Portlandia & Dinner at Ned Ludd (8/23/12)

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I should be elated to jet off to a food mecca like Portland, but the guilt is gnawing at me. The night before my solo trip, my normally stoic little boys went to bed with big tears rolling down their cheeks. Between choked sobs, they turned their puppy-dog eyes to me and demanded that I stay home. Ai-ya.

"Weird. They don’t seem to mind when I leave on business trips," my husband noted.

Heh-heh.

In the morning, I packed Big-O’s lunch for the last time this week and walked him to school. When the bell rang, I gave him a fierce mama bear hug and glumly trudged back home.

To make myself feel better, I reheated leftover pressure cooker kale and topped it with two fried eggs. Runny yolks and melt-in-your-mouth kale make the world a better place.

After Henry left for work, I tossed some clean laundry into a bag and caught a ride to the airport with my pops.

It’s been a while since I traveled all by my lonesome, and I have to say that getting through TSA lines and onto an airplane is sooooo much easier sans kids. Once I settled into my seat, I napped and ate a sampler pack of TX Bar Organics' new jerky. (Not at the same time, obviously.) I give it a big thumbs-up — it's savory, slightly-fruity, and sliced super-thin. Before I knew it, the plane had touched down.

Portland is just how I pictured it: a funkier, more hipster version of Seattle. As soon as I arrived at the hotel, I met up with Cheryl, my pal and author of one of my favorite cookbooks. We strolled around our hotel and came across…nothing. Sadly, our hotel appears to be located in a culture-free zone; there’s no local flavor or interesting spots to hit — unless you’re a big fan of Quizno’s or Sears. No matter — Cheryl and I had a fine time chitchatting and catching up.

At dinnertime, we ventured to Ned Ludd, an “American Craft Kitchen” owned by the super-smiley, heavily-tatted Jason French. (Seriously: I love that his arms are covered with food-related ink, including an artichoke and a meat grinder.) What’s amazing about Ned Ludd is that Jason turns out remarkable meals equipped with just a two-burner hot plate, a steam table, a small alto-shaam, and a wood-fired oven. That takes some mad skills.

The dinner was hosted by Cheryl and Lynne Curry (author of Pure Beef), and we were joined by a group of gals well-versed in the Portland food scene: Ivy ManningMartha Holmberg, Lisa Hill, and Brittany Wilmes.

Chef Jason sent out a complimentary starter of carpaccio in Lynne’s honor. Her cookbook is a fantastic resource on how to tackle EVERY cut of grass fed beef.

Then, we each picked a dish from the Bits menu that we shared family-style. My two favorites included the spicy charred brassicas with chili conserve and boquerones…

…and the pork “noodles” with bacon, chanterelles, tomatoes, and parmesan. Yes folks, these were silky and soft “noodles” made from pork skin. Amazingly tender and unctuous.

For my main dish, I ordered the whole roasted trout with Walla Walla onions, cucumbers, and salad greens.

Throughout the dinner, Chef Jason came out to chat and even brought over a tin of locally-sourced Jacobsen Salt when one of the ladies requested salt.

Lots of lively conversation and advice. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to get to know these ladies, and to learn from their experiences as food writers and professionals.

Can’t wait for the rest of the weekend!


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