»LOCAL SCHMOCAL: Husband-and-wife team Randy Goodman and Nancy Hunt are planning an early summer opening for their European-inspired Southeast Division Street neighborhood hangout, Bar Avignon. Taking a left turn from the locavore dining craze, they plan to feature wines and cheeses from across the pond as well as charcuterie from Bay Area Fra'Mani (crafted by famed ex-Chez Panisse chef Paul Bertolli) and classic Molinari salami. The corner space—once home to the Red & Black Cafe and since renovated by North Rim Development—will be warm, comfortable and affordable to encourage lingering, Goodman says. The food, simple and rustic, will not be the focal point, he adds, so much as the atmosphere. "We want this to be a place where people can stop on their way home from work and then be surprised to find they've spent a few hours with us."
»HEAVY METAL: Look—in the sky! It's a plane! It's a train! No…it's a 10,000-pound oven being lifted by a crane! Last week Tim Healea watched as his new pastry-and-bread deck oven got hoisted into his new bakery, Little T American Bakery, which is still under construction at the corner of Southeast 26th Avenue and Division Street. The high-tech German-made oven can be controlled remotely via the Internet, he says, and will be perfect for his inventive takes on classic breads and pastries, like pretzel bread for sandwiches and baked lemon currant donuts. Expect Little T to open in late May, depending on building construction, Healea says.
»RUMOR DENIED, KINDA: Joe DeVencenzi, vice president of operations for Seattle-based Restaurants Unlimited Inc.—the corporate giant that recently bought its Portland rival, Pacific Coast Restaurants—says the Pearl District and Lake Oswego outposts of the restaurant Manzana will not be turned into Palominos (a Seattle brand recognizable by its jumping red horse)—for the moment, anyway. DeVencenzi says all of the PCR restaurants (which include Henry's, Newport Seafood Grill and the iconic Portland City Grill among its 18 properties in the Portland area) are so wildly successful as they are that they hesitate to "fix something that isn't broken." That said, DeVencenzi says the Bellevue, Wash., Manzana will be renamed and face-lifted into a pizza-, pasta- and crab-dip-loving Palomino restaurant this spring, so the possibility is still out there, depending on Bellevue's success.