Passage 53 was our last major reservation of the trip. We had been buttered, basted, and foie gras’d the past week and thought we had seen all the tricks. But we were about to be blown away. As mentioned, it was all hands on deck with my family making sure we found the best eateries in Paris. We sifted through magazine top 10 guides and newspaper write-ups, consulted friends, compared notes, and honed the list (you may have realized food is a blood sport in my family by now). This one came highly recommended by my brother’s colleague working in Paris: “A Japanese chef who has worked in France for many years; in one of Paris’s most charming covered galleries; one of the city’s best-kept secrets.”
ONE The French aren’t rude. Here’s something I never thought I’d say: I think I like the French. (Cue the gong.) I lived in Italy for three years. Let’s just say I was Team Olive Oil, not Team Butter. Plus, everyone’s heard the stories of notorious French snobbery, especially toward uncouth Americans who don’t speak the language. I was prepared for a throwdown by Day 2, but it never happened. Taxi drivers doubled as tour guides, waiters were friendly and dutifully answered any menu translation questions, and even when we stopped into cafés for a quick coffee (obvious strategy for using their bathrooms) we were welcomed.
After attending an Outstanding in the Field farm dinner in southern California two months earlier, I was interested to see how a Plate & Pitchfork farm dinner would stack up. OITF leads events throughout the United States and the crew travels in a large bus; Plate & Pitchfork is an Oregon-only series of dinners. Both pull local chefs and wineries to cook and pour at different farms, so each evening is its own unique experience. Plate & Pitchfork had me at “hello” with their informational email: “children, no matter how small and adorable, may not attend dinner.” First of all, apologies to my many friends with (indeed) adorable children, but you gotta love the blunt. Second, this must be in the best interests of the farm and hosts; there is enough chaos at these dinners that it would probably become some version of a food-loving wedding reception if children were allowed. (And no one needs little Jimmy falling in the pig mud.)
Looking at my photos now, I’m realizing I took a lot of landscape shots because I couldn’t get over the visual appeal of Willamette Valley. I have been to Napa Valley several times, which is also strikingly beautiful, but Oregon ups the ante with ominous clouds, skyscraping trees, and sweeping farmland that betrays its fierce rural character, despite being just 30 miles south of Portland. Tastings are often at the discretion of the winemakers—Patricia Green‘s website: “We do not have a tasting room nor regular tasting hours, but we try to be accommodating, especially for enthusiastic individuals.” I imagine Willamette Valley is what Napa was 20 years ago (winemakers joke that their “old vine” grapes are from the early 1980′s), and here’s hoping it stays that way, even if it’s a secret worth passing around.