Here’s the one of the best things about your birthday week — everyone wants to fete you and take you out for a wonderful meal.
And in Portland, there are so many wonderful places to try out, but the one place I most wanted to check out was Trifecta Tavern.
I’d heard from friends that everything was good here — cocktails, double pimento burger, steaks, desserts– and when I heard that they also sell breads from there every day starting at 4 p.m., I knew it was a must-go.
You see, the owner, Ken Forkish, is the man behind Ken’s Artisan Bakery and Ken’s Artisan Pizza — and he’s a genius with bread.
He even wrote an IACP-nominated cookbook: Flour Water Salt Yeast.
So a restaurant that also sells loaves that aren’t available anywhere else?
I’m so in.
My family and I popped in for Happy Hour this week on my birthday, and oh what a meal we had.
First up, fantastic cocktails.
I had a marvelous Manhattan and my husband the best lemon drop he’s says he’s ever had.
My kids both had Shirley Temples with a homemade cherry syrup and delicious little cherries — best version of that, too.
While we were waiting for our appetizers to arrive, we enjoyed some of the complementary breads and ordered a side of the house-churned butter to go alongside.
Ken’s breads are incomparable — and I especially loved the walnut bread here.
Next up, warm olives and a tangy house salad with a buttermilk dressing.
While we waited for our burgers and steaks to arrive, we took in our surroundings: comfy booths, a lively bar scene (I spotted two local politicians chugging drafts and burgers there) and a wood pile at the ready for the oven in the middle of the restaurant.
Our waitress Kelsey gave us incredible service (unlike many places at Happy Hour) and had a sixth sense as to when to check in with us and when to hold back. She guided us well in terms of ordering, too.
Then the main event arrived.
There are loads of options available but three of us failed to move beyond the burger listing and it was two thumbs up and one thumbs down.
The brioche roll is light as a whisper yet has the sturdiness to hold and corral the double patty and hefty cheese inside.
The burger is insanely juicy and uses amazing beef; I wouldn’t be surprised if they ground it there just to get the consistency and fat to meat ratio just right.
And they cooked it just like I wanted it– medium rare.
My only quibble with this otherwise-excellent burger is the amount of pimento cheese on it. There’s a lot. And when I say there’s a lot, I mean a ton– and it competed with the meat and made the aioli an afterthought (who could tell it’s there with so much of this thick cheese spread on it?).
(Aioli should never be an afterthought– it’s one of God’s greatest gifts to eaters and to squander its impact is criminal.)
I would definitely go there again for that burger– it really is one of the best in town — but I would ask that they only do a smear of that cheese.
Even though it was overwhelmed by the richness and quantity of the cheese spread, it was still fantastic.
At happy hour the $10 burger doesn’t come with the meal, but for a couple dollars more you can order a huge order for the table.
We ordered the “boardwalk” ones with malt vinegar seasoning, and they were pant-busting good.
Hubby had the bavette steak — a good deal at $16 during Happy Hour.
I think the similar steak offered at Nostrana is better, but only marginally so, and it doesn’t come with those lovely and lanky fries alongside. And that is no small thing.
Even the desserts are spectacular.
I’m not a big rhubarb fan, but Kelsey surprised my table with a complimentary birthday dessert so we all delved in.
I can’t believe how luscious the crostata was, especially when paired with the gingery ice cream alongside.
A wonderful meal, but it got even better when we added Country Bread #2 to our bill to take home.
I’d read on their website that this bread is only for sale there, and it’s the loaf that Ken considers closest to the Pain de Campagne breads of Paris.
Okay, you’ve now got my complete attention.
Half loaf for $6 or the whole for $12?
Kelsey, please– if you knew me, you wouldn’t even have to ask. You’d just wrap it up and stick it on my bill.
It must have weighed over three pounds and it was intensely fragrant with a really dark crust.
And when you cut it up at home, it looked like this.
The day after our dinner at Trifecta I woke up at 5 a.m. and remembered that I’d brought the loaf home, and I ran downstairs to toast some up.
I’d brought our leftover butter home too so just a few minutes in the toaster and my toast was perfection.
It reminded me so much of the bread from Poilane Bakery in Paris. I’m obsessed with that bakery and one time a very generous boyfriend had a loaf Fed-exed to me for a long weekend together.
I’m so excited that now Portland has something similar.
For the last couple days I’ve been eating this toasted bread morning, noon and night.
With smashed avocado. With tomatoes and balsamic. With Chop salami. With wedges of truffle cheese.
But I think it’s really best just with a little salt and a bit of sweet butter melted in.
Trifecta Tavern, I’ll be back — and I’ll bring my linen bread bag with me.
And tomorrow, friends, we leave for Vancouver. Deliciousness awaits!