My father says: “you know, when people travel they double their eating and halve their praying.” That does happen when I travel. Well the eating does. It happened in Portland multiple times.
One night for dinner we decided to try Park Kitchen, which came recommended by a friend and approved by our shy valet, who could not make eye contact even if his life depended on it. Looking in every direction he said: “Park Kitchen is one of the best. Well in Portland we have so many good restaurants that the critics have trouble choosing between them.”
Park Kitchen’s menu apparently changes every season. So, once we settled at our table by the window under the glow of candlelight , we decided to order a few small plates to maximize our experience. Interestingly, the chickpea fries with squash ketchup won our vote. The brown fries, presented in a funnel-shaped dish, had a perfect crispy exterior that yielded to a supple, steamy interior. They were accompanied by a side of squash ketchup to add a mild sweet plus the smallest hint of sour taste to them. It was a delicious combination.
On the way back, we would walk by a block of food stands, which were typically closed at night.
Food stands in Portland reminded me of an outdoors Marche’ (the restaurant with multiple international food stations. We used to have one in Boston at the Prudential mall). The pods close to our hotel covered four blocks. A square of international cuisine offering savory, sweet, vegetarian and carnivorian dishes.
Some vendors were more willing to let you sample their signature creations, like the German guy with his special-recipe bratwurst or the upbeat African-American lady in the barbecue stand, who claimed to have started cooking at age three. Others just had you read the menu and decide, then pay before you could taste…well…the whole meal.
So, after our Park kitchen dinner, in the dark of the night, a beacon of light beckons us. Snow White House crepe stand. With the intention of “just looking” we stop by. But two pages of crepes: sweet on one side and savory on the other stare us in the face. Now we HAVE to try something. A Chinese woman, who looks like a peach, pink and round, is behind the counter. When she sees us fussing over two dessert crepes, she recommends the one with fruit because “it’s easier to digest at this time of night.” We ask for the ice cream crepe instead.
Abigail, the peach, starts on our crepe but in the meantime she is quietly reading us. As the shell is getting ready she declares herself a certified palm reader and offers to read our palm if we wanted. He volunteers me first.
“Hold both your hands up, close your fingers and open your thumbs.” She says. I do. She keeps repositioning my hands with her pen.
“You ah writah. You have two brains.”
Ooh I like that. She is onto something. I perk up.
“You have two children.”
Crap. She is totally off.
“Too stubbohn to wuhk for others.” Here we go. Redeemed. I figure I can forgive her one mistake.
She goes back to preparing the giant crepe, and continues talking as she layers all the sweets she can find in her fridge and on her counter: a coat of nutella, couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream, some whipped cream, a drizzle of chocolate sauce, and powdered sugar. Then makes a triangle, wraps it in foil and hands it to him, who gets busy eating immediately with such appetite you wouldn’t think we just came from dinner. She tells me a little more about how I’m a romantic and love being in love. I just want her to hurry before he eats the whole thing. “Do you have any questions?” I don’t. She starts reading his palms as I finish the rest of the crepe, layer upon layer of sweet taste.
To my elitist epicureans, who have tasted Parisian crepes suzettes, no this doesn’t come close, but where else can you get food and fortune-telling in one spot?
I say try it just for the fun of it.