I walked into Abby’s Table and was momentarily taken aback. Portland Fusion? The warm evening, still bright with sunshine, and the flock of well tanned individuals for moment had me thinking that I had chosen the wrong door and been transported to Los Angeles. My confusion remained until I was seated next to a local farmer, and across from an independent chef and a wine educator: yes, I was still in Portland.
Paul Mones is a a renowned childrens rights attorney who has dabbled with food for the last 30 years. Today he was assembling a menu with long time collaborator Bruce Cormicle. I was excited because the menu seemed rather ambitious, and it seemed like the fellows in the kitchen were having fun melding Oregon food with Asian cooking styles.
The amuse bouche was composed of eel squares over grilled pineapple on a sea weed tortilla. I enjoyed the combination of flavors, but did detect some hesitation in the diners around me when I asked what they thought of the sea weed tortilla. Bruce announced rather bemusedly that it didn’t quiet work out as he had planned, but he had had fun. Then it struck me. This was less a haute cuisine-wine pairing (the wines were furnished by Garnier Vineyards out in the Gorge) and more of a social event for Paul and Bruce to have fun and cook dinner with their friends.
My critics instincts drained, my pen slowed down, and I began pouring the wine liberally and chatting with the pleasant people around me. We enjoyed the Garnier Suvignon Blanc, especially with the cauliflower soup in kombu broth. I loved that Paul thickened the soup with edamame because the green-peanut flavor of the edamame slipped seamlessly into the flavors of cauliflower and coconut milk. Perhaps because of the recent surge in articles decrying the over consumption of salt in America, almost all the plates required a sprinkling of seasoning. But perhaps my palate is salt-jaded…
The entrees plate was a melange of flavors ranging from coffee rubbed, smoked pork shoulder (I enjoyed that very much!) to green kimchee and local mushrooms that Roger Konka had foraged out at Springwater Farms. I wasn’t sure how appropriate it was to congratulate a forager on his foods, but I leaned over and did it anyway. We ordered a bottle of the Pinot Noir, and the entire table was delighted and shocked that it really did taste of an old world Pinot Noir and was actually a little bit too big for the food. An Oregon pinot that was too tanic for smoked pork shoulder! Imagine that…
So we ordered the Garnier Vineyards Cuvee Rouge, a blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Grenache. This wine was supple and delicate with a high enough alcohol (14%) to bite through some of the flavors emanating from the plate.
Dessert was a chipotle chocolate soup served with melon in lime juice and the Garnier Cherry dessert wine. I generally abstain from dessert, but the dinners around me enjoyed the delicate heat of the soup and I enjoyed quite immensely the aromatic port wine that came from the cherries grown adjacent to the vineyard.
Another success for the Open Kitchen. Granted we didn’t all have farmers at our tables, and their were no hippies with flowers in their hair chanting songs of sustainability, but we all had fun eating adventuresome food and rubbing elbows with Hollywood producers and novelists and lawyers in their off hours.