Much to the dismay of the city's discriminating cork-sniffers, Portland's most elite wine bar, Vigne, closed last month. But the sleek space is being transformed into Vino Paradiso Wine Bar & Bistro (417 NW 10th Ave., 295-9536), a brightly colored grape bar with a more inclusive appellation. "I'm serious about wine, but I don't take myself too seriously," says owner Timothy Nishimoto. "I want [Paradiso] to be completely unintimidating, friendly, and the wine list will be inexpensive." He's serious: The house white, a crisp Portuguese Fernão Pires, is only $4.50 a glass, while the bistro's menu promises affordable salads, charcuterie and panini from former Surabaya cooker Ticari Morrison.
You may not recognize Nishimoto's name, but you'd know his voice, as the former Wild Oats wine buyer is also a vocalist and percussionist for Pink Martini. For the past month, the jetlagged singer has been bouncing between nationwide Martini performances and firming up Vino's global wine list (25 wines by the glass) in preparation for the bar's official opening date-tonight.
Of course, all Bite Club wanted to know was whether we could expect any impromptu Martini concerts in Nishimoto's new digs. "Probably," he laughs. "I know quite a few people. So I'm excited to sing a song or two." Cheers to that.
Despite our aversion to the Pearl District's indigenous pests (skinny blondes and himbos), the new Spanish tapas haven, Cobras & Matadors (232 NW 12th Ave., 219-6800), has bewitched Bite Club with its spicy-sweet sangria and bowls of smoky, chorizo-chunked mussels. Now the woodsy urban spot is threatening to overtake our mornings, too. Chef Micah Camden, the best thing owner Steven Arroyo kept when he transformed 750 mL into Cobras, says Cobras will start serving brunch every Sunday (8:30 am-2:30 pm). Look for the Bite's fave chickpea socca cakes fluffed up with butternut squash, rice-pudding pancakes and 92-proof French Toast spiked with spiced rum ("No syrup required," Camden quips) starting this weekend.
Don't call Lisa Schroeder a "balaboosta"-that's the Yiddish term for a "perfect Jewish homemaker." The super-busy yenta chef behind Mothers Bistro and Mama Mia isn't slowing down long enough to arrange tchotchkes. Rather Balaboosta (217 SW Washington St., 222-6303) is the perfect name she's given to her new dessert/coffee shop opening today, featuring home furnishings from her artist friend Brett Bigham. The new cafe is currently hawking box lunches and sweet stuff from both of Schroeder's restaurants, but the busy chef promises Big Apple-worthy bites like housemade corned beef on rye bread very soon.
This Friday, Portlanders can land a sauce-smeared lesson from the "Guru of the Grill" himself. Rib master Steven Raichlen, author of the The Barbecue! Bible, is offering Barbecue Boot Camp at the Shogren House's lush garden (to reserve, call 248-2015 or visit www.ingoodtastestore.com). While in town, the griller will attend a Reed College reunion. Maybe that's where he learned his three rules of good 'cue: "Keep it clean, keep it hot, keep it lubricated."