The walls cluttered with folk art, those antique chandeliers and that huge, cinematic black-and-white mural: Ever since North Mississippi's Bold-Sky Cafe and Studios (3943 N Mississippi Ave., 287-0154) opened last year, Bite Club has feasted on the music/art/food spot's ravishingly raw decor. But the Sky's comfort food often seemed to get lost in the arty tumult. Chef Ronnie Vance, whom diners might remember as the chef/owner of Scarlet Begonias, wants to change that.
After Vance closed his small Northwest Portland bistro in 2002, he floated through a few consulting jobs and ended up serving as the personal chef for socialite Darcy LaPier and her family. He cooked at the ex-Mrs. Jean-Claude Van Damme's huge private estate in Newberg for the past year. "They are extremely wealthy, but they have very ham-and-egger taste," Vance laughs. "It was extremely good pay, and the hours were more than reasonable—not at all like being a restaurant chef."
But Bold-Sky owner Nicole Davis' lure of a new project ensnared the challenge-hungry chef, who hired fresh front-of-house and kitchen staff and commited himself to Portland-area foodstuffs when he took over the cafe's reins in mid-August.
The kitchen's attitude adjustment is starting to show. On a recent visit, Bite Club enjoyed a delicate Chinook salmon dish, the fish shining as the centerpiece of a potato-leek gratin topped with fennel-heady cream sauce. Prices aren't cheap—entrees are in the $15-$20 territory—but the plates arriving from that gorgeous open kitchen are more in keeping with Davis' upscale-funky decor.
Vance celebrates his Bold(er) Sky with a special 10-course Harvest Dinner tomorrow night featuring the wares of many of his favorite local farmers and purveyors, like Creative Growers' baby-blue Hubbard squash and Anderson Valley lamb chops.
"I love the place, wobbly chairs and all," he admits. "It was like: I'll take a $37,000-a-year pay cut and I'm going to work 12-hour days, 31 days in a row—and I'm gonna be happy."
Upscale American grub-house Buckman Grill (207 SE 12th Ave.), has folded after only 10 months in business. Owner Brett Meisner told Bite Club that the Southeast Portland restaurant, which he opened last January with business partner Seamus Egan, is history due to the fact that Egan pulled out of the business this past June, leaving Meisner to operate and fund the bistro on his own. "Being Irish, [Egan] wanted an Irish pub, and our original concept was an upscale neighborhood grill," Meisner says. "[It was] a conflict of interest in the partnership." Egan did not respond to Bite Club's phone calls.
In other Dia de los Muertos news, La Buca West, the longtime Northwest 23rd Avenue-area Italian cafe, serves its last plate of pasta Saturday, Nov. 12. Although the restaurant's sister location on Northeast 28th Avenue, La Buca East (40 NE 28th Ave., 238-1058), will continue to fulfill carb-loaders' needs, owner Scott Mapes says the westside Buca is closing due to declining sales, market saturation and the loss of its lease.
Bold-Sky Harvest Dinner, 3943 N Mississippi Ave., 287-0154. 7:30 pm. Thursday, Nov. 3. $50. Reservations required.