Saturday, January 4, 2014

Farewell dinner

Portland, January 2, 2014—

STEAK-FRITES MUST SURELY be among the Hundred Plates. Together with duck confit and salade Lyonnaise, they define, for me, the Parisian bistro. Beef, butter, salt, red wine:  a perfect quadrifecta of things thought not to be good for you — ex ept that, excuse me, in fact they are good for you, in moderation; they build up the blood and muscle as well as — I'm convinced of this — the nerves, and Iuppiter knows we all need plenty of nerve these days. 

I write this, as I'm sure some of you will guess, a couple of days later, delayed by a six-hundred-mile drive, visits, cares, and miscellaneous delights. So I'll imevitably be forgetting things, in spite of a resolution to do better by note-taking. Suffice it to say: decent Martini, engaging waiter, great company, fine bread (after all, this place belongs to Portland's arguably premier bread-baker), good salad, fine steak-frites. I'd come back here any time. 


• Trifecta Tavern726 SE 6th Ave, Portland; (503) 841-6675


Curtis Faville said...

For Americans, steak-frites has become the go-to choice when they simply don't want to order interesting food.

Time and again we'll see folks who don't feel comfortable eating out--or who find themselves inside a restaurant out of necessity--who have little feeling for interesting fare--order steak-frites, with iced-tea or a can of Coke to drink. And no dessert. And no salad.

Usually the man is 60 pounds over-weight. Maybe he doesn't remember to take his hat off. Maybe he's wearing Bermuda shorts, or clunky tennis-shoes. The wife is a little embarrassed. They don't talk much, or at all.

The steak-frites is on the menus for people like this--people who really don't find food interesting.

I like a good steak, but dumping a big pile of stale french fries on the plate doesn't help.

Charles Shere said...

Well, Trifecta ain't that kind of place. Nor is any other restaurant we've been to recently. You must be hanging out in the wrong places, Curtis…

Curtis Faville said...


Among the waiters I've known, steak frites is a universal joke. Patrons with no taste ALWAYS order it, and never wine.

In Italy, a great steak is a prized meal. In America, grocery stores have been selling bad cuts for a generation or more, so a lot of people--especially those who can't afford much meat--not knowing what good beef tastes like, and not wanting to "try new things"--order the steak frites as the fall-back. Not knowing how to choose wines, they choose a soft drink or iced tea. (Personally, can you imagine having a Coke with anything?)

I thought this was universally acknowledged until I saw you put it on your "100 plates".

It's just those stale french fries that drive me up a wall. Once upon a time, there was a cute little fast food restaurant just across the street from the old Park & Shop on Telegraph--the place was designed by Daniel Solomon I think in the late 1970's or 80's--a very interesting structure-- anyway, they sold the best fresh french fries anyone had ever tasted. Unfortunately they didn't survive long, and the building itself was either torn down or completed renovated shortly afterwards.

Charles Shere said...

I just don't understand where the waiters you refer to work, or where you find restaurants these days that serve iced tea, for God's sake, or Coca-Cola, with steak-frites.

In any case, you've issued me a challenge. I'm going to have steak-frites as often as possible the next few weeks, and I'll try to make it at home a couple of times — though to tell the truth I've never French-fried potatoes at home, nor has Cook, to the best of my recollection.

The Hundred Plates are of course my own Hundred; yours or anyone else's may (and probably should) vary. They're meant to be basic, generally accessible, tasty, nourishing, and fairly simple. Tonight we make a farmer's omelet, for example.

I don't recall the restaurant on Telegraph you mention. Was the building that A-frame chalet building I always associate with International House of Pancakes?

Curtis Faville said...

Merry reminded me last night over dinner that the place was called, I think, Mei and Mei, or some similar spelling.

The House of Pancakes building isn't the one. Could it have replaced Mei and Mei? I don't think so. You do know where I'm talking about, though.

Solomon taught at Wurster Hall for 30 years, and now is emeritus. He's joined firms with an outfit from Seattle, and is working on projects all over the world.

The fries in question were small, pencil-shin, and delicately crisp and succulent. You didn't need many of them. They were a true delicacy. They also had burgers and other classic fast food, but the fries were what made it.

Chevy's outlets still offer freshly baked Mexican chips, I believe. Other than than, the place is nothing special, and they never give you the fresh ones for a second helping. They cook them in a kind of rotating glass cylinder contraption, and the slices are laid out flat, fresh with oil. Probably very unhealthy, but I could eat three baskets of them, with their juicy tomato salsa, with no trouble.

Don't eat too much steak. Beef fat is the absolute worst for cholesterol. Or is that now considered passé?