In restaurant-land, trends tend to clot faster than a pool of port demi-glace. Just last October, WW proclaimed that family-style supper clubs, those jovial elbow jostlers, were the absolute "it" meal.
But since then we've chewed our way through wine bars and newfangled comfort food--and all the while the small-platers have spread like wild mushrooms.
Trends change, and restaurants evolve. Even as operations like Axis Supper Club, a movable feast from Park Kitchen's Jason Owens and Wildwood's David Padberg (for info email email@example.com), scoots up to the table, the king of the family dinners, Ripe, is moving on. The catering/coffee shop kingdom has a top-secret new restaurant in the works--what they describe as a dramatically unpretentious eastside project.
Blame it on Food Network. When a station pimps 15-minute meals and classical French cooking techniques in back-to-back segments, no wonder diners are trained to be on the lookout for trends.
At the Bite desk, we've been stewing over Portland's next new food thing.
Both Tabla and the Veritable Quandary are betting on private dining as the next frontier--each is in the process of creating classified rooms at their restaurants.
Peruvian hot spot Andina is already working in the dinner-as-event arena, having featured a fashion show complete with alpaca-clad models and appearances by real llamas.
Ken's Artisan Bakery (338 NW 21st Ave., 248-2202) is toying with its cafe dinner formula, too. As über-baker/owner Ken Forkish posted in a flier to his customers this week, "The cafe may have made Gourmet magazine's 'Best Restaurants in America' issue and an A-review in The Oregonian, but it didn't crack WW's top 100 Portland restaurants. Go figure. I'm not bitter about it, but that's evidence that we just weren't on Portland's radar as a dinner destination." The bakery's sit-down suppertime service will morph into an over-the-counter spot for Croques Monsieur, quiche, beer and wine Nov. 4.
Others in the industry are predicting a teensy-weensy backlash. "Big plates," whispers Saucebox's general manager, Joe Rogers. As for the omnipresent wine bar? "A champagne bar would be nice--Prosecco, Asti Spumanti and champagne by the glass," sighs food publicity spinstress Bette Sinclair.
Other insiders think dining out itself might become an anachronism--"takeout" will become (once again) the ultimate comfort food.
We here at the Bite Club are wary of the fine-dining doggie-bag aesthetic, but who knows? Cook Mike Betteridge's takeout restaurant Your Gourmet opened this past Monday (8000 NE Glisan St., 460-0977, 7 am-8 pm Monday-Saturday), serving pre-made dishes like miso salmon and roasted rabbit--all for under 10 bucks.
Bite Club's betting on something more basic: open-minded kitchens that take vegetables out of the root cellar and into the entree arena. As the use of organic produce becomes as classic as good stock, restaurateurs who become savvy with their former sides can score major points with Atkins dieters, vegetarians and the rest of us in a simple yet ever-ripe crossover food category: