I was excited that tonight’s rendezvous would take us to downtown Portland. I have been wanting to return to Clyde Common since we first ate there, a few months ago. This hip and industrial eatery is attached to the Ace Hotel. Its small plate culinary venue includes European-inspired Pacific Northwest cuisine that is fresh and inventive. As I age, I yearn to be surprised by new flavors and unexpected combinations or interpretations of dishes and these are the very factors that make Clyde Common a intriguing culinary adventure. But bring your I-phone dictionary when you come to Clyde Common. With ingredients that include grano padano, san tomas, ramps, fluke and pippara, I found myself doing a fair amount of research before I could make my final meal choices.
If Portland is the nirvana of cocktail mavens, Clyde Common would be the Holy Grail. I love it when mixed drinks take on the appearance of a concoction of a mad scientist, with layers of unusual and mysterious flavors and served by someone with the naughty grin of Vincent Price. While our service did not quite have the panache of Vincent Prince, it was still very attentive, and much more professional. Like the food menu, you might want your I-phone to google cocktail ingredients that might include orgeat, pineau des charente, horchata–to name a few of the fixings. (I am no mixologist, but I do know what tastes good.) Tonight I ordered the, “Bittersweet Symphony,” mostly because I liked the name, rather than for its content. I had no idea what its ingredients–aperol and punt e mes–tasted like. But the drink also had gin in it, so I know it had to be a winner–which it was. It was really good: both sweet, yet savory. At only $10, it was considerably more reasonable than cocktails I recently paid $16-18 in Los Angeles and Palm Springs.
After dinner, it was off to the Star Theater for the Johnny Cash tribute band, Cashed-Out. I would describe the atmosphere of the Star as faux decadent with its velvet curtains, rich reds and brick walls. There is a large dance floor, allowing us Cashed—Out groupies to be spitting distance from this fabulous band. We first blogged about this band last fall and immediately researched for the dates they would be returning to Portland. This time we included my 23 year old son who was home for spring break and a couple of our best friends.
I have learned the Cashed-Out audience is a particularly inebriated audience, but in a fun—not a “I ‘m gonna knock your face off if you bump into me again”—way. Cash’s music makes one want to sing, dance, and apparently, drink. Douglas Benson, the lead singer, who also likes to put down the shots of whiskey as he reminisces about Johnny and sings His story, is just plain wonderful. Nena Anderson is the adorable and equally capable June Carter. My 23 year old was grabbing my arm and doing the jig with me by the end of the night . No one can sit or stand still while watching and hearing Cashed-out perform. I have run out of superlatives trying to describe how great this band is. Do not ever pass up the chance to hear this band perform.
I think my biggest complaint about Clyde Commons is the volume of the place. It was really loud on a friday night–too loud. I actually felt hoarse the following morning after an evening of attempted conversation with friends and family. The other problem, which I frequently find with small plate menus, is unpredictable portion sizes. Our friends ordered a “small plate” salad that could easily feed a family of four. I am glad that I did not order 3 small plates to compose a traditional meal or I would have had to throw away a lot of food—I still have buckets of childhood guilt, throwing away food, since there are children starving in Africa. Also, while the bay scallops($16), that I ordered, with grits, spigarello and brown butter were good, they were not particularly memorable. The scallops tasted a bit old. Will I go back? Absolutely. I previously had a very good meal here. Tonight I think I simply had a dish that did not knock my socks off. There are many other intriguing dishes at Clyde Common that I cannot wait to try. I love the inventiveness of Clyde Commons. Some inventions will work, some will only be moderately successful. I will always return to the inventive restaurant over the restaurant with a predictable standard cuisine.
Since Mark and I started this blog, we have been asking the question of why more 50+ year olds are not out more, enjoying all of the amazing Portland attractions. Tonight reminded me of one of the answers, at least as far as musical attractions go: we are tired showing up for a 9 pm performances and waiting until 10:30 pm before the headliner musician to finally begins. While I understand that warmup bands/performers need the opportunity to practice and refine their art, why don’t entertainment ads post the actual starting times of the various acts? We arrived at the Star Theater at 8pm because we wanted to snag some of the limited seating. We waited over two hours before Cashed-Out finally took the stage. By midnight, we were tired and Cashed-Out was still going strong. I hated leaving, but after sitting through dinner for an hour and a half and another two hours waiting for the feature show, it was a long night. Especially for a band that tends to attract an older audience. But for any patron who has worked all day —the show was on a friday—this is a long night, regardless of one’s age. I noticed other patrons our age reluctantly leaving early. I am , literally, so tired of the headliner musicians starting so darn late. Put the warmup bands after the headliner. After all, I paid for the main attraction, not the warm up bands. I need my beauty sleep, dammit.
Like Emily Wells and Ramble On, I will not pass up an opportunity to see Cash’d Out and they were back last week at the Star, a downtown theater that dates from the silent era. Evidently one of its claim to fame is Courtney Love was a stipper there before she went on to form Hole and make the best album of the 1990’s, Live Through This.
It is a nice venue, like much of old Portland with lots of exposed brick waiting for big one to collapse it upon you. The acoustics were excellent and Cash’d Out put on another great show of Johnny Cash hits and other songs. It is remarkable the high energy, high quality music you can find for 15-20 bucks a ticket.
My only complaint is the usual. Why do the main acts go on so late? 10:30 in this case. I had just worked a 12 day stretch and, while the music is energizing, especially being front and center, it is hard to stay up that late.
March is Portland Dining Month, where restaurants are offering 3 course prix fixe meals. Here is my suggestion. All the music venues in town need to have Early Bird month, a month where every show starts promptly at 8. I bet they would have bigger turnouts as those of us who need to get up the next day and work would go to more shows.
We went with friends to the show and before we met at Clyde Common for dinner. I had nothing to add over the last review: still great food. This time I had black gnocchi for appetizer, turbot and artichoke for dinner and goat milk ice cream, caramelized apples, financier, amaretto sabayon for dessert, all proceeded by a Cabin Fever (rye whiskey, pineau des charentes, Cardamaro, maple, bitters). The food and drink are not only delicious, but clever,with unexpected combinations of ingredients and flavors. It is the kind of restaurant where I would look for the oddest selection I can find and try it, as I know I will made happy happy happy. Unless it has walnuts. Walnuts can ruin anything.
Good drinks, food and company, but again, loud and echo-y. At work I see a lot of old deaf people and yell, or at least talk loudly, all day, and it is tiring to bellow to make conversation. No matter what you say, you look angry. But given that we talked about the presidential candidates, it worked out. And we were on the second floor and sound, like hot air, rises but I could glance down into the part of the kitchen and watch the food being made and delivered. If I could not hear my companions, at least I could watch the food and plan my future visits.