Estes serves up Italian cuisine with lots of love
My husband Mark and I have had some memorable meals in our lifetime — dinners which we can vividly recall bite for bite, and which still bring smiles to our faces years after the last morsel has been enjoyed. Some fond memories include our first dinner at Portland's legendary Genoa Restaurant; dining at Joel Palmer House in Dayton; and two dinners with Anthony Bourdain and friends at The Heathman.
We recently added to our list of excellent epicurean adventures and encourage you to experience it for yourself. You gotta go to Estes.
Estes opened in February as part of Dame Collective's chefs-in-residence program, a creative new restaurant model collaborating with chefs and winemakers. Dame Collective offers curated natural wines by the glass and bottle, plus thoughtful service staff.
Estes, founded by Chef Patrick McKee, provides cuisine inspired by his Italian family roots.
Chef Patrick said Estes is his mother's maiden name; his grandfather emigrated from Rome, changing his surname d'Este to Estes when he arrived in America. Patrick grew up eating great food made by his mother and grandmother, most of it grown in their home gardens. They used local ingredients grown in sustainable methods far before it was common practice.
If you were coming for Sunday dinner you had better plan on being at the table awhile, he said.
"There's a whole lotta love in Sunday dinner," he said.
He came to Portland from Washington D.C. in 1994, then spent 10 years cooking the Chef Vitaly Paley; in fact he served with Chef Ben Bettinger on Paley's Iron Chef America victory team in Battle Radish in 2011. He left Paley's in 2015, and he and Bettinger worked together at the New Laurelhurst Market before he launched Estes.
The items on the menu are inspired by his mother's recipes; the meatballs and marinara is in fact her recipe, and he recently served a lasagna for which his mother dictated the recipe over the phone. He learned much about food from his mother; she could tell when different hands had made the pasta.
Some of his mother's sage advice includes, "Speak softly and cook with your heart."
Family is a big part of what cooking is about for Chef Patrick and his wife, Chef Cynthia Vigil, and what they teach their children.
So what did we eat?
We started with marinated olives, grilled flatbread with a fresh ricotta cheese flavored with fennel pollen, lemon zest and olive oil, and beef carpaccio with fried capers, shaved foie gras torchon and calabrian chile oil; followed by handmade cappelletti stuffed with fennel, leek, sunchoke, fava beans, chestnuts and morels; spaghetti and meatballs and halibut with steamed clams and new potatoes, corn and salsa verda.
The flavors sing in every dish, and each dish is artfully plated.
A neat feature at Estes is that you can order half or full portions of some pasta dishes. You can also order half or full glasses of wine, which makes it easy to sample a few interesting options at each meal.
As we ate our meal our list of who we should invite to come back with us kept growing. You are invited too.
Estes is open Sunday through Wednesday nights 5:30 p.m. to close. The address is 2930 NE Killingsworth, Portland. You can make reservations online at estespdx.com or call 503-227-2669.
And what happens the other nights of the week? Pasture takes over Thursday through Saturday nights. Chef/Butcher/Owner Kei Ohdera and Chef/Butcher/Owner John Schaible are the founders of Pasture, which is a whole animal butcher and restaurant that utilizes local agriculture and ethical animal husbandry to craft Cascadian cuisine.
They aim to raise awareness of the flavor and quality that comes from animals raised on pasture through regenerative practices. They are open 5:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
A little more information about Dame Collective: It offers an intimate environment to discover and learn about wines from around Oregon and across the globe, including natural wine industry leaders and exciting up-and-comers.
The retail shop features wines that are sourced from small producers farming ethically with minimal manipulation in the vineyard and winery. Dame hosts frequent events and winemaker tastings where you can meet winemakers in a casual setting. Hosted in the restaurant, winemaker tastings feature personal wine pours by each winemaker, by-the-glass takeovers, special flights and bottles to go at bottle shop prices. Dame Bottle Shop is open daily from 2 p.m. to close.
Some of you might be saying "Killingsworth is at the end of the planet." It's not. It took us 25 minutes to get from Lake Oswego to Estes, and you know what we did on the drive? Talked. How often do you get an opportunity to truly catch up on just visiting with your loved ones?
No recipe today, just a nudge to get out and have an excellent epicurean adventure.
Bon Appetit! Make eating an adventure.
And parking was a breeze.
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