then turn the oven off for anther 20 minutes allowing it to get to a perfect Medium Rare.  The saddle is right along the back bone and produces what is know Saratoga Lamb Chop.  It was great to watch Lucian carve the meat of the the saddle,   The Lamb was served with a dollop of
Anchovy Butter, Naomi brought out the blow torch to give it a little melt to coat
the lamb.  What a wonderful piece of meat perfectly cooked and and prepared.  The Anchovy butter really brought out a lot of taste for the lamb.
Berries, Cherries, Cream
Sir and Madame, Dessert is served ...we watched this painstakingly prepared, each Cream serving was blow torched out of it's Ramekan and then patiently assembled with each Cherry Cheek, White Raspberry, Cherry and Flower Petal and finally a candied Rose petal from a patrons own backyard.  This was paired with my favorite wine finding of the evening.  Michael was so excited to pour it, 2016 Maximin Grunhauser Riesling.  
The evening came to a close we thanked all the Chefs and Staff and realized that this was a great experience that really happens once in a lifetime.  Thank you Marriott Moments and Elle for putting it together. We cannot wait for the next Experience

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Nashville Boogie

Welcome to Nashville
Boogie Couple
Nashville was on JoAnn's bucket list and we chose to go over a weekend when they were having Nashville Boogie at Gaylord Opryland.  Nashville Boogie is a celebration of Mid Century America.  Folks living this life get a fantasy weekend of Fashion, Art and Music to celebrate 50's and the James Dean culture.  This period came back to revisit us in a serious way in the later 70"s with the Rockabilly movement which was the predecessor of Punk.  Rockabilly music is fast paced, guitar riffing and real Bass Playing raucous fun.  This period was huge for Jeans, Tattoos, White Tee Shirts and Embroidered Jean and Leather Jackets.  So in essence we used Nashville Boogie as a catalyst to go to Nashville.

First night we got there we were downtown near Broadway which is Nashville Country Music Party Center, there are bright lights, honky tonk bars, tons of people having fun, lots of drinking and some real unhealthy, but tasty food.  Not really our scene but fun to check off the list and move on.
Day 2 we went to Manuel's to see his clothes and meet this very famous clothes designer to the stars.  Manuel has been putting embroidered and bedazzled clothing on movie and music stars for 50 years.  Honestly it would be easier to list who he has not made a garment for from Hollywood, to Rock and Country.
Princes Hot Chicken
After meeting Manuel and getting the history of his career and a tour of his shop,we grabbed a Lyft and made our way over to the original Prince Hot Chicken Shack on the Eastside.  Prince's is a hole in the wall in a small strip center off the main road, today's temperature was 90 degrees and 90 percent.  We were in luck the line was short and we even found a place to sit and there we waited and waited and waited with no cooling except for lots of fans blowing hot air around.  During that waiting we chatted up with a guy that ordered extra hot and you could tell he was in both pain and pleasure I think they call that being a sadist.  Oh I forgot to mention you order Hot Chicken by the degree of hotness you want it from mild to extra hot.  After about 45 minutes you could here them call my number #65 and I jumped up and grabbed my tray.  At first glance it the breading is bright orange, they put a piece of white bread under it to absorb all the grease dripping from the chicken I had order about 6 pieces which was 2 pieces too many.  Nothing was going to stop us from finishing every piece no matter how spicy or greasy it was.  It drew us in
Loretta Lynn
like an aphrodisiac, we knew it was bad for us but we just had to eat it, our guilty pleasure.

That night we went to Josephine.  Josephine's Chef Andy Little calls himself an American Farmhouse Chef who takes much of his influence from the Pennsylvania Dutch.  Josephine is in a Neighborhood called 12 South neighborhood which is made up of quaint boutiques and tree lined streets.
Josephine Roasted Carrots
Josephine Halibut
I cannot explain it but it seemed only a few hours before we were eating Hot chicken but Nashville makes me hungry and after eating all that chicken we ordered a couple of tasty libations and 3 starters including Roasted Carrots, Pea Toast and Swedish Meatballs on Polenta.  The Carrots were roasted and caramelized and were sweet as can be.  I only tried the pea toast because I viewed as a southern version of Avocado toast but without all the calories but since I am a carnivore my favorite was the Swedish meatballs which was a 50/50 meat combo with a delicious meaty sauce on creamy Polenta yum.  We decided to get the same first course which was Halibut on a bed of spring vegetables.  It was light moist and amazingly good.  This was a great restaurant choice and to make the night even better Ashley the Assistant GM sent over a lovely Southern Dessert of Ice Cream and
Green Curry Oysters
Apple Pie.  Put his on you Nashville Restaurant Bucket List.

Dutch Apple Pie Yum
The next day we made our hotel transfer to the Gaylord Opryland after we enjoyed a great breakfast at Makeready Libations and Liberations, not that we needed anymore food but a guy has to eat.  so after some great egg
dishes made our way to Opryland.  It is the largest hotel non gambling in the United States with 2880 rooms and almost 1,000,000 square feet it is a country music Disneyland and over this weekend it was the host to Nashville Boogie. JoAnn is involved in the Vintage Clothing Business and her company Dixon Rand had some friends who were there doing embroidery at the vintage clothing sale so it was a chance to meet them in person and take in the Rebel Life.  We were definitely not dressed for the occasion there were poodle skirts, tattooed ladies and men, two tone patent leather shoes, bluejeans with the cuff rolled up , bowling shirts, western shirts and all types of hats.
The Pole Cats
Rockabilly Chick
That night we enjoyed the Rockabilly Acts performing in separate venues.  My favorite act was the Pole Cats.  These guys were major stars in the late 70's and had a bunch of hits and they have not missed a beat literally.  Their lead singer was on fire, what a great show.

Gram Parsons Tour Suit by Manuel
Dolly Parton's
 The next morning we got up and head back into Nashville for Brunch at Henrietta Red which is a James Beard Semi Finalist.  Henrietta Red specializes in Oysters and we had Green Curry Roasted Oysters and the Quiche of the day along with some tasty cocktails.  I have never had a more delicious Seafood item like Green Curry Oysters it is a Spicy, Creamy Savory bite that sits on your tongue for quite a while.  The Chef Julia Sullivan and Sommelier Allie Poindexter have created a great restaurant in Germantown it is very light and is open to the Kitchen and Bar.



Chet Atkins
After a great Brunch we went over the the Country Music Hall of Fame, my initial thought was boring.  But it was quite the opposite this is one of the best exhibitions of Music I have ever been to.  We were very lucky that they were showing the Armadillo Hall exhibit which showcased the venue in Austin where
Me and Bobby Magee Kris K
every Country, Rock and Folk singer performed in the early
70's.  They had exhibits of guitars, fashion and of course music.  What a great time each time we hit a turn it was a new adventure.  They even had Elvis's Caddy,
Our trip to Nashville had drawn to an end, I can tell you there is no lack of music, food, liquor and entertainment.





Sunday, March 25, 2018

Work and Class Denver

This is at 5:30pm  Get there early
Writing some of these articles require a lot of work and lately I have been given some advice to start making these write ups a little shorter with more pictures.  Denver has just been a recent host to Top Chef 2018 and what I have discovered is that Denver has become a great eating town.  Last month the James Beard Semi Finalist awards had 4 selections in the Colorado area and one of these is Work and Class.  Located in near the ballpark, in one of those areas that used to be a place where you would not hang out is a small corner spot that seats about 60 when the weather is good.  The Chef has a ton of credibility check her out Dana Rodriguez

Wonderful Meats






Cochinita Pibil

Work and Class has a very simple menu to buy from, 6 or 7 great starters, 6 or 7 great entrees and some nice sides.  The prices are very reasonable for the tastes and quality you get.  We got several starters, a good selection of meats and 1 awesome side.  Honestly I ordered too much food, probably because the meats you order by the quarter pound which I guess is a lot bigger than I imagined.








Curry Lamb and Pork Albondigas
Empanadas
We started with the Curry Pork and Lamb Albondigas on Polenta, the Blue Corn Empanadas stuffed with Squash, Zucchini and Oaxaca Cheese and the best Beet Salad I have ever had.  Each of them were great in their own right but the reason I liked the Beet Salad is that it had some Arugula, Grapes Pumpkin Seeds and Grapefruit Dressing .  It was just Fresh!
Best Beet Salad

We then went with the Meats including Goat, Chile rubbed Lamb and Cochinita Pibil or Chile Rubbed Pork.  The Goat was OK, the Lamb was Great and the Pork was fun and tasty.  We ordered a Spicy Fried Sweet Plantains, this was honestly my favorite,

Easy Good Menu
Overall this is a great neighborhood restaurant that if you do not get there early you will not get a seat, but while you are waiting you will get the Drink of the Day for only $4.  Just a tip their drinks and beer selection is very good so dig in.