Saturday, January 8, 2011

Grain and Gristle

While home for the holidays, I had an interview in Portland, at the Oregon Health and Sciences University. About a 3 hour drive south of Seattle, I decided to bring 2 of my friends along and call it a road-trip. The plan was for us to enjoy the food scene in Portland, and while I was at my interview answering questions such as: "Why are you interested in becoming a surgeon?" they would get their float-on at a place called Float On.

So before I talk about the food, get this: Portland has a place where people pay $40 each to float in tanks of Espom salt-saturated water for 90 minutes. The idea first came about when a neuroscientist - John C. Lilly, wanted to design a means of eliminating all sensory input for the control patients in his research experiments. Later on, the idea was adapted as a deep relaxation technique. According to Float On's website, this state of zero sensory input and deep relaxation causes the release of dopamine and endorphins. I can't recall learning anything about the physiology behind this phenomenon in med school, but maybe it's true. Honestly, I don't remember a whole lot from my Neurology rotation. I remember the ugly stripe of yellow paint on the walls of Bellevue Hospital's unit 7-East, where most of our neurology inpatients were housed. Other than that... not much.

Anyway, on the night of our arrival to Portland, we went to a small restaurant called Grain and Gristle, a place with un-pretentious and homey food that matches it's un-pretentious and homey decor. Their menu changes monthly, and always has a nice selection of beer.

When we arrived it was hoppin', so we were seated at the bar rather than being forced to wait for a table.

For appetizers we ordered:

1. Rillette with pickles and brown bread. Rillette is pork dish prepared similarly to pate. It takes on it's paste-like consistency due to the large amount of fat that the pork is cooked in. The "pickles" that came with the dish were pickled mushrooms and pickled onions. The Onions were yummy. The mushrooms not so much.
2. Spiced pork rinds with mustard dip. I'm not personally a fan of pork rinds, so I did not taste this. Plus - got to watch the coronary arteries. It would be pretty embarrassing to need a bypass by the time I hit the not-so-ripe age of 26.
3. Freedom fries - these were pretty much French fries (served in America) and with a dash of salt and pepper on top. Woop-di-doo
For my entree, I ordered the braised pork shoulder which was served on a bed of kale and with a dash of apple sauce on top. The pork was very tender, and the kale had been cooked in a slightly sweet and sour sauce that almost matched the flavor of the apple sauce exactly.
Czarina ordered the mussel frites, which had been cooked in a soup of wheat beer, onions, and fennel, and topped with cream. The soup must have been good, because she asked for a spoon to drink it up with. The fries however were nothing special, and when she was finished over half of them were still left.
Vera ordered the pork link - which was basically a large pork sausage served on a bed of sauerkraut and mustard, topped with cream. I actually had a taste of this (rather unwillingly, as I had declined her offer originally, but she later forced the food onto my plate), and although the sausage was good - with just a tiny hint of sweet- I thought the sauerkraut could have done without the mustard.
Overall the restaurant had a very cozy atmosphere, and the food was an amazing deal (my pork shoulder was only $10). Maybe not worth a 3-hour drive, but if I were to return to the Portland-area for some other purpose, I'd definitely be willing to eat at Grain and Gristle again.

Overall rating: 7/10

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