Just in time to cure lingering aftershocks of cabin fever, now comes an invitation to soup night, thanks to Carlton Winemakers Studio.

The studio, the state's first ecologically certified "green" winery, is known for its collectivist ethos and roster of 10 stellar boutique winemakers rather than its cooking chops. But on soup night, stock, not grapes, will be on the front burner.

In the next few months, Portland-area chefs and winemakers--including Wildwood's Cory Schreiber and studio vintner Andrew Rich--will ladle up homemade soup, paired with the liquid comfort of winemaking tenants like Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, Hamacher Wines and Lazy River Vineyard.

Tomorrow, Chef Morgan Brownlow--who starts dinner service at his new Eastside Esplanade restaurant with his partners from ripe in the next few weeks--takes his turn, boiling up a tureen of the creamy Tuscan bean classic ribollita. Hungry slurpers are invited to drop by the studio between 5 and 8 pm on Thursday evenings through March.

"During these wet, cold, winter nights, soup is what satisfies," says Eric Hamacher, one of the winemakers who created the Carlton studio. Sharing the bright, open space helps small wine operations cut costs and gain access to higher-quality equipment.

Thanks to its unique design, the co-op feels more like a sleek community center than a wine cellar, with trusses salvaged from a dismantled Wal-Mart and a 20-foot high rock-climbing wall.

A climbing wall in a winery? While that might sound like an odd mix, it was this vine operation's easygoing vibe that inspired this new event. Since the studio opened in 2002, the Carlton winemakers and their brethren have gathered every few months for a series of climbing reunions. "On those nights, we would just throw on a huge pot of soup for everybody," Hamacher says. "So, eventually, we just decided that we should let everybody come to a soup night."

Count the Bite Club in.


Speaking of community-based endeavors: Ken Gordon, the comfort food papa behind Hawthorne's Ken's Place (1852 SE Hawthorne Ave., 236-9520), is also ringing the communal supper bell. The Sunday Dinners with Family and Friends series ($29.75 per person with wine, seatings at 4:30 and 6:15 pm), features four-course meals with mouthwatering themes like "Down-home in the South" and "Sunday Evening in Tuscany" and starts Jan. 18. Reservations are highly recommended.


Speaking of rumors: Recently we heard a nasty little buzz that Southeast Clinton Street fixture La Cruda's days were numbered. But owner Ken McLain told us that the seven-and-a-half year old taco bar would only close "over [his] dead body." Although the restaurant did nix its lunch service recently, McLain says that in the past six months business has never been better. So good, in fact, he's remodeling the taqueria's bar in order to take the hangover joint in a new, "less grungy" direction.

Studio Soup Night

at Carlton Winemakers Studio, 801 N Scott St., Carlton, (503) 852-6100. 5-8 pm Thursday, Jan. 15 and 22. Series continues every Thursday in February and March. $5 for the first bowl, $3 for second helpings and $3 for dessert. Call for reservations.