Rachael Ray was late for dinner.
When P-town's coolest foodie couple, Naomi and Michael Hebberoy (ripe, clarklewis, Gotham Bldg. Tavern), invited me and my partner, Juan, to dine with one of television's hottest foodies at Family Supper—their legendary NoPo meal where big platters of food are passed around at long communal tables—I jumped at the chance. I wasn't about to miss a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience with Ray—the Muppet-mouthed star of such Food Network faves as 30 Minute Meals and $40 a Day.
In town to tape segments for another of her shows, Tasty Travels, Ray had already bought five pairs of shoes before spending time at the Pearl Bakery and Powell's, as well as chowing on scallops at our fave gay piano bar, Hobo's (love to know who suggested that place). But she was late to Family Supper.
Juan and I were already on our second glass of wine before a diminutive woman blew into the dining room with a blunt "hi" that sounded more like "get out of my way." It was Ray. And she had work to do.
Soon bright lights went up, the music was turned down and the convivial magic that is Family Supper came to a screeching halt. Seemed Ray wanted to be served first. And she wanted it to happen "right now." What a b-i-t-c-h. That's not how Family Supper works.
That meant my off-camera table, made up of Gang of Four's Dave Allen, a dessert maker and a lovely insurance agent named Noah, would have to keep waiting to eat—at least until the dicey diva was properly miked. Ray was sitting all the way at the other end of the room with a group of gals who looked like the Ukrainian version of Desperate Housewives. They were rapidly replaced with camera-friendly dinner guests (it was all about the "clothes colors," we were told). Before chef Tommy Habetz's out-of-this-world meal of slow-roasted Carlton pork-shoulder arista and Tuscan kale gratinata arrived, the only words that came wafting down from Ray's end of the table were pronouncements like "Rachael had a great meal at a 'Blue' place today." I assumed I knew where she was talking about. Imagine my shock to find out later that the meal she had expounded on, in great detail, was from the Belmont jazz club Blue Monk, not Bluehour.
That's the thing about Ray. She's full of surprises. Was she brash at the beginning? Sure, it's her style. But once the food was served and the wine started flowing (this girl loves her wine), Ray seemed to lighten up—a lot.
In fact, she reminded me of a cool high-school chick who just happens to love to cook. Skipping dessert ("I drink, I don't do desserts," she cooed), Ray parked herself outside for a smoke and a little conversation. It seemed that underneath her TV-ready sound bites of "awesome!" and "wow!" this charming (yet, off-camera, foul-mouthed) starlet really did get it.
"Hey, Tommy," I overheard Ray say to one of Portland's best chefs, "There aren't many original stories left in the world of food anymore. And [Family Supper] is one of them. I'm coming back. And I'm bringing my magazine out here, too."
Maybe next time she'll treat us more like family, too.
airs at 9:30 pm Fridays on the Food Network.