Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Saturday Night in Portland: Dinner at Beast Restaurant

Dolly-girl was just dishing up the soup a week ago when the blower went off. She took the call. It was a chiquita I used to work with when I was doing investigations, down in the valley, before we moved to Stumptown. Turns out the chiquita--Tootsie--and her old man, Slim, were planning a weekend in our fair city and they were looking for a night out on the town and some relief from the valley hash houses. Stumptown's the place for that, know what I mean.

Happens that Tootsie and Slim were bringing some others along, a couple of nice kids, one of them Tootsie's niece, just moved here from The Great White North. The other kid's an old friend of the family, been a fan of hash slinging since he was a squirt. Slim had a joint called Beast in mind, not far from the Cup and Saucer. The place had been getting a lot of good ink in the broadsheets, so we figured it's worth a try. Dolly-girl was worried--places called things like Beast tend to be a little heavy on the farm animals and a little light on the farm--but she's a game chiquita so she tossed her hat in the ring.

We met at our place and tossed down a couple of olive baths before dinner. Dolly-girl had a spritz. Gin, whether it comes from a bathtub or a bottle, isn't her cuppa. Being it was a nice night, we rode shank's mare and arrived with some cold cash ready for some hot food--Beast don't come cheap, follow?

Beast is one of those new-fangled joints that's supposed to be like an old-fangled joint, or maybe one of them Frenchie farm places, the kind where the hash slingers are in the room with you, or maybe you're eating in the kitchen. A couple a long tables and 20 chairs is all they got. The place makes a guy like me jittery--loud and dark, no juke box, but some one or thing calling the shots on the 45s--but I settled into a too-small chair as near to the back door as I could get, where I could keep an eye on the room and the street. I'd never hear someone behind me. No whadda-ya-wants--everybody gets the same eats, like being in the can, except the big guys can't take your grits.

The boss slinger, a chiquita with a reputation around Stumptown, was working at the counter, loading up the syracuse with the start-ups--somebody said they call it "plating"--and pouring soup into bowls. The sous slinger was on her left, and the Missys were moving around the room with the Bull Run and taking drink orders. We were already into it--Slim's got old habits and put the bottle in the sack on the table when we walked in. He eyeballed our Missy, a medium sized guy who seemed to know his way around a cork screw. He nodded and in a couple we had some skid row in our glasses. Turns out we ordered a bottle from Missy later, frog-made that hit the spot.

The soup was great, a cabbage number, but I'll tell you, this cabbage didn't come out of a kraut can. A little goose liver had fallen into it and Missy said there were some shreds of truffle, but it that didn't taste anything like those chocolates I picked up for Dolly-girl when she had her shorts in a knot that time, remember? Nah, it was Oregon white truffle, Tuber gibbosum or it might have been oregonense, I didn't get a look at the peridium. Most people don't know I used to teach mycology--another life, another story-- but I keep tabs on my old friends in the business, they just published a book...

Next out was some little snacks, arranged around like a clock. They had lots of names, which I can't remember 'cause my French ends at "soup on the side". There was some salami, a cracker with some chopped chicken liver on it, a little piece of toast with meat and a bird's egg, both raw, some pork meatloaf, and a thing that looked like candy, but was more goose liver. There was some slaw in the alley, supposed to help you get from one taste to the next, Missy said. I worked my way from noon to midnight, and punched out--a regular sort of day.

Missy cleaned up our plates and brought out dinner, a slice of pork on some money with a little squash "tartlet". Now, I'll tell you, this slinger has got one different idea of what a tartlet is, with me on that? The squealer--came from a place called Tails and Trotters; cute--was tasty alright, sitting on some sauce made out of French's. Missy told us it was going to taste like hazel nuts (we call them filberts) 'cause before the everlasting, they rode their trotters into a hazelnut orchard and chowed down. Have to say, I didn't taste their Last Supper, so I'm guessing they were trying to take it on the lam and beat the scalding pot.

The cowfeed was next, a good pile of it too. Came from someplace down in the valley that Tootsie and Slim knew of and they gave it the he's-ok so we chewed it down. Usually I like my Kraft in the alley, but the slinger had already put in on the bale and she was giving the stinkeye to anyone who wanted anything different. I shut up and chewed.

While we were eating I saw the slinger cutting up some wax and figured she must have been getting ready to burn a couple high and dry for the staff--they were working pretty hard. But instead, Missy brought us a plate with a couple kinds of wax, a couple nuts, and some little cookie kinda things. I shot Dolly-girl a glance that said, this ain't the sorta joint that we walk into. It's not that we don't take in some good spots--me and her's been all over Stumptown and eaten in all the big names. And once we took a trip, nevermind.

A slice of cake with some whipped cream topped it off. While the cake was on the table, the slinger pulled out an envelope and started doing the payroll. You see it all when you eat in the kitchen. The Missys were gathered around, getting their cut for the week while we polished of the twinkie. We dropped a c-note and a half for our share and headed out the door. Slim and Tootsie, Dolly-girl and me, all thinking, yeah, it was OK, we had some laughs, but what's the fuss. A few snow flakes fell as we pulled up our collars and headed for home, leaving the Beast behind.


Karen said...

Hmmm. Sounds like you thought it only OK...

Anonymous said...

Slim and Tootsie here ... spot on my man, spot on.