A Christmas FoodFest in Portland

| December 30, 2005 | 6 Comments
  • 6 Comments

It’s becoming a tradition, when I fly into Portland, to head directly to the Gotham Bldg Tavern in NE Portland for a hearty breakfast. The first time I visited, only a few months ago, I managed to wolf down one of their famous, decadent breakfast sandwiches: a soft seeded roll piled high with an over-medium fried egg, thick applewood-smoked bacon, Vermont Cheddar, and housemade catsup. It is not for the faint of heart.

On this visit, with my entire family in tow and in town for the holiday weekend, we made a beeline for Gotham as soon as the plane landed. Early. Very very early, and I needed coffee (thank goodness, during my entire stay, I never had one bad cup of coffee; it is the home of Stumptown you know). One perfectly crisp waffle and an exceedingly fresh poached egg later, I was ready to hit the Pearl district for some last minute shopping. And, of course, a meandering trip to Powell’s (always a mandatory stop on my ever-increasing visits to Portland).

So this is how the weekend started. We had all converged on Portland to celebrate the holidays, and this year was special–it was the first time my brother was hosting the event at his new(ish) house. We, of course, went all out. And when I say all out, I am primarily talking about food. If there is one thing that bonds my family together it is food.

Months ago, my brother and I came up with an elaborate Christmas dinner menu, and he spent the time prior to our arrival making sure all the particulars were in place–from brewing 2 kegs of beer (check out his Kegerator) and building a tabletop large enough to accommodate all the dinner guests, to purchasing pasta bowls just for our first course and placing an order with Viande Meats for a beautiful rack of veal.

Over the days leading up to the big feast, we sipped rich, frothy lattes and sampled fig-anise bread from the Pearl Bakery (truly one of the best lattes I’ve ever had)…

…we overindulged on pizza from Apizza Scholls, and went all-out for our traditional “fancy night out on the town for Christmas Eve” at Wildwood, a Portland culinary institution which, after that exquisite meal, deserves its glowing reputation.

A sample of what we ate:
* Sweet local oysters with Champagne mignonette
* Endive salad with toasted walnuts and creamy blue cheese
* Potato-leek soup with Oregon truffles
* Porchetta with hazelnut bread pudding and grilled pears
* Mesquite-roasted chicken with braised Brussels sprouts, goat cheese gnocchi, and roasted celery root

On the day of Christmas Eve, we did our big shop in preparation for the feast–our first stop was to the upscale specialty market, City Market NW to pick up our beautiful free-range rack of veal from Viande, along with sheets of fresh egg pasta from Pastaworks, and a bag full of chanterelle mushrooms.

On Christmas morning, after gleefully opening our gifts and eating one too many slices of our annual Christmas kolache, we got down to business. Somehow I ended up as the chef barking orders to all those around me (this cannot possibly surprise anyone who knows me). But we were a well-oiled machine: my brother Mark, my mom, and Wendy were all tasked with specific jobs to chop this, stir that, prep those, peel these while my father stood guard at the sink, washing every dish that came his way. By 4pm, the nibbles were out, the Champagne chilled and the guests arrived. We were ready to eat!

Here’s what we made:

Nibbles
Rosemary flatbread with cheeses and salumi
Marinated olives
Marcona almonds
Served with Kir royales

First course
Homemade, individual spicy roasted pumpkin ravioli with brown butter and sage
Served with a white Italian Arneis

Main course
Roasted chanterelle mushroom and arugula salad with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
Balsamic-braised fennel and cippoline onions with thyme
Roasted Tuscan rack of veal
Served with an Oregon Pinot Noir

Dessert
Chocolate-almond babycakes with wine-poached pears, bittersweet chocolate sauce, and creme fraiche
Served with Stumptown coffee

Whew.
We rolled back to our digs at the Kennedy School later that evening and basically passed out. And it didn’t end there, but I’m full just writing about all this food.

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Category: Bay Area Bites Food + Drink

About the Author ()

Kim Laidlaw is a cookbook author, editor, food writer, producer, project manager, and baker who has been in the kitchen covered in flour since she was big enough to stir the biscuit dough. She has over 16 years of experience in book and online publishing, and a lifetime of experience in the kitchen. Her first cookbook, Home Baked Comfort, was published in 2011; her second cookbook, Baby & Toddler On the Go, was published in April 2013; and her third cookbook, Williams-Sonoma Dessert of the Day, was published in October 2013. She was the first blogger on KQED’s Bay Area Bites blog, which launched in 2005, and previously worked as a professional baker at La Farine French Bakery in Oakland, CA. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and their toddler, whom she cooks for everyday. Find out more at http://www.kimlaidlaw.com.
  • haddock

    How funny. When I started reading this I was thinking it was by Shuna. We had great visit to Portland a few months ago and although there was much to like about Gotham the “hipper than thou” attitude of our server kind of ruuined it for us.

    Sounds like a good holida menu.

  • haddock

    Boy, I should preview these comments before posting. I really can spell.

  • extramsg

    Can’t knock you for any of those picks. A great lineup for a trip to Portland. Nice report.

  • Kim Goodfriend

    Thanks you guys! I love Portland and have been a frequent visitor for many years, so it’s wonderful to see the culinary transformation that that city undergone in the last 5 years or so. I forgot to mention in my post the absolutely addictive Vietnamese curry I had a Pho Van on the last day of our stay. Stunning.

  • Kim Goodfriend

    Oh, and that’s too bad about Gotham. While it hasn’t been my experience (in fact, the service has always been super-friendly, but I’ve only been there for breakfast), I have heard that comment from others. Maybe over time they will get over themselves. ;-)

  • shuna fish lydon

    {Gotham is soon to get over themselves, I imagine, as the original chef and latest pastry chef from our own Chez Panisse have recently departed…}

    It’s sounds like a delicious whirlwind! I loved meeting one of the owners from Viande. He knew about Fatted Calf and gave me the lowdown on the best pork I have ever had in my life: Laughing Stock. That store they are in is INSANE. Talk about food porn!

    Next time yer near Gotham, take a long stroll down Mississippi Street. How jubilant this piece is, thanks for bringing me a virtual visit.