For dinner the other night I went to the Bye and Bye (1011 NE Alberta St). I did what I always do: I stared at the menu for a long time and ended up ordering the exact same thing I always get – The BBQ platter. Rather than order an IPA to accompany my meal I realized that it was 'Stout Time'.
Stout time comes when the air is crisp in the morning, the clouds migrate back into the sky and it begins to rain again. It's a time when you retire the summer IPA's and wheat beers and pick up the dark stuff.
The Stout I had was Alemeda Brewing's Black Bear XX Stout – an amazing chocolaty, coffee-esque, dark but clean beer that was the the perfect start to autumn and a fantastic accompaniment to my vegan BBQ platter.
Happy Hour runs 4-7 at the Bye and Bye Cafe and I plan to be drinking many more of those stouts in the weeks to come.
Even Bigfood Would Be Bummed
The restaurant started out of a simple proposition – create a unique place which served gourmet food that used fresh local and natural ingredients and didn't have any animal products. The words VEGAN weren't plastered across the sign or on the menu. The food was just Vegan by nature. The restaurant had its roots in a series of very successful Vegan family dinners run by then Tabla
chef Sean Coryell. Coryell went to great lengths to produce intricate and flavorful dishes using a wide range of exotic ingredients. Speaking with Sean at those family dinners you'd hear his absolute passion for the food.
Coryell enthusiasm fueled a nearly year long effort to build Nutshell. Opened in late 2007 and located on North Williams, Nutshell won raves from the Veg community and even won over some hardened omnivorous Portland foodies. But no sooner had it opened than the signs began to show that things were not well behind the scenes. An ever changing menu and constant experimentation by Coreyell and almost manic fascination with expanding the restaurant to Tokyo, Hawaii… "global man" created an environment where food could be extremely hit or miss.
Coryell's departure from Nutshell marked a significant change. The menu with a thousand revolving dishes was simplified down to just a handful, the portions cut back significantly and although the restaurant was built with an open kitchen as its centerpiece the men and women in the kitchen made it perfectly clear they were all about business.
This week Nutshell made another turn. With rumors circulating about its demise and increasing complaints about the food and service Nutshell added butter, eggs and cheese to just about every dish on the menu (There's even an egg on their pizza). With a bad taste already in their mouth this move infuriated the Vegan community and signaled another clear step towards the end of this once beloved eating establishment.
So what went wrong? Were Coryell's eyes too big for the patron's stomach? Did the Tabla team bungle things behind the scenes as they did with the Ten 01 opening? Or is it too much to thing Portland can sustain a gourmet vegan restaurant? (or even a Vegan Strip Club?) I think Portland can absolutely sustain Vegan restaurants, even a gourmet one, but like all restaurants they need to be well run. Just because something is Vegan doesn't mean it's going to be an immediate success and adding eggs to your plates doesn't mean you'll stay afloat. I'll be surprised if Nutshell didn't shutter its doors by the end of the year or completely reinvent itself (ala Ten 01).
I met my friend David Walker today at Laughing Planet on Belmont for lunch. I've been to the restaurant many times but today as we were finishing up our lunch it struck me how much I enjoy eating there and just how consistently dependable it is.
What makes Laughing Planet works so well is that they've got a very simple concept – healthy bowls and burritos with lots of options. Being Vegan I appreciate just how many vegan friendly choices they have on the menu, and with a fair share of meated options it's an easy choice when meeting a friend whose omnivorous. I also like that you can add tofu or tempeh to any of their options. Although I'm Vegan I can't say I have much love for tofu. It's "OK" and if prepared right I can enjoy it. I enjoy the tangy almost nutty taste of tempeh much more and always feel more full than when scarfing down tofu. I'm also a fan of seitan and it's various 'fake meat' forms.
Its easy not to appreciate some of the good things in life, especially places we visit on a regular basis. They fade into the fabric of things and so it's nice to just stop for a moment and say… Wow, this place is really something…I'm glad its here!