It's no secret that Portland is a great dining hub. Our city is full of upscale restaurants (and just as many gourmet food carts) and endless food possibilities. Unfortunately, even as a lover of food, it's not financially possible to hit up all the restaurants I want to try throughout the year, but Portland Dining Month is when to plan to hit up the most coveted on your list. The whole of March is set aside for food, food and more food, and I love it.
Here's why Portland Dining Month is awesome (and those in other cities across the nation, too): You dine at any of the participating restaurants and get three courses for $29 per diner. Now, last year we dined at three restaurants. This year, a lot has been going on and we have only made it to the one so far, but there's still a week to go.
Our choice for dinner this last week was Urban Fondue. We'd been there before, but not for many years. I'm a lover of fondue and this place basically gives you all the fixings to create a filling and relaxing dinner with mix-and-match meals that come with your choice of meats (or veggies), a bunch of awesome sauces and a broth in which to cook said meats and veggies. First course was a choose-your-own cheese fondue in which to dip breads in (though you can add on other dippers, like apples). Two share the starter and dessert, so we compromised on the brie and Gorgonzola fondue that had crunchy hazelnuts in it that made for a fun mix of textures.
In between our first course and second course, the waiter came by to tell us all about the 9 different sauces. Obviously, the meats and veggies have no seasoning on them, so you're getting extra flavor from the broth and sauces. My favorites were the blackberry ketchup and the mushroom demi, and of course Eric loved the peanut sauce. The smoked tomato aioli was also pretty yummy. So, then we ordered:
|photo credit: Eric Botteron|
I picked the East Meets West, which was basically a twist on surf and turf. It came with chicken, pork, prawns and scallops. Eric ordered the Chef's Cut, which was strictly pork and steak. Each selection comes with other items to mix it up. Ours came with little tortellinis, mushrooms, asparagus, squash, zucchini, carrots and parsnips. We got our foods with beef broth, because that was the chef's suggestion, but there are several others to choose from to go with any of your selections. The waiter gives you a quick low down on how to cook your stuff:
use your timer to cook everything for 3 minutes
don't put raw meats on your plate
don't use the sauces until after you've cooked your meats
|click on pic to see the menu larger|
You might think that waiting 3 minutes between each bite might be boring and make you twice as hungry, but you can do two fondue forks at a time, plus it allows you to slow down and enjoy each thing you put in your mouth. Also, by the time you've made it through your plate of meats and extras, you find that you're actually full, but hopefully not too full for dessert!
Again, we had to choose a dipping chocolate to share for our dessert. I would have picked tiramisu, Eric probably would have picked peanut butter and chocolate, but we decided to forgo either of our go-tos and went instead with the Heath Bar chocolate fondue. Your dessert plate comes with a variety of yummy options: marshmallows, cream puffs, cheesecake, cookie dough, bananas, strawberries, pineapple, doughnut pieces and pound cake.
There is clearly something for everyone on the dessert plate and we were able to give everything a try and then decide who would eat more of what the other didn't like as much. Case in point: I can't eat pineapple, so Eric ate those bites and I had the strawberries. Of course, if neither of you can eat something, or you have food allergies, the wait staff point blank asks if this is the case before recommending anything or bringing anything to your table. That way they can leave something out and sub in something else or can steer you toward a better option based on your tastes and requirements.
I look forward to trying more restaurants this year, in what is left of March and beyond. Portland has opened quite a few new venues that sound amazing. Look for Dining Month in your own city, or plan your next trip to Portland in March. Our new campaign states "Portland is Happening Now" and it isn't wrong. We are becoming more and more popular every year, especially in the summer. Find more participating restaurants at Travel Portland, and more resources to plan your trip. Make your dining reservations through OpenTable to get points that you can trade in for free dining.
Which restaurants on the list would you be most excited to try?
Disclosure: I received a gift certificate to dine at Urban Fondue from Travel Portland, but all opinions are 100% my own.