Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wildwood Valentines

Since I was gone on Valentine's Day this year, Dave and I celebrated a little bit late with a Friday-night dinner at Wildwood. I've been wanting to try Wildwood for a while but this was my first time. The problem with waiting to blog about something until 6 weeks after the fact is that it is really hard to remember what you ordered. And since Wildwood is a typical Portland restaurant with a menu that is seasonal and so frequently changes, I can't even cheat by looking at their menu online to see what it was that I ordered. (Dangit!) So I'll just have to do my best.

The meal was a really great balance of unique and approachable. Portland is an amazing city for restaurants. There is an abundance of fresh, seasonal, local ingredients and chefs using those ingredients at their best. The creativity at some of the restaurants here is tremendous, but sometimes that creativity can be a little bit overwhelming or more "interesting" than delicious. This meal found that happy medium of giving the ingredients a creative spark without overwhelming their natural flavor. (Basically, it was just plain delicious.)

We began with a pair of starters: Shaved Fennel Salad with Toasted Almonds and Wild Mushroom Gnocchi. The shaved fennel salad had a light, springy flavor to it. The shaved fennel was crisp with a piquant twist while the cheese shavings and almonds added a nice contrast of flavor and texture. It was good, but edging a little bit more toward the "interesting" than outright delicious (probably because I was comparing it to the AMAZING shaved asparagus salad I had at Nostrana last spring). But as one piece of an entire meal, it was a satisfying contrast to the other dishes.
Shaved Fennel Salad with toasted almonds and grana padano
Dave and I both noted that whenever we hear the word "gnocchi," we think of our second "date" ("date" is in quotes because Dave didn't really ask me out or I him). Our second quasi-date was going to the opera in Salt Lake to see Tosca. It was a group with me, my brother, my roommate, her brother and Dave. We went out for dinner beforehand at an Italian restaurant called Dal Fornello. My roommate's brother and I had an extended conversation on how much we liked gnocchi. Dave couldn't tell if I liked this roommate's brother or not, so he had a prejudice against gnocchi ever after.

This gnocchi was enough to break even Dave's prejudice. The Wild Mushroom Gnocchi was one of the best dishes I have eaten in Portland. So. incredibly. good. Gnocchi is a pasta-like dumpling that is made with potatoes. The mushrooms gave it a rich meaty flavor. Dave is not big on mushrooms, but he still LOVED this dish.

The gnocchi to end all gnocchi....
We ordered our main courses based on the waiter's recommendation (and here is where my memory gets foggy). We got lamb with a side of pureed root vegetables (think parsnips) and grouper with almonds. (How's that for great food writing? They were really delicious but it was almost two months ago....)

Hazelnut Creme Brulee with Hazelnut Macaroons
For dessert we had a Hazelnut Creme Brulee (complete with hazelnut macaroons filled with chocolate buttercream) and Apple Almond Frangipane Tart (with Brown Butter Ice Cream, Candied Almonds and "Apple Cider Gastrique", oh my!). The creme brulee concept was intriguing, but in execution it didn't push my buttons-- I prefer simple unadulterated vanilla and cream. But I have a weakness for macaroons and thoroughly enjoyed those. The Apple Almond Frangipane Tart, on the other hand, was absolutely amazing. The almond filling set off the apple and pastry, while the brown butter ice cream and candied almonds filled out the equation. Wow.

Don't you love the dried apple "flare" in the middle? :)
Valentine's Day has never been one of my favorite holidays... It has always ended up filed under either "Single's Awareness Day," "Marketing Scheme to Get You to Spend Money by Buying Random Gifts that Your Spouse Won't Like" or "Just one more reason for your kids to get mounds of candy and junk food at school." This is even when weighed against the compelling fact that See's Candies sells "Hot Hearts" just for this holiday (think giant, chewy red hots, but better...). But after a meal like this, I might reconsider.... Not that I need an excuse for an amazing meal, but it's always nice to have one, nonetheless.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Ooooooh!!! i love love love hazelnut creme brulee! We'll have to go there one day!! When dan's in town . . .