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March 19th, 2014 MARTIN CIZMAR | Food Reviews & Stories
 

A Dispatch From the Pale Continent

dish_expatriate_4020EXPAT EXPERIENCE: Tempura cod sandwich and Brussels sprouts salad. - IMAGE: Molly Woodstock
Dearest Anne,

I hope this letter finds you well. Things are well here, especially as the sun has finally shown its bright face in this Pale Continent, a considerable improvement from the dreariness of recent months. Today, I write to you from an odd little tavern of which I’ve recently become quite enamored.

The place is named Expatriate. There’s no proper sign, but from the Honorable Wm. Milton Killingsworth’s street you can spy a little green canvas Bedouin tent in front of the door. The tent creates a barrier to keep the cold winds out of the tiny room, and I must say it’s damned effective. Though, on a weekend night, you hardly need the warmth, with the bar fuller than a tick. The tavernkeeper is one Ms. Pomeroy, who also operates a rather stuffy dinnerhouse ’cross the street.

Recently it’s become vogue for this land’s tonier drinking establishments to offer a selection of fine old books to peruse while one tipples. Among the tomes here: Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Amis (Kingsley), and a 1922 edition of National Geographic featuring an article called “A Caravan Journey Through Abyssinia.” Abyssinia looks gorgeous, by the by. On my most recent visit, I was seated next to a man who introduced himself as “a regional expert on wine on tap.” On one wall hangs a map depicting the countries of the world, with the Soviet Republics all in hues of blue, as Mr. Putin would seem to prefer. Peer into the kitchen, and you’ll see it’s been decorated to resemble a Chinese quartermaster’s wagon. It’s all a bit mottled and pretentious, I suppose, but in a manner I find endearing. I must admit it’s been an inspiration to my writing of late.

The food is excellent, but I should first like to discuss the imbibements, of which there is a small but well-attended list. My favorites—and I’ve taken a studious approach to the matter—are the eighth on the list, titled No. 8, and a concoction called the Dorleac. The former is so strong as to be flammable, a well-balanced tonic of Pierre Ferrand 1840—the bottom of the line for that prestigious maison de Cognac but still a damned fine drop—mixed with Tennessee’s own Dickel rye, génépi, Italian vermouth and Regan’s orange bitters. So many bars here endeavour to make their own bitters, but a drink like this renews my faith in good ol’ Gary Regan. The Dorleac, meanwhile, is quite a bit sweeter, though not out of balance, with vodka, Aperol and lemon, the land’s own honey, elderflower and Angostura bitters. Again, on the bitters: Trinidad’s House of Angostura does them so well, and yet many here attempt their own ham-fisted infusions. These drinks run 11 American dollars, and are adorned quite simply, with a wide cut of citrus peel.

To eat: corndogs! That old warhorse of our native Middle West has here been adopted as something of a mascot. Far different, of course. The sausage is in crumbles, encased within a supple, flavorful breading. They cost seven American dollars, but are worth it. I’ve eaten so many Brussels sprouts since arriving here that it often seems I’ve subsisted on little else. And yet this tavern’s are the absolute finest use of that lowly dwarf cabbage. The salad takes a vinaigrette made with Szechuan peppers. The squat little cabbages and their larger Napa-bred cousin are somehow sticky with umami, though they claim no fish sauce is involved. To boot, there’s bits of caramelized squash and get a little smoky ground lamb. They’ve also gone to the trouble to secure Burmese tea leaf from Myanmar, which is served as a salad with papaya and what the menu calls “fried crunchy things.” Both run 12 American dollars.

Though a pub, there’s no shame in taking your full supper here. A kingly tempura cod sandwich is paired with french-cut fried potatoes to be dipped in a sumac-flavored ranch dressing, cilantro-raita aioli or the house’s odd but pleasant house curry ketchup—also 12 American dollars. Finest of all is a wheat noodle bowl in the Myanmarese style, a coconut sauce with cilantro and more fried crunchy things piled atop, and pieces of roast chicken, duck confit and a gooey half-egg buried below. At 14 American dollars, it is perhaps the most expensive such noodle bowl in this land, and yet I can think of none I’d prefer to it. It’s inspired me, I think, to make my next jaunt to Burma, where I’ll perhaps secure a temporary position on a tea plantation, plucking leaves (one for me, one for the bag!) and supping on the local coconut noodle bowls and...

Please forgive me, but I’ve also seen fit to try the Precariat cocktail made with a heavy dose of Mr. William Larue Weller’s bourbon whiskey, Cocchi Americano, more génépi and more of good ol’ Gary’s bitters. I’ve grown sleepy, and must post this and head home to my chambers.

Kirsten is busy saving lives at the ward’s hospital, and otherwise well. How is mother? And Ozan?


Your loving brother,

Martin Cizmar


Call on me at Expatriate, 5424 Northeast 30th Avenue, from 5 in the afternoon till midnight. There is no phone here. Via the World Wide Web you can call up “expatriatepdx” in the commercial domain.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story used the word "bits" in place of American dollars in several instances. A "bit" is a specific monetary denomination equivalent to 12.5 cents. Our chief copy editor missed this because of a smudged monocle. We regret the error.

 
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