Monday, July 14, 2008

Crave's Tapas and Wine

I don't usually do restaurant reviews. Mostly that's because I don't eat out much, and what can you say about bento at The Chicken Bar?

However, we took the dogs and the camper out over the weekend, and spent a couple days near in the little town of Florence, which is down at the edge of the big sand dune park on the central Oregon coast. Since the RV site is close enough to walk to old town, we did so.

While people in Portland were broiling at ninety-five, we were enjoying a sunny and seventy day with a nice breeze off the Siuslaw River, three-quarters of a mile from the ocean.

Florence, once a fishing and logging community, is now focused on tourists. Shops, places to eat or drink, like that. In the used bookstore, I found a Mickey Spillane novel I somehow missed back in '51 when he wrote it. Mike Hammer, living up to his name, .45 working as a sledge or pumping lead, a cigarette going from the time he got up until he went to bed, killing commie scum every which way. Smoke it, drink it, screw it, or kill it, that's Mike. Talk about politically incorrect.

Wandering around the town, we came across Crave's, a restaurant a little off the main drag, billing itself as a wine and tapas bar. Being a culinary barbarian, I had no idea what "tapas" were, but my wife, whose palate is more educated, did. Small Spanish appetizers, enough of which can make a meal.

There was a guy out front, it was late, and we stopped to chat and explain that, even though he had never seen one that color before, black and white and brindle Cardigan Corgis were not unusual for the breed. (I think the weekend set a new record for people who had never seen one that color before.)

We liked the guy, who turned out to be one of the current owners, so we decided to come back for dinner the next evening.

Boy, are we glad we did.

Aside from the tapas, they also had a dinner menu. We each had a glass of dry red wine that was excellent, for six bucks. Dianne had a penne pasta with chicken and asparagus, and I had roast duck and small red potatoes. We shared a banana pudding with crusted sugar dessert, and a glass of excellent port to go with it, and not only was it the best duck (and chicken pasta) I've ever had, the meal cost maybe half of what we'd have paid for it in Portland.

The chefs were a husband and wife team, very young, and when we passed by the kitchen on our way to wash up, the place was immaculate.

Now and then, you eat a meal that is perfect. Simple food, but done expertly. The flavors of the ingredients blend exactly as they should, none overpowers the others, everything is cooked precisely, talking jaw-dropping good. Part of that was because we didn't expect anything special. The most part was, it was simply that good.

The couple at the next table were wondering if it would be completely barbaric to pick up their plates and lick them, and that thought crossed our minds, too.

We let the waiter know how much we enjoyed it, and he passed it on to the kitchen. The female half of the chef-team came out to deliver the dessert and we allowed as how we thought she and her husband were our new favorite cooks. She was embarrassed, but we got a nice smile out of her. She looked to be twenty-something.

How did they wind up there? Family moved there from somewhere -- mother and sister, grandma, like that, and they followed.

I certainly hope Crave's prospers. They were doing a good business, but the place wasn't packed on a Saturday night, and if there is any justice in the world, it soon will be. The waiter was talking about how they planned to offer fruits and lettuce that had been picked the same day ...

If you ever find yourself in Florence, Oregon, find Crave's -- it's on the corner of Laurel and Maple. If you like fine food, you will be happy you went. If this place doesn't get four stars from somebody real soon, I'll be surprised.


Mark Jones said...

I'll definitely keep this place in mind. We'll be at the coast the latter half of this week, so maybe (my Oregon geography is poor) if we're close enough we'll give it a try. Kai loves tapas. There used to be a really good tapas place here in Portland, not from from our house.

Alas, they aren't there any longer--but while they were, the food was delicious. Kai and friends would make a special trip from Orycon each year with out-of-town friends just to eat there.

J.D. Ray said...

Thanks for the tip, Steve. Jen and I are always looking for excuses to go eat somewhere good, as well as excuses to go for an extended ride on the Harley. An overnighter to Florence sounds like just the right combination.

More locally, in our neighborhood, on the corner of 21st and Division is a new little place called Avignon Bar. As you might expect, it has a French theme. The food is all small plates, much like Spanish tapas, and very good. They have a good wine list, a reasonable beer selection, and a small cocktail bar. Prices were, I thought, very reasonable. It's as nice a place as any in the Pearl District, but the cost to play is much lower.