I think a lot of great meals begin at the bar. When dining in Portland, especially, the culinary experience really starts with the cocktail. The bartenders and mixologists in this town work with the best ingredients – the same way the chefs operate in the kitchen. Plus, how that cocktail is presented is the ultimate preview for your dining journey.
At Irving Street Kitchen, I sat at the bar and waited for my friend to arrive. So, I ordered a cocktail. It was hot out and I wanted something refreshing. My eyes darted towards the Carolina Julep c.1890. I went to a woman’s college in Virginia and our cocktail, more or less, was the mint julep. We’d go to Foxfield Races (steeplechase) held annually each spring in Charlottesville and pay more attention to the Bourbon cocktails than all the pretty horses flying by. My point is that the mint julep is a civilized summer cocktail for ladies and gentlemen.
Let’s get one thing straight. This Carolina Julep is listed with a circa date. I understood immediately that the bartender who put this on the bar menu knew what he or she was doing. It was prepared with Elijah Craig 12 year Bourbon, mint, sugar, splash of sweet tea at Irving street kitchen. It was perfect. And, I got a good glimpse into the quality of ingredients that would come to pass.
My friend arrived and we ordered. I explained to the bartender, Alison (I think that’s her name!) that I was gluten free. She ended up taking care of me for the rest of the night. The service was impeccable.
I got the Heirloom Tomato and Raw Zucchini Salad with Black Pepper Vinaigrette and a side order of the Smoked Tasso Jambalaya.
The salad was bright and fresh with tangy tomatoes and delicate zucchini. The basil was more like a pesto puree and added some depth to the light flavors.
The jambalaya had a hint of heat but was really rich and fragrant with a pleasant, earthy, forest floor flavor. It reminded me of a Rhone red wine with dusty notes of earth and cocoa powder.
Alison (and I will owe her big time if I got her name wrong!) brought out a glass of King’s Ridge Riesling to sample with the two courses. It was fragrant and off-dry, with good upfront acidity and flavors of white peaches and lychee. It went well with the salad, and, to an extent it paired fairly well with the jambalaya (as Riesling dances well with spicy fare), only, because of the smoked richness, a Rhone would have been a super yummy accompaniment.
All in all, this place nods to the American southeast and takes you on a journey there and beyond. I look forward to returning and turning another corner on the Irving Street menu to discover another pleasant cocktail – which will certainly lead to another enjoyable meal.
Irving Street Kitchen
703 Northwest 13th Avenue
Portland, OR – 503.343.9440