Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Scrawny Birds and Fish Eyeballs: I Heart Olympic Provisions

Monsieur boy and I attended another delightful Portland Audubon presentation last night, which got us thinking ….. about marinated quail a la plancha, a staple at Olympic Provisions.

The Quail a la Plancha- literally translated to “grilled on a plate”- is made right before your eyes, as is everything at Olympic Provisions, if you are fortunate enough to nab a seat at the bar. Watching the chefs at work is like watching performance art. There is a fluid, symbiotic relationship between the cooks that is just fascinating to observe. Their grilling plate is the cooking surface they use to create most of their meat/fish dishes. Order Up! One quail, and one seared sardine.

But of course, we must start with cured meats! The charcuterie plate is a must, as Olympic Provisions is Oregon’s first USDA certified meat-curing facility. Links of chorizo, sopressatta, and other salamis dangle oh-so-fetchingly behind the kitchen. Add to it their creamy pork liver mousse and rillettes, cornichons, and what appears to be house-made mustard. Mmmmm …. must …. get …… meat ….. now. I am a sucker for “rustic” or “old world” cuisine, and these guys have it down pat; pure and simple, but certainly not primitive.

Now the quail dish enters the scene. The first bite I plunge into, I get a salty, bacony resonance with the tender meat. Next bite, filled with a fantastic stuffing primarily of pine nuts and raisins. The kicker: Basmati rice with cilantro yogurt. Bright and tangy. I’ve never had rice quite like this. I am ready to lick the ramekin clean.

I recover with a sip of wine and carry on. Sardines! Seared with pickled raisins and tomatoes. Crispy, flaky skin lightly topped with vinaigrette gives way to the briny little treasure inside. You can’t be afraid of ingesting a few minuscule bones – you’ve got to get every morsel of flesh these little guys have. Speaking of every morsel, it’s time for a dare; fish eyeballs. Being a fan of Andrew Zimmern and his bizarre food adventures, I know that you are required to try everything at least twice before giving your final appraisal. Thus, I am committed to two sardine eyeballs. Not too bad, once you get over the challenging texture. It’s kind of like eating a mini, peeled Concord grape, complete with seed inside. Congratulations from boy, more wine, and back to the good stuff.

107 SE Washington
Olympic Provisions is in the industrial district, within the old B&O warehouse that has been remodeled into the
Olympic Mills Commerce Center . The building now hosts local art, a fabulous looking (though rarely open) wine shop, and other enterprises.

1 comment: