Tartines and Two-Fers

Portland added one-and-a-half new eateries to its bulging restaurant ranks this week, with the openings of Grain & Gristle–a casual Northeast Portland trifecta of brews, meat, and wood, and SE Clinton Street’s Patisserie St. Jack–a charming French-style bakery adjoining soon-to-open Restaurant St. Jack. Behold, the tale of two first impressions: a pastry-heavy Parisian lunch and stockings-fatal 3-P (pretzel, pickles, pork) dinner.  

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Patisserie St. Jack
2039 SE Clinton St. Portland
Daily 7am-4pm
503.360.1281
stjackpdx.com

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This darling Clinton Street bakery is part Portland, part Paris–an elegant space with wicker bread baskets lined up along creamy pale yellow walls, a pastry-stand dotted zinc bar perfect for sipping tea and nibbling madeleines with the morning paper, and a simple menu advertising a daily tartine, salad, and selection of pastries baked fresh on the premises by pastry chef Alissa Rozos (Daniel NYC, Bluehour).

stjackwinRows of tables fill the sun-lit (you know, when there’s actually sun) back room and line the front windows overlooking the bustling intersection of funky SE Clinton Street and 21st Avenue, steps from neighorhood favorites like Vindalho, Löyly Sauna, Night Light Lounge, and Bara Sushi. As we sat savoring a madeleine or six, neighborhood residents streamed in and out, seeking a coffee or just a curious peek around the premises.

Fellow diner Leigh and I’s inaugural lunch was trés délicieux. We had dessert first–a dark chocolate-painted eclair filled with pastry cream, a rich chocolate caramel tart in a thin, tender chocolate crust, and a memorable canelle that tasted exactly like a creme brulee’s burnt sugar crust. The bakery’s spongey, pale gold mini-madeleines, which must be ordered by the half dozen, arrived fresh from the oven–moist and lightly springy, with a hint of lemon zest and light dusting of confectioner’s sugar, the perfect partner for a cup of Stumptown coffee or Steven Smith tea.

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The salad arrived next–a tower of fresh butter lettuce leaves stacked with slivers of crisp green apple, paper thin radishes and sliced avocado, and tossed with fresh tarragon, chives, parsley, and a light vinaigrette. The accompanying smoked salmon tartine looked like spring and tasted just as good–layered with generous slices of smoked salmon, radishes, cucumber, fresh greens, ruby-hued pickled onions, on a Little T American Baker baguette spread with dijon. Fat capers were sprinkled atop the drizzle of creme fraiche, and a dusting of freshly cracked peppercorns topped off the whole affair.

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Next week, the adjoining Restaurant St. Jack opens, with Chef/owner Aaron Barnett (Olea, 23 Hoyt, Gary Danko, Lumière) behind the stove and general manager/sommelier Joel Gunderson (23 Hoyt, Olea) behind the French and Pacific Northwest-focused wine list. Kyle Webster (House Spirits, Metrovino) and Tommy Klus (Bluehour, Teardrop Lounge) will preside over the bar and specialty cocktail menu, while French beers and Belgian ales will be served both bottled and on draft.

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Grain & Gristle
1473 NE Prescott St. Portland
503.298.5007
Mon-Fri 12pm-12am, Sat-Sun 5pm-12am
grainandgristle.com

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As Albert Einstein famously pointed out, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Thusly, I’m officially crackers, because I keep buying J. Crew tights even though they snag so easily, most of my pairs are rendered useless after one wear–I’d be better off taping the 28 dollar bills to my legs instead. But foolishly, I bought another pair this week, and even more foolishly, I wore them to Grain & Gristle, a restaurant/brewpub so thoroughly armored and accessorized by wood (a fragile stocking’s worst nightmare, behind boot zippers and eczema), my feeble legwear pretty much gave up the ghost just looking in the windows.

Grain & Gristle, which occupies the corner of NE Prescott & 15th, right next door to Podnah’s Pit BBQ (soon to be Pok Pok Noi when Podnah’s leaves for Killingsworth pastures), has wood floors, wood mouldings, wood benches, wood chairs, wood tables, a wood bar, a cheese board, and wood pint glasses (just kidding about the pint glasses, but I wouldn’t have been surprised). Walking in the front doors, the pub fans off to both sides in almost-perfect symmetry, with front-to-back rows of (wood) tables lining each side, and a U-shaped (wood) bar in the middle. We arrived at 5:30pm and the bar was already rimmed with a jovial group of what looked to be regulars-in-training (G&G’s only been open since Monday, and I’m not sure how many consecutive visits one must make to be classified a true “regular.”)

My dining companion Mona and I don’t drink beer all that often, so we largely ignored the draft list (I know, sacrilege, here’s a link to the website’s published listing if that helps) and went for the wine–there were three on the list, a Pinot Noir, a Mencia, and a Rioja Blanco, no sparkly in sight. Beneath that was a “Booze” list–you can opt for the proffered liquors on their own, or add tonic, cola, ginger ale or house mineral water for a $1-$1.50 supplement. A half dozen house specialty cocktails like the Oregon Negroni and G&G Manhattan round out the list.

Chef Ben Meyer‘s (formerly of Ned Ludd) food menu is divided into Salt, Vegetables, Protein, Cheese, 2-Fers and Sweet. They’re all fairly self-explanatory but for the 2-Fers–if you look in the bottom right corner of the beer board behind the bar, you’ll see the daily 2-Fer, a dinner for two that includes entree, sides, and two pints. The night we visited, the special was a half roast chicken, smashed fingerlings, grilled kale, and two pints of Alameda Brewhouse’s latest specialty ale, the Rye Not, for a diminutive $20! Imagine–for the price of my now useless tights, I could have had a 2-Fer and glass of Stone Barn Brandyworks‘ pear brandy. Oh, if only I were sane!

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We dipped into the “Salt” section first, ordering the house pickle plate–a colorful medley of pickled beets, onions, cremini mushrooms, apples, and gold and green zucchini, and the Fressen pretzel, served with a dollop of nostril-awakening spicy mustard. Moving onward to the Vegetables, we delighted in the radicchio salad–nicely mellow chicory tossed with bacon and dry jack in a sherry vinaigrette, and polished off a bowl filled with wedges of sweet grilled acorn squash with molasses and a ruddy dusting of pimentón.

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For the Protein, we eschewed the salt cod fritters, pastrami rueben, burger, and moules frites and went pork all the way–the thick, fork-tender chunk of braised pork over “smothered” kale was a surprisingly robust portion for $10. And although eager 2-Fer hopefuls on their way in kept opening the door and sending arctic blasts our way, the spicy pork link lying atop cabbage, apples and sour cream was so belly-warming, we didn’t have to burn the (wood) benches to stay warm. Thank goodness.

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We had to dash pre-dessert, but the server left us salivating by pointing out that the apple pie listed in the Sweets section, just above the vanilla panna cotta with caramel, has a cheddar crust and custard filling. My new, hardy dollar-bill leggings and I will surely order that next time, after we share a 2-Fer.