Just Desserts

There are traditionalists who feel that you must eat your meal to warrant your dessert. These people are wrong. Very much like green eggs and ham, dessert can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere–in a house, with a mouse, in a box, with a fox, in a car, in a tree, in a train, in the rain, with a goat, and on a boat. If none of those locales or companions appeal to you, try one of these dessert destinations, most of whom keep evening hours for those who insist on making dessert an after dinner treat verses an all day, every day treat (my preference, obviously).

Andina

andinasquareAndina is a beautiful restaurant, the expansive dining room as brightly colored as a jungle bird, with rich wood floors, photographs of Peruvian natives, terracotta walls and archways, and industrial elements like exposed ductwork that lend it a touch of Pearl swank–the perfect setting for a splurge spree. Order up a couple of mojitos, a nice bottle of wine from their phenomenal wine list and a bevy of Peruvian small plates like crab salad-stuffed avocado halves and tender bay scallops baked with parmesan and lime butter, and tell the server not to plan on turning your merry cushy window booth over any time soon. Particularly once you get a gander at the dessert menu–the crème brûlée trio, passion fruit mousse-stuffed quinoa cannoli, and chocolate andino in ají-amarillo pineapple sauce are not to be hurried.

Bar Avignon

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 3.35.57 PMThis classy little Southeast wine bar is equally charming in the warmest of times and the coldest of times–and considering that we have far more of the latter than the former here, one of my favorite fall, winter and spring pastimes is to curl up in a cozy booth with someone special, wistfully sipping rosé and watching the rain pelt the front windows. The bar shakes and stirs consistently excellent cocktails, the wine list is beautifully curated, and the menu moves seamlessly from nibbles like oysters on the half shell and mix-and-match artisan cheese and charcuterie boards to heartier fare like stuffed sardines and roast chicken with basil pistou. Beware the bewitching happy hour—it’s disconcertingly easy to arrive at 5pm for the $7 Washington mussels in tarragon cream sauce and $5 Aviation gimlets and end up lingering until last call, because once you’re under Bar Avignon’s spell, it’s rather painful to return to the real world.

Block + Tackle

blockandtackleshortcakeFruits of the sea rule the menu at this cute, casual fishhouse along the increasingly tasty shores of SE Division Street–the smoked mackerel with watermelon, watercress, inky cured olives, mint and cayenne is mesmerizing, their Niçoise salad is one of the best, the hearty halibut fish and chips will satisfy even the most fundamental diner in your party, and gourmands will want to investigate the “seafood charcuterie” region of the menu, with its unusual marlin rillettes, ono confit, and pimenton-cured cuttlefish with orange and sherry. Desserts are few and simple, and refreshingly, never too sweet or cloying, like the apricot cobbler in a pool of warm milk, berry shortcake, and salted butterscotch pudding beneath Chantilly cream. It’s also perfect course to chart for happy hour–among other great deals, oysters on the half shell are half off.

Clarklewis

clarklewisdessertsquareThe droves of tea lights flickering within this foxy former warehouse turned enchanted glass-walled inner Southeast industrial district dining room serve to adequately illuminate the way to your gin martinis, Viridian farm nasturtium-dotted burrata salads, grilled Cattail Creek lamb leg with watercress and morels, and divine desserts like salted caramel and chocolate profiteroles, while casting only the most flattering of glows on your primped and polished countenances, rendering it an excellent choice for date night–be it your first date, or 2000th.

Country Cat

countrycatsquareI generally avoid hero worship, but will occasionally make exceptions where great humanitarians, Hugh Jackman, and pastry chefs are involved. And when dessert time rolls around, Country Cat co-owner and pastry chef Jackie Sappington is on my A-list, thanks to carefully-crafted sweet endings like the summer berry cobbler with oatmeal cookie topping, chocolate coconut sorbet with fresh raspberries and sesame coconut cookies, and ice cream sandwich or crème brûlée trios. It’s all enough to send me outside to burn a bush on the sidewalk to alert passerby as to the sacchariferous heroics to be worshipped inside.

Frice Pastry + Philippe’s Bread

fricepastrycoconuttartIf post-New Seasons opening, your final gripe about the culinary state of affairs on N. Williams was that it was missing a great bakery, behold this divinely doughy new superduo—Frice Pastry, helmed by St. Jack pastry chef Alissa Frice, andPhilippe’s Bread, helmed by French-born baker Philippe Garcia, which together equal Jen’s Dream. Sharing the building with new Lardo III, the light-filled space houses a shiny glass case protecting colorful rows of Frice’s caneles, sables, matcha yuzu chiboust, and caramelized apple bavarians from soon-to-be sticky fingers, and a full lineup of Garcia’s sublime breads—try the olive thyme loaf.

Imperial

Screen Shot 2013-07-31 at 3.13.48 PMThose seeking a classy joint worth getting dolled up for are jazzed about Vitaly Paley and Ben Bettinger’s sensibly swank new Broadway Street eatery in the Hotel Lucia, where seasonally-driven Northwest fare fuels a convivial downtown crowd. And if you end up getting the proverbial room after a few too many of the dangerously affordable signature cocktails, come morning, the Imperial pastrami hash and crab croque-madame are but an elevator ride away—the dining room serves three squares a day, starting at the ungodly hour of 6:30am on weekdays. Dessert seekers, zero in on pastry chef Michelle Vernier’s sweet somethings, like the peach upside down cake with buttered pecans, Imperial Sundae, and peerless coffee toffee icebox cake with toasted meringue.

Irving Street Kitchen

irvingstreetfloatsquareThe sort of place you can take almost anyone—dates, colleagues, family, friends, tipsy girls’ night out expeditions—and have an excellent time, this Pearl District restaurant’s creative Southern-influenced New American cuisine feels both sophisticated and hearty, with dishes like creamed white corn soup with chanterelles, maple-smoked brook trout and arugula salad, grilled duck sausage over gingersnap basmati rice, and divine desserts like the pecan skillet pie, strawberry soda floats, and legendary butterscotch pudding. Service is friendly and accommodating, and little curtained booths offer you sanctuary from the merry melee–if you’re a recluse, want to get romantic or just need a nap after downing the blackberry crème fraiche-smothered cornmeal waffle during brunch, you can close the curtains and hide/smooch/nap, whilst plotting how to nick the milk-bottle chandeliers. Read full write-up>>

Jade Teahouse

jadeteahouseweddingcakeJade is not the contemplative nest of tranquility that might come to mind when one thinks “teahouse.” It is an aesthetic win, blessed with copious amounts of natural lighting and a tidy bamboo-fringed patio, and it’s a lively meeting place for all manner of local folk—toned Lycra short pants-wearing patrons of the nearby Sellwood Yoga studio having heart-to-hearts over prawn and pork-stuffed lettuce rolls, Eastmoreland Ladies Who Lunch taking an exotic grilled tofu salad-fueled minibreak, and stay-at-home moms and dads sharing platefuls of stir-fried rice noodles with towheaded pixies in pink cowboys boots whose swinging feet don’t quite reach the floor. The great unifier? The bright green pandan-dyed Vietnamese wedding cake, one of the many delightful pastries you’ll find in the case on any given day, and a unique delicacy that goes very well with a pot of one of Jade’s beautifully-curated 70+ teas.

Lauretta Jean’s

laurettajeanssquareSure, we all got teary-eyed/openly wept when Pix Patisserie departed their longtime Division digs in search of bigger Burnside pastures, but fans of new tenant Kate McMillan’s dreamier than thou treats danced a cherry lattice jig, because now the pastry case is filled with her fresh-baked fruit pies, chocolate cream sliders, swirly apricot almond scones, savory quiches, and good old fashioned chocolate chip cookies. Brunchers, this is one of the city’s best kept Saturday and Sunday morning secrets, most times you’ll sail straight into a seat during prime brunch time for a peaceful plate of smoked ham benedict, warm baked egg-topped breakfast galette, or ethereal housemade biscuit with strawberry preserves.

Little Bird Bistro

littlebirddessertnewsquareLate hours, a central location, and trés delicious dishes make this younger sibling of renowned Le Pigeon an inviting downtown destination regardless of the hour (they’re open until midnight) or your craving—stop in for a glass of wine and a charcuterie board or reserve a dark red leather banquette for a leisurely supper. The kitchen is helmed by longtime Le Pigeon sous chef Erik Van Kley, who orchestrates a simple French menu that zeroes in on beloved, expertly-executed bistro classics like steak frites, coq au vin, and marrow bones (and the iconic Le Pigeon burger), while pastry chef Lauren Fortgang spins sweet fantasies like strawberry elderflower floats, apricot givré with a corn financier, and her housemade chocolate plate.

Maurice

mauricecollagePosh restaurant pastry chef turned pastry luncheonette proprietress, Kristen Murray, has stepped in to save us all from a existence bereft of mango tarte tatin and cocoa puff palmiers by opening this sweet spot tucked down a pleasantly mellow tree-lined street in downtown’s happening West End neighborhood. Armed with a pastry background and aesthetic so impressive that entire shelves of sugar bags bow and curtsy in unison as she glides down the grocery store dry goods aisle, Kristen conjures up stunning sweet somethings like duck egg flan with chocolate consommé, geranium-scented pain perdu, and black pepper cheesecake with rhubarb-apple confiture and celery leaf gelée, served alongside craft cocktails and fine wines, on the heels of Maurice’s daytime “luncheonette” menu.

Mojo Crepes

mojocrepesquareIf you’re having one of those days where delight seems in short supply, get thee to Mojo Crepes, a hotspot of cheer gilding a rather uncharismatic stretch of post-82nd Southeast Division. The squat, smiling mascot painted on the front window, the rows of empty Nutella jars plastered to the back wall, the trashy tabloids and tattoo mags in the rack on the wall, the game of Jenga shelved on a brightly painted wall…it’s all very delightful, and I haven’t even yet mentioned the ICE CREAM CREPES. Yes, Mojo’s Japanese twist on the famed French skinny pancake is filling a warm, just made crepe cone with Cascade Glacier ice cream and a mix and match melange of fresh fruit, crushed cookies, marshmallows, and syrups and blanketing it all in whipped cream, and quite honestly, nothing turns your frown upside down faster…except maybe this.

Olympic Provisions NW

opmeatboardPortland is full of interesting secrets—secret catacombs, secret kebabs, secret gardens, secret creperie-speakeasies, and Secret Society, to name a few. Then there’s Olympic Provisions Northwest, which isn’t technically a secret, but unless you’re a particularly thorough wanderer, prone to getting lost, or have business in the industrial wilds of Northwest Portland, you’d be hard-pressed to stumble upon it. Walking through the deli’s front doors, you’re immediately confronted by one of the finest meat counters around—brimming with fresh sausages, frankfurters, patés, rillettes, Sweetheart hams, bacon, and a full range of Olympic Provisions’ acclaimed salami–all housemade on site. Orbiting the deli case is an intimate kitchen-facing marble bar, a few tables for two, and two boisterous communal tables—so you’re covered, whether you’re having salami sandwiches and cold microbrews for lunch with friends, or sharing one of the peerless rotisserie chickens with Schmaltz potatoes and a bottle of rosé with a hot date. Read full write-up>>

Olympic Provisions SE

olympicprovisionshashWith its pioneering spirit and sleek, reclaimed wood and white subway tile-lined little restaurant tucked into a renovated historic cereal mill, Olympic Provisions pretty much embodies the edgy essence of Portland’s still-gritty Southeast industrial district. Joining longtime culinary residents like Clarklewis and Produce Row and newer ones like Boke Bowl and Bunk Bar in deliciously populating this stretch of warehouse jungle framed by the concrete forks of the Morrison Bridge and the Willamette’s east waterfront, OP’s unmatched cheese and charcuterie boards, meaty eats like the ethereal pork rillettes hand pie and hearty choucroute garni, superb desserts (don’t miss the chocolate salami) and excellent wine list all make for the perfect reason to explore a part of town you might otherwise overlook. Plus, they offer complimentary canisters of pepper spray to help you make it back to your car intact. Just kidding! You’re on your own!

Ox

oxcheesesquareChef and husband/wife team Greg and Gabrielle Denton’s widely worshipped Argentine-inspired Northeast Portland hotspot is many things to many people—a highly evolved steakhouse, a surprising source of superb plant-based dishes and allergy-friendly desserts, a purveyor of exceptional cocktails, aaand, originator of some of the best, richest, most memorable chowder you will ever eat. (And I eat a LOT of chowder.) Despite the restaurant’s beefy image, vegans and vegetarians needn’t steer clear—”from the garden” options are as compelling as the fleshy ones, and as for dessert, Gabi’s prowess with sugar and spice are legendary, and her cheese pairings and hazelnut brown butter torte with honey-chamomile ice cream have a near-fanatical following.

Paley’s Place

paleysdessertsquareI can’t  promise that it will be an easy feat to slip into Paley’s for an impromptu dessert, reservations are de rigueur and patrons linger at the tables long into the evening, but like your mother told you, you should try your best. In a pinch, patiently wait your turn for the first come, first serve bar area, which is the perfect place to end an evening on the town. Sip a glass of Sauternes with Paley’s golden dessert child–the burnished apple tarte tatin, which comes on a bed of flaky puff pastry and is accompanied by a smattering of candied almonds and a scoop of lavendar ice cream. Or opt for the warm chocolate souffle cake, hazelnut-grape financier, or salted caramel ice cream sundae with smoked maple caramel. It makes the wait more than worthwhile.

Park Kitchen

parkkitchendessertsquareOnce I was sitting at the bar in Park Kitchen relishing a curried apple galette with yogurt sorbet and trying to decide what to order next–the vanilla cardamom crème brulee or the sticky date cake with sherry ice cream–when I befriended a girl whose boyfriend had recently dumped her for their Pilates instructor, who was as lithe and exotic-looking as Uma Thurman, very bendy, and fluent in French to boot. This made my new friend very sad, so she was drowning her sorrows with a significant pour of Scotch, a French-English dictionary, and Park Kitchen’s chocolate pear torte with pear brandy sabayon and crushed amaretti. I’m not going to make any outrageous claims, like this torte cured her broken heart or anything, but let’s suffice to say that after her second helping, she wasn’t trying to punch anyone who ordered the Chateauneuf-du-Pape anymore.

Pie Spot

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 7.04.57 PMThere seems to be some confusion over the term “pie hole”–most people think it’s something best shut, whereas here in the loveably alternative universe of Portlandia, it’s something to be stuffed. This turquoise travel trailer-gone-brick and mortar has come to the semantic and culinary rescue, stacking the case of their airy Northeast bakery (part of NE Glisan’s The Ocean mini-restaurant mall) with delectable miniature chocolate, marionberry, and banana cream-filled pies (aka pie holes) that fit snugly in one’s palm, just before being transported to their, well, pie hole. So that clears that up.

Pix Patisserie

pixsparklecakeMy sharpest memories of my time in France, and there aren’t many thanks to the accessibility of good cheap champagne, are of the pastry cases. Regardless of whether I was in cosmopolitan Paris or sleepy Bayeux, the pastry displays were works of art–neat rows of macarons and pastries and tarts and cakes elaborately adorned with ganache, brulee, mousse, cream, praline, meringue, fresh fruit, and things I’d never seen before. Half my European photo album is snaps of these stunning creations, and the first time I walked into dreamy Pix Patisserie, it was like my pictures had come to life right here in Portland. Rounds of chocolate almond cake with caramel mousse, cream puff-studded St. Honorés, gingerbread mousse with cognac buttercream, bright yellow lemon tartlets, glittery gelees, chocolate-covered cherries and sunburst yellow passionfruit macarons. Even a born and bred Parisian might swoon at the splendor of it all, and that’s saying a lot.

Relish

reslishdessertIf you like hanging out in idyllic Sellwood AND have always wanted to eat Fourme d’Ambert-stuffed potato croquettes in a former mortuary, we’ve got just the spot. Chef Josef Valoff crafts sophisticated eats like Quinault River steelhead and mussel stew and a silky chocolate tart nestled in peanut butter mousse in a relaxed, many-roomed space rumored to have a (friendly) ghost or two. There’s lots to like here–glass pours are both voluminous and affordable, booths are plentiful, and patios come in two varieties…sunny and shady.

Roman Candle Baking Co.

romancandlefeastMuch quieter and more legal than the other Roman candles you hang out with, this buzzy bakery, coffeehouse and pizzeria still puts off sparks, thanks to the wood-fired pizza oven and embankment of ovens putting out a steady supply of fresh-baked artisan breads and pastries, from flaky croissants and fresh berry danishes to delicate lemon tarts and raspberry dark chocolate tortas. It’s also an all-day affair–you can stop in at 7am for an espresso, zucchini citrus zest quick bread and buttery golden kouign amann, take your lunch break with a mortadella baguette sandwich or albacore tuna on light-as-air foccacia (plus a canele for dessert), and linger late into the evening with a good bottle of wine and wood-fired pizza bianca.

Ruby Jewel Scoop Shop

rubyjewelmisssquareBrutally blindsided by a fierce ice cream craving? Follow the scent of fresh waffle cones to this cheery, Neopolitan-hued North Portland scoop shop for creamy, handmade small batch artisan ice creams like the classic Honey Lavender and sultry Chocolate with Salted Caramel, swoony sundaes like the candied coconut and Marcona-almond topped Ahhh Joy, and of course, the signature ice cream sandwiches, all made with the finest locally-sourced ingredients and hormone-free dairy products. Forget about gummy bears and Oreo crumbles—artisan toppings include handmade marshmallow, anise sprinkles, rosemary pecans, peanut brittle, and three kinds of exotic sea salt neighboring The Meadow. Vegans rejoice—two “cow-free” selections grace the menu at all times. Don’t leave without a DIY “Make Your Own Sandwich” kit, just in case a craving sneaks up on you outside of normal business hours.

St. Jack

stjackfishermansstewIf two heads are better than one, then two restaurants must be better than one, and if the two restaurants are attached and one of them is actually a bakery, that must be better than a private Living Room Theater showing of Amélie, a bottle of Cristal Rosé, and a bucket of bacon fat croutons. Enter St. Jack, Portland’s very own bistro-bakery dream team, part darling Clinton Street corner bistro, part patisserie, the latter which opens daily at 8am to supply the neighborhood with pastry chef Alissa Rozos’ divine housemade éclairs, flaky croissants, and feather-light mini-madeleines. The bistro menu reflects chef Aaron Barnett’s affection for rustic French cuisine (think tureens of puff pastry-capped escargot, oyster and scallop-studded fisherman’s stew, and whole roasted trout over creamy French lentils), while Rozos’ dessert menu reflects…well, my dreams, actually (think chocolate crème brûlée with beignets and strawberries and créme chiboust with pistachio financier). If you find it hard to choose, just remember—two dinner entrees are always better than one, and two desserts are better than the aforementioned Amelie and bacon fat croutons screening.

Suzette

suzettebrunchsquareThey don’t come any more oh-lá-lá than this Belmont creperie, which produces some of the most thoughtfully-constructed savory and dessert crepes in town—I lust after the lemon butter-drenched, cider poached apples-topped Normandie. The prix-fixe weekend brunch menu (for those opposed to prix fixe confines, the full menu is served as well) is three courses—if you count a mimosa as a course, and I certainly do. As you watch your drink’s construction (perfectly proportioned at 7/8 champagne, 1/8 juice), you’re served a sweet, nutty housemade French almond teacake, followed by your choice of crepes–the prosciutto, Gruyére and caramelized onion, or roasted mushrooms, chevre, caramelized onion and mushroom cream sauce—both topped with a still-quivering fried egg and crème fraîche squiggle. Le sigh.

Taylor Railworks

taylorrailworkswaffleSet in the inner Southeast’s historic Plow Works Building, so close to the tracks that your Kentucky Cardinal cocktail trembles when the trains go by, this low-ceilinged space beguiles with its wide wood beams, stunning open kitchen, sexy swanky bar, and chef/owner Erik Van Kley’s expertly prepared “Borderless American Cuisine.” Even the most sophisticated dish has a hint of both the homey and exotic, like the hearty grilled marrow bone topped with bánh mì fixings and served with warm housemade dinner rolls. Staunch pescatarians will be thrilled, the menu leans towards the sea, with starters like two sweet scallops on a bed of cucumber and spicy mayo, mains like Oregon albacore topped with nectarine salsa, and desserts that…well, they’re just normal desserts, no fish there. Actually, I take that back, the desserts aren’t normal, they’re fantastic, especially the signature waffle with bruleed banana, smoke-laced crème fraiche, and melt-in-your-mouth pecan praline.

Waffle Window

Screen Shot 2013-07-31 at 2.41.25 PMHawthorne mainstay Bread and Ink’s darling little ‘round the corner Waffle Window, located on SE 36th Avenue, is making the world a better place one chocolate-dipped waffle at a time. You could order just that–a pearl sugar waffle dipped in Guittard, but why stop there, when you could get two chocolate-dipped waffles hugging a truly staggering amount of vanilla ice cream, aka the Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich. Or go all out and get the Hot Fudge Sundae Waffle–topped with vanilla ice cream and lavished with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and fresh juicy strawberries. Take your treat to one of Bread and Ink’s nearby sidewalk tables, in fair weather, it’s one of the best spots in town for people-watching and waffle-gobbling. And if you’re roaming the Northeast and are seized by a waffle and people-watching craving, patronize their Alberta Street shop.

Woodsman Tavern

woodsmanseafoodWoodsman’s got a knack for memorable dishes that are both rustic and innovative—like duck drumettes with Sriracha-laced kumquat sauce, a Lacinato kale Caesar with rye croutons, whole roasted trout in “crazy water”, biscuits and sausage gravy with pickled collards, the majestic Woodsman burger, and the formidable bone-in ribeye for two, while at the bar, spirits sorcerer Evan Zimmerman crafts puckery Omaha Sours and 24kt gold-accented Bentley cocktails. Next door, the European-style Woodsman Market sells fresh produce and farm eggs, cheese and charcuterie, exceptional wine and other genteel sundries, as well as hearty housemade sandwiches and a chocolate pudding so exceptional, you will want to buy it by the barrel (you can’t though, sorry for getting your hopes up).

Xico

xicochococakesquareGet your capsaicin fix at this airy, elegant, fresh flower-filled Division Street cantina, where chiles reign supreme and the mezcal mingles freely amongst the merry crowds that populate the sleek marble bar and hidden back patio. Chef Kelly Myers incorporates seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients as she puts her own unique stamp on Mexican classics (definitely try the trout pozole), and specializes in eye-openingly (and sometimes eye-wateringly) inventive salsas. A small but mighty lunch menu is served most days via the kitchen window, and the smoky molé-drenched rotisserie chicken dinner can be ordered daily by noon for evening takeout. And as far as dessert is concerned, missing out on the Woodblock chocolate cake with passion fruit chile ganache is no bueno.