3 Things You Must Eat in Portland this July

Portland Monthly food critic Karen Brooks dishes on the restaurants, obsessions, and under-the-radar finds of the month.

By Karen Brooks June 22, 2015


Little Bird


While everyone was busy sussing out the next hot spot, five-year-old Little Bird has quietly rebooted as Portland’s most exciting “new” restaurant. The downtown bistro’s cooking feels vital and experimental, like a playful food lab unfolding on our plates. What’s changed? Co-owner Gabriel Rucker, the James Beard double-medaled lord of Le Pigeon, is in the house, following longtime chef Erik Van Kley’s late-April departure. Rucker is remaking the menu in his own image, forging a fresh direction for Little Bird, somewhere between Paris and America’s culinary underbelly. That means foie gras capped in crispy chicken skin or extraordinary veal meatballs luxuriating in escargot cream (above), like a strange fever dream that finds Tony Soprano dining at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Another hit? The Double Brie Burger, fantastically juicy, cloaked in cheese funk, lifted with sharp, mustardy béarnaise, then counterpunched with spicy, crunchy, pickle-intensive ketchup. 215 SW Sixth Ave, littlebirdbistro.com


Northwest market Conserva has quickly emerged as a tiny temple to Spanish and French cooking, each shelf a treasure chest of hard-to-find ingredients, from regional Spanish vermouths to Iberico ham. Owners Manuel and Leslie Recio also stock some prized finds from their chef-
beloved Viridian Farms, including their famed padrón peppers. The couple’s newest offering: daily tapas, to go. Watch for cheese paired with quince paste from Southern Spain, or boquerones beneath color-saturated “olive-oil caviar,” jarred by modernist legend Ferran Adrià of El Bulli fame. 1720 NW Lovejoy St, conservapdx.com  

Sage Hen


Local pop-ups can be anywhere or about anything—even 100-year-old desserts concocted before your eyes in a space so small you can turn sideways and say hello to a 50-pound sack of flour. Meet Sage Hen, all eight seats of it, one weekend a month inside Trifecta Tavern & Bakery’s pastry kitchen. Over roughly two hours, pastry chef Eve Kuttemann—a veteran of Michelin-starred Paris kitchens and Portland’s Castagna—unveils a punch-bowl cocktail, a couple of Great-Grandma’s party snacks, and desserts meticulously sourced from tomes like the Triumphs of Women Book, 1911–1935. A recent night veered from two-bite creamed chicken pastries to junket (sweetened cold milk, rennet, and strawberries) to a so-so graham pudding to a dreamy, meringue-draped Philadelphia White Mountain cake that tasted like luxe Twinkies. Sometimes, Kuttemann’s charming recipe tales are more exciting than the actual bites. The real sweetness is experiencing one woman’s journey. 726 SE Sixth Ave, reservations at [email protected] 

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