Monday, February 9, 2009

A Sunday Evening in Portland: Dinner at Authentica

Dolly-girl and me usually stick pretty close to home on Sunday--it's the day that the blower goes off and I'm not answering. We get up, put the percolator on the Tappan, maybe sizzle up some Mr. Mayer in the Grillavator, flop a couple for me and wreck two for Dolly-girl. We peruse the broadsheets, I work a Rex Parker or two, and then we go out on shank's mare with no particular anywhere in mind. Of course, it's not so relaxed that we don't take Messrs. Smith&Wesson on the trip. But this Sunday was special.

We had struck up a friendship with a young betty, used to live across the street from us. She's been in Stumptown for about a year, looking for work in a time that work's hard to come by. She's been hustling tips as a Missy in a local bread mill, but been on the lookout for better times. Turns out I tipped off a tipster who passed the word that AC was OK. The tip hit paydirt for AC and she's headed up to the Emerald City, you know, the place where they burn the java and might have been known for grunge if Neil had been there. Anyway, the kid's on her way. We'll miss her, but she's only a couple hours away on the Union Pacific. Besides, she's leaving pals-o-hers behind down here. We'll see AC southbound again.

But, the short and long of it is that AC's old lady was in from The Coast--yep, that Coast where they call The Coast The Shore--and they were looking for some good company, some great food, and some cold wine. They called Saturday and they called the right exchange. A quick talk-it-over and we settled on Authentica, a Mexican joint in Gourmet Gulch over in the flat part of town. Let me tell you, this ain't no Taco Bell. Dolly-girl and me had been there once before and we left feeling south of some border other than Stumptown and the River.

The place was close to empty when we came through the door. I'd made the call for a table and we were right on time. Missy put us in the back, up against the bar that didn't look like it was going to see any bust-ups this night, but hey, if trouble didn't prowl Stumptown, neither would I, and Dolly-girl would be selling flowers in Pioneer Courthouse Square. The hashslinger and his helpers were working the range in a corner of the room, with the we're-getting-it-ready in a room behind them.

We were looking at the whadda-ya-drinkin' when AC and the Lady from The Coast walked in. If she had Stumptown written on her, someone had erased it. We did the how-do-ya-dos and hit it off over some cold skidrow for the girls and an agave cocktail--follow?--for me. We picked a couple let's-get-starteds, like the swimmers-in-sour and some Shell Oils. We looked at the whadda-ya-want while Missy gave us the run down on the hashslinger's what-I'm-feeling-like-cookings. We needed time to scratch our lids.

Missy served the start-ups up pronto. "Here's the ceviche and the scallops--don't stab yourselves getting to 'em." She knew what she left us was going to hit spots, and she could see the spots in our eyes. "It's a slow night and youse are flappin' yer maws--give me the high sign when you want me back." Can't beat a Missy like that.

We got the long-distance-information from AC and the other three of us were doing the up and down. This kid is on her way. I caught Missy's eye in what was now a room three quarters full of drink drinkers and hash hounds. "What's yours?" she started with The Coast, moved to AC, then Dolly-girl, then me. "Carnitas. Double it." Dolly-girl was in the February spirit: "Give me the clucker swimming with Walt Whitman and Uncle Ben." I settled on the porker from the bush, with cook-em-slow bullets in the alley. "Got it." We went back to the chatter.

Missy brought the eats and the chat left the chatter. The carnitas must have been a hit seeing the smiles on the sun-rise side of the table. I asked Dolly-girl if the clucker crowed and got a look, wave of hair in the face, and her chew stopped mid-way. "Ya think?-what's not to like about mo-lei?" She went back to it. I was looking at three of the prettiest chops I'd ever seen since I went to a Supremes concert in the Motor City. "Wild Boar," Missy told me, "with a nice chile sauce and beans." "Yes, ma'am..."

"Lemon tart--that's it, that's my favorite." Missy came back to clean up and straight talk the girls into some make-it-a-night. "The rest are good, but this ain't no toaster tart, follow? Give it a try." They did. She was right. She'd been right all night.

Missy dropped the damage and quick as a whistle, The Coast picked it up. "It's on me--thanks for keeping an eye on the kid." I started to negotiate, but I'd been in these kinds of talks before. It's all talk and no listen. "Thanks, you shouldn't have." Best let it lie and wait for another day.

We said our see-yas and good-lucks, and headed down the street. Dolly-girl ran her arm through the hook of my elbow, past the heater jammed in my belt, and pulled close. "Authentica," she purred, "the real thing." You got that right, Dolly-girl. We walked home, feeling south of some border other than Stumptown and the River...


Ronna said...

I gotta get me and my boy out to Stumptown quick. I got me a craving for some "swimmers in sour" big time.

Karen said...

God, you guys have your finger on the pulse!