A Cena, WillaKenzie, and The Painted Lady
Everyone assumes I moved to Oregon for the wine. That's part of the reason, sure, but using 1000 Corks I can find great Oregon wines almost anywhere in the United States. After all, as long as I'm careful not to place an order during a heat wave, wine travels really well.
The truth is I moved to Oregon for the food! Particularly the restaurants. Food doesn't travel nearly as well as wine, so it's awesome to live in a city with a great culinary scene. And right now, Portland and the surrounding areas have the best restaurants in the United States.
Last week I got to try a Cena. I asked the waiter what the best thing on the menu was and he was emphatic that I had to order the Agnolotti. It was filled with corn and mascarpone, and served with an ample portion of lobster mixed in.
The waiter was right, it was to die for...both figuratively, and perhaps literally. I could swear they must have used half a stick of butter. Still, at least I'll die happy!
A Cena also makes their own limoncello in house. And it was our waiter who made it fresh every few days. As he explained it to me, he uses grain alcohol and lemon zest. It was so good, when I have some time in the next few weeks I think I'll try to make some on my own.
Lastly they had the most amazing sea salt caramel gelato for desert. Don't miss it.
Last week I also had the chance to visit what is fast becoming one of my absolute favorite wineries in Oregon, WillaKenzie Estate.
I'd only had their Pinot Gris before, both the late harvest and the regular. They are both amazing. Today I got to try their wonderfully fruity Pinot Blanc. I also was wowed by their Pinot Noirs (and it takes a lot to wow me with a Pinot Noir). But these did it!
Even their cheapest bottle, the Estate Cuvee was amazingly drinkable, and was clearly better than most of the $50 Pinots I've tried. Even better was the Kiana. But the best was a special bottle that they don't normally pour as part of the tasting, the Terres Bases. If you ask really nicely, maybe they'll give you a taste.
One trend I've noticed is that recommended food pairings are getting more and more generic. It seems like many bottles that I see in the market have tried to grow their market share by being as encompassing as possible. Recommended wine pairings such as "this wine tastes great accompanied, by chicken, steak, pasta, fish, or veggies. Or just enjoy it by itself," seem to be more and more common.
But WillaKenzie Estates is thankfully going the exact opposite way. Here's their recommended pairing for the Kiana: "goat cheese gnochhi or tagliatelli with wild boar bolognese". Now that's a specific pairing! I just need to sharpen my spear and find me a wild boar to get started.
In an interesting coincidence, the chef of a Cena, Gabe Gabreski will be barbecuing May 25 and 26th at WillaKenzie estate. And it's only $20 a person, including the food, the wine tasting, and a Pinot Noir glass. When you figure a meal at A Cena will cost you well over $20 without wine, and the WillaKenzie estate winery normally charges $20 for a wine tasting (without any food), this is an awesome bargain.
It gets even better, in that if you join the WillaKenzie Estate cellar club while you are there, they will give you back your entrance fee. And since they make the most amazing wines, it may be hard for you not to join.
Plus the winery has some awesome steers. How can you not like that?
While you're there make sure you pick up a bottle of the late harvest. It's not sold or available anywhere but at the winery and at my current favorite restaurant, The Painted Lady.
The Painted Lady
I've now eaten at The Painted Lady five times, including three times in the past six weeks. Every time someone asks me where I want to go to dinner the answer is always the same, The Painted Lady. Particularly when someone else is treating!
If I was forced to sum the restaurant up in a sentence, I'd say: "The Painted Lady is 90% as good as the French Laundry at 33% of the price."
That summary, perhaps, isn't fair to either restaurant, but The Painted Lady is absolutely amazing. And it seems that each time I go there, it gets even better.
Last time I was there I ordered the eight course tasting and everything was fantastic, but the absolute best dish was the Agnolotti. (La Cena and The Painted Lady are both featuring Agnolotti...is there a new trend that no one told me about? And isn't Agnolotti just a way of saying ravioli?)
They offer a stinging nettle agnolotti, with amazing prosciutto, wild mushrooms, white italian summer truffles and Oregon truffle foam. It was accompanied by a Walter Scott wine. I hope you get a chance to try it!