Dream of a Rarebit Fiend

Dinner at the Moon and Sixpence

Most Friday evening I dine out with my good friends and neighbors, the Graffs.  This little tradition has gone on for a couple of years now but recently I noticed that we had gotten ourselves into a rut.  Drawn by the lure of margaritas and sunshine we had started dining way to often at our local neighborhood Mexican restaurant.  Now that the weather has changed, it is time we headed back indoors and branched out.  Last week we dined at Cabezon, the fish market and restaurant which took over the just off Sandy location of the much missed Violets.  This week we were looking for something different, low key and with lots of beer.  This being Portland good quality beer is every where and there are an ever increasing number of spots that carry dozens or, at least one local beer joint, hundreds of varieties.  But when you start adding quality food to the equation that number starts to drop exponentially.  So we decided to go the English pub route and headed out to the Moon and Sixpence.

Arriving at an earlyish time of about seven we were lucky to grab an uncleared wooden booth and we ordered up a couple of beers and a warm mead.  Eventually the drinks arrived and the waitress half cleared the table, after a while another waitress finished clearing the mess from the previous occupants.  A bit after that the original waitress returned to the table to wipe it down, whisking the detritus onto the floor, she glanced at the mess she had made, shrugged and then proceeded to take our order.

We started with Welsh rarebit.  when I first saw this item on the menu I was thrilled because I knew of rarebit only from the classic 1906 silent film Dream of a Rarebit Fiend which shows a man drunk on rarebit and beer.  I have a particular passion for eating things which reference books or films I am

currently interested in (thus the summer of Scottish food) and this fit that mold perfectly.  A traditional rarebit is a creamy cheddar sauce, in the manner of a fondue, served over rye bread.  the version here had the cheese sauce poured over a split baguette and then grilled.  Maybe it was an off night but the grilling created a thin tasteless crust on the cheese and caused it to be nearly completely absorbed by the bread which robbed the dish of its natural unctuousness.  It was really too bad because in the few places where the flavor of the sauce did shine  through it came with a satisfying mix of mustard, horseradish, beer and sharp cheddar.

The overall selection on the menu was truly pub style, with limited choices and thick warming food meant to coat the belly for a night of drinking.  When the mains arrived they looked like pub food, thick pastry crusts, meats and throw away salads.  A particular treat was the steak and mushroom pie,  a thick peppery stew sealed with inches of pastry dough.  The pastry was perfect, flaky outside, fully cooked but soft inside, it seemed to melt in the mouth.   The stew was rich and dark, the beef cooked into complete submission while the mushrooms maintained their essential character.  The portion was substantial, combined with a starter it would certainly be enough for two.  The Cornish and veggie pasties appeared like two puff pastry wrapped

Pint of stout from pdphoto.org

Image via Wikipedia

calzones.  Despite being wrapped in the traditional manner, the pastry dough makes it impracticable to eat these traditional pies by hand but we weren’t complaining.

The only major problem with the evening is that the waitstaff is SLOW.  They are friendly enough, sure.  And certainly as the night went on, and the crowd of full bearded, bike riding,  woolen hat wearing Portlanders grew, they were busy but by any standards they were sluggish and painfully unaware of their customers.  Forget the standard nod, or eye-catch for attention these people responded to nothing less then a whistle (unfortunately rude I know but one of my dining companions felt it necessary when no one had stopped by the table or responded to our more subtle cues for more than twenty minutes).  It took so long to get a beer that we barely had time to dip into their truly impressive selection which was definite a loss.

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~ by whatsheeats on October 31, 2010.

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