2003 Season • Article/Feature
July 16, 2003
By Bob Hicks of The Oregonian.
Sometimes a song sounds good enough to eat.
So why not?
A few years ago San Francisco composer Elinor Armer and Portland’s master storyteller Ursula K. Le Guin collaborated on a musical journey they called “Uses of Music in Uttermost Parts.”
In it, the explorers of an imaginary archipelago discover a place where music is literally food, created by a mythical beast and happily ingested by the land’s inhabitants: “A single hornless lyrovus, note-fed, produces a stream of melody, up to 12 lieder or 14 cantatas daily, succulent, nourishing, rich.”
It’s a whimsy music-lovers can understand. You can’t actually eat the sounds created at Oregon’s many summer music festivals, but you can enjoy some pretty harmonious meals when visiting most of them.
Trio for Asparagus, Anchovy and Line Cook: Eugene’s Oregon Bach Festival ends Sunday with the big bang of Bach’s Magnificat in D Major and Mozart’s Mass in C Minor. To celebrate afterward — or if you’re in town Aug. 7-16 to soak up the more popular sounds of the Oregon Festival of American Music — your best bet might be to head over to Marche, Stephanie Pearl Kimmel’s casually elegant lunch and dinner house in the 5th Street Market.
And one of the best ways to enjoy Marche is to settle onto one of the stools at the long tiled counter looking into the kitchen, where you can amuse yourself by watching the rapid-fire assemblage of salads or the quick flip of fig leaves around orange fillets of chinook salmon.
That’s where I landed recently before heading off to hear a Handel oratorio, and the meal on the plate was every bit as good as the floor show in the kitchen.
Asparagus was the showpiece of a terrific summer bistro salad, with bits of pancetta, lightly roasted red onion and a subtle continuo of vinegar. Its brilliant finishing touch, a trill of softly poached egg running warmly around the stalks, gave the whole composition a bright Baroque patina.
Marche’s classic pissaladiere is more Bartok — spiky, aggressive, mathematically elegant and ringing with folk flavor. This pungent thin-crust pizza is a chamber piece of potentially dissonant flavors brought into triumphant concord: sharp olives and lemony thyme meshed with the sweet softness of a bed of caramelized onions, then giving way to a crowning, provocative attack of anchovy. This is robust, full-throttle cooking. Like it or not — and I liked it very much — you walk away remembering its tune.
Marche: 296 E. Fifth Ave., Eugene; 541-342-3612.
Rillette for Solo Diner: Bustling Cafe Zenon has been a downtown Eugene favorite for 20-odd years, and it still draws eager crowds morning, noon and night.
Atmospherically, this sonically booming place has the cacophonous kick of a “Stomp” concert. The cooking can be considerably more Kronos Quartet. Zenon’s a good spot for wine by the bottle or glass, for late-night desserts and for sampling an ambitious, constantly evolving menu that pokes into all sorts of world cuisines, sometimes a little hesitantly but usually with impressive results — especially given its rational prices.
The eye-opener here at one recent lunch was a generous platter of salmon rillettes — slightly chunky, pate-like dollops of blended cold salmon dropped onto crisp anchors of toast, and each topped with a little mound of sour cream. The rillettes’ slow cooking and chilling process gave the dish a rich depth of flavor but balanced it neatly with acidic freshness. Call it well-tempered cooking, perfect for Bach.
Cafe Zenon: 898 Pearl St., Eugene; 541-343-3005.
Hult’s Prelude and Coda No. 1: You have 40 minutes before the concert begins, and you want a good coffee and a quick bite. After the show, you’re up for a glass of wine and a light dessert.
If your concert is at Eugene’s Hult Center, as the Bach and American Music festivals are, you’re in luck. Perugino, which opened a year ago just up the street, fits both programs nicely. A smart little coffeehouse and wine bar, it delivers all the usual suspects of the coffee and tea trade, plus a short, appealing and almost ridiculously inexpensive assortment of panini and light plates, all in a warm, high-ceilinged space with good music playing in the background.
Before one recent show I had a lovely, generous Caprese salad sparked by fine, full-flavored fresh tomatoes to go with its soft fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. On a hot evening it was an ideal light dinner, and it cost just $5.75, the highest price on the menu.
A couple of other quick stops revealed an enjoyably hearty glazed pear tart, perfectly crunchy biscotti and some good, inexpensive wines by the glass, including a crisp German pinot gris and a modest but nicely balanced chianti classico. Dolce.
Perugino: 767 Willamette St., Eugene; 541-687-9102.
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