Cocotte may be my favorite French restaurant in Portland. It is a charming and unpretentious bistro that can rival with any of the best French restaurants in the city. It starts with a polite and helpful staff. Increasingly, it seems that the primary employment performance criteria of the restaurant server is to somehow so ingratiate the the patron that by the end of the meal one can feel more time has been spent with the server than with one’s dinner partner. It is annoying when servers treat patrons like family. I do not go to restaurants to entertain or be entertained by the wait staff. It’s not that I am unfriendly. I take friendships seriously, but friendships are earned over time and not based on the shallow relationship that between a waiter and a customer. The service at Cocotte is perfection. They politely and clearly answer the diner’s questions, then make certain your dining wishes are carried out for the rest of the evening.
Now for the main attraction: the food. My meal started out with a creamy comforting potato leek soup accompanied with crunchy crostini topped with an herbal pesto. My main course was a smoked salmon ravioli with a light milky corn sauce. The server was flexible enough with the menu to hold the anchovies that are usually included with this dish. Dessert was a warm brownie with a tangy milk sorbet. The classic brownie was “kicked up a notch” with tiny chocolate pieces throughout that crunched with each bite as if one was biting into chocolate rice crispies. When I mentioned to our server that I liked the wine from a certain region of France, he generously poured me a sample of another wine from that region that Cocotte will be getting soon. Like I said, really gracious staff.
As we “ramble on” from Cocotte to the Doug Fir Lounge to hear our favorite Led Zeppelin tribute band, I know it will be another painful night of watching my husband gaze up dreamily at Jimmy Page—performed by the insanely talented Steven Adams—as Mark realizes his unfulfilled potential of being a rock star. But my wifely duty of comforting my pining husband is quickly distracted by the powerfully soulful vocals of lead vocalist Rich Ray’s interpretation of Robert Plant. Like his Muse, Rich Ray’s performance is stunning; this guy wails until you feel he has touched your soul. Then, of course, you have the guitar riffs of Steven Adams that strikes your touched soul with lightening. But if my husband dreams of being Jimmy Page, I think I dream of being the drummer, John Bonham, not for his legendary alcohol consumption, but for the incredibly smooth and confident tempo portrayed so capably by Merrill Hale. Hale is amazing, and not likely to choke to death on his vomit as Bonham did.
The Doug Fir Lounge venue is such that the audience feels like they are on the stage with the performing bands. The audience is close enough to capture the nonverbal communication between the twinkling eyes of the band members. And “Ramble On” is so gracious, even humble, with its audience, reaching out to shake hands with audience members and thanking them for listening. The audience responds with a total love fest for these musicians.
Lowlights: There is limited seating for tired old legs and feet. Street parking can be a challenge.
We are francofiles and love French cooking . My favorite is Bistro style, French comfort food. The best roast chicken and french fries I have ever had was in a Bistro in Paris that we ducked into to avoid the rain. That chicken was an oral epiphany; I have never tasted its equal.
Cocotte is Bistro style, but kicked up a notch.
The restaurant is in the classic bistro style, with a nice bar, excellent service and superb food.
I started with “The Last Word (Detroit Athletic Club 1920’s): Ransom Gin, Green Chartreuse, Lime Juice, Luxardo Maraschino.” I had escargot for appetizer. Hard to believe that something so disgusting in life is so delicious with a cream sauce and pistachios. No slime at all. But it is the cultures that have spent the most time with famine that have learned to make everything taste good for dinner.
Pork loin for dinner and fig cake for desert. All were basic bistro fair, but made with more flavor and artistry than the usual bistro. Good food is always a battle between eating it fast as it tastes so good and eating slow to make it last. What they really need is an all you can eat French bistro. Of course thenI would end up looking like Mr. Creosote.
This is the third time we have been to Cocotte, but it will not be the last. They had popcorn ice cream on the dessert menu. That will be something I will have to try in the future.
Then it was time to
Ramble On is a, no THE, Led Zeppelin tribute band. I am an old Zep fan, more vinyl I have worn out over time, and they do more than a note for note reproduction of Zeppelin classics.
They make the music their own. Their lead singer, Rich Ray, not only nails the songs, but sings with great passion and rock, backed up by some of Portlands best musicians, Steve Adams on guitar (you already know I am a fan boy) and Merrill Hale on drums, who is smooth and fast on the kit. We have seen Ramble On at least a dozen times and always have a great time.
My only complaint? Ramble On the song has THE most irritating lyric ever:
T’was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair./But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her, her, her….yeah.
Really? He found a nice girl in Mordor but Gollum stole her? Did Plant even read Lord of the Rings? It is argued that ’a girl so fair ’is actually the One Ring, so I suppose, but if so it is still a horsehit metaphor. I know Robert Plant spent most his time in Zep stoned when he wrote lyrics but these are annoying. These lyrics never worked for me. As Jack Black noted
If you listen to the greatest rock band of all time, Led Zeppelin, their lyrics are mostly gobbledygook.
Case in point. But the music? Fantastic. A great tribute band is always a great time.
The opening act was Pseudoboss, a three piece rock band that played original and well done music, of a style they call retro-rock. Evidently they have their roots in Zep and are really good.
Their drummer reminds me of Animal, or Keith Moon, in the way he really bounces and slams on his kit with joy and energy.
And it was at the Doug Fir, so as is often the case at that venue we were right at the front of the stage. As I get older standing for a show is increasingly onerous and they need a geezers only section where us old folk can sit and take a load off our arth-a-ritic feet. Other than that the Doug Fir remains the best venue for shows. The acoustics are excellent and it great to watch the artists up front and personal.
My one other kvetch, and this is almost always the case at every show, is there is always one diminutive of Richard who feels the need to light up a joint in one of the many potential fire traps that are music venues. At least tobacco users have the consideration to wait until the show is over and go outside to light up, but noooooo, there is always one a-hole who thinks everyone in the audience wants to enjoy the smell of decaying skunk farts. Take it outside dude.