Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Eve Afternoon in Portland: Lunch at Christopher's Gourmet Grill

My neighbor, Hob, gave me the low-down on an uptown joint that gets high marks for frying up fin flippers. Me and Books headed over there for lunch after dropping Dolly-girl at the moving pictures for a Hollywood number she'd been waiting to see. We set the brake at NE Shaver and MLK and moseyed into Christopher's Gourmet Grill. It's not much from the outside, but I'm used to that around Stumptown, and besides, Hob's lived here a long time and he's never given me a wrong turn yet.

The whaddaya-want's on the wall over the pass-it-thru to Missy. There were all sorts of eats on the wall, but we'd come for the creatures of the deep and we were stuck on our mission. I'm curious though so I spent some time looking over the fare, including the Man-up Cheeseburger and the BBQ ribs. Sides of greens, mac and wax, and gumbo pods were said to be at the ready, along with the fries that came with everything. We coulda had a dinner, but opted for the basket since it the noon whistle was sounding and Dolly-girl was planning something big for Santa eve. We ordered up the cod and Irish nails.

The joint is clean as my plate after dinner and was all done in blue including some blue light shades on ceiling fans and on lamps over the tables. Nice touch--makes you think of a blue-plate and a neighborhood spot, which it is. It was about a quarter full when me and books took a seat--good view out the front in case trouble was going to come join us. He didn't. They got some signs there to remind Mr. T that Christopher's is a place a whole family likes.

The hash slinger, and I'm guessing it's Christopher, was in the back. Turns out, he was trawling our cod through the corn patch and adding some spices along the way.

While we waited patiently, orders came out of the kitchen and Missy dropped them off at the hungry tables in order. Then, after a few minutes, she checked back to make sure everything was OK. It musta been 'cause there was a lot of chewing and not much talking. People called and then came in and out for orders with wheels.

Missy brought our orders and we both gave her the up and down and knew Hob had steered us right. The fin flippers were long fillets, with just a thin cornmeal coating and fried crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. One bite and I was pulling the bobber to the bottom for more. Tartar sauce and mustard on the side and I was having rapture of the deep! Books nodded. Fish and fries was what he was mining and pining for and he hit paydirt.

It didn't take long to do the disappearing act with that flipper. With a feedbag that full, we had to pass on sweet potato pie that looked like someone knew his way around the yam patch!

If fish fried up just right is singing to you, I haven't had better anywhere than Christopher's Gourmet Grill. Lots of what they call high-brow joints in Stumptown could learn more than a thing or two from Christopher. Plus, a Jackson and a Christmas Eve tip got us out the door with an invitation to come back that won't be laying on the counter long.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to All from Stumptown!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Back by popular demand is our own Yule Log a la WPIX

Me and Dolly-girl want to wish all of our friends, from Stumptown to Hawkesbury; from the Rose City to the Windy City; from the Left Coast, which is the right one, to the Right Coast, which isn't; to Tinseltown, Ithaca Schmithica, the Valley With a Heart, the Heart of the Valley, Our Nation's Capital, and Salt City; to The Best Location in the Nation, Ravenrock Ranch, Ft. Lauderdale Island, Washington, the Redwood Forest and the Gulf Stream Waters;

A Very Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for a Healthy and Happy 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Afternoon Down The Valley: Poutine at Block 15 in Corvallis

Me and Books hopped in the roadster early this A.M. and headed Down The Valley to talk with some people that needed talking with down there. Dolly-girl held down the fort in Stumptown, which consisted of enjoying the luxury provided by a bath in our tub that's hooked up to a brand-new water heater that me and Books put in yesterday. Amazing what a tub full of hot water and a handful of salts will do for a girl.

Anyway, I was on my way to meet Beluga Slim, a Bluesman pal-o-mine. We like to get together from time-to-time and take in a couple of cold ones that got what it takes to hop off the bar and into your mitt. We met up at Block 15, a new joint compared to most in Corvallis, Oregon, and a notch above them all in my book. They brew their own there and they've got some dandies including their standards, Alpha IPA and Aboriginale. In as much as it's the holiday season, they are pouring the 12 Hops of Christmas. Beluga Slim had given me a call on the blower to let me know this one was worth the trip. Turns out it was and more.

Me and Books slid into town about 1 and met Beluga at the Block. Corvallis was a mass of people--we had to park 3 blocks away and that's pretty rare. We moseyed over; Beluga Slim had a booth.

Missy had a cold one in front of Beluga and it didn't take long for her to do the same for us. She brought the whadda-ya-wants along with the pints of hops. I opened it up and took a gander. My eyes went to the right and, what? Poutine. C'est vrai, mes amis! Books went for a Peppertree beer sausage sandwich, and Beluga heard a burger calling him home.

I brought up that I was a little worried about ordering poutine in Corvallis, Oregon, a place not noted for gourmet food. She countered with where she came from--Halifax, up the line there, as my friend Newshawk would say--nobody really thought of poutine as gourmet. I had to give her a nod about that one. I also mentioned that the phonetic guide in the whaddaya-want--(poo-TAIN) didn't get it from where the Newshawk sets his brake. She said she thought someone there heard some Cajun call it that but that she didn't think I should give it no nevermind.

It didn't take Missy much longer to bring that poutine out than it took me to drain that pint. She left the feedbags and went back for more first-aid for parched travelers.

The feedbag she put down in front of me had the real thing in it. They started off with a pile of their murphies--they put a light coating of beer batter on them which makes them fry up crispy and I'll tell you, they stood up to the gravy--AT-TEN-TION!

The gravy was a good brown one that tasted like it was likely destined for meat loaf, but took a side trip North of the Border. It was the real thing--never seen the inside of a can, I'm guessing--with just the right dose of salt; it made those suds heros. The curds were piled on and melted stringy and gooey, just right. It was a big plate and I thought I'd be taking a box home to Dolly-girl, but...

It was the clean plate club for me.

So, Block 15 gets a solid 4 curds from me after a 1/2 curd deduction for coming on china instead of paper. It's the best I've had south of the border and I think it would hold its own up the line too.

For all you want to know about poutine, check out Ronna's Poutine Chronicles!

Monday, December 7, 2009

An Evening in Portland: Dinner at Lovely Hula Hands

I woke up early on Sunday with a start. The cats were cozied in with Dolly-girl--nobody wanted to get out of bed 'cause of the fact that for Stumptown, it was freezing. Literally. Thirty-two degrees. Maybe a little colder. OK, so that's above zero, but this is Stumptown and we didn't sign up for Siberia, you know. We can't see it from our house and we sure as hell don't want to feel it.

Anyway, I hopped out of bed and started the joe perking on the Tappan because it was Dolly-girl's compleanno. She looks as young as the day I laid my blue boys on her greenies.

Back a coupla weeks ago, me and Dolly-girl were perambulating up on Alberta and she laid eyes on a piece of art made out of maps and nails and wood and it looked like a heart--even I recognized that. Well, I made note and then snuck back and picked it up for her. Turns out some realtor chiquita name of Kim Hamblin makes that art. I'm thinking art and real estate are probably about the same these days in terms of earning potential. Wait, I bought some art...

Well, Dolly-girl's greenies did a dance when she unwrapped the heart and it got me the sorta look through the wave that I like. We decided to take the birthday dinner out, so I got Kitty on the blower and we picked Lovely Hula Hands, a joint Dolly-girl had been to with her friend Blueberry, but me and Kitty had never darkened the door. When Dolly-girl was telling me about the place she was doing the hula thing with her mitts. She gave it the up-and-down and it turns out she was right on.

We set the brake and the three of us walked in. Didn't look to me like trouble was out on this Sunday night, so we took a table upstairs, me with my back to the room. I won't make that mistake again. I missed too much good sight-seeing, like people gnawing on meat..

There was stuff hanging on the walls and some old lights and other things that Dolly-girl calls "period" or "art." It just looks to me like they grabbed some grandma's leftovers and put them around the room

Missy brought the whaddya-drinking but we didn't pay it no nevermind. No beer on tap so the three of us were drinking skid-row. Me and Kitty went for the rosso while Dolly-girl was chasing down the bianco. Me and Kitty should've split a bottle, but we didn't think of it. They had the new one from France and it was tapping on my shoulder.

Missy showed up with the skid-row and Bull Run all around. She parked and said, "What-le-it-be?"

I told her to bring around an order of oil in the flesh--you know, the green-and-blacks. Dolly-girl said, "Cow feed--stack it high and bring us three plates. We'll split it up." Kitty nodded--she was game.

Missy was back in about four shakes. I'm thinking the up and down is keeping her gams skinny and her face long. Plus, come to find out, the joint is closing up while they "re-invent" themselves, whatever that means, in a new hash house next door. Anyway, the feed was as described and we packed it down.

We did a twice over on the whadda-ya-want and settled on what-we're-having. Dolly-girl went back to the old country and had some Chef Boyardees with Hansel and Gretel croutons in a bowl. Kitty called for clucker. Dress it with flour and fat and sprinkle some leaves on it. The clucker was so exciting I couldn't even hold the camera still...

Me, a burger was playing the National Anthem and I stood at attention. When it rolled around, it was like the Fourth of July with all the ooos and ahhs floating around my burger and fried up murphies. But, that clucker was top notch. It had a sauce that would make your ticker stand still like molasses on a frosty morning. The Chefs were the real thing--Dolly-girl had no regrets about flipping the calendar over another year if this was the reward.

Well, we made fast work of those feed bags and then Dolly-girl put down her finger. "Don't you guys be telling anyone this is the day I first saw the light back there in that coal mining town!" "Not us Dolly-girl," purred Kitty. But, I'd already put in the word with Missy. We looked at the shouldn't-have-it-but-we-will and I knew whatever came out would be on fire.

Missy made good on the request and the a chunk of Gretel and Hansel showed up, swimming in caramel and topped with a whipped up baby. No doubt about it, it was worth blowing at a candle.

Missy brought the check. I looked it over and didn't complain. Yeah, it was more than you'd expect to pay at a burger joint, but then I was the only Hamilton--Perry and Della had Jacksons. The feedbags were real tasty, the skid-row top-notch, and shouldn't-have-had-it--well, we shouldn't have had it but we were glad-we-did.

Four sawbucks a piece got us down the stairs and out the door with a "Glad you could make it," from Missy. Too bad the place is closing. But I'm guessing the new joint, "Lovely 50-50" will be just as good and worth every 8 bits you drop in there. We'll be there.

We headed out the door, the three of us. I patted my heater and fired a Lucky. Kitty and I sang the birthday song, and Dolly-girl hooked her arm through mine, turned the collar on her Persian Lamb up to the wind, and hummed Poker Face..." Another Sunday night in Stumptown.