Hark. Stop. Swallow. Now is the summer of our discontent.

The economy has cast a shady pall over the restaurant scene. Miss D. recently shared words with man in blue Bruce Carey about the biz. While Carey & Co. are moving forward (a planned taqueria in Northwest called El Camino is on track, and Carey says he is considering taking over the space next door to Bluehour for a private dining space of sorts), he expects the non-carbonated financial scene to take its toll. "I'm not an economist," says Carey, "but it seems like the upside of this time is that it weeds out the weak links." The area in which Bluehour (250 NW 13th Ave., 226-3344) has been hit the hardest is lunch, and the restaurant has responded by offering blue-plate specials and free valet parking. While Carey says overall business is good, the restaurant has had to re-engineer a few things since its inception last year. "We did a good job of establishing us as a luxury item," Carey says. Now, in a period when Portlanders are whittling away at extravagances, Bluehour is adjusting by highlighting its less expensive cafe menu and promoting itself as a more casual place to eat on a regular basis rather than just for special occasions.

PET PEEVE OF THE WEEK: OK, so maybe the economy is in the disposal, but that doesn't mean that high-end restaurants (you know, the ones that charge $15-$25 for an entree) with generally well-appointed inside dining rooms need to resort to cheap-ass resin chairs (you know, the $3.99 ones at Fred Meyer that even crackheads avoid buying for their backyards) for outdoor seating. Remember: You're offering atmosphere with that filet, and no one wants to sit on those grimy things. Miss D. won't name the restaurant in the Hollywood district where a Costco-ish glass table actually exploded from the heat right underneath her cup and saucer (the incident itself was enough punishment for the generally well-meaning establishment), but word to the wise: Don't risk a tort. Get some decent furniture.

Speaking of outdoor furniture, have you noticed how the restaurants on Northwest 21st Avenue seem to be bursting at the seams with happy, eating people almost every night? Hmm, and no resin-sightings at Caffe Mingo, Tuscany Grill, Serratto or Zinc Bistrot.... How very interesting.

Speaking of Zinc (500 NW 21st Ave., 223-0467), Miss D. is pleased to announce in its honor the MISS D. COINED TERM OF THE WEEK. In case you don't know, this Frenchy haven has shot out of the gate like Secretariat with a bale of grade A hay dangling before his eyes. A recent Thursday evening found the place packed, through the dinner hours and beyond. Now, one of the design features of the bistro(t) is a huge mirror hung at an angle above the room. And funny, isn't it, how diners so non-nonchalantly gaze into said mirror, stealing glances to check out others in the room. Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the ZINC-A-SCO