Dinner at Simpatica: a reprise

Simpatica Catering and Dining Hall is one of our very favorite restaurants ever. We eat here every other month or so, and are never disappointed.

Best-looking kitchen in Portland. There’s just something about boys in aprons, lemme tell ya.

The people we were seated with were recent California transplants, not-quite foodies (the prissy bitches passed over half the appies for some reason or another), and Simpatica virgins. They were, however, happy to receive my “Best Of Portland” list. Gah, get a couple drinks in me.

First came the hushpuppies. Tender little clouds of cornbread, crispy on the outside and ethereal puffs of steam on the inside. I enjoyed mine with a squirt of hot sauce.

The Lousiana hotlinks had that uber-savory Viande flavor – a little bit lamb, a little bit pork, and just the right amount of heat, all tempered by a cool, sweet savoy slaw. Even the prissy bitches had to give it up and testify.

The shrimp were gargantuan, and swam in an herbal crab stock reduction, perfect soppage for quality baguette. These were just one more element of my complete undoing.

The Zydeco meat pies were like spicy empanadas with the faintest dribble of creme fraiche to soothe the palate and quell the fire.

A creative take on the fried pickle, these house-made zucchini quick-pickles were a little sweeter than I’d normally prefer (in a pickle), but paired so well with the remoulade that I ain’t mad at it.

After the appies (and my chance to prove that I wouldn’t be a total nuisance) Dave let me come back to the kitchen and taste some of the chrysanthemum that would be featured in the salad. It tasted exactly like I expected: asteraceous. Go ahead and look it up. It’s a real word. Most lettuces are in the Asteraceae family, so why not throw a chrysanthemum in the mix?

Throw in some mache and mesclun and we’re laughin’. The addition of some fat and protein never hurt a bitter green that I ever met, and the chopped egg’s placid character was a perfect compliment to a back-talkin’ spicy crouton.

If anyone ever wants to know the secret ingredient to making regular food taste like restaurant food, this is it: copious amounts of butter.

Jason’s Popeye arms come from his use of what is literally a giant wooden paddle to lull a vat of jambalaya, I just know it. When Greta asked “what’re these stringy bits in here?” about the jambalaya, I assumed it was the mucilagenous starch from okra or somesuch, but upon closer inspection of the next morning’s leftovers-as-breakfast, I realized it was pure ham muscle fiber. The tasso had completely dissolved into the rice. I truly wish I had been able to capture this, but I guess you’ll just have to believe me. (I think some of the mix’s richness was also derived from chicken livers, but this is just an educated guess based on what I tasted.)

Oh, heh, I couldn’t get through more than couple bites of the jambalaya, as I had defiantly championed through the entire appie and salad courses without pacing myself.

One of the hottie sous chefs rolls a chocolate beignet through a dredge of cinnamon sugar.
The beignets were head-to-toe orgasm with roasted banana ice cream, but constituted a Multiple with the addition of salted almonds (my idea – they were strewn about the tables in tiny terra cotta vessels to quell pangs between courses). The non-foodies at our table missed out on my genius, but whatevs.

Do you know how hard it is to photograph dinner-lit food without using a flash? Out of 157 shots, I could only muster these few. Lesson learned!

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