Higgins had been on my Portland shortlist for over five years, but it took a surprise last-minute decision to finally get me through the front door. The warm restaurant certainly looked the part, with hams hanging from the kitchen ceiling and a back room decorated with signs from most of Oregon’s leading breweries. Owner Greg Higgins has built a reputation as one of Portland’s primary proponents of local, sustainable cooking. This all added up to bring about a perfect culinary storm. While the experience was memorable, I only encountered scattered showers.
I started with a pint of Hair of the Dog “Greg” brewed in Portland with squash instead of hops. The beer was definitely missing the complexity that comes with hop bitterness, but the flavor wasn’t overly sweet, and it still tasted refreshing.
It turns out those hams were a sign of things to come. My meal revolved around Choucroute Garni, a slow-cooked Alsatian dish involving cabbage and several forms of pork, including loin, bacon and two different sausages. By the bottom of the bowl, the wine-cooked cabbage flavor got to be a little cloying, and though it would have been untraditional, the pork could have been crisper.
Dessert was the dish that lived up to the hype. The warm pecan tart was drizzled with caramel sauce and topped with a scoop of candy cap ice cream. Candy Cap is a local mushroom that mimics the flavor of maple syrup, and it helped take the already top-notch tart to another level.
After waiting over five years to eat at Higgins, it probably would have been impossible to meet expectations.