When I decided to go to Portland, I sought some feedback on where I should eat. I usually do extensive research on my own, but I asked others for help this time. Drew Lazor from the city paper told me that Le Pigeon was a must eat. I actually remembered seeing it the last time I was in Portland, as I was staying at a crappy motel right across from it, so I heeded his advice and made a reservations. It’s a tiny spot with only 3 family style dining tables (be prepared to sit next to strangers!!!) and seats at the kitchen bar. So plan your visit in advance!
It is french! Could you guess that from le name? The menu is small, changes all the time, and is very french. You don’t see friendly things like chicken and steak and sea bass. You see things like pigs feet, tongue, duck, and sweetbreads. So be forewarned! It had tons of decorations and art, including embroideries of employees on the walls. The dessert and cheese menus were written on these colorful old windowpanes.
I went wild and got the sweetbreads with scallop, salsify, and citrus. Now I’ve only eaten sweetbreads once, and liked it, and I love me some scallops, so I decided to take the chance! I still really don’t know what particular type of sweetbread this was, but I’m assuming it was the pancreas kind, as it was pretty big. I liked this, but I could easily see how some would not. While it doesn’t have a terrible texture, it doesn’t have the greatest texture either. It’s kind of on its way to having a liver texture, but only about half way there. It was seared and I enjoyed the seared bits quite a lot. However, once I ate away at the seared bits, the inside was less cooked, and I got a bit afraid and stayed away from it. I think the last time I had sweetbreads it was cut up into much smaller pieces so there weren’t any less cooked bits. I think I would have preferred it that way. That was fine as I still had a lovely and big seared scallop to enjoy. You know me and scallops, so enjoy it I did! The salsify is a root vegetable. It’s not widely eaten, but it is in France, Italy, and Russia. I’ll leave it to the French, Italians, and the Russians. Salsify is definitely not the root vegetable for me. Now as strange as it may sound, my favorite part of this dish was what all the main ingredients came on top of – cauliflower puree. It tasted like pure cauliflower, but it was incredibly smooth and lump free, liquidy, but still with some oomph. I could eat this all day!
Now dessert is where we got completely crazy. While there were many options, some of them even crazier, nothing enticed us as much as the honey bacon apricot cornbread with maple ice cream, drizzled with bacon cooked in maple syrup. Yes folks, this cornbread has bits of bacon in it. And it’s topped with more bacon. And as crazy as it sounds, it was delicious! But the maple ice cream is actually what made it. Without it, the cornbread tastes a little too funny and smoky. But with the ice cream, it’s the perfect complement. It’s all the bizarre combinations of savory and sweet that make it so fun to eat. We laughed the whole time we ate this, because really, we couldn’t really believe we were!
Service was good and they were very friendly and helpful with explaining the menu. It’s a packed restaurant, with just a few people cooking, and everything is cooked to order, so be prepared to wait for your food. Just enjoy the complimentary bread they give you. They sprinkle a little sea salt on the butter and it makes it even that much better. We sat next to a really nice couple who recommended several places to try out, in Portland and elsewhere. And we provided them with some recommendations for spots to check out in random parts of the country. And hence, the beauty of family style sitting amongst strangers. Le Pigeon is a special experience. I hope you all get to experience it. And say yes to the crazy bacon dessert!