Thursday, July 5, 2012

Olympic Provisions, Portland

Olympic Provisions is the tonic for all ails. It's exactly what I need. It's the kind of restaurant I wish I owned. Simple, delicious, easy to serve food carried out by super friendly food-loving people. OP is first and foremost a salumeria -- they make a staggering array of salamis, pat├ęs, terrines, olives, sausages, and cured meats (I spied lomo being sliced behind the counter). The house specialties are served in sandwiches, salads, tasting boards, and simple rustic entree plates.
Creamy, cheesy warm polenta topped with crisp girdled sausage and robust tomato sauce -- delicious and perfect.
The selection of salamis touches down in a few of the great cured meat eating and making regions of the world. From France there are several versions of saucisson (we went for the warmly spiced Alsace). The menu also offered, Italian style finocchiona, cacciatore (delicious with a hint of caraway), nola, and sopressata. Spain was saluted with several varieties of chorizo and a paprika and clove flavored salchichon. The salami of the month (now there's an idea I love) was a Greek inspired Loukanika, rich porky meat and chunks of fat flavored by garlic and a hint of orange. After lunch I bought one to go from OP's tiny store counter.
Sitting at the attractive counter watching the pastry chef roll biscuits for strawberry shortcake and happily munching cured meats to the pleasing hipster soundtrack peppered with Lucinda Williams and George Jones I can't think of a place I'd rather be.
Meat is the real star here accompanied by tasty snacks like house cured olives and fried almonds. You can order a round of cheeses to go with your meaty tasting boards, and OP offers a nice but predictable  selection. In fact if there were anything I would change about Olympic Provisions it would be the cheese offerings. While tasty the cheeses on offer don't have the same hand-crafted special feeling of place the meats enjoy. A few more carefully chosen American artisanal cheeses would be a better pairing. Don't skip the compote that comes out with the cheese though -- ours was strawberry and literally bursting with flavor of the rainy Northwest.
In any other city a place like Olympic Provisions would literally reek of elite food snobbery. In new York you'd have trouble catching a server's eye, in LA questions about the menu would likely be met with a sneer and a blank stare. In friendly, easy going Portland it's just a place to eat meat with friends -- new and old. I love this place.

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