It would be easy to make some grandiose analogies about what's soon to take place at 911 SW Taylor St. You could say the
's return to downtown Portland after a five-year absence is like Semele being brought back from hell, like Dionysus being plucked from his burning mother and sewn into Zeus's thigh, or, if Miss Dish were feeling particularly pompous, like Bacis and Philemon leaving poverty and taking their place in a marble temple. You could call it all that, but really, it's just pretty frickin' cool.
How often does the proprietor of a much-beloved Portland institution get another shot after being kicked out of her prime original location? From 1978 to 1997, the Vat fed game hens and Bordeaux to artists and stockbrokers before getting the boot to make way for the sun-blocking Fox Tower. For five long years, Rose-Marie Quinn searched for another spot to land the Vat, which she opened with her late husband, Mike Quinn (not the local music promoter). The myth grows when you find out that the French-Canadian Rose-Marie was almost deported last year because she and her fella lived as man and wife for 24 years without making it official; they tied the knot in 1991, just before Mike's death. Alas, the law says that a couple has to be married for two years for an alien to be considered legit, and Oregon doesn't recognize common-law marriages. Just when it seemed like her attorney had it all straightened out (with letters of support from prominent Portlanders such as former mayor and fellow publican Bud Clark), Sept. 11 hit and immigration went haywire. Now she has permission to stay for two years, and she says she's simply not thinking about what comes next, hoping the feds will not drag her to the border (she calls herself a "snowback") once the bar opens again.
Rose-Marie clearly rides fate. She says she's spent the past five years waiting to open again, years she describes as completely boring. She held onto the original Vat's phone number three years before finally letting it go. She also came close to giving up all the stored original woodwork and booths from the Vat. Now it's all being installed in her new location. She tried on several occasions to sell the wine she held onto when the Vat closed. That always fell through, and now she has a nice cellar. She put her husband's favorite painting that hung at the Vat on the sales block because she needed the money but grabbed it back when she found the Taylor Street spot.
When the Vat opens again (Rose-Marie thinks the ribbon will be cut at the end of this month), Vat-flies will find the same menu of grilled lamb, pork chops, sautéed prawns and salmon, along with a deep pour behind the bar. Newbies searching for a spot to grab a nibble for a movie (the Fox Tower may have displaced her years ago, but now it's attracting scores of potential Vat rats to the area) will find Rose-Marie putting together the platters in the kitchen with the door open--her trademark.
So what's the Vat got that other struggling restaurants in town don't? "Lots of people have this notion that they can open a restaurant and find a manager to take over running it," she says. "People come in because they can see me in the kitchen. I don't work any less than 60 hours a week. If people don't see the owners there, they get nervous."
Look for Rose-Marie soon.
Houston Striggow and Susan Sarich of Zinc Bistrot went fishing and got themselves a catch; they've snagged a new chef by the name of Lawrence DiJoseph. DiJoseph, a grad of the Culinary Institute of America, hails from N.Y.C., where he most recently served as the sous chef under hot shot Terrance Brennan at Picholine (yeah, Brennan's the guy that salmon dish at Bluehour is named for). Almost as soon as Zinc opened, the restaurant became chef-less when the original hire didn't work out. Now, the owners want to up the ante.
Beer trend alert! Seems that craft breweries are releasing long necks these days as a nod to the old school. The folks at MacTarnahan's just did it to celebrate their 10th anniversary, and now Deschutes is doing the same to celebrate 14 years in the business. Play "count the long necks" this weekend at the Portland International Beerfest at Holladay Park at Lloyd Center, where 65 of the 144 beers showcased come in bottles. 1-11 pm Friday, 11 am-11 pm Saturday, noon-7 pm Sunday, July 12-14. $10 includes glass and three beer tickets. Additional beer tickets are four for $5.