It was a good sign when we entered Olympic Provisions, the surprisingly airy butcher shop/café near Portland’s Willamette River, and saw a sushi case…full of sausage, bacon and ham. That kind of playfulness translated to our plates during a memorable brunch.
The quintet of Michelle Cairo, Tyler Gaston, Elias Cairo, Nate Tilden, and Martin Schwartz founded Olympic Provisions in 2009, featuring USDA Approved, housemade “American Charcuterie.” Sure, they’re up to code and all, but they also know how to cut loose. When we approached the updated industrial space on foot, the sound system greeted me with “Careless Whisper,” followed shortly by “Let’s Stay Together.”
The airy space featured concrete flooring, exposed copper piping, plush brown banquette seating, shelves of wine and liquor, a MEAT sign with pronounced bulbs, and the aforementioned sushi case, which clearly marks the meat as precious.
We started with Pork Rillette Hand Pie ($6), featuring a flaky lard-enriched crust, chunky porcine filling and accompaniments that attempted to cut the savory pie’s intensity: whole grain mustard, pickled cauliflower, onion and beet.
We opted for Chef’s Choice ($14), which rewarded us with an ounce each of firm saucisson sec seasoned with black pepper and garlic, spicy chorizo navarre with smoked paprika and cayenne, savory bacon hazelnut terrine studded with crushed filberts, and creamy slabs of pork liver mousse, dusted with salt and pepper. The colorful accompaniments helped to rein in the richness, including pickled cauliflower, onion strands and beet, plus whole grain mustard and soft baguette slices.
My Three Egg Omelet ($10) contained smoky house-made bacon, shitake mushrooms, sharp white cheddar, a sprinkling of sea salt and chives. Still, the true boon to the plate may have been Lazer Potatoes – “tomorrow’s potatoes, today” – a wedge of buttery, thin sliced pommes Anna with a crispy base. If this is what potatoes look like in the future, sign me up.
Considering Portland’s pronounced devotion to seasonal, whole animal cookery, Olympic Provisions still managed to stand out, and they sure did it with a sense of humor.