Get a seat for the Phelp’s Creek wine dinner

Girl chef + Girl Winemaker = incredible night

Chef Kathy and French winemaker Alexandrine Roy of Phelp’s Creek Winery are teaming up for a wine dinner this coming Sunday night, March 10. Yes, there are still seats. Tickets are $75 for wine club members, $85 for non-wine club members. Please call Kathy at the restaurant at 541-387-4000 for reservations. Here is the menu:

Reception: Fleur de Roy Rose of Pinot Noir
Rustic brie and garlic confit tartlets, fig and rosemary jam

1st Course: 2010 Pinot Gris
Oregon Dungeness crab, meyer lemon sorbet, avocado, Asian pears, pea shoots

2nd Course: Coeur de Roy Blanc de Noir
Prawn fumet, grilled prawns, saffron spaetzle, romesco crouton “dunker”

3rd Course: 2010 Phelps Creek Cuvee Alexandrine Pinot Noir
Crisp pork belly, sweet potato gratin, pear and root vegetable relish

4th Course: 2010 Cuvee Alexandrine Gevrey- Chambertin Pinot Noir
Provencal lamb shank, olives, parsley, preserved lemon, roasted fingerling potatoes

5th Course: Vin Dore Gewurztraminer
Panna cotta, almond meringue, candied kumquat, pineapple and sage

Fabulous wines, fabulous food. Please join us.

It’s all Greek to you

Yes, this Wednesday we visit the white sand and blue sea of Greece for our three-course international dinner. And in planning this, our newest chef, Matt Patterson, learned a valuable lesson: be careful what you reveal to Chef Kathy. Last week, he asked what our international dinner would be this week.

“I haven’t decided yet,” Kathy said. “What’s your favorite cuisine?”

“I don’t really have one,” said Matt, “but I’ve been craving Greek food lately.”

“Really? What’s your favorite dish?”

“I love spanakopita,” he said.

“Great!” Kathy said. “You’ll be making it for 35 next Wednesday.”

So here’s the Greek menu, three courses for $15:

• Spanikopita, spinach and feta pie
• Souvlaki arnisious kima: Grilled ground pork and lamb skewers, tzatziki, house-made pita bread
• Ladi Tourta: olive oil, almond and citrus cake, Greek yogurt ice cream

Yes, please make reservations.

A beach in time saves nine

We are just taking a zen moment here to thank our fabulous staff, both in the kitchen and front of house, for giving us (Kathy and Stu and the doggies) an amazing gift we haven’t had for 7 years: a weekend off. We left on Friday night, and returned on Sunday afternoon, fresh from the marvelous Oregon coast. And you didn’t even know we were gone.

Mysterious cutting board, and this Wednesday’s (2/27) dinner

A cutting board that makes you go, “hmmm…?”

A few weeks ago, with no fanfare, a large, white, completely new, expensive cutting board showed up in our kitchen, racked nicely with the other cutting boards.

Justin noticed it first. “Seems like those cutting boards are multiplying back there.” Kathy thought he was joking. A day or so later, she went to retrieve a board to cut ling cod, and, whoa, “Where did this come from?” she asked around the kitchen. Blank stares.

“We thought you ordered it,” Sergio said.

Kathy looked closely at the board. “Nooo, I didn’t. Could it have come back accidentally from catering?”

“What catering?” asked Cuate. Oh right, we haven’t done any to speak of since December.

Kathy: “Justin, did you…?”
Justin: “Nope, sister.”

Kathy: “Sergio could you have …?”
Sergio: “Not me.”

Kathy: “Cuate, maybe you…”
Cuate: “Un uh”

It’s a really nice cutting board. If anyone knows how it got here, we would love to know. And if it’s yours, you can come get it. Although the board is starting to feel at home here.

It’s India on Wednesday

Super, super sad that not too many of you (OK, who are we kidding … hardly anyone) came in for our Irish dinner last week. We think two things led to our slow night: the previous week’s Valentine’s Day plus three-day weekend fatigue, and maybe, when you think Ireland, you just think potatoes, though we hardly had one in sight.

Never mind, you’re forgiven. Because this week, we are heading to India, a land we know and love well, with mysterious, incredible food that we could eat every single day and never grow tired of. Chef Kathy first tasted real Indian food in 1975, and has been on a quest ever since to understand this amazing cuisine. So we are preparing three savory dishes (no dessert) for you this Wednesday:

Cauliflower and spinach pekoras, mint cilantro chutney
Sambar green bean and potato stew with fresh coconut chutney
Pork vindaloo and rice

Yes, reservations are appreciated.

It’s three courses for $15 per person, plus beer and wine pairings for another $8 per person

Best + Best = BEST!

We were super stoked this past week that the readers of the Gorge Guide, in a reader poll called, “Best of the Gorge” selected us a “Best Restaurant” (two years in a row) and, five months after opening for breakfast, as “Best Brunch.” Kudos to our crew who all work so hard to make this happen. And if you voted for us, well, thanks!

Matt: He’s a Big Rainbow

Matt Patterson, Oregon native and culinary school grad, most recently of the Bay House in Lincoln City (in our opinion, the finest restaurant on the Oregon Coast) joined us in the kitchen this past Monday.

Everyone who comes in for deliveries says, “Are you the new Rainbow?” Matt’s taking it in stride, though at 6’1”, he’s a bit bigger than our last Rainbow. He’s thinking he should get a t-shirt that just says, “The New Rainbow.” But whatever you call him, we’re loving him, and if you come in, please give him a big Hood River Howdy. He’ll be cooking breakfast and doing our daytime prep, alongside Chef Kathy.

Take the magic flying shamrock to Ireland

…And now we wait

Nora’s Table lovers, who have slurped our soup, gobbled our duck, panted feverishly over our gnocchi, and run their tongues across our dessert plates in earnest, have come to collect the names of our staff like fourth graders collected Willie Mays baseball cards in 1964. (Uh, we know one former fourth grader with a deep and abiding love of the Say Hey Kid, and she still adores him.)

So when we say Rainbow Trosper, our beloved sous chef and pastry chef, is gone (for at least a while) to give birth to her little girl, due to make an appearance sometime in the next few days, we know you will share both our happiness for Rainbow and Wes, and a bit of apprehension about the fate of the finest dessert one can have in the Gorge, made by the incomparable Miss Bow.

But this is what makes a good restaurant kitchen a thrilling creative endeavor. In the weeks before Rainbow took her maternity leave, we all had a long list of dishes (from crackers to hamburger buns to yes, dessert) that we learned at Rainbow’s pregnant feet.  Good kitchens are like an excellent game of “Rumor.” You know how this parlor game is played, right? One whispers a secret in another player’s ear, who then whispers it in the next player’s ear, and so forth, until at the end of the line, the final player repeats out loud what he has just heard. “I have a new red hat,” has become, “I heard the cat caught a rat,” and everyone howls. So our job, in a kitchen, is to share our knowledge so that the red hat STAYS a red hat, even if it’s shared a hundred times.

And we are proud to report that we are muddling along pretty darn well (though Chef Kathy was a bit nervous turning out the Valentine’s Day desserts) in Rainbow’s absence. And now we wait for that precious, lucky little girl to arrive. Because who wouldn’t want to be the daughter of the finest cookie maker in two states? Consider us your official site for “Trosper Baby Watch.” We’ll keep you posted.

Saint Paddy’s Day comes early

Is it ever too early for the wearin’ of the green? We think not, so this Wednesday February 20, we take the magic flying shamrock to Ireland for our three-course international dinner, in which you can get three courses for $15.  Here’s the menu:

  • Mussles in Guinness and garlic, with soda bread, a favorite dish of The Brazen Head in Dublin, one of the oldest pubs in  Ireland
  • Mountain Shadow lamb stew with cabbage, carrots, potatoes and barley
  • Irish trifle

Save March 10 for us and Phelps Creek

On March 10, we’re bringing a little woman power to your palette. Alexandrine Roy, Phelps Creek’ French wine maker, and Chef Kathy will be joining forces for dinner.  The dinner will pair Phelps Creek wines, and some wines made in France by Alexandrine, together with early spring Gorge produce, Oregon Dungeness Crab and Jim Hanna’s incomparable Mountain Shadow lamb.  We sold this dinner out last year, and it was really one of the highlights of the year for us at Nora’s. Phelps Creek wine club buyers can purchase tickets for $75, and non-members pay $85. Call us to reserve now. We’ll reveal the menu and wines next week.






In the hours before we open

Morocco and Valentine’s Day

This Wednesday: Morocco

So far, you’ve been with us to Spain, Italy, Belgium, Lebanon, Brazil and Russia. If it’s Wednesday, February 6, it must be Morocco! Three courses, $15 per person. And here’s the menu:
• Cous cous salad with squash, feta, mint
• Chicken tagine with dates, preserved lemons, olives and carrots
• Winter fruits in ginger syrup with cardamom yogurt

How to celebrate Valentine’s Day

Our rules for a happy, romantic evening, if you happen to be over the age of 50:

1. Eat early. You know why.
2. Buy flowers, not a potted plant. Life is uncertain.
3. If one of you eats garlic, you BOTH eat garlic.

That’s pretty much it. And if you are younger than 50? No rules. How about that.

Here’s some of what you’ll find on our Valentine’s Day line-up. And yes, of course, you’ll want reservations. You can expect our regular menu, with a little fancy footwork:

Oysters on the half-shell, two ways:
• Raw, with fresh grated horseradish and mignonette
• Roasted, with preserved lemon hollandaise and buttered bread crumbs

Golden beet and kumquat salad, goat cheese crouton, lemon thyme vinaigrette

Pan-roasted duck breast, blackberry gastrique, duck fat potatoes, garlicky lacinato kale

Filet mignon, horseradish blue cheese mashed potatoes, oxtail jus, spring peas and carrots

House-made fettucini, bacon lardons, spring peas, leeks, cream, preserved lemon, grana cheese, Quercus Farm egg

And for dessert:

Chocolate mousse trifle, chocolate covered strawberries
Panna cotta, raspberry coulis, almond kisses
Lemon layer cake with cream cheese frosting and lemon curd filling

If Thursdays and romance don’t work for you, we will have these special dishes on our menu through the weekend.

Here’s what happens in May

• The swallows return to San Juan Capistrano*
• Our friends Doug and Darlene come home to the Hood from sailing around the southern end of God Knows Where
• The wind starts blowing in Earnest (and at the Event Site, Dougs, Rowena, Cheap Beach, etc.)
• Nora’s starts serving breakfast 7 days a week

See you around Nora’s Table.

*This would only be true if Capistrano were in the Gorge. The swallows actually return to Capistrano on March 19, but if they were coming HERE, it would probably take them until May. Got that?

We’re back this Wednesday

We’re back, and you’re hungry

We re-open this Wednesday, January 16 at 5:00. There, that should take the sting out of that sub-zero you’ve been enduring.

If you’ve been reading our blog here, you know that Stu and Kathy have been zipping around the greater LA area like bats at sunset, eating at one terrific place after another, although we would say in the final analysis: Portland beats LA by a nose. And a tail. Even though we had the most amazing pig’s tails last night at Night+Market.

So here’s what two weeks of sunshine and adventure have wrought: new ideas for your plates. Here’s some of what you’ll see on our menus this week:

·       Golden beet and kumquat salad on frisee, lemon thyme vinaigrette, goat cheese crouton

·       Seared rockfish, crispy rice bars, Burmese ginger pepper sauce

·       Shrimp samosas, red onion date chutney

·       Crispy wedge of pork belly, peanut butter pan perdu, blackberry red pepper jelly, pickled red cabbage

·       Grilled cuttlefish, golden raisins, pine nuts, parsley,  preserved lemon boquerones  vinaigrette

·       Ribeye, roasted sesame kale, togarashi frites, sirachi aioli

·       Seared scallops, roasted leeks and parsnips, walnut parsley vinaigrette

·       Porchetta, roasted potatoes, grilled lacinato kale, figs, fig vincotto

·       Roasted cauliflower and potatoes, carrot coconut curry, carrot chutney, rice and grilled naan

The Russians are coming!

In our continuing effort to take you around the world on our Wednesday Cheap Date Night, this Wednesday, we reopen with a three-course dinner from Russia, for $15, and if you wish, you can pair the three courses with a Vodka tasting for an additional $9.

Here’s what’s on the menu:

·       Vesenny salad, with radishes, cucumbers, eggs, dill, sour cream, rye crouton with beet and horseradish caviar

·       Beef stroganoff with house-made egg noodles

·       Dobostorte, 7 layer cake with chocolate buttercream and caramel

Yes, our regular menu is available Wednesday. However, if you want the Russian meal, please make a reservation, and say, “I want the Russian dinner.”

Breakfast gets crabby

Apparently, chefs from around the world have discovered our Oregon Dungeness crabs, one wag calling them, “the new lobster.” So we don’t totally get them to ourselves anymore. But the sweet and delicious crustacean is making an appearance at breakfast beginning this week. To wit: Crab and spaetzle in brown butter, poached eggs, preserved lemon persillade.

Other new breakfast dishes to enjoy:

·       Swedish ham-stuffed potato dumplings in brown butter with huckleberry jam and eggs any way you like them

·       New Mexico-style open-faced enchilada, red chili mole, goat cheese, fried eggs, blue corn posole

And don’t forget our new breakfast hours:

Friday and Saturday, 8 am to noon

Sunday, 8 am to 1 pm

Gotta go. Plane to catch. See you around Nora’s Table.

Animal, vegetable and beer

Kathy and Stu are eating their way across LA. Here’s Kathy’s take on Animal

Our good friend and county administrator from Arkansas, Dave Meriwether, once told me, “A meal without meat is just a snack.”

With its one-word name, Los Angeles’s Animal may have you thinking when you walk in the door that you’ve entered a serious palace to meat. And everything about Animal is serious. There is no sign out front on the black facade. The walls inside are cream. And bare, save for a few paintings relegated to the four corners of the room. The restaurant is long and lean and clean and dimly lit. The bar at the back holds wine bottles set in neat rows. The menu is spare, and dishes are described without much fanfare: “marrow bone, chimichurri, caramelized onions.”

But is the focus here strictly on meat? Not even for a minute. The meat and vegetables prepared at Animal would die without each other. To separate them would be to wrench apart each dish’s DNA.

Take the marrow bone.  Here, co-chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo roast the marrow, remove it from the bone, slice a six-inch section of the roasted bone in half length-wise, and spoon the marrow back into its original home to serve, leaving no doubt about the marrow’s provenance. But it’s the delicate chimichurri  and caramelized onions spooned sparingly on top of the marrow that take this dish from its usual meat-on-toast presentation to something richer, deeper and far more satisfying. And yes, it does come with richly buttered bread that has been toasted on a flat top griddle, not grilled, so no charred notes detract from the sweet interplay of marrow and chimichurri.

A dish of veal tongue does nothing to disguise its origins either: the veal is sliced thin, long and tongue-shaped, perfectly tender. There is nothing better in the world than a tongue sandwich, when it’s done right. And a good one includes horseradish and mustard and pickles. Here, the tongue is homage to the perfect tongue sandwich: the slices are laid on a swish of mustard made from black mustard seeds, with a sliced and fried West Indian gherkin pickle, a scattering of croutons, and finally, a spoon of horseradish in crème fraiche with steelhead roe for the perfect salty smack.

Whelks, or sea snails, don’t make it on to menus much, and that’s a shame. Cooked right, they have all the flavor of scallops, with a firmer bite. Here they are mated to small, tender gnocchi and cream with pea tendrils, fennel and bacon.

We drank beer with our dishes, a solution we have gravitated to when restaurant wine lists and glass pours have prices way beyond what we think reasonable. Maybe wine glass pours starting at $11 and pushing right through $18 work in L.A., but I can’t see that trend coming to Hood River or Nora’s any time soon. Thankfully, the beer list was designed for food (no bitter hopped-up A-bombs), and included some Oregon favorites, though we still found it hard to believe that anyone would charge $6 for a bottle of Full Sail Session, good beer though it is.

One of the best dishes we had included almost no animal at all: a local burrata (mozzarella on the outside, cream and mozzarella on the inside), katsuobushi (a log of dried, fermented and smoked tuna that is shaved in a special box, a bit like a mandolin), green garlic, leeks and jalapeno.  The dish sounds like a confusion of the highest order, but Shook and Dotolo have tamed the disparate ingredients into behaving as if they grew up together. If an ancient Japanese tuna preparation wants to hang out with an Italian cheese, they say, “Why not?”

And we say, “Yes, please.”

Some general notes on dining in LA:

Who runs the kitchens? We have now been to several notable top-ten restaurants, and several purely ethnic restaurants, including one 83-year old Jewish deli, and it’s the same everywhere: The chefs and servers are men and women, young and old, of nearly every ethnicity found on the West coast. The dish pit and bus person jobs, however, belong exclusively to men from Central America and Mexico.  Which reinforces our belief that without them, every restaurant we know and love would implode.

Everyone has been to Portland. Yes, when we tell our servers we’ve come from Oregon for a dose of sun and food, they all say, “I love Portland! I have friends in Portland!”  And in most cases, if we didn’t know better, we’d say we were dining in Portland. Same vibe, same tattoos, same friendly 30-somethings. Better tans, though.

Want Thai, walk two blocks. You hungry? Consult a phone app or laptop, plug in your location, and food craving, and chances are, you are within 5 minutes walking distance of your heart’s desire. Drive down Santa Monica Blvd. and for miles on the north side of the boulevard, there is little else to see but restaurants. Miles and miles of restaurants.  Well, except for that one section of Beverly Hills mansions. I guess if you have to feed 10 million people (population of Los
Angeles County) you better have a few seats.