Mark Bittman was not impressed with Le Pigeon Restaurant, and Morgan Brownlow Opening Cured Meat Distributor
I like Mark Bittman. He seems like a laid-back kind of guy I’d like to hang out with. Like everyone these days, he has a blog, and describes a recent book tour trip to the Northwest. Unfortunately, he wasn’t terribly impressed.
Lunch: At a local vegan place. Laughable, and I was looking forward to it. “Pizza” consisting of a seed cracker with glop on top; noodles with sort of Thai flavored glop on top; bowls of under-flavored beans, grains and kale. Could have been okay if not so self-righteously vegan. Was hungry immediately. Was hungry while eating.
Snack: Two apples. Better than lunch.
Dinner: At a decent if perhaps overrated Portland restaurant, pasta with inexpensive but not especially fragrant local truffles, followed by poussin with same, followed by weirdly contrived desserts. (I’ve had enough foie gras ice cream in my life already, thank you very much!)
I had looked forward to this day the most. I had heard the vegan place was terrific, and the evening’s restaurant had drawn raves. But it was the most disappointing day, if not the worst. So it goes.
Though he doesn’t name places he didn’t care for, a little sleuthing by one of our readers, points us in the right direction:
“Bittman loved Toro Bravo, and liked Bob’s Red Mill. But I had to know, what were the two restaurants he dissed, but did not name? A little searching shows the vegan place must be Blossoming Lotus in the Pearl Districts and the poussin with truffles place must be Le Pigeon. It seems like a bad move for Bittman’s hosts to take him to Le Pigeon. Here they had a guy whose whole book is about all of us eating less meat. He has lost 30 pounds over the last few years just by reducing his meat consumption, and they take him to a restaurant where the chef and the theme is MEAT, MEAT, MEAT. I mean, friggin’ foie gras ice cream? Why did they think he was going to like that?”
I love my readers. Jump over to Mark’s food diary to check out the rest of his comments. In the meantime, where would you have suggested he visit?
In case you missed my quick update yesterday, Patrick Coleman over at The Mercury (link is no longer good) wrote that Morgan Brownlow, ex-chef of clarklewis known for his bad temper (among other bad rumors), has started a company called “tails and trotters” (stupid adolescent lack of capitalization his, not mine). He even wrote Patrick a love poem:
we have been test running the logistics of the biz for several years.
and specially raising our hogs thru a special finishing diet.
our response has been very positive as we have been sampling our product…
in portland over the last year…(and seattle also)
garnering support and taste results/praises
our pork is food alliance certified…
quite tasty too.
I heard a rumor that someone from the outgoing Bush administration stole Morgan’s caps key… or is he really attempting poetry? Anyway, he’s starting out by selling some of his pork shoulders to Naomi over at BEAST. Notice that his poem says “we”. Hmm… who do you think that might be. Wink wink. Nudge nudge.
Patrick’s post is pretty entertaining; you should all click here to read it.
Speaking of which, I am puzzled why Naomi always uses all uppercase text on her weekly menu. It’s annoying as hell. Then I came up with a great theory tonight – it’s revenge. Here’s the way I see it: Michael Hebb, must have been responsible for all the stupid low case everything at Gotham clarklewis, etc. He even dropped me a nasty note one night when I capitalized ClarkLewis. I bet it drove Naomi insane. The empire collapsed over it, they split, and now she uses all caps in a subtle little way to get even. Brownlow, who worships at the altar of Hebb, thinks all lowercase is cool, and still uses it. AISI i bet hs txtz r impssbL 2 read 2.
sumtyms i’m amazD by my own brilliance.
Voodoo Chile says
I would have recommended The Farm. Especially since it’s so close to Le Pigeon anyways. The Farm is a fantastic place, with more vegetarian options than not, and most of it is local and organic as well. Great atmosphere and high quality food.
“In the meantime, where would you have suggested he visit?”
Cuisine Bonne Femme says
Dear Mark Bittman, the next time you come to Portland be sure to drop us a line. Unlike your “friends” we’ll be sure to point you to some terrific places.
Lunch ideas? Pok-Pok, Ten-01, Nostrana, some of the better Portland Food Carts (duh), Clyde Common
Dinner Ideas: Ten-01, Pok-Pok, Paley’s, Biwa or Tanuki
Nostrana???? Sorry, but it sucks big time! Trader Joe’s frozen pizzas are considerably better. And Bittman’s an East Coaster, so he’d trash their crappy pizza and pretentious vibe in 30 seconds. Also, Bittman’s right, overall the food in Portland is FAR from impressive. Plus this isn’t the first time a New York foodie has come for a visit, trashed us and instead of actually dialing up our quality, Portland just responds with collective defensiveness.
“HAND SELECTED WINE PAIRINGS” – I could not even get past this phrase.
The “we” in tails ‘n trotters is MB + Aaron Silverman, late of Greener Pastures chickens and Portland Farmers Market. From what I have gathered they are buying commodity hogs and “finishing” them on nuts, although unless you are finishing them for 3 months, I would be happily surprised to see a difference in quality from mersh hogs taken to market.
The “we” in Tails & Trotters (as the legal name is spelled outside of informal posts on Facebook sites or hastily scribed emails) is indeed Morgan Brownlow & myself, Aaron Silverman.
Sourpuss (excuse me, “sourpuss”) is absolutely incorrect, however, in asserting that we are buying “commodity” hogs & finishing them on nuts. “Commodity” hogs implies we are blindly purchasing hogs raised according to “least-cost” production methods from producers we have no contact with, and with no oversight over the production. When you eat “Carlton Farms” pork – THAT’S commodity pork purchased from Canada & the Midwest and slaughtered in Carlton, regardless of the restaurant you’re dining at says on their menu.
Instead, we have taken a production method developed over a number of years on my farm in Noti, Creative Growers, using breeds & feeding methods which adhere to the guidelines of the Consortia of the protection of Parma and San Daniele hams. In preparing to develop our project into a commercially viable business, we are working closely with an established larger-scaled producer to grow the pigs to our specifications, as our intended scale is far beyond Creative Growers’ capacity. As Morgan’s informal email noted, this producer is certified by the Food Alliance, adhering to a comprehensive set of guidelines covering management of soil, water, animal, and labor resources.
If you would like to see & taste the difference this program produces from “mersh” hogs, Pastaworks (on Hawthorne) is currently carrying loin chops, and Evoe next door is using the belly; in addition to Beast, Fife and Paley’s Place will also be serving Tails & Trotters pork this week.
Bittman is well respected but after reading what he ate over that time period, I’m not looking to him for any food advice…..for anything.
OK, I’ll fess up. I’m the one that gave the suggestions (with the exception of the vegan place and the Mill) in PDX and Eugene that Bittman seems to have followed. Its a long story, but a relative of his asked for my thoughts and I gave them. I gave Pigeon with the caveat that meat is the word, and I’d stand by it as a great example of what Portland does best. Who knew not everyone loves bacon in their dessert? I just had a very nice meal at Ten-01 but honestly I think its kinda generic in that any big city fancy food kinda way. I also gave him Pok Pok (duh), but it was closed for their holiday, plus Toro Bravo, the Tabor food cart downtown and Simpatica and/or Beast for brunch. Perhaps not your personal top list, but a fair set for your fair city…
Perhaps you could have just deferred to an actual PDXer.
Sure, maybe…but I eat in PDX enough to have a pretty good idea of what’s going on, anyone with a decent stomach can make a list of places. I’m sure if all you PDXers chime in there will be some overlap and some differences between you all, and most if not all of my choices will be on some or many of the lists. I was asked a favor and I gave my opinions. I knew he wasn’t writing a big review so I told my friend what I like to eat when I’m in PDX and left it at that. While I stand by my PDX choices, its worth noting that Bittman seems to have had no trouble eating tripe and pig’s feet down here at Belly in Eugene and loving it…so who knows, maybe just an off night or dish at Pigeon.
PrimitiveCinema’s suggestions were great. What are you talking about.
Lur Kerr says
I would have recommended:
Lovely Hula Hands
Tear Drop Lounge
Pok Pok (ditto duh)
all are delicious, have local feel/flair, and consistently deliver great product. The sushi at Zilla Sake is some of the best I have ever had.
Pearl District says
I was wondering the same thing.
Did you read his site and see all the sycophantic sheep who wrote in to tell him how much they just adooorrrred his contributions to modern food writing. Oh my God…Puke! What’s with this idiot – Sounds like he just likes the sound of his own voice.
“At a local vegan place. Laughable, and I was looking forward to it. “Pizza” consisting of a seed cracker with glop on top; noodles with sort of Thai flavored glop on top; bowls of under-flavored beans, grains and kale. Could have been okay if not so self-righteously vegan.”
Um…Duh! First, you go to a vegan place and expect it to be representative of a city’s cuisine. It seems like a pretty cheap shot to And “self-righteously vegan?” Was he just hatched? I can’t think of a more redundant phrase I’ve heard lately in regards to food. Maybe salty bacon. Or rich foie gras. Or banal food writer.
“Oh my God…Puke! What’s with this idiot – Sounds like he just likes the sound of his own voice.”
Talk about stroking to the sound of your own voice Ken.
Okay, let’s talk about it. Who are you?
I think many Portland food types have pretty thin skin. Bittman didn’t like the vegan place. What’s wrong with hoping that one can have a decent vegan/healthy veg meal – especially on the West coast where we’re supposed to have crunchy healthy locavore granola types? Big freaking deal.
Bittman did not say “THUS MY WHOLE PERCEPTION OF PORTLAND IS THAT OF A GASTRONOMIC WASTELAND” He never said the vegan restaurant had to be representative the cuisine of the City of Roses.
And why does every meal that a outsider eats in Portland have to be “representative” of our city? And now we go through this exercise of self-justification. Yeesh. Chill.
I love Bittman’s NYTIMES column – simple, practical, interesting. He’s hardly self-aggrandizing. I’ve stopped reading the comments on the websites of the national papers because of idiotic reactionary comments from the left, right, top and bottom. I’d like to think a site like this might still be capable of thoughtful comments instead of egotistical posturing.
Food Dude says
I’ve had to give up egotistical posturing as I’ve gotten older. Switched to yoga. It seems easier on my body.
I love Le Pigeon, but I’ve tried both the pasta w/truffles and the Poussin and they were both just OK. I guess he just got unlucky with what he ordered. These things happen…plus, it sounds like he had very high expectations. I still like the guy personally.
The last time we went to Pigeon, we were more unimpressed than impressed. Overcooked eel with large deep char marks in it, duck feet so overcooked they were like fried branches, and once again, truffles that were totally underripe and gritty from dirt. Why cant people use truffles when they are ready and please give them a rinse would ya? Are they so excited that they have to use them without thinking first? The time before that at Pigeon was great though, from start to finish.
Food Dude says
I’ve heard many mixed reviews of Pigeon lately. It seems to be a bit of a trend.
Duck feet? I….how do..?….why in the?…..who would?…..DUCK FEET?!?!
“how do..?” Well you could take a fertilized egg and bury it in the ground for a couple of weeks.
“why in the?” Cause then you have a half formed duckling all ready for soft-boiling.
“who would?” Pass me a spoon ….
oh, fetal duck feet?
well yeah, who wouldn’t want some of that?
I stand corrected
I guess I am left with the questions of,
A; Is this a valid recognition on your part that Pigeon may be sliding a bit
B; a comment on your behalf that “trend” is a term that people use when they feel like they need to be in compliance with what “society” says about a dining establishment?
Inquiring minds want to know????
Food Dude says
I haven’t been in the last year, but people I trust are telling me of some meals and service that are not as good as it used to be.
too bad old Bittman missed out on Lucier.
and I agree with you, chefken. picking on blossoming lotus? the raw vegan cafe in a yoga studio? that’s like shooting tempeh in a barrel. sprouted-seed self-righteousness is the whole goddamn point.
Food Dude says
I think it should be pointed out, that Bittman didn’t even name Blossoming Lotus, we did.
I suspect Bittman would’ve found Lucier madly pretentious, Vegas-y and annoying.
Pearl District says
Blossoming Lotus isn’t bad. It’s healthy food that happens to be vegan. It doesn’t promise to be anything else. If one were to eat pastrami every day, imagine what one would look like/feel like. The owners are extremely nice people. That said, I have no idea why anyone would take Bittman to Blossoming Lotus if he were only in town for a couple of days.
I lost 20 lbs recently eating pastrami every day. Of course, I ate it on a salad. If I ate at Blossoming Lotus every day I’d gain 20 lbs, because I’d need something tasty afterwards to clean my palate. Vegan food doesn’t have to be bad, but the quality of the food isn’t the main reason people eat it. They eat it because it’s vegan, because of a lifestyle choice, and the taste of it is secondary. It’s like why people eat at the Space Needle. They don’t have to be especially good because they have a captive audience. When I eat vegan, I go to Karam or Tandoor Indian Kitchen.
I haven’t been to The Farm for a while but agree the food is good. The reason I haven’t been back is the service. It would be a good example of “how we eat” in Portland in regard to that hipper-than-thou attitude.
Maybe you did have bad service, but man does this place always have people griping about the service in every review I ever see. Between my ex-girlfriend and I, we have been to The Farm at least 30 times, and neither of us has ever had a problem with the service. Kind of weird. And I second the opinion about the food being good, and it’s reasonably priced as well.
I agree about the prices too. To be fair, it has been over a year since I’ve been there. I just gave up on it. I was taking a dance class at Viscount and liked to stop by before class for the food but not the ‘tude.
The Oregonian named Blossoming Lotus in Leslie Cole’s article. Also, at his talk at Powell’s that evening he said he went to Le Pigeon for dinner that evening prior to the event.
Food Dude says
Shows what I know ;) I don’t read the Oregonian unless I am forced. That’s what the times is for.
I’m the sleuther, and I didn’t know that Bittman had called out Le Pigeon (to his Powell’s audience) or Blossoming Lotus (in Leslie Cole’s blog). And I was so proud of my investigative skills.
Someone mentioned Lovely Hula Hands… After years of procrastination, I finally went with a couple girlfriends on a Wednesday evening and it was *dead.* Menu was interesting, but didn’t deliver except in a tasty bruscetta or salad or something we had first when I was ravenously hungry. Gave the duck lasagna a chance, but shouldn’t have. Don’t recall if we had dessert. Hope it was just an off night, since the ambiance was date-night-dorable, and this preggo mom needs one badly…
I have to doubt the sincerity of this last review of LHH. I have never met a pregnant woman who didn’t remember if she had dessert or not.
Food Dude says
She lost me at “tasty bruscetta or salad or something.”
lovely food snob says
LHH went down the tubes the moment they removed that Thai flatiron steak from the menu. And I don’t understand the love affair with LHH’s burger, which is usually a soggy pile.
Btw, is it ok to use all caps when turning a name into an acronym?
Food Dude says
LHH had a Thai flatiron steak? That sounds so strange for them.
Their burger never did a whole lot for me either, though I know some people who love it.
I (obviously) don’t worry about grammar much, but I think all caps is fine ;)
If you don’t like the LHH burger, you probably like your meat overcooked.
Good Food For Me says
Anyone seen the Menu Guide out? I’m thinking they are O.O.B. which means whomever gave them money is likely not going to get it back which means 2,000 or so dollars down the tube. It is a quarterly right? It is not cheap to be in if you are one of the paid advertisers. I’m sure they are not going to tell us either but it should have hit the stands several weeks ago. I can not find one to save my life so hopefully they will at least publish one more if they intend to swirl down the river with the dough or have mercy and give it back rather than put it off til they sell one or two more restaurants in.
Food Dude says
I went looking for one last weekend, but only found their boxes full of some other newspaper. Their website is still functioning, It is produced by Simon Media, a large conglomerate, and they still list a Portland office.
For the huge amount they charge, I sure hope they don’t leave their advertisers in the lurch.
I agree with MyNextMeal. I like Mark’s column in the Times too, although he can be a bit too cute at times with his videos.
I strongly agree with the notion that, apparently, only lunatics are allowed to comment on The Oregonian website. They should follow the Times and drop comments on news stories. “Opinions” expressed would never make it as letters to the editor; racist, homophobic … everything is apparently okay.
Finally, as a fan of Toro Bravo I was happy to see Mark liked it. Four visits for me, four near perfect experiences. The man does vegetables better than anyone.
The Bitten NY Times food writer is truly an ass. Toro Bravo is FINE, not great. Pok Pok is great, but you can’t ride a bike after it without heartburn. What is great is Lovely Hula Hands’s hamburger. And the servers are so nice.
Thats odd about Le Pigeon, I just had a completely different experience which I just posted. The first step in recovery is anger….I think fat boy had some ‘meat anger’.
I had two nice meals at Le Pigeon this week. The beef heart with beets stood out. A nice inexpensive cab franc went well with it. The duck and pork entrees were also solid. Pigeon simply isn’t for everyone. If you’re not into meat, it makes absolutely no sense to go there. I’ve had the occasional off night there, but overall I think Gabe consistently does a good job.
“I’ve had the occasional off night there, but overall I think Gabe consistently does a good job.”
Consistency would indicate no off nights. N’est-ce pas?
C’est vrai, mais….
pork for everyone! says
brownlow and hebb haven’t worked together for over a year and do not have a working relationship. morgan has been trashed on this site right and left–if you’ve worked with him and have horror stories, fine. but it’s been two years since he left clarklewis and he’s been humbly working his ass off to get Tails & Trotters under way. his love and talent for butchery is something that will benefit the food community in portland and beyond. it is undeniable that he is an incredibly talented chef, and this new project is really very fitting for his talent. here’s to seeing him succeed.
i don’t care to talk about Hebb, but i have to say, Morgan B made some of my favorite meals that I can think of. i don’t eat pork, so i’ll most likely miss out on his new venture, but i wish him the best, and look forward to the day when i can eat his food again.