Restaurant Review: 23Hoyt

In a city that's said to be up and coming in its growth of super-plush condominiums, trendy city neighborhoods and an explosion of unique dining venues, Portland is, no doubt, a place with options. Will it be the latest hot spot in the lower NW Pearl District, a classic adventure to Portland's almost-forgotten SW downtown neighborhood, or a stop at the always-comforting upper NW area? For myself and two young mothers ready for a much-needed night out, NW 23rd was our venue of choice. The chosen spot for what we hoped would be mouthwatering cuisine? 23Hoyt.

Situated, as one might guess, on the corner of NW 23rd and Hoyt, 23Hoyt is the latest brain child of restaurateur Bruce Carey and adored Portland chef, Christopher Israel. These two have collaborated in past lives on such famed city meal destinations as the former Zefiro, and the still-hopping cocktail and pan-Asian cuisine destination, Saucebox. And, they've both done it again. The marriage of Carey's eye for elegant, trendy venues (which also includes the Pearl District's Bluehour) that boast a touch of glamour with Israel's diverse expertise in simple, but deliciously desirable European-inspired cuisine, 23Hoyt delivers another sweet surprise to Portland's growing culinary sophistication.

Arriving fifteen minutes early for our 8:15pm reservation, the girls and I were promptly taken to our four-person, dimly lit table against the window that looked out onto Hoyt. The dinning room sits under a 20-ft ceiling that adds to the glamorous combination of white table clothes dressed with lit tea light candles in glass votive holders and a grey color scheme. Two tall ficus trees to the left of the space add a lively element that isn't seen a lot around town. In the middle of the C-shaped room sits the lit-up bar filled with cocktail-thirsty patrons. Though the bar is located in the middle of the restaurant, it doesn't feel out of place or too crowded. I walked passed the it twice to visit the ladies room - up a small flight of steps and to the right - and I never felt like I was interrupting the sip of a perfect martini.

So we swooned and ooohhed and ahhhed at the menu and the three of us each decided on dish. We, first, decided we would start off our feastful evening with a bottle of the Montsant Falet Rose. Served chilled, the reddish-pink wine delivered a burst of fruit that was surprisingly refreshing to start off with. We proceeded with our ordering. I chose the Insalata Caprese and the girls each had a Caesar salad. The caprese was gorgeous with bright red and yellow tomatoes, rich slices of homemade mozzarella, basil and a perfect drizzling of olive oil. It's a shame that summer is coming to an end and ripe tomatoes are almost a faint memory. These were perfect; fresh, juicy, sweet and with each bite I envisioned a bright blue Greek sky and the turquoise water of the Mediterranean. There was not a drop left on my plate. The Caesars were served in a classic style with full, long romaine leaves, Caesar dressing and sprinkled with grated parmesan and croutons. I didn't taste it I will admit. I love Caesar salads, but wanted to revel in the flavors I had just devoured with my caprese.

If time allows, I always love to view the menu of a restaurant online first to get an idea of what I'll want before I go. I was so excited about this dinner menu that after looking at it for two days, I was still unsure what I would have until our server nodded to me, signaling my turn. With choices that ranged from Linguine with blue mussels, saffron cream, garden tomatoes and basil chiffonade; Grilled Alaskan Coho salmon wrapped in grape leaves and served with grilled eggplant and a Catalan sauce of raisins, tomatoes, lemon, olive oil and toasted pinenuts; and Grilled Cascade Natural flat iron steak served with horseradish cream, roasted red and chiogga beets, watercress and red potatoes, what does one choose? I picked something in between and one that our server highly recommended, the Oregon rabbit hindquarter braised with white wine, mustard, cremini mushrooms, bacon lardons and pearl onions with pappardelle and rabbit sausage. The girls, staying consistent in their ordering of the same item, both chose the Roasted Carlton Farms pork tenderloin with Italian prune plums, red wine sauce, Yukon gold potato puree and sauteed carrots. Yum.

As we awaited our main course and sat relaxed in good conversation, my eyes scanned the room to see who, exactly, is coming to 23Hoyt. The crowd was very mixed and ranged from the mid-aged professionals on a first date to the trendy, savvy and sophisticated elders still interested in what's new and hot around town. And, of course, there were the thirty-somethings sipping a cocktail, or two, and sharing their latest adventures from the week. It is a diverse mix that somehow complement each other and work well together to create a balanced, but interesting, scene.

After what seemed to be a slightly longer wait than expected, our food arrived. Sitting in the center of pearl onions and bacon slices, my rabbit hindquarter looked simple and clean. The pork tenderloin looked absolutely heavenly with slices situated atop the potato puree with red wine sauce decorating the plate on one side. A very lean meat that is easily overcooked, the Oregon rabbit was done just right with a lot of flavor and still a bit of juice. I will admit, though, after trying the pork tenderloin, I was totally jealous. It was tender, succulent and rich with the red wine sauce and I'd wished I had been the one to sign up for it. All's well that ends well, I suppose, and I did finish off my feast with the black plum puff pastry tartelette with plum ice cream. It's a delectable, rectangular-shaped pastry with slices of plum baked on top. A scoop of the light berry colored ice cream was so sweet and tangy and made me feel like a grown-up kid reveling in a grown up dessert.

Any cons? Not really, except our table was a bit loud due to the fact that we were situated close to the kitchen and, trust me, they were hopping!

I will be back, to experience more items off the savory list of appetizers and entrees, to sip another bottle from the restaurant's incredibly extensive list of wines from around the world and, of course, to bask in my own plate of roasted pork tenderloin.


Go. And enjoy.



For the Love of Portland Food & Drink

Finally, a magazine based solely on Portland food and drink; Mix has arrived! It was due out September 7th, but for some reason I had a hard time locating it among our vast array of bookstores and other magazine-filled shops until Monday at Rich's Cigar Store located on SW Alder downtown.

I quickly snuck into the well-known cigar shop before school and scanned the racks. There it was on the bookshelf directly to my left. An attractive magazine, it has a sophisticated design that's about one inch wider than your standard magazine and about an inch and a half taller. The cover has a very trendy matte finish to it and the pages inside follow suit.

I peeked at a few pages while in Garde Manger - my latest academic adventure that began this week in my world of culinary school - and from the fast look I couldn't wait to devour every page when I arrived home.

As I opened the first page I unfolded a four-page layout of the new Martha Stewart kitchen and home collection to be offered at Macy's. Wow. A four-page ad for Martha Stewart? No matter what you think of Martha's little detour to the pen a while back, come on. She's still Martha Stewart. And to have her face splashed on the inside cover of our new food & culture magazine means something, right? Well I think so!

I made six flips through advertisements of local and national beverage makers, furniture boutiques, local performing arts organizations and of course some local restaurant and grocery market retailers to find the Editor's page. The magazine is a publication of The Oregonian and is edited by FOODday Editor, Martha Holmberg who was formerly the editor of Fine Cooking magazine. A short, sweet and to-the-point note from the editor welcomed new readers to the new publication that plans to capture 'everything that makes life in Portland so deliriously tasty.'

Reading through the remainder of the contents I noticed the magazine has a the typical balance of any other food magazine: lots of advertisements, special features and topics and sections that will be mainstays, or 'in every issue' topics we can count on with each release. Coming from my current journey through culinary school, I really enjoyed the article by Grant Butler titled "The Next Wave." In it, Grant interviewed five well-known Portland chefs - or 'board of directors' as Butler refers to them - and asked them who they believe are the new up and coming chefs around town. The well-known interviewees included: Lauro Kitchen and Vindalho owner, David Machado; Higgins chef and owner, Greg Higgins; Nostrana co-owner, Cathy Whims; Vitaly Paley of Paley's Place; and former Zefiro creator who currently co-owns Saucebox and the new 23Hoyt, Christopher Israel. It was great to get insight from the respected Portland chefs and entreprenuers on who, out of all the places to enjoy great culinary adventures, is showcasing great stuff around the city.

But sorry, I won't spill the beans. If you'd like to see who the famed chefs picked, go treat yourself to a copy of Mix. I'm eager to see how it evolves. Many people say Portland is up and coming in the food and wine arena. Personally, I think it's already arrived, and now we've got something that will really showcase all the mouthwatering offerings in our unique city. I hope you pick up a copy soon. And when you do, let me know what you think!



The Fastest Three Weeks

I'm shocked at how quickly time is flying. Tomorrow is already our last day of Meat & Seafood Identification and Fabrication. I've grown from a timid squid dismantler to a cutting queen who can slice and dice up shoulder clod, tunnel bone a leg and thigh of a chicken, truss a pounded out piece of tenderloin, and grind and case my own sausage. I can't believe tomorrow is the final and I will admit I'm a bit nervous for it. We've covered so much. Maybe I'll have a culinaria dream tonight to help with reviewing it all.

Meat & Seafood final: what to know:
  • Know the process and definition of Inspection.
  • Know the definition of Quality Grade.
  • Know what Yield Grade is.
  • What is the name of the overfeeding process of ducks that is used to make Foie Gras?
  • Know rib separations for beef and lamb.
  • What primal are pork back ribs a fabrication of?
  • Know the different classifications of all birds (sex, size, age, etc.).
  • Be able to identify feathered game birds.
  • Know the different types of fish - round, flat, lean, fatty.
  • Know, in detail, the five different types of crab.
  • Know beef, lamb and pork charts that identify loins from chucks, foresaddles from hindsaddles, and everything in between.
  • Know the different types of grades in which meat can be purchased.
  • Identify all types of meat cuts.
  • What does the acronym NAMPS stand for?
  • Know meat grinder equipment parts.
  • Know the size and how many ounces you can get out of a hotel pan, a third pan, and a ninth pan.
  • Out of the 100 parts of seafood, meat and poultry we've viewed over the past week, 12 will be on the exam for you to identify.
  • And while you're at it, make sure you know every piece of equipment in the entire classroom.
  • And review all past quizzes and homework. Just about every question from those will be on the exam!

Thank God for Friday late-night happy hour!

Cheers, ~JF


Dreaming in Culinaria

I go through spurts of restless sleep. I used to blame this on my former job in corporate high technology. That world ended seven months ago, so I can't very well use that excuse anymore. Today, I'm not sure what causes it. Maybe it's the combination of attending culinary school five nights a week and finding time to study late into the evening or during the day; working a 15 - 20 hour a week internship for a local editing firm; trying to dedicate time to grow Savor Communications; networking in the community with fellow freelance writers, chefs, foodies, and wine makers; researching articles for my school's quarterly newsletter to draft and submit my articles by this month's deadline; and still getting up the nerve to craft a perfect pitch to a local food magazine for a published article (no, I have not done that yet). When I look at the list it seems like a lot, though I'm not complaining. I really love everything I'm doing right now and only wish there were more than 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week to do it all. If I didn't need any sleep I would be in a constant flurry of reading, writing, eating, and savoring every moment of my day!

In a constant flurry. That's what if felt like. Last night's restless sleep was like any other. I never really slept, actually. I'd say I was 75% sleeping, 25% awake as I lay in my perfectly cozy, foam-topped mattress. As I partially drifted off I began to compile a list of foods that I wanted to make in my head. First there was the hummus (10 wonderful years dating a Lebanese man and I never learned how to make it; odd, huh?). What would I put in my hummus? Drained chickpeas, tahini, garlic? Olive oil, of course. As I began to think about the contents of the hummus in my head I began seeing myself in the kitchen putting it together. But no measuring spoons were aloud. No measuring cups or scales were there. It was all just me and the ingredients and my tasting spoon; getting it to the perfect consistency and flavor. I didn't stop at the hummus, I went on in a flurry creating random dishes that popped in my head, as well as some inspired by my past nine weeks of culinary school. I was dismantling whole chickens to make my own chicken stock for the most delicious chicken soup. I stacked homemade ciabatta with mozzarella, homemade salami and fresh basil from my garden for a classic Italian ciabatta sandwich. I was making Veloute sauce for a heavenly cream of mushroom soup, Hollandaise sauce for my eggs Benedict, and tomato sauce for my fresh, goat-cheese stuffed ravioli with pine nuts. I was pounding out my chicken breasts for a sausage, sun-dried tomato, spinach and feta-stuffed roulade. I marinaded thin strips of beef in a sauce of honey, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, minced ginger, chives and red pepper flakes for an Asian saute. And I just kept going. As each dish finished I moved on to the next, chopping and whisking and shredding and mincing and grating and slicing and dicing my way through what I've learned during my past weeks of culinary school and years of loving good food. I felt like the caricature of Michael Ruhlman on his blog; like a chemist in a lab, books flying and hands and feet in the air.

When I fully awoke my first thought was that I was dreaming in culinaria. Culinaria isn't actually a word, but if I could make it a word and create a definition that's what it would be. It would be a world where all culinary creativity unfolds, where all the best cooking techniques are on display, and where the tastes of the best ingredients meld together in dishes that are divine and savored by those who create them.

As I'm in my ninth week of culinary school, I've looked back lately and have wondered if I'm really getting it all. Am I retaining the endless list of French culinary terms? Can I make a Bechemal sauce without looking in my book? Can I clearly identify 80 herbs and spices, or specific cuts of meat? For me, my dream was sort of my answer. It's all in there. It's being retained and it is all in my head. Although at times it feels like it's all a jumbled mess, it is there, waiting to come out of my head, down through my hands and onto many plates for total enjoyment.

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