December 21st is always a special day for us. It is the day Grandpa Nelson and I got married! It is also officially the first day of winter, and the longest night of the year. This year, it was also the coldest.
When We Three stepped out to catch our Lyft ride to La Moule for our anniversary dinner, it was near freezing! The Christmas lights on all our neighbors’ balconies sure looked pretty.
The driving was safe, but only because it has been so DRY that there was no water to freeze on the roads.
Our dinner was incredible, as usual. The waitress even brought us glasses of champagne for our anniversary! I had a radicchio salad and moules (mussels) served with buttery garlicky sauce and crusty baguette, and Auntie Bridgett had escargot served on focaccia bread with a creamy, yummy sauce.
Grandpa had pommes frites (French fries) and a fine glass of Merlot.
We shared and laughed and had a great time. It was a fine way to celebrate 48 fun years!
We got home and lit the candles for the fourth night of Hanukkah while enjoying the Christmas lights. Never miss a chance to celebrate!
I have sad news about another of our favorite places closing. Suzette, a delightfully French-feeling creperie just a block away on Belmont, is going out of business. We love this place so much, we take all our out of town visitors there.
I guess you could say they are going back to their roots. They started as a catering business and will be keeping that part. Still, we loved being in their space, enjoying the rich red walls and wonderfully eclectic bits of art and cookery.
The food, which is French pescatarian (vegetarian, except that they serve fish) is rich and savory (or rich and sweet, as you like) and not like anything we have found elsewhere.
For example, we stopped in Friday and had a gluten-free peanut butter and honey crepe, a warm ahi tuna and cannelini bean salad, and potatoes tartiflettes (roasted potatoes with mushrooms, cheese, and onions.) Basically, the whole meal was a double Parisian kiss on a plate.
A tiny bit of good news is that much of the decor that makes us so happy is going on sale, since it won’t be needed for catering.
And we brought some useful mementos home. Auntie Bridgett got one of the lamps made from Grand Marnier bottles and I picked up a heavy copper bowl. It took some rubbing with salt and lemon juice, but is now shiny enough to hang on the wall until I feel the need to make a meringue or something.
Wishing Jehnee Rains and her staff all the best. They gave this neighborhood many good years.
We had some errands to do yesterday, so Auntie Bridgett and I went for a nice long walk. And since all the places we needed to go were down on Hawthorne, we saw how that street is changing during the lockdown.
We saw that Chez Machin, a lovely French bistro type place, has changed its name to Frog and Snail. I am hoping it is just a name change and the owners are the same. They are nice folks, and too many people are losing their livelihoods because of the shutdown. We will have a taste of their frogs and snails when the city opens up more.
We still found a lot of businesses closed, but the art and messaging is beautiful and hopeful. I took pictures as a way of holding tight onto goodness and love.
I have been so dismayed these last few days at the level of anger and violence that has swept over Portland and the rest of the country that I sometimes just want to curl up and sleep until all the hatred has passed.
But love, beauty and just plain human goodness are making themselves heard, too. And that gives me comfort.
After dropping off dry cleaning and mailing packages, we stopped at Hawthorne Liquor. Auntie Bridgett is on a mission to find a certain kind of yummy cognac that we had on an Air France flight, years ago. We have yet to find it anywhere in the city. But I did have time to wonder at this improbable bottle of pear brandy!
On the way home we stopped at Whole Bowl for lunch, which we ate while sitting on the chairs outside the temporarily closed Common Grounds coffee shop. We stopped at Chase bank to return someone’s lost credit card, and enjoyed some more street art.
By the time we got home, we had walked nearly three miles! I felt pretty accomplished, after these long months of too much sofa-sitting. Maybe we can put ourselves out of this hole, after all.
One fun thing about Portland is that there are so many wonderful places to eat!
I have had spicy Ethiopian food, luscious vegetarian burgers, and some really indulgent Portland brunches. Last night, however, I had dinner at the best French restaurant outside of France. In my humble opinion, of course.
We took a Lyft car to Bistro Agnes at the corner of 12th and Alder, downtown.
Grandpa Nelson only ever orders French fries (or pommes frites, on the French menu) but he made up for it by ordering a very nice bottle of wine from the Rhône Valley. It was scrumptious.
Auntie Bridgett was very excited about the restaurant’s dozen or so Absinthes and got some advice from Justin, our waiter. He said that the Jade 1901 was the most authentic old-time Absinthe, since it was copied from absinthe in bottles from that time. A lady came by to do the special presentation, with ice water dripped over a sugar cube and into the glass, and it all felt very fancy. Bridgett declared it smooth and sweet, totally delicious.
We had escargot and mushrooms for an appetizer, served with wonderfully crunchy bread. We were glad we shared! There was so much!
While we were eating, we were treated to the greatest show on earth, the people of Portland out and about. Bistro Agnes has large windows that let us watch umbrellas, stylish coats and wooly hats go by in the drippy evening.
For dinner I ordered the Mussels Mareniere , which are mussels served in a buttery garlic sauce with MORE crusty bread. I would take a bit, have a sip of that delicious red wine, then go in for another. Yumm!
Bridgett ordered a Winter Vegetable Pithiver, which was vegetables and cheese in a beautiful puff pastry. It was so gooey and tasty, she couldn’t stop eating it, even when she was full.
But even the good wine and great food weren’t what made Bistro Agnes the best French restaurant this side of the Atlantic. It was the people, and their attention to making us comfortable, informed, and relaxed. A lady at the door took our coats and umbrellas. Justin asked about food allergies and explained the dishes, including how long Bridgett’s puff pastry would take to cook. The absinthe and dessert presentation were delicious and beautiful.
We stayed two hours, incredibly long for an American dinner, but just about right for France. We never felt rushed or awkward, because every single person there was charming and welcoming.
We won’t be going to Bistro Agnes often, of course, since it is not an inexpensive dinner. But as a stand in for a trip to our home-away-from-home country, it is cheap at twice the price!