Friday, March 14, 2014

Portland Dining Month: Red Star Tavern

Disclaimer: we won a gift certificate through PDX bloggers and Watershed Communications for a gift certificate to Red Star Tavern to experience Portland Dining Month. We agreed to provide a review of our meal, but as always, our opinions are our own.

For being a "food blogger", I am embarrassed to admit that I haven't experienced certain things in Portland's restaurant scene that I probably should have (for a while this list included Salt and Straw, but luckily I checked that off the list during the summer). One of these things is Portland Dining Month. Each year I think I should check it out since so many restaurants participate by offering a three course meal for $29, but I never get around to it. When I saw the contest on PDX bloggers, I decided this was my chance to finally go!

I will be honest, at first I was disappointed when I got the gift certificate in the mail because it was for Red Star Tavern. I thought that we would be able to choose the restaurant, and after much deliberation, my co bloggers and I had decided on Papa Haydn. We chose that one because it included dessert as one of the courses (absolutely essential!), and it was a choice of ANY of their desserts. I had never been to Red Star Tavern and was excited to go, but I was sad that the dessert options sounded kind of boring. There was a choice between white chocolate panna cotta and housemade ice cream or sorbet. White chocolate is not my thing, so the ice cream was the only real option.

Before you think I am a big moaner (oh, poor me, I get a free meal, boo hoo), I did end up having an amazing meal and experience at Red Star Tavern despite my initial disappointment! Even the dessert ended up exceeding my expectations!

When we got there, my co-blogger immediately noted that the server, Rusty, was someone who had helped her in the past and was great at his job. We were already off to a good start, and she was right about him. He was great!

We noticed right away that you could pay $15 extra to do a wine pairing with the Portland Dining Month menu. It said that they were three ounces pours of white wine, a red, and bubbles (I can't remember the types of wine, sadly). This seemed like a good deal, and it ended up being even better when we got the wine and the pours were more generous than expected!

We were given bread to start, and the butter that comes with the bread is extra delicious. It has a red salt on it that really adds to the flavor.

The first course was a choice between a beet salad or a green salad. I chose the green salad because I don't like beets,but if you do I would suggest choosing that one. It was a very pretty salad with lots of colorful beets. My green salad was very fresh and flavorful with fennel and a light dressing. The only thing I didn't like was that it was a little too peppery.

The next course was really, really good. I chose the steak option (the other option was a vegetarian option, which was great because many of the restaurants don't offer vegetarian options, and this was nice coming from a place known for their meat). I don't eat steak very often, so it was a nice treat. It came with snap peas, pea shoots, and an avocado purée. I really enjoyed the interesting flavors more than I expected.

Dessert is VERY important to me, and I didn't have high hopes for the ice cream. I love ice cream, but at a restaurant like this I tend to go for a cobbler or cake option. I was actually very impressed with the homemade ice cream I got. I ordered the strawberry lemon flavor and was surprised to find the lemon flavor seemed to come from pieces of lemon shortbread mixed in! Yum! The ice cream was anything but boring, and I was so glad I got it.

One thing I really enjoyed about Red Star Tavern was the way the server and the restaurant made the dinner into a leisurely experience. We were there around two hours and it felt really relaxed and enjoyable. Even at some other nice restaurants I've been to, it feels sort of rushed. I really liked how our dinner felt like a real night out even though it was our only stop for the evening.

As for Portland Dining Month, I will definitely try it at other restaurants. It is a great deal for a special night out!


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