For reasons unknown, Nick continues to act as my patron, and as such, deemed it necessary for me to attend High Comfort at the Nines presented by Portland Monthly. I tried to pace myself a little better than at the Sandwich Invitational, so I managed to cram in 15 different treats this time around.
This event occupied an entire floor of the hotel, and was broken up among multiple rooms. This is a shot of the main ballroom where the majority of the tables were set up. As you can see, it was very busy. Much of the event space was pretty dark, but I managed to find a corner with at least some illumination for snapping photos(though no tables. Everything had to sit on the floor while I shot it).
I started off with a Lamb Tartare with Salsa Verde and Cured Egg Yolk from Lincoln. Rich with a very fine chop to the meat, the spice from the salsa cut some of the richness. The mix was placed atop a small chip. I thought for a second it might be taro, but I can't say for sure since it wasn't much more than a bite. Either way, it was simple yet tasty.
Mom's Spaghetti with Wild Boar, Sweetbread, and Pig Trotter Bolognese from St. Jack certainly didn't look like spaghetti, but it was quite good. The sauce was lightly applied, studding the wide, toothsome, nutty noodles with smokey bits of meat. A thin grating of cheese added a little saltiness. It was lighter than I thought it would be.
I didn't manage to get a picture of the Fermented Rice Porridge with Mushroom, Red Hawk Cheese, and Duck Cracklins from Flour + Water, but as with many of the other offerings on hand, it was very pleasant. The rice was more like a barley, with the grains having a firm exterior yielding to a soft and nutty center. Creamy mushroom and duck added meatiness, with a gentle sourness pervading the whole dish. Very nice.
From Ned Ludd came this Creamed Chopped Smoked Salmon. It was served hot with a consistency like whitefish salad. I think I would've preferred it to have more smokiness to the flavor, but it was nice.
Little Bird's offering was this Lamb Belly BLT, a piling of thick and smokey lamb, heirloom tomato, and greens atop a crispy pseudo-English muffin. A light green spread sat on the bread that tasted slightly of avocado. The spread had an acidic tanginess to it that countered the rich lamb. It was delicious. The only problem was the lamb was too thick to cut through with the disposable fork, and when I tried to hold the BLT in my hand to take a bite, the bread crumbled to pieces, making a huge mess in my hand that I was forced to lick off.
Whoa mama. The Smoked Black Cod with Nasturtium Cream from Castagna was easily my favorite of the evening. Served cool, the black cod was perfectly smooth and rich, possessing a delicate yet firm texture in the mouth paired with a deep smoke flavor that you could easily smell as you bit into it. The nasturtium cream was cold, with a solid yet extraordinarily airy ice cream like consistency that then quickly melted in the mouth to coat the tongue with a light cream texture. If the rest of food at Castagna is like this, I'm an idiot for having not eaten there.
I didn't know what to think of the Country Fried Beef from Atera. If you told me there was beef in there, I'd say you were lying. It tasted like the essence of fried chicken skin, with a crispy fried crust that hid what looked like collagen. It was thick and gooey on the inside, and it was extremely rich. The pile of spicy peppers on the side only went part way towards overcoming the insane fattiness of the interior.
The Timberline Lodge folks were handing out dishes of this Baked Potato Foam, Smoked Pork Cheek, and Truffled Yoghurt Powder. When tasted separately, the elements of this dish weren't particularly intriguing, but when I put them together in a bite, I found the perfect baked potato. I didn't know you could concentrate a potato's taste, but it happened here along with hits of cheese, sour cream, and bacon. Great balance of traditional flavors in an untraditional package. Awesome.
This preparation of Herring Rillettes and Preserved Pepper in Oil on Rye Toast from The Whale Wins fell flat. The herring on its own tasted nice, but its flavor was far too subtle to stand up to the spicy pepper.
The line to the table for Tanaka San's Dungeness Crab, Peanut and Pork Sausage, and Kimchi Fried Rice was huge. I don't know that the food necessarily warranted such a line, but it was decent. There wasn't much crab in there, but there was plenty of sausage. The link was somewhat sweet with a coarse grind and big chunks of peanut, and it had a spiciness that came on slow as I chewed and then lingered on my tongue. The kimchi fried rice was actually just sticky rice with a pile of kimchi next to it. Kimchi was good, being somewhat spicy with a bit of funk.
Chef Paley was on hand to represent Paley's Place with this rendition of Steak 'n Eggs made with Smoked Elk Tongue, Duck Egg Yolk, and Crispy Potatoes. Really great contrast in textures with this one. Elk tongue was so tender that I could easily cut it with my dull wooden fork, and that tender meatiness paired very well with the crispy, crunchy potato shreds. A sweet brown BBQ-like sauce was drizzled over tongue. The the egg yolk was spread out on the bottom of the plate and acted more like a plating embellishment than a flavor. Despite everything I liked about this, there was a distinct bitter aftertaste to the elk, which made me think there may have been an error in its smoking. I did not care for that at all.
A big winner for me was this Oregon Berry and Sweet Corn Pavlova with Jacobson Sea Salt Honey Popcorn from Kristen Murray's recently kickstarted Maurice. I know it's difficult to tell from the yellow picture, but there's a layer of meringue topped with a sweet corn whipped cream that is studded with bits of honey popcorn. The meringue was light, crispy, and just a little bit sticky. The real highlight was the sweet corn whipped cream which had a light corn sweetness that I always find appealing. A small pool of berry syrup sat at the bottom to add an extra fruity element to the corn flavor, and the thin piece of brittle at the top added a bit of crunch. Overall, a great dessert. I hope to see more from Maurice in the future.
The last thing I ate was a cone from Salt and Straw filled with Oregon Blackberry and Smoked Ham ice cream. In absence of a photo, I'll say that it was quite pretty, with raspberry syrup drizzled over the top that hardened to give a jewel-like sheen. On the other hand, I would describe the flavor as nondescript, if that means anything at all to you. Whatever was in there, it didn't remind me of blackberry or smoked ham or anything else. It tasted sweet, but not like berries. It tasted smokey, but not like ham or any kind of meat. I couldn't tie the flavor to anything. I somewhat enjoyed it at first, but towards the end the smoke flavor became dominant to the point of being cloying. Blech.
I should probably think about investing in a better camera, or at least avoid events where the available light makes the food look jaundice.