My Cranky Gut’s SCD Restaurant Reviews

I’ll add new experiences to this page in reverse-chronological order, so the most recent will always be at the top. I don’t promise to document every restaurant meal I have, but I will try to highlight the more tricky ones and the substitutions I requested to make it a legal meal. Please keep in mind that recipes change over time… don’t rely on my experience as an indicator that particular dish is safe. You need to ask the server for confirmation!

—————————-

10/17/2012

Portland has always been a haven for a culture that one might call ‘Hippy’, and with that came a huge level of support for vegetarianism, veganism, and other dietary choices stereotypically aligned with Hippies. But in the last few years, I’ve been noticing a backlash against this, and increasingly unabashed celebration of meat. Mind you, I’m not talking about Midwest steak-and-potatoes kind of meat… I’m talking artisanally prepared, locally sourced, grass fed meats. I’ve touched on a few examples in these reviews: The Cultured Caveman, Olympic Provisions (note to self: it is shocking that I have NOT written a review yet of Olympic provisions! Must remedy!), Lincoln, ad nauseum. Last night, we treated ourselves to another local celebration of meat and checked in at the relatively new Lardo, on the corner of SE 12th and Hawthorne. The name tells you quite a bit about what’s going on here…. The pork belly is plentiful!!

Like many (read: most!) Portland restaurants, Lardo gives off a somewhat eclectic presentation. It’s the bastard love child of a counter-service burger diner and a romantic bistro. An unlikely pairing, to be sure. I’ll say that in its attempt to combine those elements, it’s moderately successful. I was a little taken off-guard when I entered and realized that we’d be ordering at the counter, but no biggie. However, the mellow earth tones, richly stocked bar, and fresh flowers created some cognitive dissonance for me as I tried to figure out how the place works.

At first blush, Lardo’s menu is decidedly unfriendly to the SCD adherent. Fully 2/3 of the menu is devoted to sandwiches. As it turns out, they are happy to make any sandwich bread-free and instead to serve it over a bed of either tossed greens or french fries. This option is not on the menu, so you’ll need to ask about it! Because it’s an order-at-the-counter affair, the concept of appetizers is meaningless… all your food comes out at the same time. To share, we ordered the chicharones and the escarole Caesar salad. I ordered the double burger, and Diana ordered the pork belly and fried egg sandwich (both over greens, of course). As I mentioned earlier, they have a full bar, so we ordered a couple of cocktails, of course. I had the house grapefruit margarita, while Diana had the Desert Cruiser, which was AMAZINGLY good, and had a lot of sugar in it :(

Lardo's amazing chicharones

Lardo’s amazing chicharones

SCD folks aren’t allowed many crispy, salty snacks, and it’s something I miss dearly, so anytime I see chicharones on a menu, I’m almost certainly going to order them. What exactly *are* chicharones, some of you may be asking. Deep fried pork rinds.  Cracklins. Scrunchions. Scratchings. They are a shameless and delicious treat, and Lardo’s were no exception. In fact, these were some of the lightest, most delicate pork rinds I’ve ever had. Perfectly seasoned, and delightfully crispy!

Caesar Salad with Fried Capers and Anchovies

Caesar Salad with Fried Capers and Anchovies

While they don’t always love me in return, due to the integral role of romaine lettuce, I really love a good Caesar salad. Another thing I really love is dressing. I never in my life thought there could be such a thing as an over-dressed Caesar salad, but as it turns out, there is. It comes from Lardo. Let’s be clear…. this is a seriously high quality salad. Made of escarole and romaine, it also had anchovies, fried capers, and is normally served with croutons which, of course, we asked to be withheld. Also, LOTS of parmesan cheese! The dressing was more of a vinaigrette style than the usual creaminess one generally expects, but the flavor was pretty nice, if just a bit on the acidic side. The fried capers were a nice touch, and the anchovies were flavorful without being overbearing, and had a nice meaty presentation. Here’s the thing though…. I couldn’t really taste anything but the dressing. For all I know, the anchovies might have been incredibly fishy, but they couldn’t stand up to the tsunami of dressing on that salad. With less dressing, I think it just might have been one of the better Caesars in town.

We saw other folks’ orders coming out, and it seems that most of their sandwiches are normally served on a tall brioche bun that looked truly amazing. I was disappointed to have to decline it. I’m quite certain that if I’d ordered the burger normally with the intention of tasting but not eating the bun, I’d have failed miserably and eaten the entire thing!

Double Burger with Pork Belly

Double Burger with Pork Belly

Without it’s bun, my burger had a rather sad presentation and caused me to wonder if I’d leave the place hungry. Wow. Do not judge this book by it’s cover! It was rich, flavorful, delicious, and satisfying!! It’s called the double burger because it consists of 2 small patties, cooked to almost-well (brown all the way through, but still plenty juicy), 2 thick slices of melted white cheddar cheese, and a nice piece of pork belly on top, served with ‘Lardo sauce’ (which, from what I can tell, is simply mayo with some diced pickles in it) on the side. The beef was perfectly tender and was quite delicious. The pork belly was so melt-in-your-mouth that it was almost more of a condiment than a meat! The cheese was snappy and flavorful and served as a nice counterpoint to the earthiness of the beef and the saltiness of the pork belly. I did not ask if the Lardo sauce contained sugar, because a) I forgot to ask when ordering, and b) after I tasted it, I didn’t want to know the answer! It’s delicious! Having said that, it didn’t taste particularly sweet, so if it DOES have any sugar, it’s quite minimal. The bed of greens that substituted for my bun was pleasant. Fresh and crisp, not bitter, and lightly dressed with a simple oil and vinegar dressing.

Pork Belly and Fried Egg Sandwich

Pork Belly and Fried Egg Sandwich

Diana must have liked her pork belly and fried egg sandwich, because it disappeared in short order! It consisted of 4 strips of pork belly with white cheddar melted over it, and a fried egg on top. It too was served with Lardo sauce and the requested bed of greens. The egg looked to be just runny enough (though I’m sure if you’re of the ‘over-hard’ camp, they’d do that for you).

My grapefruit margarita was made from freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, and mezcal instead of tequila. If you like an astringent cocktail, this is the one for you. I loved it! The bitterness of the grapefruit really went nicely with the mineral-ly presentation of the mezcal. The salt on the rim was almost too much mineral for my palate. Diana’s Desert Cruiser consisted of green chartreuse, maraschino liquer, lemon juice and Limonata. In my pre-SCD days, I would have LOVED this drink. In fact, I *still* love this drink, it just happens that I can only have a sip of it. Sad!! It’s a very nice cocktail.

All told, our bill came to $41 before tip. If it were table service, I might have thought this an incredible bargain, but with the order-at-the-counter-and-take-a-number presentation, it felt a little dear. Combine that with the fact that it’s unclear whether or not one is supposed to bus their own table, and one could easily argue that Lardo is a little over-priced. Not grossly, mind you… but a little.

Should we find ourselves over in that part of town and craving some salty, meaty goodness, I could easily see myself going there again for quick meal. But for me, Lardo will likely not be a destination restaurant. Give it a try, let me know what you think!

Lardo
Cuisine: Burgers, Sandwiches, salads
Prices: $$
URL: http://lardopdx.com/
Address: 1212 SE Hawthorne
Other: Full bar, 13 taps, Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner.

8/8/2012

The Paleo Diet and SCD share a lot in common. The removal of grains, starches, and sugars in both diets mean that ‘cave people’ have as much difficulty eating out as we do. Given this huge overlap of dietary philosophy, you can imagine how excited I was to hear about the Cultured Caveman food cart, and even more so to hear that it was a mere 10 blocks from my house!

Allow me a momentary digression for those not familiar with the food cart phenomenon. You see them in every city… travel trailers in varying states of dilapidation, serving food of often dubious levels of sanitation. But here in Portland, food carts are A Thing. There are quite literally hundreds of them, gathered together at locations known as ‘pods’. As one would expect, many of them seem a bit sketchy, but many more of them are actually serving legit foods of a surprisingly high caliber. Sadly for me and most of my readers, very few of them serve food that we can eat.

Last night was date night, and Diana and I wanted something cheap, quick, and tasty. Obviously, it was time to give The Cultured Caveman a try!

Cultured Caveman's MenuBeing a paleo-centric eatery, CC’s food includes no grains, no starches, and the only sweetener used is honey. A perfect match for a hungry SCD-er! Like most carts, their menu is limited to a few specialized items, but as far as I can tell, every single one of them is SCD-legal.

None of the portions are terribly huge, nor are they terribly expensive, so between the two of us, we ordered the Grass Fed All Beef Chili, 2 of the Bacon Egg Frittata Muffins, the Paleo Chicken Tenders, the Beet and Walnut Salad, and 3 Bacon Almond Dates.

With the exception of the chicken tenders, everything else was ready to go, so we grabbed it off the counter and sat down.

Paleo Beet and Walnut Salad

Beet and Walnut Salad

The beet and walnut salad was a cool and refreshing treat on a hot Summer day. The dressing was just acidic enough to balance out the beets, and while I would have preferred that the walnuts were both roasted and more numerous, it was delicious.

Bacon Frittata Muffins and Bacon Almond Dates

Bacon Egg Frittata Muffins and Bacon Almond Dates

I’m totally inspired by these cute little frittata muffins! A brilliant idea, and so simple! Having said that, while the idea of these is brilliant, I felt like these fell just a hair short of their potential. They had a lot of little bacon bits in them, and were incredibly herbaceous looking, so I was surprised to find them a little on the bland side. A sprinkle of salt and pepper went a long way, but I’m a little puzzled as to where the flavor of all that bacon went. Nevertheless, these were toothsome and satisfying, and at the super-reasonable price of $1.50 each (well, 2 for $3, anyway), they were totally worth it! Also in this picture, you’ll see what look like greasy little turds. Believe me when I say to you that whatever negative response you might have to their appearance, you’ll be doing yourself a GRAVE disservice if you don’t try the Bacon Almond Dates. These little morsels are truly amazing! They are just what they sound like…. a date, stuffed with an almond, and wrapped in bacon. The end result is a study in contrast. The salty and sweet, the soft and the crunchy. It all comes together in a little mouthful of heavenly deliciousness!

Let’s be realistic here: Even under the best of circumstances, chili isn’t much to look at, and my attempts to photograph this grass-fed all-beef chili only made it look worse. But for everything it lacks in appearance, this bowl of heartiness makes up for it in rich, complex flavors and a pleasing texture. Like the menu says, this chili is made from 100% grass-fed beef, and contains no beans. The flavor and texture have a presentation remarkably similar to a mole, and even some of the sweetness that one might expect from that SCD-forbidden sauce. It was sweet enough, in fact, that I had to ask again for confirmation that it contains no sugar. I was assured that it does not, but that the cooking process does tend to lend it that sweetness. For 5 bucks, I had expected a larger portion but by the time I had finished it, I had come to realize that, thanks to it’s exceptional richness, this was actually a much larger portion than it’s mere volume might have led one to believe.

Paleo Chicken Tenders

Paleo Chicken Tenders

The chicken tenders were cooked to order, and took about 5 minutes or so. Made from bits of Draper Valley chicken breast, they are breaded with coconut flour, garlic, salt, and pepper, then deep-fried in grass-fed beef tallow, then served with some kind of aioli. If you’re expecting a McNugget, you’re going to be disappointed. If you’re expecting something quite a bit more sophisticated, complex, interesting, and delicious, well then, you’re in for a treat! The chicken was cooked perfectly, and the simple breading had a pleasing texture and flavor. Overall, there was just the slightest hint of a burned flavor… perhaps it was time to change the frying fat? But it was subtle enough that it didn’t detract terribly from the experience. The aioli was…. fine. Dipping my finger in it yielded a subtle and delicate flavor, but it just couldn’t stand up to the tenders and was somewhat lost against the mouthful of flavor they presented. I didn’t ask about the ingredients of the aioli, so if you’re concerned, you should clarify before ordering.

Cultured Caveman is a distinctly Portlandian kind of place… catering to a specific diet, while serving ALL of their food items in compostable packaging, delivering wackiness with a smile, and charging very little money for it all. While I generally prefer a less casual venue for dinner with my lovely wife, I’m relieved to know that there’s a place where I can get convenience food that a) I don’t have to worry about, b) is reasonably priced, and c) follows a set of business ethics that I feel good about supporting. I will definitely be returning to The Cultured Caveman!

The Cultured Caveman
Cuisine: Paleo
Prices: $
URL: http://culturedcavemanpdx.com
Address: 1477 NE Alberta PDX
Other: Open 7 days a week, 11-8

5/25/2012

The stretch of N. Mississippi between Fremont and Skidmore is one of Portland’s most hip and happenin’ neighborhoods right now. Smack in the middle of the gentrification process, it’s brimming with cool shops and restaurants. It reminds me a lot of NW 23rd back in the late ’80’s, or The Pearl District in 1993, when First Thursday was a bohemian love fest of grungy bands, dirty warehouses, loft SPACES instead of loft APARTMENTS, and edgy art that I could actually afford to buy.

I live just a mile or so from this little pocket of urban chic, so I spend a fair amount of time there. One of the most secret of the restaurants in this neighborhood is Equinox. I stumbled across it months ago, and promptly forgot about it, due to its hidden location and lack of any notable write-ups. Well, last night was date night, and Diana and I chose to give it a try.

For those of you that are only concerned about SCD legality, let me save you some time: It is POSSIBLE to eat legally here, but it is not easy.

For those of you that are interested in the whole package, allow me to continue..

One of the most exciting things about Equinox is entering the place. It’s on a side street, and set way back from the sidewalk. One walks through a beautiful fenced outdoor seating area (of which we chose not to avail ourselves, given the crappy weather), and has to look around to find the front door. Entering the restaurant proper, one is instantly faced with the question, “Omigod… how did I not know this was here?!?”. Decorated in rich earth tones and amazing wood floors, the space is instantly warm and welcoming, as are the greetings offered by the server. There’s just enough industrial, urban detail to keep the place from looking like a ski lodge. It was early on an off-night, so at no point was it terribly busy. I can easily see how at 7:30 on a Friday or Saturday, it might get quite loud in there, but we enjoyed a pleasant amount of ambient buzz.

Equinox’s menu is pretty typical of a Portland restaurant. Enough so, that if asked what kind of food they serve, I’d answer, “Portlandian cuisine”, which is a genre I just made up. For me, the most interesting part of their menu was the cocktail list. Mind you, this is not because the food is boring or uninteresting… it’s just that I’ve seen it all before.

We started off the evening with a couple of cocktails. I ordered The Clooney: a shaken-and-up drink with Crater Lake vodka, rosemary tincture, and lemon juice. Diana had the Garden Of Eden: muddled basil, cucumber, limes and sugar, with vodka, shaken and served up with a sugared rim and a slice of cucumber. It sounded divine, but if there was to be any cheating this evening, I wanted not to blow it so early in the evening. Diana tells me that it was quite nice. My The Clooney held great promise, but the reality was a little disappointing. The lemon totally overpowered the rosemary, and it just ended up being a fancy gimlet with lemon. I really had to work to taste the rosemary at all. It wasn’t bad, it was just under-realized.

For appetizers we ordered the duck confit sliders (sans bun, of course), and the proscuitto-wrapped shrimp, served with a wasabi aioli. The 2 duck sliders were served with pickled red onions, pesto, and sliced apple. They were really quite delicious, though I was surprised at how tender the duck wasn’t. Incredibly flavorful, but a little tougher than I would have liked. Also, I should point out that I didn’t ask enough questions about the appetizers… I’m 90% certain there were illegal ingredients in the duck confit. Also a result of not asking enough questions was the surprise I felt when the 5 smallish shrimp arrived and I saw that they were deep fried. I had simply assumed that they were sauteed. Fortunately, they had been deep fried without any batter, so while it’s possible there was something illegal in the wasabi aioli (besides, of course, the wasabi itself), I’m fairly certain the shrimp themselves were fine. Like the duck, I found the shrimp to be incredibly flavorful and just slightly overcooked. Before moving on here, I’d just like to go on record: the term ‘sliders’ is quite frankly the worst name for a food that has ever been created, and I look forward to a time when it has drifted out of our daily lexicon.

Diana and I both have a weakness for roasted beets, so we got pretty excited to find the Beets n’ Bleu salad. This was comprised of roasted beets, a warm strip of bacon, bleu cheese, and pickled red onion, tossed with meslun and a roasted fennel and orange vinaigrette. I was told that the dressing had a very small amount of sugar in it, but I chose to have it anyway. This salad was definitely one of the highlights of the evening! I don’t know what kind of bleu cheese they used, but it was VERY bleu, as well as smoothly textured, with a robust flavor that countered the earthiness of the beets beautifully, while the greens provided a vegetal bitterness that brought it all together nicely. I love salad dressing, so the more the better as far as I’m concerned. Some folks, on the other hand, might have felt that the salad was slightly overdressed. You won’t hear my say this very often, so you might want to write this down: The bacon almost seemed unnecessary. It was delicious, don’t get me wrong! But if had been served without bacon, I would not have noticed, and I would still have loved it.

For dinner, Diana ordered the pan seared pork loin, served with salsa verde and a chorizo ‘hash’. I put air quotes around the word hash here. It’s not really a hash when you have 4-5 artfully arranged disks of potato with a small, tidy pile of un-cased chorizo next to it. But they called it hash, so now it’s ‘hash’. The ‘hash’ had a thin brown sauce drizzled over it that tasted illegally sweet to me. The chorizo was mild but pleasant; to my palate, in need of a little more spice. The pork chop itself was delicious. Beautifully pan seared, with a nicely crisped exterior. Pork is notoriously prone to overcooking, and like the appetizers, I found the loin to be have been in the pan just a hair too long. Not so much as to make me consider sending back, just enough to show unrealized potential.

I ordered the EQ Burger: grilled Strawberry Mountain beef with aged white cheddar, pepper bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, pickled red onion, and a champagne-shallot aioli. Sans bun, of course. The menu offers a handful of sides, and from that list, I chose garlic green beans as a substitute for my french fries. It’s always a red flag for me when I order a fancy burger in a fancy place, and the server doesn’t ask me what temperature I’d like it cooked to. When eating a fancy burger in a fancy place, I fancy a rare or medium-rare burger. What I ended up getting was a solid medium. Not bad, just… under-realized. Having said that, I would also say that the beef was flavorful, delicious, and juicy, the cheese was of excellent quality, and the bacon was high-quality (though too thickly sliced to be easy to work with). I loves me some pickles on my burger! Sadly, these were bread-and-butter style pickles, which, after almost a year on SCD, taste an awful lot like equal parts vinegar and sugar… incredibly sweet. Also? Incredibly illegal. The garlic green beans were blanched, and then quickly sauteed in garlic and oil. They were quite generous with the garlic, so if you order this, you’d better like the stuff! Fortunately, I do, and they were great!

And as for SCD legality… I have to point out that *every single* entree was served with some kind of starchy side dish. With the sides available on the menu, many of them are easily substituted for more legal items, but others were simply too much a part of the dish to be easily swapped.

The dining room at Equinox is fairly large, with roughly 12-15 tables, and at least that many barstools, but there was only one server. He was incredibly friendly, and as attentive as he could be, but by the time we left, there were 9 tables occupied, and he was *really* having to work hard to keep up. Under the circumstances, his service was better than could be expected. He was available, friendly, and present. But he was necessarily rushed and not always available when I wanted him. This was not his fault… they really needed another server there. I tipped him well because I know that he did the best he could, and that he would have done better had he been able.

Equinox holds a lot of promise, and has everything it needs to be a really spectacular place. But if my experience there was typical, then that potential remains to be tapped. I’m hopeful that my experience was atypical, and I’ll likely give them another chance, but I know for a fact that, for the price point, I can do better than I did last night.

Equinox Restaurant
Cuisine: Portlandian
Prices: $$
URL: http://equinoxrestaurantpdx.com
Address: 830 N. Shaver PDX
Other: Open for weekend brunch, and dinner Tues-Sun. Happy Hour: Tues-Fri 4-6.

4/23/2012

If this page were any indicator, it might look like I haven’t eaten out much in the last couple of months. If you knew me in person, you would know this is patently absurd. That said, none of my dining experiences have seemed particularly blog-worthy lately.

But this last weekend, we tried something new. There has been a real renaissance lately along the N. Vancouver and N. Williams couplet. I’ve written previously about Lincoln, one of our very favorite restaurants in town, which is in the heart of this district. Just a block down Williams from Lincoln is the new The Box Social: A Drinking Parlour. Once inside, the reason for the name becomes obvious… The space is a box, pure and simple (It wasn’t until later that I found out that a Box Social is actually a thing. Via wikipedia: Box Social). The decor is, to my eyes, distinctively Portland-esque, not least because of the giant mural of the PDX skyline on one of the walls, but also in it’s comfortably eclectic selection of elements: equal parts cozy and swanky. I was particularly fond of the vintage 60’s-era light fixtures, though Diana found them less charming than I did. The service was prompt, friendly, and informative, and never made me feel rushed, no matter how busy it got. Cocktail preparations are a little on the slow side, but for cocktails of this caliber, I’m happy to wait! As the subtitle of the place indicates, The Box Social is all about cocktails. They have roughly 20 or so house recipes on the menu, all of which were tastefully creative and delicious sounding, and the 4 that Diana and I had between us were all skillfully mixed. I’m fairly certain that there was at least one illegal ingredient in each of these, but I have been known to make occasional exceptions for liqueurs.

But what you really want to know, of course, is, “How SCD friendly is it?”. So let me just be clear…. if you are a strict SCD-er, you’re going to have a difficult time here. Their menu is not extensive (remember, this is basically a modern-day speakeasy!), and it leans heavily toward breads. The stars of the menu are their sandwiches, which, from across the room, look amazing. Sadly, that was as close as I got to one. That said, there are a few things that us SCD folks can make do with.

The special appetizer this weekend was described as Caprese Sliders, which, apparently, are 2-bite portions of caprese served on slices of baguette. We ordered this sans bread. The plate had 5 neat stacks of sliced tomato, whole fresh basil leaf, and a ball of fresh mozzarella. A word to the cautious: Fresh mozzarella is most definitely NOT SCD-legal. If you’re wanting a dairy-based cheat, however, I can tell you that this was AMAZING!!! The tomatoes were a perfect balance of acidic and sweet, the basil was flavorful and tender, and the fresh cheese was creamy and delicious. The only thing I might have changed was to give it a more generous sprinkle of balsamic vinegar than it had. After that, we shared the Nibble Plate, a board served with some kind of dry-cured sausage from Olympic Provisions (My favorite local salumeria!), 3 different kinds of olives, a couple of Spanish cheeses (including manchego, for which I have a well-documented weakness), some spiced almonds, and 2 mustards. For the price, this was a reasonably generous portion, and almost entirely SCD-legal, the exception being the spiced nuts, which tasted suspiciously sweet to me. An inquiry with the server confirmed that they had a small amount of sugar. Finally, we shared the Black and Blue salad: This is warm, grilled, thinly-sliced strips of salami, with bleu cheese melted over them, served on a bed of caramelized onions and mixed greens with a red wine vinaigrette dressing. This was delicious… probably the bestest salad I’ve had in, like, ever dude! Sadly, I neglected to ask if the dressing had any sugar in it. It didn’t taste like it did, but if you’re strict, I’d ask first.

Overall, we definitely enjoyed our evening here, but I think The Box Social definitely qualifies as “SCD Risky”.

4/14/2012

One of my readers, and new friend, recently held a fundraiser for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America at Ford Food and Drink. I never know whether to call her Kristin or Apple… folks at the fundraiser seemed evenly divided, but one of these days I’ll have to ask her for clarification on that point. Her name aside, I just want to take a moment to thank and congratulate her and her husband, Shane, for raising over $2300 for the CCFA. So awesome!

But that’s not what this page is about…. you want SCD-oriented restaurant reviews, so without further ado, allow me to tell you about Ford Food and Drink. I’d heard the name around town a couple of times, but never with enough context to get any feel for the place, and their website was no help either…. no menu, very little verbage. So I showed up at Ford with little expectation beyond it being a restaurant. In this expectation, I was disappointed. Ford really is more of a neighborhood cafe. They offer pay-at-the-counter-and-take-a-number service, and while the menu does offer a few food items, it’s pretty much panini and salads. Not much else. They do, of course, like any cafe, have a delicious looking array of baked goods, and for Kristin/Apple’s (Krapple’s?) fundraiser, they were kind enough to bring in an extended selection of gluten free goodies. This did not help me. So, I ordered the only thing on the menu that was SCD legal: A caesar salad, topped with flaked albacore tuna, sans croutons (a grilled chicken breast is also an option, as is no meat at all). If you are a caesar salad purist, you may find this salad disappointing. The dressing was really more of a lemony vinaigrette… the garlic and anchovy were too subtle for my taste, and I don’t think there was any egg yolk in it at all. Having said that, once I accepted the salad on its own terms, it was… fine. The lettuce was fresh and crisp, they were pleasantly generous with the black pepper, and the albacore was delicious (and according to the menu, sustainably harvested, something of which I am always appreciative).

I will point out, however, as I said earlier…. this was the single, solitary SCD-legal (or easily altered) item on the menu. Lets face it: a panini with no bread? Not a successful substitution. It was obvious that Ford takes great care to use quality ingredients and that they have someone capable of delicious preparation. If they were to expand their menu such that there were more SCD-friendly items, I would definitely return. As it is, I can get a caesar salad anywhere. I don’t need to go back.

2/23/2012

Savoy Tavern and Bistro is a cozy joint in the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood of Portland. While I would certainly say it’s a bistro, tavern seems a bit…. underrating. It’s really quite a nice place, with a menu that can easily be adapted to accommodate an SCD-er. I met my dad (and later on, my lovely wife) there for dinner last night, and I’m glad we went. I hadn’t been there before and it was a pleasant surprise.

According to their web site, “The Savoy Tavern was established May 5th 2005 with the sole intention of bringing the dishes and tastes of the Midwest to Portland Oregon”. As someone who follows SCD, this raised both immediate flags and possibility for hope. After all, if we look at Midwest cuisine as “meat and potatoes”, then roughly half of it is SCD-legal!

My dad was running late, so I sat at the bar and caught just the last minute of happy hour, getting an order of their deviled eggs to snack on. Yes, you read that right…. hard boiled eggs, cut in half with the yolks scooped out, mixed with stuff, and put back in again. Typically, deviled eggs have mayo in them, which has the potential to be problematic, as most factory-produced mayo has some kind of sweetener in it. They assured me that their mayo was house made and contained no sugar. The eggs were super tasty, but definitely were NOT your mom’s party hors d’ouerves! They had a zippy hit of horseradish, and were topped with little bits of roasted beet. Highly recommended!! My dad arrived just in time to have the last one, then we moved into the restaurant.

Diana and I both have a bit of a fetish for a perfect wedge-of-lettuce salad, so I was pleased to see that they offered one. I ordered it, with the $0.50 bacon upgrade, of course! I was not disappointed. The ingredients were fresh and tasty. My only critique was that it could have used more dressing (but I think that about pretty much every salad!).

They offered an array of burgers and sandwiches that looked delightful. I was especially intrigued with the lamb sandwich, and even considered ordering sans bun. Instead I opted for the rib eye steak. It was one of at least 3 entrees (and a handful of appetizers) that appeared to be SCD-legal. It was described in the menu as being ‘dry rubbed’, so I confirmed with the server that there was no sugar in the rub. Entrees are served with your choice of 2 sides, with a variety of options available. I chose grilled asparagus and braised collard greens with pork. The rib eye itself was a generous cut and quite thick. I’d ordered it rare, and would offer a word of caution here…. don’t do this here unless you mean it! When served, it really was cooked more to blood rare than rare. Diana also had the rib eye and had a similar result. If you don’t like raw meat, be sure to order it medium-rare! Personally, I loved it. The meat was high quality and tender. The asparagus was perfectly grilled and seasoned, and the collard greens, while unwieldy due to not being chopped, were tender, succulent, and delicious.

I was pleased to see that the Savoy is strongly dedicated to local, organic sourcing…. this is a big deal to me. I was especially pleased to see that they purchase their cured meats from Olympic Provisions, which is currently my favorite salumeria. (Meanwhile, in related news, you know someone is a food snob if they say that they have a favorite salumeria!) I didn’t have room to order their charcuterie plate, but I will definitely make a point of it next time. [EDIT - I have since returned to Savoy and tried the charcuterie plate. It was lovely, but nobody on premises knew if the pate d'terrine that accompanied it contained any bread crumbs. I ate it anyway, and was not sorry! I'm reasonably certain that everything else was legal. The portion was reasonable, if not particularly generous, and the quality was very high.]

I should mention also that the service was pleasant and accomodating, if stretched somewhat thin (and therefore, slightly inattentive). Don’t misunderstand me… I mentioned that Diana joined us later in the evening, and they were more than happy to shuffle tables around to make room for our new guest. The food was served promptly, but not TOO promptly, and our every request was responded to with a smile, professionalism, and accuracy.

Overall, it really was a delightful dining experience. Despite the fact that I live on the opposite side of town, I will definitely be going back to Savoy! On a side note… their website says they have live music, but having sat in both the bar and the restaurant, I can’t even begin to imagine where they would set up!! I would guess that when live music is in there, it’s loud and crowded.

1/26/2012

Cabezon Restaurant is NOT where we intended to have dinner last night. It had been our intention to go to Poor Richard’s, a old-tyme steakhouse in NE Portland. Sadly, we discovered that Poor Richard’s shut it’s doors last September. Thus endeth an era. “Ok,”, we said, “We’ll head up the street to Clyde’s Prime Rib instead!”. It being a Thursday night, we didn’t expect that the parking would be literally overflowing with cars. It was quite obvious that they were bursting at the seams, and the last thing we wanted to do was to wait 45 minutes in the foyer. Lame. That neighborhood is FULL of amazing restaurants… most of which have very little food that is SCD-legal. Gustav’s Bier Stube? Right… pretty sure that traditional German food is going to go over so well. There are also tons of amazing Thai restaurants around there. But rice noodles and soy sauce? Curry with potatoes? I don’t think so. Fortunately we remembered Cabezon. Neither of us had been there, but it had been on our list of “Places we intend to try but never seem to remember when trying to decide where to go”. Perfect!

Cabezon is a prototypical Portland ‘neighborhood restaurant’. Cozy and welcoming, a little eclectic, and just the slightest hint that it doesn’t entirely know how it wants to present itself. Their menu revolves primarily around fresh seafood from the Pacific Northwest. All of their ingredients are locally sourced, which I think is terrifically awesome. The menu changes daily, depending on what’s in season and available. There were 6 entrees on the menu, 4 of which were seafood. They also had several amazing looking salads, and some delicious, if somewhat predictable appetizers. Most of the appetizers involved SCD-illegal ingredients at an intrinsic level and were therefore off limits. We opted then to start with an olive plate and a cheese plate (sound familiar??). The olive plate offered 3 different kinds of olives, and they were lovely. Fleshy, firm, and a little bit spicy. The cheese plate had 3 kinds of cheese: Chaumes, Manchego, and a mine-shaft-aged Bleu. It also included some sliced pear, a hunk of quince, and some roasted walnuts. They would have normally served it with bread, but at my request, did not. The cheese were outstanding, and while I normally dislike pear, this was pretty tasty.

I’d advised the server that I was on a restricted diet and could not eat grains, starches or sugars, so I was not surprised when he steered me towards either the lamb sirloin served with braised lentils and kale, or the grilled sturgeon served with roasted beets and grilled endive, and drizzled with a horseradish creme fraiche. I had already gathered of my own accord that those were the two most likely to be legal ‘out of the box’, without adjustment. I’d been leaning toward the lamb sirloin but when Diana said that she was getting it, I opted for the sturgeon. I always have mixed feelings about eating sturgeon. On the one hand, it’s not the most plentiful fish and they are slow to reproduce. On the other, IT’S AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS!!!! Anyway, I ordered it. I even opted for keeping the creme fraiche because, while it’s not yogurt, per se, it is a dairy product that has been cultured for 24 hours. Also, there just wasn’t that much of it… literally, just a drizzle. Both entrees were very good. The lamb sirloin was cooked to perfection, and the flavor profile struck a nice balance between gamey and ‘safe’. The sturgeon was toothsome, flavorful, and delicious. The roasted beets were luscious and velvety (and made my poo a funny color this morning!), and grilled endive was a perfect bitter counterpoint to the earthy beets.

Cabezon was a hands-down winner in my book. The service was friendly and accommodating, the food was fantastic, and they had several SCD-safe options for folks like us. The only criticism I had was that the food took a bit longer than I would have expected, but it was worth waiting for. Also, just a forewarning: Their prices are a bit on the high side for a dress-down neighborhood kind of place. All of the entrees were between $21 and $25. I also would note that you’re getting what you pay for: ultra-high quality ingredients that have been very well prepared. I don’t know that Diana and I will go back anytime soon, but that has everything to do with geography (they just aren’t that convenient to us) and nothing to do with what they offer. I heartily endorse Cabezon!

1/20/2012

Branch, A Whiskey Bar is a bar in my neighborhood (in the same block, as a matter of fact, as the earlier mentioned Bernie’s). Not surprisingly given the name, their specialty is bourbons and American whiskeys…. I’m pretty sure they have the best selection in town. Diana and I decided to check it out for the first time last night, enticed by our love of good bourbon and romantically dark hideaways. Having walked by and checked out their posted menu a few weeks ago, I had a pretty strong anticipation that I would have limited food choices, but figured that the worst that could happen is that we’d leave and go somewhere else.

I was right… options were definitely limited!! They had a few appetizers I could have, but for entrees, it was a burger or nothing. But first, the appetizers. We chose two: a Manchego cheese plate, and an olive plate. The Manchego was served with sliced apple, blanched and salted almonds, pickled peppers, and some kind of fig chutney. Everything on this plate was lovely… the cheese had that delightful Manchego-y crispness, the apple was tart and fresh, the almonds gave a delightful texture to each bit. The fig chutney tasted suspiciously sweet, so just to be safe, I let Diana eat it. The olive plate was pure, olive bliss! I’m not sure what kind of olives they were… large, green, firm and fleshy. I think they started with an M… Manzanilla, maybe? Anyway, they were lovely! And so rich, we couldn’t finish them all!

For dinner I had, SURPRISE!, a burger, no bun, and green salad instead of fries. I gotta say… this was, without a doubt, one of the best burgers I’ve ever had! A thick patty (I’m guessing 1/3 lb?), cooked to a perfect medium rare, it was topped with bleu cheese, grilled onions, and thickly-sliced bacon. So juicy and tender. Truly, if you’re looking for a new burger to try here in Stumptown, I can’t urge you strongly enough to check this place out!

Of course, we didn’t go for the burgers… we went for the bourbon, and herein lies my very rare treat/cheat. For a cocktail, I had their Branchattan: a Manhattan made with rye whiskey, Dojin sweet vermouth, Fee Bros. orange bitters, and a house cured cherry. Now, the SCD-compliant among you will be tsk-tsking me, as sweet vermouth is most definitely NOT legal, but given that a typical Manhattan recipe will only use about a half-ounce of the stuff, I decided to splurge. I held back and did not eat the almost certainly delightful cherry. Not surprisingly, this was a *very* nice cocktail. Also not surprisingly, the sweet vermouth gave me a bit of a headache. *le sigh*. Ah well… A vice isn’t much of a vice if it doesn’t cost you anything! But next time, maybe I’ll just try a tasting flight of bourbons, rather than a cocktail.

1/7/2012

Diana and I were long overdue for a holiday dinner with our dear friend Pat, so we took her out to one of our favorite restaurants, Linoln, in N. Portland. This was possibly my favorite restaurant in PDX before adopting SCD. That hasn’t changed. The service is friendly, knowledgeable and present, the food is well-prepared without being fussy, the portions is perfectly sized, and the quality of their ingredients is truly astounding. We’ve had a few post-SCD meals there now, and they’ve always been gracious and knowledgeable with my requests.

We started with 3 appetizers: a scallop crudo, some grilled octopus, and baked hen’s eggs. The crudo was Pat’s favorite. It was a small dish, of thinly sliced raw scallop, marinated in citrus and olive oil with just a dash of minced chervil. It was lovely. Velvety in texture, mild in flavor, and quite well balanced. The grilled octopus we’d had before. It had been brushed with a spicy sauce that the server assured me contained no starch or sugar, then quickly grilled, and served over a bed of mixed greens with a light vinaigrette. Let’s be clear… this is not the most attractive dish you’ll ever find, but if you can get past the presentation, I assure you that you will be well rewarded! The texture is nothing like you’d expect, and the zippy sauce is the perfect counterpoint to the flavor of the mollusk. The dressing on the greens did have a small amount of sugar, so I avoided that. And of course, there were the baked hen’s eggs. Diana and I have been to Lincoln at least a dozen times now, and I don’t think we have ever failed to order this surprisingly luscious, decadent, and amazing appetizer! Sadly, it is not SCD-legal due to the use of heavy cream, but for this dish, I am willing to make an exception. It’s a surprisingly simple affair: 2 eggs cracked into a baking dish with some heavy cream and green olives, baked until the egg whites are *just* firm. It’s typically served with herbed bread crumbs on top, but I always ask for those on the side (or to be withheld altogether). It doesn’t sound like much, but I warn you not to underestimate the power of this amazing dish. You will never think of eggs the same way again!

As an entree, I chose a cassoulet with rabbit, duck breast, sausage and white beans. The server assured me that the house-made sausage contained only meat, spices and herbs. This was a good example of the importance of not making assumptions. When I read ‘white beans’ on the menu, I pictured Great Northern beans. When the dish arrived, that wasn’t what I got. They beans were round, flat, and large. Not as large as a fava bean. Almost like a large, white lima bean. I’m pretty sure they were flageolet beans. Not surprisingly, BTVC has nothing to say about flageolet beans, so I chose optimism and ate them. I’m so glad I did! This was an incredibly delicious dish! The beans were tender without being mushy, the rabbit was perfectly cooked, the duck was rich and not too gamey, and that sausage… oh, that sausage!! I was glad that I couldn’t eat the whole thing, because that meant I got to eat more of it the next day! I was so involved in it, as a matter of fact, that I can’t remember what Diana or Pat had! With my cassoulet, I’d asked for a glass of very dry red wine. The server brought me a varietal I’d never heard of, from Ippolito. It was a perfect pairing.

The server had taken a shine to us over the course of the meal and though we declined dessert, she brought the table a creme caramel of some kind and 3 spoons. My dinner mates were lucky!! I, of course, merely watched while they devoured it, but I certainly appreciated the gesture.

Every time I have dinner at Lincoln, I’m reminded of why I’m so fond of it. The service is always nothing short of impeccable and the food is allowed to shine. I also appreciate that the owners are heavily involved in the daily workings of the restaurant, talking with customers, and even waiting tables sometimes. If ever you’re looking for a place to eat in N. PDX that will be amenable to your ‘pesky’ SCD questions and substitutions, I can’t recommend this place highly enough.

1/6/2012

It was date night last night, so Diana and I went out for dinner. After our first two stops were unavailable (Lincoln was close for a private party, and Cocotte was just inexplicably closed), we ended up at Bernie’s Southern Bistro. More Southern food! Of course, this meant a plate of warm cornbread. Sigh. I looked at it wistfully. I also took a small spoonful of the whipped honeycomb butter and just ate it by itself. So. Good!

As an appetizer, we share a roasted beet salad. So good! The beets were warm and served over mixed greens with crumbled bleu cheese and roasted walnuts. I did get a scare, as the walnuts were obviously glazed (I couldn’t tell in the dim light, but they were quite sweet!), but the server told me that it was honey, not sugar.

As an entree, I chose blackened catfish, which was served with some kind of stewed okra and tomato stew. The catfish was quite lovely, though it occurred to me this morning that I didn’t ask about their blackening mix, so it’s possible there was something in there I shouldn’t have eaten. The okra was obviously not SCD-sanctioned, so I allowed myself 1 small piece. It’s hard to say no to okra! As in a lot of Southern places, each entree was served with your choice of 2 sides. About half of them were obviously illegal (Mac and Cheese, Red Beans and Rice, etc), but there were at least 3 that were safe. I chose braised collard greens, and buttered peas. The collard greens had a lovely texture and the greens themselves were delicious, but the braising sauce in which they were served was overwhelmingly vinegary, to the point where it burned my throat and made my eyes water. Lucky for them, I like vinegar! Diana was not so impressed, however. My buttered peas were a delight of simplicity… just green peas with a generous hit of butter and a dash of S&P. Perfect! Diana’s entree was a roasted pork shank that was amazing! Tender, moist, and falling off the bone. She also had the collard greens as a side, as well as some mashed yams (she’s not a strict SCD adherent).

We’ve eaten at Bernie’s several times in the past, and I’ve no doubt we’ll be back there again (it’s one of my dad’s favorite places). It was a lovely meal, the service was friendly and prompt, and with a little caution, I was able to have a safe, delicious dinner.

12/24/2011

Christmas Eve dinner at Acadia Bistro. Let’s face it. Southern food of all kinds is comforting and delicious. There’s just no getting around that. There’s also no getting around the fact that the folks down South REALLY love foods that are not SCD-legal. Between the potatoes and the flour, it’s a real minefield of a cuisine! By the time we were trying to book a reservation though, this was pretty much the only place that could accommodate us, so Cajun food it was going to be!

As with most places, the meal started with bread and butter, which I merely ignored (much to the guilty pleasure of my daughter and father, who were more than happy to eat my share!). As an appetizer, I ordered a duck, goose and chicken liver pate. It was served with (surprise!) more bread, as well as some pickled veggies. I confirmed with the server that the pickling brine had no sugar in it. The pate was AMAZING! It was a country-style pate rather than a mousse, so it was easy to just cut bites off. As it turned out, one of the pickled veggies was okra. Now, pickled okra is, to my mouth, one of the greatest foods ever invented. EVER!! Sadly, okra is not SCD-legal, due to its mucilaginous interior. As such, one spear of pickled okra was my sole cheat for the evening. It was so worth it!

Entrees on the menu that night were almost all SCD-illegal by their very nature, and couldn’t have been substituted into compliance. One of the exceptions was a New York Strip Loin. It was slated to be served with mashed sweet potatoes, but one of the sides on the menu was roasted brussels sprouts and the server was kind enough to substitute them for me. I was sure to confirm that there were no grain, sugars or starches in either the sprouts’ sauce or the beef’s bleu-cheese butter. This entree turned out to be… wow… so delicious! NY Strip has never been my favorite cut of beef and it generally disappoints, but apparently the strip loin is another matter altogether. I ordered it cooked rare, and it was perfection. Buttery-tender with just a hint of seared bitterness on the outside. And the brussels sprouts were out of this world! I can’t wait to try and duplicate them at home.

Dessert is always a problem when dining out. If I’m lucky, sometimes places will have a fruit and cheese plate which is always lovely. More often that not, however, dessert must be foregone. That was indeed the case here. So, while other folks noshed on what looked to be outrageously delicious sweets, I had 2 fingers of Blanton’s bourbon, neat, and a cup of coffee. It really was a nice way to finish off a delightful meal. Diana and I will definitely be going back here again. The food was delicious, the service was great, and they were incredibly helpful with my substitution requests.

12/20/2011

Ethiopian food at Bete Lukas. This meal got its own post, here

About these ads

12 thoughts on “My Cranky Gut’s SCD Restaurant Reviews”

  1. OK then…big thank you for doing my dining out homework because I never have time! I’ve made my list and I’ll let you know. I’m giving you a shout out for ‘SCRATCH” in Lake Oswego – delicious and Chef Patrick always adapts to my SCD-needs/wants.

  2. halle preisch said:

    I eat at Laughing Planet- the Paleo bowl with out the sauce. A bit spicy, but yummy and filling. I was thinking of making huge batches of SCD chicken soup and a tweaked dairy-free SCD muffin (almond meal with carrots, raisins, walnuts, coconut flakes) and selling them to people who would appreciate this food all prepared and ready to devour,

    • Good call, Halle…. that paleo bowl is pretty darned tasty!

      I’m definitely interested in hearing more about your business idea!! Let me know when you have some product for sale!!

  3. Kyle Woelber said:

    Thank you so much for your reviews, my wife and I just spent the week in Portland and had no idea how we were going to enjoy the city dining being on SCD, this blog was such a great resource for us, we found the Cultured Caveman Cart and had such an amazing experience there and also Dick’s Kitchen was the SPOT for me! Thank you so much for taking the time to blog this, it was a major help!
    Blessings,
    Kyle

    • I’m so glad you found them useful! I’ve been trying to compile some from outside of Portland so if you’d like to write one up and send it my way is love to publish it! I’m happy to hear that youwere able to enjoy some of our terrific dining.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 700 other followers