I have always found it surprising that Zydeco music is played at the Blues Festival. With its joyful and big bouncy beat, Zydeco seems the antithesis of the aching and squealing guitar rhythm of the blues. While I love the heart breaking wail of blues music, I go to the Portland Blues Festival primarily for the jubilant beat of Zydeco music. As a native Minnesota farm girl, I had not even heard of Zydeco music until we moved to Portland. To fully capture the spirit of Zydeco, one needs to experience it live. I cannot stop smiling while watching the enthusiasm of the musicians, the music, and the audience. If you are in need of a lift, go to a Zydeco performance. The Blues Festival provides a large dance floor, allowing the audience to show off their dance skills, but no one really cares about about your proficiency at dancing. Even Mark’s and my “interpretive” dance skills are welcomed here. It is all about the fun.
After a people-packed day of the Blues Festival, I craved the intimacy of a cozy restaurant. I love Italian food and recently the Oregonian listed the top 10 Italian restaurants in Portland. It is now my quest to eat at all of them. So tonight we decided to try Mucca Osteria from the top 10 list. Mucca Osteria is the prototype one envisions of classical Italian fare in an elegant and warm setting, with the exception of the loud-mouthed patron seated next to us who wanted to make certain everyone could hear him talk. Some people have to be the center of attention.
If you come to Mucca Osteria, never agree to share the scallop appetizer; it is too damn good to share. With its crispy outer shell followed by a buttery inside, keep this one to yourself. My main course, the tortelli ai funghi was every bit as delicious. The white wine sauce was buttery and tart. The house made tortelli had the perfect chew to it, with a wonderful earthy mushroom and ricotta filling. This is why I love Italian food. For dessert I ordered the Adffogato al Caffe. It had a Madagascar Vanilla Bourbon gelato with a shot of espresso. So good. I was almost ready to forgo the remaining top 10 Italian restaurants; I felt like I had found my Italian nirvana at Mucca Osteria.
Once or twice a year, Mark and I like to play local tourist and spend a night or two in a downtown hotel. It is a wonderful way to experience the city from the perspective of a tourist. Portland is looking pretty swanky at the deLuxe Hotel. As we entered our room, we were greeted by a black and white photo of the debonaire Cary Grant looking over our bed. I knew I would sleep well tonight. The bed was appointed with a mattress that seems to hug you and soft silky white sheets. I swear Cary Grant was smiling at me. This hotel is all about old Hollywood glamour. With the sexy Driftwood Lounge and elegant Gracie’s restaurant, the deLuxe brings a graceful sophistication to this lumber town. I want to come back sometime for the afternoon tea at Gracie’s.
The Portland Waterfront Blues festival is always a good time and if we are in town for the 4th we always go.
The two main blues stages are both one of the best and worst for music. Best as you sit outside, looking over the Willamette towards Mt. Hoot as the sun goes down on a warm summer night. Unfortunately, the stages are not in in front, but left and right at either end of a cressant so you watch the big screens and the sound is just ok. And of course there always seems to be that one asshole who has to smoke a joint, infusing the air with the wonderful aroma of of skunk fart. It is a toss up as to who cares less about people around them: dog owners or pot smokers.
This year we went to the Friday night show of Chubby Carrier (Zydeco), Femi Kuti (Afropop) and the always incredible Tedeschi-Trucks Band (Blues). At $10 a head, it is quite a bargain as we have paid real money to see the Tedeschi-Trucks Band at the Schintz.
But what we really go for is the Zydeco, returning Saturday and Sunday. Every year they have a Zydeco festival at the North stage and it is THE best live music, especially for dancing. Believe me, I can’t dance. I always worry they are going to call the paramedics when I hit the floor since I must look like I am having a seizure. But it is fun and I always keep in mind the advice of Eddy to Saffy on top of the Eiffel Tower that worrying about other people’s opinions is a form of prison. So I danced and had a blast even if the muscles I used yelled in complaint and Kerry just has to lead.
For a change of pace, Saturday night we didn’t go home but spent the night downtown at the deLuxe Hotel so we could eat and drink without worrying about a drive home. Every couple of years we spend a night or two downtown and enjoy wandering PDX like a tourist.
One the way back to the hotel we stopped at Barlow Artisanal Bar for an excellent cocktail the Glasgow smile: scotch, smoked rosemary, honey, dandelion-burdock bitters, Barlow cube.
What is a Barlow cube? Perfect ice, frozen with no bubbles so it is crystal clear like glass and you can see through a two inch cube with no problem and a ‘B’ laser etched in the top. The drink was great but the ice cube was literally and figuratively cool. The atmosphere of Barlow’s is black and white formal (for PDX), the service fine, the food tempting but we had dinner reservations, so another time.
Mucca Osteria was the next stop for dinner for one of the best Italian meals I have ever had. Tucked into a two story restaurant, it is an example of why our marriage is successful. For the appetizer we split a scallops with truffle butter and Kerry did not jam her knife into my hand as I reached for my share. There were the best scallops I have ever had. I followed it with a slow roast pork shoulder that was tender as fish with a barley risotto and finished up with a perfect panna cotta.
The service was efficient and friendly but everyone looked slightly angry from a distance, frowning and furrowed brows as they bussed tables and served food. I almost asked if everything was ok.
The only downside were the people next to us, who were the Art Critic from Monty Python, the “clever people like me, who talk loudly in restaurants”. Such is life.
Then to the Hotel to fall asleep under the gaze of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. A perfect day.