Let me tell you why I love food. I was born the youngest of six kids in a family that was culturally all mixed up. My parents were son and daughter of first-generation Scandinavian immigrants who never put away their Old Country recipe book. Through marriage, I had brothers-in-law, nephews, and cousins from Vietnam, Mexico, and Japan. While other kids ate Jell-o molds and hot dogs at family picnics, I was exposed to stranger foods, and I learned to love them all before I was old enough to think.
Goat meat was always a tough find for my brother-in-law, who hails from that other city of roses, Guadalajara, Mexico. So, much to the dismay of the neighbors, he’d buy his goats live and slaughter them in his own backyard, located in a middle-class subdivision in suburban Portland. We still have pictures of my four nieces posing with the live goats, which would spend the cool Oregon summer nights in the garage before slaughter, alongside the family’s late-seventies Plymouth Volare.
I can still taste it: the rich pungency of fresh goat spiked with Mexican herbs and spices. There was lingering flavor of the stewed goat meat heavily doused with fragrant oregano; fatty and delicious goat ribs; and the not-yet-fashionable pieces: the brains, eyeballs, and other animal parts through which my sisters would play a game of “I dare you to eat that.” There was not a fresher meat to be had than one killed in your backyard, and it all seemed perfectly normal in my family of foodies in a pre-foodie era.
Twenty years later, on upscale menus from Williamsburg to San Francisco to Southeast Portland, goat is slowly beginning to appear. My brother-in-law no longer has to kill his own thanks to the good number of Halal and Carribbean grocers in the Portland area riding into town on a recent wave of immigration. Goat is after all the star of some of the world’s great cuisines—from Middle Eastern to North African to Caribbean to many regions of Mexico and Central America. Remember: Muslim folk don’t dig on swine and they comprise 23 percent of the world’s population. You know there is certainly a good cook or two among them.
So I wasn’t too surprised yesterday when I received noticed that local chefs Gabe Rucker of Le Pigeon and Greg Denton of Metrovino announced a six-course family style dinner that would employ the services of a whole-roasted goat. It’s a little fancier than my brother-in-law’s goat, but neither Rucker or Denton have ever let me down. The menu features goat charcuterie, smoked goat with frisee and a salt-cured egg, goat wrapped in baklava, confit of goat heart over spaghetti and arugula pesto, and more. Each course is paired with wine, and the cost is $100.
For more information and reservations, please call 503-517-7778 or visit www.metrovinopdx.com