Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Eve in Portland: Dinner at Grüner

About a week ago or so, Dolly-girl told me she was sitting in the front room along with her two cats when the door bell went off. She wasn't expecting anybody so she expected trouble at the door. I was up in Alaska talking with people who needed talking with, so she opened the confessional to see who was on the stoop. "Fiora D'Mestiere? Western Union for Mrs. D'Mestiere." She opened the door, fearing the worst. Maybe my clipper was in Icy Strait. She tipped the kid two bits and tore open the yellow packet. It was from Slim and Tootsie. Sometimes they say it's just easier to stop by the office and send a wire rather than calling the long distance operator. Go figure since Tootsie carries one of those new blowers that does everything. But Slim's a guy of habit. Anyhoo, they wanted to know if we wanted to meet Grüner or somesuch thing. What was this? Some trip through the Alps listening to Heidi yodel?

I had Thelma do a little of what she calls re-search--I figure it should just be called search unless she's doing it again, but I'm not one to argue with Thelma. I'd be more stuck than a 2-wheel-drive-pickup in Goose Creek mud without that gal.

Wasn't long before she got back to me. "What did he say? 'Meet Grüner' you said?" "Yep, that's what Fiora told me Slim said." I know that Thelma knows that Dolly-girl doesn't like to be referred to as Dolly-girl so I try and remember to call Dolly-girl Fiora when I'm talking to Thelma about Dolly-girl, got it? "OK, three choices. Some professor named Grüner at some I-V league school back in the sticks of New York. Works on something called 'soft matter'." I raised my eyebrows and Thelma shot me a look Dolly-girl would have envied. "Don't even go there, Jack." "I was just thinking that it's IVY league, Thelma--not the medical thing." "Actually, Jack, it dates from when there were four colleges and the Roman numeral IV stood for those four...Now, it's unlikely Slim was talking about Professor Grüner. Second is some rich guy named Grüner that's got no recipe for humble pie in his card file, I'll tell you. Companies, jets, patents, computers, blah, blah, blah. I don't think it's him--Slim doesn't take to that sort of per-so-ANAL-ity." "Probably not. Anything else?" "Well, there is a restaurant here in Stumptown, over on the other side of town where they look at us like we're the other side of town." "Bingo. Slim likes a restaurant and they set their brake on that side of town. Good work, Thelma." She rolled her eyes and that's when I knew she was funning with me--she knew the first two weren't what Slim had up his sleeve and now I did too. "I got Slim on the blower. He said you and Fiora should meet him and Tootsie at 6 sharp at their place so as to knock a couple back and then head to Grüner for dinner." "Check."

Come Saturday night, me and Dolly-girl did just that--headed to their joint on the side of town we call the other side and they call theirs. We admired the carving job Tootsie had done on her jackd'mestiere-o-lantern of the year, and tossed down a coupla skid rows that were a lot better than skid row except that I call it all skid row and you probably know that unless this is the first time you've laid eyes on this page. Tootsie said it was time, so we headed out on shank's mare for the rich-guy-professor's-place as I was now calling Grüner to try and get Thelma to roll her eyes. That sorta thing usually works.

We checked in."Slim and Tootsie, 5 at 7." Sounded like a craps table or something. "Five?" "Bluebird--she popped a kid out today and she needs a night off and something good to eat and drink." Dolly-girl gave him the up and down but I was suspicious, as I often am. "She popped a kid out and she's here for dinner?" Tootsie looked for Lourdes-ly help and then said,"Gad-so, Jack. You know Bluebird's studying up to do that welcome-to-the-world profession--she's been working today." Ah, that explained it. I was thinking of the whole delivering-in-the-cornfield-and-then-back-to-work-thing. Anyhoo, Missy showed us to a table, took our coats and chapeaux, and poured us some Bull Run. "Anything else gonna wet your pfefien? I could hear the yodeling starting..."Drown two for me," Ich sprach. Slim looked at the list and said "Bringen Sie uns eine Flasche italienischer Rotwein." We all raised our eyes at that one!

We looked over the whaddaya-wants and listened to Missy tell us the specials while he brought our drinks. It didn't take much yapping around the table to decide. Tootsie gave him the start-us-ups: "Grüner salad, shaved radishes, and smoke a flipper." "Sie haben es!" Slim gave him a knowing look, tapped something into the little box he carries, and said, "Ich danke Ihnen sehr mein guter Herr!"

The drinks and start-em-ups came back and there was sure nothing to complain about there. Well, maybe there was a little bit to complain about. The whaddaya-drinking was a little more than what we all were used to, follow? If you're thinking European food, don't think European wine prices. A glass of the skidrow bianco--oops, I mean weißwein--cost about twice as much as the whole bottle woulda cost down at the A&P. But, we were toasting this and that and it wasn't a big deal. The red stuff? Don't think you're gonna see a selection under about a General US Grant.

Missy musta been watching his flock 'cause anytime we needed tending he was there like a llama stomping a coyote. A civilized amount of time after we finished the starters, the dinners appeared and we dug in like the French at the Maginot Line. Hmm, maybe not a good analogy for use with a Deutsch restaurant... Dolly-girl and Bluebird went for the trout on greens and I had the Schweinebraten mit Rotkraut und Kartoffelpüree, or as Missy called it, the pork chop special with braised red cabbage and mashed potatoes. He was right: it was special! Slim had the same while Tootsie had some sort of noodle thing that had her singing The Sound of Music and dancing like a von Trapp Family kid. The mackerel snappers were lip smackers as far as I could tell. Slim and I left the dogs portion on our plates as we pushed back, too full to think of what the Dessertkarte might offer.

Missy brought the story, tucked into a copy of, oh mein Gott!, a copy of Heidi! We forked over the jack--figure a couple of Jacksons a piece plus I think you'll want to treat Missy pretty well on top of that for shepherding you through dinner. All-in-all, good food, good ambience--I mean ambiente--and, if you find a good Slim and Tootsie of your own, good friends. But drink some wine before you go..., I mean,
Aber Wein trinken, bevor du gehst ...

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