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Portland Dining Month: An excuse to experiment

At $29 for three courses, Portland Dining Month is a good excuse to go out and experiment and try new cuisine like at Aviary on Alberta.
At $29 for three courses, Portland Dining Month is a good excuse to go out and experiment and try new cuisine like at Aviary on Alberta.
Elizabeth R. Rose

Budget-minded, belt-tightening folks usually skip eating out... at innovative, pricey restaurants, anyway. A meal out might be at The Spaghetti Factory or a local diner like Tigard's Davidson's. These thrifty folks ignore the latest news about up and coming Portland chefs. They turn away when their friends talk about the latest trend in foodie Portland.

Aviary Appetizer for Dining Month
Elizabeth R. Rose

But wait. Portland Dining Month is an opportunity to expand culinary horizons, to experiment with new food trends and see what all the buzz is about while sticking to your dining budget.

Portland Dining Month takes place annually. This year was a particularly good one. The big name restaurants and big name chefs hopped on the band wagon and offered $29 three-course menus so most anyone could try out their fare.

A good friend of mine, daunted by the usually pricey menu at Genoa, was thrilled to dine there during restaurant month. Their usual tasting menu serves up five courses for $70. Add in wine pairings and the bill would be sky high. Even with wine pairings her restaurant month bill was less than that. What did she get? Well, you must read her recap and see her photos as she describes such delights as "Cappellini pasta made with smoked eggs and smoked flour, with smoked clams and shaved cod “chorizo” on top and espelette jus. It was simply delicious. It was also artfully arranged to look like a crustacean. I would have gladly eaten a giant bowl of this." Full Article.

As for my restaurant month selections, I decided to experiment. That's not something I can easily do within my budget. I started with Ración and learned about the collection of high-tech cooking techniques known collectively as “molecular gastronomy." In an all electric kitchen filled with gadgets like immersion circulators, the chefs artfully prepared small plates for our three-course experience. I now know what all the fuss is about and why Portlandia featured Molecular Gastronomy in one of their skits.

And, I finished with Aviary on Alberta, where the food is based on French technique with Asian fusion elements. As we sat in the simple, industrial dining room, we marveled at the way the ingredients were used and presented. The cocktails were as fascinating as the dishes. Creative, innovative and, well, modern.

Now that restaurant month is over, I am pleased to say I have more to talk about in foodie circles and have learned some new words and new names. But, with my budget before me, I am led to return to food carts, farmer's market finds and the simplicity of a good pizza Margherita. I'll eagerly await next year's Portland Dining Month.

Enjoying the Portland Area
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