The embarrassment, for one, is gone. In the Portland dining scene right now — and around the world? — it seems that you’ll find more creativity in the approach to, more pride in the presentation of, more interest in the search for new (or return to old) cuts and pieces and parts of, and in general more excitement about meat than about any other comestible.
Even a cursory glance through the menus of the newest, hippest, and most talked about restaurants around the city reads like an anatomy lesson: pig feet and tail, beef tongue and heart, livers and sweetbreads, and of course shanks, steaks, ribs, and bellies of basically anything that bleats, moos, oinks, or quacks. (And fois gras, despite the recent fracas, seems to be here to stay. Clyde Common servers are kind enough to tell us that — if we’re feeling the need — we can add foie gras butter to anything.)
But the really interesting thing is that all of this seems to be happening at a time when bad news about recalled beef — or about the ecology of our carnivorous appetites more generally — hits every day.
Is it possible that the ranks of unabashed carnivores are growing even as vegetarians and vegans gain in number? Each of the butchers, chefs, ranchers, and distributors that I’ve talked to in the last few days pointed out that they know vegetarians who’ve recently fallen off the veggie wagon. (And they tell me bacon is the most common gateway drug.) Have you noticed this? If not, how does meat-crazy Portland square with the seemingly simultaneous ascendance of a meatless life? Is it possible that both are happening at the same time?
And what about you? Do you see poetry in pork belly — as long as it’s raised locally and sourced from a rancher you know by name? Have you come back to duck confit because nothing will else do? Are you honoring animals… by eating snout to tail?
- Gabriel Rucker: Chef of Le Pigeon
- Cory Carman: Co-owner of Wallowa Valley Grass-Fed
- Benjamin Dyer: Owner of Viande Meats & Sausage and partner in Simpatica