my birthday [the best food ever]

Somehow…the night ended with me on the top of Rocky Butte…licking chicken wing sauce off my fingers, staring out the window upon the city that fed me so well…

…and I loved every second of it.

But this all had to start somewhere and boy did it.

My wife had asked me if I wanted to make any decisions about where I was to eat for my birthday dinner. I know, along with our dear friends Jon and Margi who helped plan and arrange this excursion, what I usually crave the most. Simple and straight-forward. Relaxing and thoughtful, both in company and the food that arrived on our tables.

And I say tables because it wasn’t just one place they took me to, but finally at the end of the night, we had hit up five different spots, each offering something tasty for my southern belly.

I took my seat on the passenger side, as I was not allowed to drive. For…a few reasons…and the fact that I wasn’t supposed to know where I was going!

Our first stop: The Woodsman Tavern. Owned by Stumptown’s head honcho, Duane Sorenson with the food of Chef Jason Barwikowski, alum of Clyde Common and Olympic Provisions — two staple spots in the Portland area.

This was the appetizer portion of our night accompanied by a dozen gorgeous little oysters with the fixins’: a little lemon, fresh horseradish and a shallot-champagne vinegar sauce. Best thing ever. This was followed by the ham plate. Three small piles of thinly sliced artisanal hams from around the US instructed by the chef to eat in a certain order. Gorgeous, rich and right in my sweet spot.

Throughout the night, they all gave me little gifts that amounted to me, something much bigger. Jon gave me a little bag of Stumptown’s Panama Esmeralda Especial San Jose – priced at about $100/lb. Jon (who is sort of a big deal over at Stumptown) totally caught me off guard with that one. I can’t tell you how good it is. It almost shouldn’t be considered coffee; it should be it’s own name of beverage. I smile after every sip and lean my head back into a state of bliss. It’s that good.
Hannah, my wife, gave me Julia Child’s “The French Chef” cookbook and it’s absolutely perfect. Awesome pictures, old school recipes and great story. Just what I want in a book.

From there, we moved on. The air was cold and felt good on my warm, red face. I was blissed out on good cask ale and smiles.
Next stop: Wafu – a little Japanese noodle bar that serves some amazing ramen. Why Wafu? Because of my “said” obsession with David Chang. And, it’s a little true. The dude is so funny and cooks such amazing food with a ‘grinder’ work ethic.
Here we had edamame with garlic, sichuan salt and togarashi. Best edamame I’ve ever had. Then little skewers of grilled skirt steak marinated in miso and ginger/scallion sauce. Blindingly good.
We finished the meal there with a few bowls of ramen. I ordered it with miso broth, pork belly and slow poached egg. Amazing and comforting.

Here, Hannah gave me a little writing pad and a gift card to Sur La Table. Perfect.

Next, we drove out to an unmarked restaurant with beautiful curves. Beaker and Flask. Gorgeous and cozy little place. There was no way any of us could have eaten any more food at this point, but it was a little digestif, we were after.
Hannah, Margi and Jon whispered back and forth through each other’s ears scheming and discussing what to do next, that is, after the gorgeous little round of Sazeracs we consumed.  A Sazerac is a cocktail usually made with rye whiskey, absinthe or herbsaint, and Peychaud’s bitters. A sweet little jump down to New Orleans and the South — made my heart swell with pride.

Here, Margi gave me some awesome Hazelnut flour and Hannah gave me this sweet salt bowl and a little [albeit, precious] spoon.

Jon went outside and made a call (which he had been doing all night) and we were off to the next spot, which included a stop at two spots before our night finally ended.
We stopped by Pix Patisserie for a few sweet bits, Jon and I knowing deep down, we had a little more salty left in our systems. So, we ended up parked in front Pok Pok Noi with Margi running in and out with a to-go box full of Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce wings. Oh. My. God.

We took them up Rocky Butte for a view of the city on a crystal clear night. All the lovers were parked on the side of the road, windows steamed, looking out at the Rose City. Our windows soon steamed up due to spicy fish sauced wings that were being devoured on the inside. So bloody good, I couldn’t stand it.

After the wings were demolished, we ran up to the top of Rocky Butte, shivering and blissed out, delighting in the sweet bits we got from Pix. Amazing.

Such a wonderful night and birthday. Thankful for all the friends and family that made it so dearly special for me. My mom, sister, dad, Gran, Momma Traci, Ray and Berta, my boss Gretchen and Jon, Margi and Hannah. Wow. I felt so celebrated and couldn’t have asked for a better evening.

Thankyou, so so much.

Here’s to 26 years of life…

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