Monday, December 29, 2008

globetrotting: tourist in my hometown - pt II

As per holiday tradition, Friday night was my "unofficial" JHS reunion. This is a group of us Freaks & Geeks, some of whom weren't really even close in high school, but we seem to make better adults than teenagers. Thanks to the magic of social media, we've reconnected and get together when we're all home at Christmas.

Since not many of stayed in Portland (Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago seem to have been hot landing spots), we generally end up in a centralized location in Northwest or the Pearl District of Portland. The Pearl District is an interesting concept for me, as it seriously DID NOT EXIST up until a few years ago. Now it defines the sleek hipness of the city. I struggle with this. I'm sure there's Milwaukeeans who may feel the same way about the Third Ward, but that was already shifting when I moved here (although my favorite vintage store, Marlene's Touch of Class, was one of the early victims of its transformation).

This was the first year I was able to make the dinner portion of the reunion, and I'm certainly glad. We met up at 50 Plates on 13th Street in "the Pearl." Apparently the owners donate quite a bit of cash to our high school, so that's how our friend Ryan had heard of it. Since I didn't make a donation this year (save for the money spent on the Official 10-Year Reunion), I figure eating a tasty meal could count toward my support of overprivileged children (just being snarky, I really appreciate my education). Dinner ended up just being three of us, as many people were snowed in still. Luckily Ryan, Sheila and I had hung out in Chicago last month, so we skipped right past the small talk. And focused on the important things like wine and food.

They'd already ordered a bottle by the time my parents dropped me off (just like high school, well except for the wine and posh restaurant part). I believe it was a Pinot Noir, but don't quote me on that. But I'm fairly certain it was from Oswego Hills winery. I'm 100% certain it was delicious.

Similar to our meal in Chicago, this one was also communal. We started with a round of appetizers, including chicken-fried oysters and Castroville artichoke rolls. I would recommend both. Round Two was salads, accompanied by fresh bread -- choice of buttermilk biscuit or sourdough roll. I began with the biscuit, which melted on my tongue with hardly a crumble. I believe we had the R&R salad, with apples and Rogue blue cheese -- though I'm not entirely sure. We also shared a smaller one with mandarin oranges. The larger salad was a bit heavy on the dressing, but otherwise you can't go wrong with blue cheese crumbles -- even if they aren't from Wisconsin.

Selecting a sourdough roll (prefered the biscuit) accompaniment, I dove into the shared entrees -- the Mac 'N' Cheese ('N' Chicken 'N' Fennel) and some sort of scallop and clam dish that I can't find on the online menu.  The MNC was good (the chicken-fennel sausage inside the noodle was a unique touch), but honestly nothing is ever going to top The Social for me (although Triskele's comes close). However, I wish I could find the name of our seafood dish as it was DIVINE. Sea scallops surrounded by steamed clams bathed in a creamy wine sauce. The scallop was the kind you dream about making on your own. Perfectly browned, not too squishy, flavored just right. Mmmmm.

Next up dessert. We selected the Lemon Meringue Bread Pudding and some sort of Pistachio Cake. We wanted to try the S'mores Fondue, but they were out of marshmallows (a lot of restaurant deliveries were held up thanks to the snow). The bread pudding wasn't much to look at presentation wise, but tastewise I couldn't get enough. It was like a sesational custardy lemon bar. I normally don't like pistachios other than directly from the shell, but the cake convinced me otherwise. Maybe just because it was so pretty.

From Dining Out

At some point during dessert Ryan had to run off, so Sheila and I stayed until the last crumb and then walked over to the next meeting point -- Life of Riley Tavern on 10th. Our classmate Adam and his wife were already there, so our group claimed the nice couch area to set up camp for the others.

Generally the crowd is fairly large, but unfortunately due to the weather we were only about 10-15 strong this year. My dear friend Mary Ann didn't even make it out of Canada thanks to the snow, and best pal Kat didn't make it off her hill. Luckily our foursome's other partner in crime, Marley, made it with her entourage for a little while. The small number made it a really eclectic group. I got to catch up with my friend Lindsey (we have totally become best online pals in the past couple of years thanks to our common interests in cooking and biking) on cooking and biking. My friend Sam showed me the "secret" more bar-y downstairs of the joint. Our classmate Mike arrived and left without saying much. My friend John and I once again rehashed watching the same video repeatedly in Mr. Schaal's biology class. Our classmate Matt told stories about his international and local stalkers.

The biggest surprise of the night for everyone was the appearance of our classmate, and my former co-editor of The Jesuit Crusader, Tucker. I joked that he crawled out of his enigma cave and decided to don us with his presence. My friend Monica, who was snowed in, later commented on my Facebook how disappointed she was to miss the Hailey's comet of classmate appearances. I think our astonishment with this classmate is that he's been able to channel the alternativeness from teenhood into a successful creative career as an adult. My angsty creativity dissapated, but his landed a short story in Best New American Voices.

Kat said the biggest surprise for her at our "real" reunion was how nice everybody was. Since most of the individuals at our "un-real" reunion were pretty nice in high school already, everyone meshes incredibly well as adults. These are all people I'd love to actually hang out with if we lived in the same cities. For someone who considered herself an "outsider" in high school, it's nice to know that a decade later I can relate to people with whom I co-existed for four years on the same plane, but never let into my space.

I digress. The majority of my blog readers are never going to hang with the Jesuit High School Class of 1998. But they may go drinking in Portland. That said, the Life of Riley is not a place to get blitzed. In fact, stick with beer to get more bang for your buck as the alcohol pours were abysmal and the cocktail waitresses neglectful. The speciality cocktails were tasty though. I started with a Pomengranate Hot Toddy and also had a Lake Como Martini, before switching to underpoured Vodka Tonics. I ended my evening with a Fox Barrel Hard Cider. Normally all that booze-switching would make me ill, but since there wasn't much alcohol in the drinks between the beer and the wine I wound up fine the next day.

The night ended rather late and I'm sure my parents are as grateful as I am to Ryan for dropping me home on his way to do the same for Sheila, who forgot we lived so close.

...Saturday's adventures to continue in a new post...
...For Friday's Day activities, click here...

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