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Friday, October 1, 2010

Setting The Record Straight

I think I may have been maligning my husband recently by portraying him as cheap.  He's not cheap- if he were, he would not get me whatever my little heart desires when I want it.  (I have to add that I'm careful about what I want and when I want it. You already know I'm not from the Mall-As-Entertainment Crowd).   Steve is just very careful with his money, and likes to make sure it's well-spent.  Because of that, we're able to get along okay even though I'm not working right now.

Case in point: last night we drove all the way into the city (Portland) to have dinner at Gruner.  We read the menu online and knew ahead of time that it was not going to be a cheap dinner.  But, we went anyway, because we wanted to check it out.  They tout themselves as being cozy Alpine dining, and we're always thrilled when we can find anything that smacks of German cuisine.  First, we had the amazing luck of finding Doris Day parking.  Doris Day parking, if you're unfamiliar with the term, is when you find a parking place right out in front of where you're going.  This Doris Day parking place was actually around the corner from the front of the restaurant, but it was one parking place from the corner and along side the restaurant, so in my book, it was still Doris Day parking.  Then, because the restaurant had a few large parties booked, we couldn't eat in the dining room, but we had our choice of eating at the bar or eating outside- we chose the bar because it was still rush hour when we got there and I didn't want to deal with the noise and exhaust.  This turned out to be quite alright because the bartender was a very personable young man and took good care of us.  Plus, I had fun reading the more esoteric labels in the bar line-up, and he answered all my questions intelligently and patiently.

We listened to the on-tap choices carefully.  I heard the bartender say that the Ayinger Octoberfest was the darkest Octoberfest he'd ever seen.  They didn't have a pilsner for me so, I ordered the  Weihenstephan Helles, and Steve ordered the Ayinger Octoberfest.  When the bartender put Steve's beer down in front of him, he said, "That's the darkest Octoberfest I've ever seen!"  My Helles (German for 'light') was just fine.

We decided to share a salad- the Gruner salad, which was fine but unremarkable.  Except that the dressing was very light and you could taste everything in the salad, so maybe in that way, it was remarkable.

So now to the main attraction:  Steve had the cured double-cut pork chop with spiced red cabbage, sauteed apples and mashed German butterball potatoes.  He said the mashed potatoes tasted very German- evidently they beat the hell out of their mashed potatoes.  We agreed that the spiced red cabbage, although good, was not as good as mine. (But then, I make really great Rotekohl, and I'm not particularly shy about that.)  He really liked the pork chop and said they'd used a light hand with the pickling; I wasn't so enamored of it because it reminded me of ham, and I am not a big fan of ham.  Dry cured, yes, but not regular ham.  Unless it's in a Monte Cristo sandwich, but that's another story.  So his dinner was good, and made him happy.  By the way, the black dot in the picture below is a juniper berry.  Wachholderbeeren (juniper berries) are used a lot in German cuisine- principally with meats and sauerkraut.

Another bad picture- sorry!
I had the spaetzle with braised chicken, chanterelles, riesling, creme fraiche, tarragon and crispy shallots.  It was amazingly good.  I suppose that you would have to be a fan of tarragon, and I am, but the flavors were really wonderful all together, and the crispy shallots finished off each mouthful beautifully.  The only place where I could fault the kitchen was that in three separate bites, I crunched into chicken cartilage, which is about the most distasteful experience that I can have at table.  I can't stand cartilage so much that when Steve and I have chicken for dinner, he saves cleaning up the bones for last and I have to leave the table so I can't hear him chewing on cartilage.  It seriously gives me the willies.  But save for the unfortunate few jarringly-crunchy bites, it was easily one of the most delicious, well-balanced, and inspired meals I've ever eaten, and I was very happy.  It was all I could do to not wipe up the bowl with the last piece of bread.

I should learn how to make this....
Speaking of bread, I should mention that the bread they brought out was an okay bread, and a pretzel roll.  The pretzel roll was wonderful- buttery, with the right flavor on the skin and salted just right- and you know that we know our pretzels.

So between the beers, salad- which we shared, and the entrees, dinner was sixty-two dollars, not counting the tip.  Not exactly a hundred a piece, but certainly enough for a dinner that wasn't to celebrate anything.  It was money well-spent, and we'll go there again.  Someday.

We're still being really careful with our money, which should never be confused with being cheap.


Farmgirl_dk: said...


Paula said...

You should check Gruner out next time you're in Portland Danni!

But learn from our mistake: make reservations first.

Miriam said...

When we find a parking spot right where we need one, in the face of seemingly impossible odds, we say the Goddess Asphaltia has smiled upon us. Glad you had such a nice dinner - and until I visit Portland and can try out the restaurant for myself, could we talk you into posting your recipe for Rotkohl?

Paula said...

You could, but I'd have to figure it out first. I'm a dump cook- I just dump stuff in. It's why I leave the exacting stuff like baking and brewing to Steve, with his exacting German ways. Even when I make tortillas, I don't measure.

But the next time I make red cabbage, I'll pay attention to what and how much and then post it.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Seems to me that spending carefully and living within your means, far from being a shortcoming, is something we should all actively look for in a spouse. And if he also makes good beer, well, that's all the better.

I second the request for the cabbage recipe. We're pretty fond of braised red cabbage (I make it with a little bacon, apple and onion, red wine, cinnamon and allspice), and if you do it better I want to try your way.

Grandpa said...

Hi Paula I'm a little late in reading this, but I have to say something, if I may: You (and hubby)came accross as all positive to me, so I say don't worry abt what people think. My pride is always misunderstood as arrogance, and my thrifty nature as stinginess. But that's the way I am, living by my own rules, as you are by yours, which I've said before are sensible ones, so be it.

I know nothing abt German food so can't comment, but they sound and look worth trying