I will always be ever so grateful to AS for getting us into the second seating at Portland newcomer Beast, which according to Travel & Leisure, "isn’t so much a restaurant as a regularly occurring, eccentric dinner party in chef and co-owner Naomi Pomeroy’s exhibition kitchen. Dining is at a pair of communal tables, and there are just two seatings per evening. ... Meals are prix fixe, either five-course or six-course (wine pairings optional), and there’s one nightly menu—no choices, no substitutions. Pomeroy and her talented staff prepare exquisite meals using sustainable, farm-fresh ingredients."
We decided to go for broke and opted for Beast's 6-course, 2 oz wine pairings.
Sitting down to the smaller of the 2 farm tables (seating 8, and on this night including the chef's own dad), we started off with a luscious cream of spinach soup topped with a spiral of lobster créme fraiche and a sprinkle of espelette pepper. We scooped up every drop.
Following on its heels, a dreamy charcuterie plate comprising artisanal salami; steak tartare and quail egg toast; pork, pork liver, sour cherry and pistachio paté; fois gras bon-bon with a sauternes geleé on a peanut butter biscuit; and my absolute fave: chicken liver mousse with a small slab of maple candied bacon. All helped down with a lightly dressed fennel and radicchio salad, pickled veg, cornichon and stone-ground mustard.
Then came the oh-so-tender and succulent pork cheeks braised in rosé, accompanied by sweet-hot pepper and roasted shallot salsa, roasted potatoes with olives and Beast bacon, sautéed rapini with garlic and chili flake, and a generous douse of pork demi glace. By this point, I was already struggling to get all of this rich food down, much as I wanted to ... the 2 oz pours were really more like 3 ... and with a few more courses bearing down, what to hold back on?
Well, as it was, the next course was a huge helping of butter lettuce and herbs in a pistachio vinaigrette with a dollop of fresh raw house-made ricotta sitting on a warm bit of toast, so I held back on the (slightly overdressed) greens though couldn't resist finishing off the soft creamy curd.
Nor could I forgo the selection of cow's and sheep's cheese brought out with some poached plum, marcona almonds, and anise and fleur de sel shortbread. And no one could resist the finale: a lemon-buttermilk souffle with créme de cassis ice cream.
We rolled out of Beast well past midnight, 3 and a 1/2 hours after we'd first arrived. All in all, it was a magical and somewhat surreal experience—made all the more surreal looking out the picture window and into the windows of the building across the way to see the silhouettes of not one but 2 lone folk taking showers in stalls stacked one on top of the other. Go figure.