Produce and Provence

I've been slow to emerge these last few weeks. Quiet honestly, these last few months. After too much time retracting a bit from the social scene, I decided to make an appearance out into the land of the living. But I won't lie, it wasn't hard to do with a few invitations that came across my inbox. And thank goodness for them, otherwise my endless nights of reliving the 'Sex and the City' series DVD collection, and watching reruns of 'Chelsea Lately' would never see the light of day. 

Fitting for my late state: something old is born again.

On a recent Friday evening, I had the pleasure of attending a media opening for Produce Row CafĂ©. The well-established watering hole in Portland's industrial district off of SE Water Avenue had just experienced a bit of a makeover, and this night was its coming out party. I'll admit, I had never been to the original. I've finally come to terms that I'll never hit every individual food and libation spot in this city, so onward and upward. 

When I entered the venue I was pleasantly surprised by its refreshed, yet cozy interior that still looks like it's been there for years. A large, solid-wood community table to the left, flanked with mismatched chairs and sweet, tiny vases of fresh flowers sits directly across the L-shaped bar that stares at patrons with its mirrored backdrop and row of brass beer spouts. The space is impressive in size, and intelligent in layout. From the bar, guests can flow to the community table or individual, two-person spots, then meander over to the comfortable sitting area with its vintage seating pieces that over look the majority of the space. And as the evening continues, and imbibers and eaters look for a more secluded area, they have the option of continuing on to high-backed, black leather U-shaped booths that lead the way to the cafe's amazing back patio -- which will, undoubtedly, be the place to hang if summer in Portland ever manages to make an appearance. 

From a Cucumber Margarita to Nachos with Avocado Salad, Mozzarella Sticks and Pork Sliders (can we say, "pork confit?"), the introduction into the venue's menu was another pleasant surprise. Think bar food with some added thought from the kitchen to each dish. It's a location that's long-time, regular 'Norms' should welcome back with open arms, and newbies should check into real soon.

A perfect day for Provence.

What better way to catch up with an old friend than over one of the week's favorite meals: brunch? When my friend Joscelyn and I finally nailed down a day to reconnect she suggested brunch at Petite Provence off of Alberta. I was familiar with La Provence in Lake Oswego, but 
had yet to try any of the other locations. Yesterday had to be one of the most dreary yet in Portland, but my mind quickly lightened up when I stepped inside. It was a madhouse, but the action brought liveliness to the scene and to my soul. I was totally enamored by it all: the French-cafe feel, the coffee counter that lay straight ahead, and, of course, the amazing pastry case filled with enough goods to keep a sweet-lover swooning for hours. The wait? About twice as long as we were told. The food? A plate that was more than enough, but left our tummies so happy. I had the savory French toast; and what an interested twist from the usual sweet treat it was. 

Some other things I just loved this week...

  • An afternoon of education and tasting of olive oil out at Red Ridge Farms in Dayton. It was held at the Oregon Olive Mill and Portland Culinary Alliance members were given a special discounted invite. Who knew there was so much to learn about how good olive oil should taste? Admittedly, I learned I was a bit used to some varieties that, in truth, were known to be rancid. I guess the journey of educating and refining our palates never ends. 
  • Lunch with a good friend at Kinara Thai Bistro in Goose Hollow. I actually tried something aside from chicken pad Thai, and enjoyed the cashew chicken with brown rice -- the most gorgeous brown rice I've ever scene.
  • Cocktails and catch-up time with the girls out in McMinnville. It had been quite a while since I was able to hang out with my long-time friends Carrie and Sheila. Sheila was incredibly eager to show off her cocktail making skills to Carrie and myself, who quickly learned we were truly guinea pigs for her mad libation creations. They were awesome, and I think she could quickly be on her way to cocktail-book stardom any day now. 


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