One of the reasons that I have been finding myself in Portland more often lately is because I’ve added an extra responsibility to the day job in which I help support site visits. Basically, customers don’t like to purchase large pieces of capital equipment without first seeing how it works in practice, so they will travel somewhere to see it. Given that we have a new product, there aren’t a lot available for viewing right now, so people are coming from all over the country to Portland to see one of our first installations.
Now that I have the background out of the way…as we were coordinating the visit, the sales specialist let me know that he and the folks from Iowa would be getting in the night before the visit and were planning on dinner at McCormick and Schmick’s. Now, nothing against the fine folks at M&S (I have had many a nice drink and appetizer on their deck overlooking Lake Union and even follow them on Twitter), but you can go to one of their spots anywhere (well, not Iowa, but there is one in Minnesota which is close). I wanted to make sure that they got a nice Northwest experience with local, seasonal, high quality food in a fun environment. So, I did what I always do and consulted Urbanspoon and landed on Veritable Quandary, which, besides being the perfectly charming Northwest option I was looking for, was located two blocks from the hotel where they were staying.
I made a reservation for five, and made sure that I made my way down there early enough to be seated before they arrived. I felt a little bad as the earliest table I could get was 7:15 which was 9:15 in Iowa, so they were definitely hungry and a little tired when they showed up. To get to the dining area, you have to make your way through the bar (long bar on the right, tables along the walls on the left of the narrow restaurant) to get to the hostess stand. Then from there, we were taken back to our table. We ordered a round of drinks, and then took a moment to look through the menu, trying to come up with some options quickly. In the end though, we went with the simple default…ask the server…and wound up getting the house made pirogis with Oregon black truffle and flatbread with Italian meats to start off. Definitely things you aren’t going to find back in Iowa. Then for the main course I opted for the squab stuffed with Italian sausage.
The pirogis were definitely something different and met with a little bit of uncertainty. But one bite in and our guests from Iowa were definitely pleased, as was the local Northwest resident. The pirogis were surprisingly light given that they are mostly starch. The sauce was nice and creamy and the local foraged mushrooms and black truffles added a nice earthiness to the entire dish. It was one of those things that was perfect to split, one pirogi per person, or would have made a good dinner, but was a little too much to be an appetizer for one. The flatbread was also good, though pretty simple. It had a nice simple crunch to it, and wasn’t overdone. The flavors were muted, and at times I didn’t even realize there was any meat on it. It was good but it felt a little ho hum, especially next to the pirogis.
With customers there, I was trying to minimize my food blogger dorkiness…meaning I was trying to keep the camera in my pocket and be the business professional. But when the entree showed up, I couldn’t help myself. I was subtle, but I had to take a picture. The whole squab laid out on the plate and just stuffed full of sausage and cheese and plantain chips with a nice creamy sauce. It was excellent. The squab was nicely cooked and tender…almost fall off the bone tender, but not quite there. The sausage add a nice little smokiness and spiciness to the more mild squab. There was a little crunch from the plantains and a little cool creaminess from the cheese. Everything worked together incredibly well, and once I put the camera away, I made short work of the entire plate.
When we left and headed back to our respective hotels, it was obvious that everyone definitely had gotten enough to eat. And while the meal was a little trendy/Northwest/contemporary American, it seemed to go over very well. Not that I’m saying Iowa is lacking of those type of places (though we did spend a lot of time talking about the simple steakhouses that you would expect in Iowa), or that McCormick & Schmick’s wouldn’t have provided an equally delicious meal, but I thought it was nice going to some place unique. I know that I definitely enjoyed the meal, and would recommend to others coming from out of town and staying at the Marriott Waterfront to make sure that they stop by VQ and get a delicious, Contemporary American, Northwest fresh meal.