The Holiday Food & Drink Spectacular!
Move over, Friendsgiving, you’re played out. I’m much more about living the friends feast life, in which you assemble a crew and hit up a local restaurant for some special event dining. (You can do this with your family too, if you’re into that sort of thing.)
I’m talking about those lavish spreads that would make legendary Game of Thrones fat-man Robert Baratheon feel right at home: multiple courses, big platters of whole salmon or an entire lamb, and just general sense of bacchanal. It’s the holidays—go HAM before you go home. Here are a few of the best options for padding out during sweater season.
Coquine’s Holiday Goose Dinner
Geese are assholes. I’ve often wondered why, like the British, we don’t eat more of them. And the fact I get to finally show a goose who’s boss is why Coquine’s goose dinner is my top pick for a holiday feast.
From December 19 to 23, Coquine’s chef/owner Katy Millard will be serving up a whole roasted goose over four courses, with different cuts of the goose prepared in a variety of ways, along with snacks, salads, seasonally inspired sides, and dessert. Along with that, co-owner, manager, and wine expert Ksandek Podbielski will be offering a special list of suggested pairings.
$95 per person; available for groups of 2, 4, or 6. Dec 22-23, Dec 27-29; reservations required. Coquine, 6839 SE Belmont, coquinepdx.com
Marrakesh Mechoui Lamb Dinner
Almost every Mediterranean restaurant is a good bet for a family feast: Hoda’s on Southeast Belmont does a delightful spread that’s vegetarian friendly, and Ya Hala also does a $30-a-head mezza for all. But the showstopper is at Marrakesh in Nob Hill.
With three days’ notice, they’ll roast a lamb over charcoal on a spit and serve it piping hot to groups of eight or more at a really reasonable cost. They recommend seasoning it with cumin and salt and having at it.
$32.50 per person. Eight people or more and three days’ notice required. Marrakesh, 1201 NW 21st, marrakeshportland.com
Departure’s Duck Month
I wrote a whole column last year about how Peking Duck—with its juicy meat and crispy, flavorful skin— is the true holiday bird. From Duck House, to Pure Spice, to Wong’s King, a little advance planning and a few bucks guarantees a super yummy and special night out.
If you’re feeling fancy, though, December is Departure’s Duck Month, now in its eighth year. Chef Gregory Gourdet cures a duck with a seven-spice blend, blanches it in honey and Chinese wine, and hangs it to air dry for four days. It’s roasted daily, glazed with honey-soy, and served with a house-made cherry sauce, candied kumquats, scallions, hoisin, and cucumbers. In true beak-to-tailfeather spirit, you start the meal with a cup of savory duck broth made from roasted bones. After the main platter, all the bits of meat left on the bones are removed, and duck fried rice is made with scallions and rendered duck fat. Finally, you get a small scoop of creamy duck fat and coconut milk ice cream, with marionberry sauce and buckwheat crumble.
$119; serves two to four. Available for the month of December; reservations required 24 hours in advance. Departure, 525 SW Morrison, departureportland.com
Smallwares Ssam Feasts
Chef Johanna Ware once cooked at the storied Momofuku Ssam in New York, and she’s low-key dropped that knowledge onto her menu. Get a group together and call ahead to get in on this super fun shared family feast of either a whole salmon (seasonal), a cumin Sichuan pepper-rubbed lamb shoulder, or a pork spare rib barbeque dinner that promises a mash-up of Korean and Southern barbecue styles.
Each option comes with its own array of sauces, wraps, and other accoutrements to craft your own perfect bites as you go along. (Think: Chinese-meets-Middle Eastern lamb with a dollop of smoky eggplant hoisin puree in a naan-style pancake with cilantro and mint. YUM.)
Market price. Six people or more and 72 hours notice required. Smallwares, 25 N Fremont, smallwarespdx.com
Unless your group can book out a whole table, you’ll be sharing this family-style feast with those around you—but you’ll probably leave as friends anyway.
Chef Maya Lovelace’s pop-up dinner (now at Dame on Northeast Killingsworth) is the homiest Southern hug of a meal you can get without a real grandma cooking. Get on the mailing list for reservations and pray you can get into the nine-course dinner, a parade of scrumptious stuff like chicken fried in three fats, tomato pie with Duke’s mayonnaise, and nuanced takes on seasonal veggies.
Advance points if you can score a spot at Lovelace’s new Chimek Korean pop-up, an ode to her favorite cuisine, with touches of Southern cooking here and there. Our early favorite was her play on
tteobokki, rice cakes slicked in an unctuous spicy and subtly sweet sauce and smoky Benton’s bacon, doused in mozzarella cheese.
Lovelace plans to keep both Mae and Chimek going until her new restaurant, Yonder, opens—and hopefully beyond.
Mae Southern Bacchanalia dinner is $75 per person; Chimek is $40. Reservations required. Located at Dame, 2930 NE Killingsworth; maepdx.com.
Little Sheep Hot Pot
Move over, Korean barbecue, because I’m here to throw down the interactive dining gauntlet in favor of hot pot. And the best in the Portland area is Little Sheep in Beaverton. Order at will from house-made shrimp balls, wide potato noodles, lamb wontons, and fresh veggies, and throw them into a pot of broth bubbling over a burner at your table. Drink with very cold Chinese beer.
Hours will easily pass as you dunk thin-sliced meat into the soup—which only gets more flavorful over time. Fish it out and chomp away until you’re too full to see straight.
Little Sheep Hot Pot, 3861 SW 117th, Beaverton, littlesheephotpot.com
My Brother’s Crawfish
Keep your relatives’ hands busy and the coversation away from politics with a good old-fashioned seafood boil. This Cajun classic is a customizable good time: You pick a sauce and a seafood, from crawfish, Dungeness crab, Alaskan King Crab legs, snow crab, shrimp, mussels, or clams. Finally, choose whether to add red potatoes, corn on the cob, mushrooms, sliced andouille sausage, or French rolls.
Add a few bevs and several wet naps and you’ve got yourself a casual party.
Starts at $11.99 a pound, but call ahead for market price. My Brother’s Crawfish, 8230 SE Harrison, mybrotherscrawfish.com