(...and introducing, Mr Chips!!!)
Last weekend my husband, Bob's band played in Portland and Seattle. The guys drove up and I met up with them Friday at their first gig.
I flew to Portland on Thursday. My first flight was cancelled, but when I finally made it up there four hours late, I met up with Mr Chips for dinner. There was really no other choice but Jake's Crawfish, which has been in business for over 100 years. Although it was bought out by McCormick and Schmick in the 70s, it has retained its personal flair. I had been thinking about Jake's big chunks of sweet crab for the entire flight. Jim was a good dinner companion. He laughed at all of my jokes, and didn't blink an eye when I ordered huge quantities of food. We work in similar fields, and have similar views on politics, so the conversation was lively. We started our meal with popcorn crawfish, fried in a fritter-like batter with a sherry aioli (I didn't find the sherry flavor to be very pronounced).
I am always amazed by their mutantly large prawn cocktail, so I hogged that while Mr. Chips enjoyed the pan-fried oysters. Try as I may, I am just not an oyster person.
(Yes, they are bigger than my thumb. And no, I do not have freakishly small thumbs. Though they might be described by some as dainty.)
Their dungeness crab/shrimp cakes with Jalapeno ginger aioli were crispy on the outside and downright ethereal. I want to eat them every day for the rest of my life. We also split the Dungeness crab legs sauteed with artichoke hearts and mushrooms in a light coating of Bernaise.
JAKE'S DUNGENESS CRAB LEG SAUTE
1/4 cup Bernaise sauce
3 Tablespoons butter
10 to 12 mushrooms, sliced (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 artichoke hearts, cut in half
4 green onions, chopped (about 4 Tablespoons)
1/4 cup sherry
Salt and pepper to taste
8 ounces dungeness crab leg meat
Prepare Bernaise and reserve.
Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a saute pan over high heat and saute mushrooms for 1 minute. Add garlic, artichoke hearts, and green onions. Continue sauteeing for 1 minute. Add sherry, salt and pepper. and simmer another 3 minutes.
Divide the mixture into 2 serving casseroles. Return the saute pan to the heat and add the remaining butter and the crab legs. Heat for 2 minutes. Spoon the crab over the vegetables and top each with 1 to 2 Tablespoons of Bernaise.
JAKE'S BERNAISE SAUCE
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
3 sprigs fresh tarragon (or 1 tsp dried)
2 shallots, finely chopped
Combine the vinegar, herbs, and shallots over a medium heat and reduce to approximately 1 Tablespoon of thick paste. Allow to cool slightly. Add paste to Hollandaise in place of lemon juice.
JAKE'S HOLLANDAISE (I promise this is the last part)
1/3 pound unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
1 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Melt the butter and reserve, warm but not hot. Combine the egg yolks and water on top of a double boiler over hot, but not boiling, water, stirring briskly with a whisk, until the mixture is light and fluffy - the consistency of light mayonnaise.
Remove the top of the double boiler from the heat and slowly add the butter in a thin stream, while continuing to whip the mixture. Season with lemon juice and salt to taste.
(Elise's note: I'm pretty sure they are crimini mushrooms. This recipe is wholly dependent on your ability to get crab of a similar quality to Jake's. If you have the access, this dish is unbelievable).
I had two local microbrews and proceeded to either charm or terrorize the waiter. Sometimes those distinctions are not so clear for me. The dessert menu sounded great, but I have been watching the sugar. Finally I couldn't resist the local homespun appeal of a mixed berry cobbler. After I snapped a pic of it, I pushed the plate over to Jim. I confessed my secret madness, "I didn't want to eat it. I wanted to take a picture of it". I did take one bite, and it was just like angel's breath.
JAKE'S THREE BERRY COBBLER
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 pound butter, cut into cubes and chilled
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 pounds each, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Crumble together the flour, baking powder, sugar and butter until they have the texture of coarse cornmeal. Blend in egg and milk. Miz to form into a ball.
Roll dough out on floured surface to 1/8" thickness. Cut the dough into the size and shape of the baking dish. Chill dough while you prepare berries.
Combine all ingredients for filling in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. When the mixture is thick and syrupy, remove from heat.
Spoon the mixture into baking dish(es). Cover loosely with the crust and bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned and the berry filling is bubbling at the edges.
Allow to cool a bit before serving.
Friday I woke up in the wee hours and ordered the Hotel Vintage Plaza's room service breakfast of cornmeal-blueberry pancakes. I dozed off again and after waking up late and running errands, I didn't make it to the Velveteria until 5pm. The Velveteria is a museum of velvet paintings run by a couple of ex-Angelinos named Carl and Karen.
They are supercool and we immediately hit it off like old friends. We could barely stop gabbing long enough for me to check out the art. We had so much in common. I loved them and hung out on their pink velvet sofa way past closing time. They had the museum in sections - Clowns, Nudes, Polynesian scenes, etc. They said they actually have hundreds of paintings that don't fit in the space, so they rotate the exhibits. Their black-light section is particularly mind-blowing.
They recommended a Creole Cuban place around the corner called Pambiche. It was a friendly little neighborhood joint painted in bright colors and watched over by a flock of paper-mache parrots. The chef, John Connell Maribona, cooks family recipes which differ subtly from any Cuban food I have previously experienced. I had oxtails that were falling off the bone, drenched in an intense red-wine sauce. Oxtail is like a cross between brisket and a beef rib. The meat shreds like brisket, but is richer and fattier. It was accompanied by rice and some kind of corn fritters that had a slight hint of amaretto, but strangely, no black beans. Their banana cake, La Banana Borracha, was not too sweet, more like a banana bread. But it came with an intensely sweet rum sauce and a Pina Colada salsa.
I rushed back to the hotel to get ready and headed off to meet Bob at his gig. The venue was an old movie theater. The bar had black lights and was decorated with murals replicating Ripley's Believe it or Not drawings in da-glo poster paint. It was a pretty black-light themed day. It was a nice place, except that it smelled like cigarretes and burnt garlic, and the backstage area was like a little wet cave.
Mr Chips showed up to rock out and I hung out with him for awhile before I had to start taking pictures. In addition to my point-and-shoot camera I had my cool new Rebel XT. It was so great to take pictures with such speed and control.
I was up front taking pics during Mudhoney, the headliners, and the crowd was getting pretty rowdy. During the second song, someone threw a full can of beer at Steve, the guitar player, barely missing his head.
Two guys with shaved heads and a chick in a leather jacket were pushing everyone really hard. I was just kind of riding with it, when BAM! A fist came out of nowhere and punched me right in the mouth. HARD. I instinctively punched back, and hit the girl in the back, since she had already spun away from me. Then I realized I had no way of knowing it was actually her who punched me. It could have been somebody else, and my mind's eye played a film loop of saloon fights in cowboy movies, and I didn't want everyone to start punching the wrong people and throw me through a big plate glass window.
So I went into the black light bar to have a drink and chill out for a minute. I have never been cold-cocked before, and it was kind of a relief to know that my natural reaction is to defend myself instead of rolling up into a tight little ball and rocking back-and-forth, crying. When I went back in I stood at the side of the stage, further from the fray.
Bob and I went to the Roxy, a 24-hour diner, for sandwiches. They had a church-sized crucifix on the wall with a neon halo. My sandwich had turkey, bacon, avocado and hash browns. I wasn't sure if the hash browns just got in there by accident with the bacon or not.
My jaw was really sore and I started whining that I needed some ice. I told Bob, "I'm sorry. I'm such a wimp - wanting a big ice pack." He said, "Yeah, my delicate, wilting flower."
Jake's Famous Crawfish Restaurant 401 SW 12th Avenue (x Stark St.) Portland, OR 97205 (503) 226-1419 www.JakesFamousCrawfish.com
Velveteria 518 NE 28th Ave, Portland OR (503) 233-5100 http://www.velveteria.com/index2.htm
Pambiche 2811 NE Glisan Portland, OR 97232 www.pambiche.com
Roxy 1121 SW Stark St. Portland OR 97205 (503) 223-9160
(Recipes from Jake's Seafood Cookbook, Chronicle Books, San Francisco c. 1991)