Portland’s second Dishcrawl went off without a hitch.
For those of you unfamiliar with this national and international happening, Dishcrawl features an evening in which you visit four restaurants within walking distance of each other. Started in the Bay Area by Tracy Lee, Dishcrawl events offer attendees the opportunity to experience wonderful food and drink, the company of about 20 people and some mutual food love.
Dishcrawl ambassadors, who organize these events, are now in more than 200 cities, many in our neighbor country to the north. When possible, the events are monthly or more frequently. Rain or shine, foodies gather for a progressive dinner at a variety of different restaurants, starting with appetizers and ending with dessert. Each stop is under 45 minutes, and generally after the first stop, some nibbles and a drink, the folks are fast friends and the crowd moves on. And yes, it is rain or shine, which could mean a new pair of rain boots or an umbrella for Oregonians.
The event I attended featured four well-known haunts in the east Burnside area with very different styles and vibes. We started at the wonderful, interesting and always-delicious Navarre restaurant, where we were served a housemade pork paté with prunes, a rapini frittata, and their pretty amazing crab cakes, bound with a scallop mousse and no breading. I purchased a glass of wine that Navarre suggested would be a perfect pairing for the three spectacular dishes (drinks are extra). Honestly, after 10 minutes, I felt that I had 20 new friends.
Next we headed to Tapalaya, a first for me, and the food was terrific. Irene Squizzato, Portland’s Dishcrawl ambassador, was loving how happy everyone was, and I’m sure was busy planning her next event. The colorful and festive Tapalaya restaurant serves Creole food, and we thoroughly enjoyed a risotto-style jambalaya with chorizo, chicken and shrimp, bacon-spiked collard greens and a grilled pork loin with a blue cheese drizzle, which was a terrific pairing. (All restaurants accommodated the vegetarians.)
We headed to our third stop, the muted, rustic yet sophisticated restaurant June. Not being much of a drinker, the second glass of wine I had at Tapalaya was kicking in, so I cut myself off, switched to iced tea, and was trying to be culinarily discerning while munching on the offerings of this small and serious feeling restaurant. It worked and I was loving the artful preparation of June’s very spicy sausage-stuffed ravioli with peas, lamb, ham and cheese topped asparagus with Romesco, and a porcini carpaccio tossed with pickled cucumbers and spring onions.
Our last stop was at Spints on NE 28th street. We were all ready for dessert, although a couple of people said they wished they could continue on with the same crowd and go to four more restaurants. We enjoyed our three excellent desserts, and learned that pastry chef Laurie Donaldson had done time at Chez Panisse. The sipping chocolate served with the completely house-made s’mores was liquid velvet, and the apple bread pudding rich yet light at the same time. The third dessert was a chocolate espresso torte that probably was flourless. It was smooth, deeply flavored and melted in your mouth. No one rushed us out, and we sat and chatted about how much fun the whole thing was and when we could do it again.
Portland being the super food city that it is, the possibilities of restaurants and neighborhoods seem endless. Dishcrawl was a blast. Keep your eye out for future events and when winter comes, pull on those new boots and head over.
Food lover, chef and cookbook writer Laurie Wolf has been cooking professionally, writing about food and developing recipes for most of her adult life.