Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Olympic Provisions: Hipster Meat
In rainy, green, deliciously awesome Portland this week. Here for work with a pretty packed schedule, but managed to meet an old high school friend for lunch at local charcuterie Olympic Provisions.
Olympic is tucked in between warehouses and alleys on the city's South East side, and the place feels at home in its industrial roots. The windows are tall and paned with old glass, the floor and tables are well worn wood, the walls are white porcelain subway tiles; everything looks sort of like a Saveur photo spread. This is a good thing.
The lunch menu is divided into a couple options each of meats, vegetables, sandwiches, and pastries. It's a clever menu, simple but luxe, and its full of clues that this is a place serious about its meat. OK. The large sign that says MEAT in red light bulbs is also a clue. It's also a place serious about its coffee (Stumptown) and its pickles (Heaven).
Item one on the menu is the meat sampler, including a bunch of different cured meats. Our waitress identified them in a breezy single flow of multi-syllabic Italian of which I remember very little. Not knowing the names didn't slow me down much: the meat identified as Chorizo was amazing - a roller coaster of flavor starting sweet and ending a very long time later with a spicy little kick. There was an amazing something with pistachios - a sort of loosely formed sausage. And, on the other end of the spectrum, a smooth pork pate. The meats ranged in complexity, and were all pretty extraordinary. Except the pate. I thought the pate was kind of weak.
As good as the meat was, it was the pickles that stole the show. I don't know what they do exactly to make pickles like this: pickled onions, pickled little bitty cucumbers, pickled rhubarb. This was some of the best, most elegant pickling I've ever tasted, each item spiced to bring out its unique characteristics and flavors - a little sweet on the rhubarb, a mild tang on the onion.
When you're this much of a foodie temple, you set yourself up with some pretty steep expectations - and in general Olympic delivered. Maybe not perfect - a little more attention on the bread would have been good, a little more spice in the mustard welcome - but in all, pretty freakishly amazing.