May 24th, 2006] Portland has been obsessed with the reinvention of the supper club ever since ripe unveiled its communal dinners in 2002. And with the death of Family Supper (at least for now), family-style dining is as hot a topic as ever. But the Busy Corner's Friday-night dinners are less concerned with restaurant-biz revolution and more with easygoing tradition.
Running the Busy Corner as a grocery store and cafe by day, every Friday night owners Susan Navarre Chaney (yes, the co-owner of the local wine bar Navarre) and her husband, Kyle, create the kind of meal that transcends sustenance—and makes you feel as though you're dining at some winemaker's place in the Spanish countryside. I say Spanish, because the Spaniards have a word for this kind of meal: sobremesa or "above the table." It's the word they use to describe the period of the meal devoted to spirited conversation beyond the surface level. The Chaneys couldn't have picked a better word to capture the spirit of their dinners, either.
Susan and Kyle often work with their year-and-a-half-old daughter Lola (stunningly cute) on the hip, moving through the evening's preparations of four or five courses as a family. Laughter, fresh-cut flowers, and the glow of candles charm the room as wine bottles travel aimlessly, ever spilling into lowball glasses. It's a sincere experience that emanates the couple's own passion for food and community. Kyle, speaking of the project, says, "We live in the neighborhood and sort of opened a place that we wanted in the neighborhood." That makes sense, because attending Friday-night supper is like going to a good friend's home for dinner. Devoid of pomp and circumstance—no chef coats and no overly attentive staff (our waiter had bike shoes on)—make the evening a genuine celebration.On a recent visit, we were treated to a meandering feast of fried goat cheese with honey and pistachios, sausage and snails, crepes stuffed (heavily) with crab accompanied by fresh asparagus and an ever-so-elegant beurre blanc. At the end, a salad of greens with a vibrant vinaigrette finished the savory part of the meal. If there's a little left over in the kitchen, don't be surprised if Susan, smiling and motherly, pops by and smacks a little more down on your plate. Thinking we were done, my companion and I talked politics while making goofy faces for Lola's delight. But then, when the evening couldn't get better, fresh-baked pies emerged and happiness with the universe was complete. The best advice: Just go.