Judging from the sunbeams, blossoms, and randy squirrels outside my window, pre-spring has sprung, which naturally means the Portland Picnic Society is dreaming and scheming.
A gathering of the picnicerati was called for, but since faux spring can be fickle and none of us are particularly keen on our outdoor get togethers involving full body down suits, waterlogged quilts, and having to drink hot toddies nonstop to keep from freezing (actually, scratch that last one, that one we’re fine with), we played it safe and had our first meetup of the season indoors last week, with KFC and LOL at PPS: Boke Bird.
Already a couple of our favorite hosts in town, chef Patrick Fleming and GM Brannon Riceci outdid themselves, welcoming our soggy crew to the front table as we straggled in, then dispersing hot tea, bottled cocktails, rice tots, and pickled mango.
Things got even merrier on the beverage front when Bunk’s beloved Noah Cable ambled by, spied us through the window, and sent over a bottle of cava, winning the Portland Gentleman of the Year Decade award.
Everyone was ready to eat, some of us having even skipped our customary second lunch to be adequately prepared for Boke Bird, a phenomenon that occurs every Thursday evening starting at 5pm, when Boke Bowl morphs into its fried-chicken celebrating alter ego. Meaning that while you can still get the same ravishing ramen lineup you’re used to, there’s also the option to add a full-on Korean Fried Chicken feast to the mix.
Each gorgeous golden chicken, which has been prepped for its big moment with a 48-hour brine, then par-smoked and chilled overnight, comes to the table crispy skinned and covered in crackly fried shallots, sliced scallions, and garlic ginger soy vinegar sauce. It’s served family style, ready to be torn to shreds and stuffed into the warm, impossibly airy steam buns that arrive layered in bamboo steamers.
Vibrantly colored pickled things, ginger scallion rice, kimchi, and packets of laver are served alongside, and we tacked on a couple orders of Boke’s fantastic cauliflower and Brussels sprouts salad with sweet slices of ruby grapefruit, the mustard greens in oyster sauce, and creamy oyster mushrooms sautéed in miso butter, garlic and sake.
The click of chopsticks, the clink of cava and cocktails, the soft muffled squeals of pain as some people pinched their way to the last steam bun…minus the blankets, grass, and streaming Vitamin D, it was everything a PPS gathering should be, with mango-puree topped coconut kaffir lemongrass tapioca and fluffy Boke twinkies on top.
So while I’m tapping my yet-to-be-pedicured toe (well really, why bother in the winter?) impatiently for the first PPS alfresco meet-up of 2014, I can’t say we’re suffering in the meantime.