I had just arrived in Portland and after dropping my luggage off at The Jupiter Hotel I quickly freshened up and spun out the front door bound for my first feast in the city. I was beyond pleased to discover that dinner that evening would be a wee hop, skip and a jump from my bedroom.
Chef Gabriel Rucker has been recognized as one of the top chefs in America, with menus that push the envelope on traditional dishes. Since Gabriel launched Le Pigeon in June of 2006, he has been named Portland Monthly’s Chef of the Year, The Oregonian’s Rising Star Chef, Restaurant and Hospitality Magazine’s Rising Star, Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs and nominee for the 2008 James Beard Rising Star of the Year Award. Seems as though everyone that dines at Le Pigeon unanimously gives Chef Gabriel starry eyed reviews!
The space is petite. As soon as I enter through the front door I can see all corners of the room with a quick glance. The host motions me to a tall stool overlooking an open kitchen. A cute chef winks up at me as I awkwardly shuffle into my seat. I blush, red lobster.
I intended to start my first meal in Portland by sipping through top notch local vino. Wines from this region aren’t wildly available at Toronto restaurants so I was rather unfamiliar with the list. I trusted my waiter in suggesting a crisp Pinot Gris from Willakenzie Estate.
Over the course of the next two hours I sipped a few glasses dry while entertaining myself with the flick of knives, splattering of spatula and the meticulous plating details offered up by the choir of handsome cooks who stood before me.
I’d been advised by my hotel concierge that Le Pigeon serves up the best burger in town, but when it came time to ordering I felt as though I was committing a bit of a culinary crime by doing so. One should first start by tipping their hat to the sign over the door, sweet glazed pigeon pairs nicely with eggplant, fig, yogurt and carrot vinaigrette. Fans of the fish will adore the freshness provided by albacore, a pepper and coriander crusted spicy tuna rillettes paired with creamy avocado, honey dew and green tomato. Pasta perfection can be found in a bowl of orecchietti adorned with veal porcini ragu and a novel fried gnocchi tossed in tomato, pecorino, saffron and tarragon honey. An unexpected reinterpretation of the humble potato dumpling offered up as a crispy confection.
After a long day of travel, eyelids hung heavy on my face. Half awake I pressed myself to indulge in the whimsical “Build Your Own Ice Cream Sandwich” signature sweet featuring an unusual selection of yeasted potato buns, salted honey ice cream and apricot jam. Food coma soon ensued and I was waddling myself right into bed.
willakenzie estate, yamhill carlton district, oregon
grand cru kirchberg, domaine jean sipp, alsace
pepper and coriander crust spicy tuna rillettes, avocado, honey dew, green tomato
eggplant, fig, yogurt, carrot vinaigrette
veal porcini ragu, fresh ricotta
tomato, pecorino, saffron, tarragon honey
Build Your Own Ice Cream Sandwich
yeasted potato bun, salted honey ice cream, apricot jam