Bread & Brew
I had the strange experience the other night of walking down a dark, deserted Portland street and into a French nightclub.
Vie de Bohème opened in November on the corner of Southeast Clay Street and Seventh Avenue, on the same block where Roots Organic Brewing used to be. It's a large, warmly lit room with a sunken main floor and tables along a broad balcony to one side. There's also a separate cellar room with a long farmhouse table.
The night of my visit, a Gypsy cabaret band was playing to a full house that seemed to have materialized out of nowhere. Some people were speaking French. Some were dancing. The band was playing 'La Vie en Rose.'
This is a wine bar where the house red really is the house red. A number of wines, including a cabernet sauvignon, a pinot gris and a zinfandel are made especially for Vie de Bohème in Hood River by winemaker Brad Gearhart of Jacob Williams Winery. Behind the bar is Didier Sudre, who is remembered by Sellwood residents as the former proprietor of Burdigala Wine Shop.
The menu offers six house wines by the glass, at $6.50 to $7.50, plus a handful of other offerings, all presented without description. For bottles, you must stroll down to the wine library to browse. There's a light menu of snacks like a cheese and charcuterie plate and a ham and brie tartine. Sundays are dedicated to classical music.
Vie de Bohéme, 4 to 11:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday, 1530 S.E. Seventh Ave., 503-360-1233, www.viedebohemepdx.com .
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Also new to Southeast is Ford Food and Drink, a project of the owners of the Detour Café, which is one of my favorite brunch stops. The new space is huge and airy - it was once the showroom for a Ford Motor Co. factory where you could watch your car being assembled and then drive it away.
Ford is now the kind of coffee shop where you feel a little naked without a laptop. The menu is very simple, and is marked with the Detour's usual attention to detail: whole hazelnuts in the green salad, a particularly good feta in the panini. I especially liked a breakfast sandwich made with a crumbly biscuit, bacon, and an apple-squash compote that was heated in a panini press. It was small enough that I didn't have to spend the rest of the day sleeping it off.
There are also beer and wine here, although it's not open late, and live music during happy hour - a board recently announced 'Peter Krebs and his jazz guitar.' The room also gives the owners more space for their monthly supper club. The next dinner is Jan. 20; reservations are required. See detourcafe.com for details.
Ford Food and Drink, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 2505 S.E. 11th Ave., 503-236-3023, www.fordfoodanddrink.com.
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As everyone knows, for an all-out brunch saturnalia, go to Tasty n Sons.
Since September, the spot has been open all day, with a dinner menu that is all over the place: eggs, pasta, hush puppies, Moroccan shakshuka, sausage with sauerkraut. Usually this type of menu telegraphs incompetence, but this is the kitchen of John Gorham. Most of his forays come through with the unrestrained edible joie de vivre that makes his other restaurant, Toro Bravo, so great.
And by the way, Tasty n Sons is where to come if you want a Toro burger without waiting three hours for a table.
I didn't care for the bacon-wrapped dates drizzled with maple syrup. An almond in the center of each date failed to balance the sweetness of the syrup and created an odd texture.
A butter lettuce salad, however, was smashing. With green goddess dressing and crispy fried shallots, it paired up marvelously with something called a cast iron cassoulet à la bouvier, or, roughly, a cowboy casserole. As if cooked over a campfire, it was smoky and charred, with tender, sweet red beans and huge chunks of chicken, ham and sausage. Tasty n Sons rules.
Tasty n Sons, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3808 N. Williams Ave., Suite C, 503-621-1400, www.tastynsons.com .