HAVING TIRED of millennia dining on ambrosia, Greek gods Artemis, Demeter, Dionysus, and Hermes find themselves clustered around a restaurant table in Portland's industrial Southeast. Light from an overcast sky gleams against the white tile of the open kitchen and illuminates the tablemates who remark on the mannered charm of the place.
Hermes found the spot while thumbing the pages of Forbes magazine, where it was listed as one of America's "top new restaurants." And though its name, Olympic Provisions, refers to the historic Olympic Mills building where the restaurant is located, it seems a fitting setting for their meal nonetheless.
While Dionysus regards the large wall of wine, calculating how many bottles he can drink, Artemis looks toward the bar. She'd rather sit there, to watch the chefs and ogle the ingredients in the squat cold case—but the seating is too cramped and she doesn't want to crane her neck in order to address the server. There are some kinks to be worked out, they all agree.
Demeter enthuses on the restoration of the space. She notes, happily, how the environs are allowed to show age without hampering cleanliness and modernity.
"Like a reformed slaughterhouse," says Hermes. "Which is appropriate, because I hear when it comes to meat, they're killin' it."
The joke earns him a swift dope-slap from Demeter.
To prove his point, Hermes orders the homemade charcuterie selection. A smiling and attentive server delivers the small plate, piled high with coppa salami, salchichon, traditional chorizo, a pork terrine studded with pistachios, and a pork liver mousse, along with mustard and pickled onions.
Demeter is fond of the terrine and the hints of baking spices mingled with pistachio and pork. Artemis rolls her eyes in pleasure at the wild funk of the liver mousse, which Hermes concludes has a "pleasing barnyard taste about it."
For his part, Dionysus prefers the coppa with its fat, pepper, and a hint of something round and floral. He orders a bottle of Sanz Rueda Verdejo to cut the fat and because the wine's bite and tart fruit remind him of spring, which he keeps asking Demeter to deliver a bit earlier this year.
The first course dispatched, they order more. Each loves the small pork rillette-filled hand pie, with its flaky crust and tender shredded pork. More hints of baking spices here.
The grilled cheese goes over like gangbusters. The melt of slightly tangy mahon cheese, covering hidden crimini mushrooms, made richer with an addition of mornay sauce, is proclaimed divine. However there is grumbling the brioche is too flimsy for the weight of the filling.
A sopressata sandwich with mahon and ham pleases Hermes. Though the boquerones that he asked to be added are missing, they arrive swiftly, shortly after his first puzzled bite.
An egg strata causes Dionysus to laugh happily at the heartiness of the dish. Savoring the large chunks of pork sausage, bacon, potatoes, and the occasional funk of taleggio cheese, he eats the entire thing without sharing, claiming temporary madness.
Demeter orders several vegetable dishes. She's most pleased by brussels sprouts combined with sunchokes, olive, garlic, and anchovy. The flavors tumble over one another—strong anchovy up front, a hint of lemon, the occasional briny olive, and always the crunch of sunchoke and brussels sprouts.
She also appreciates a beet dish with airy mint, orange, and pistachio offsetting the sturdy beet. A pool of yogurt adds richness and creaminess.
Beside these two, Demeter finds the salad of escarole, preserved lemon, and ricotta to be adequate but lacking any real zing.
The four continue to eat, unsatisfied until they are brought a dinner menu. Artemis takes charge, ordering two game dishes: rabbit leg confit and bacon-wrapped roasted quail. Salt-seared diver scallops are also ordered in honor of Poseidon.
The confit rabbit leg is a revelation. The meat is exceedingly sweet and tender, and the English peas that roll around on the plate are firm and bright.
While the flavor of the quail is lost in the bombastic salty bacon, no one seems to mind, considering the fantastic stuffing of raisins, pine nuts, and breadcrumbs. The wilted escarole sharing the plate is also good, with the texture of cooked spinach and flavor of vinegary collards.
As closing time approaches and the last bottle of wine is finished, the divine quartet regard one another with satisfied smiles. For once they do not quarrel over the bill. Leaving for their mountain home, they consider Olympic Provisions and decide, yea verily, the food is worthy of the name.