January 14, 2008

Urban Fondue (2114 NW Glisan St.)

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It’s raining outside. Raining hard. It’s Friday night after a contentious week of work. My nerves are frazzled, my hair, flat. There’s a spot! There’s a spot! You can fit in there. I can’t. Yes, you can, just do it. My sister is directing my parking. I can’t fit in the spot. I let her out in front of the restaurant so I can find parking on my own. I drive around the block through the sheets of rain. My phone rings. There’s a spot right here. I’m saving it for you. Do you see me? You just have to turn around. My sister is standing in a parking spot. I drive around the block. My phone rings. Where are you? People are giving me dirty looks for standing in a parking spot. I’m almost there. My nerves that were frazzled are now fried. I hate parking in NW Portland on Friday night. You can fit in there, she says. It’s easy. I turn my wheel. Maybe a little too sharply. Crunch. I hit the car in front of me.

Forget it. I drive off and park in the Trader Joe’s parking lot. Ilegal, yes, but other cars will be safer if I do it. I walk to a nearby bar and borrow a pen so I can write a note and leave it on the car that I hit. I am not confident that my note will withstand the rain. But I have to do it. When I was 17 I backed into an old green beat up pickup truck, barely tapping the side of it. I didn’t do any damage to the truck, so I left without leaving a note. The police called that night saying that I had been in a hit and run. I had to go down to the police station and “learn my lesson” from a cop who gave me a break and didn’t cite me.

I wearily tread through the rain back to Urban Fondue where we are celebrating my friend Alison’s birthday. Truthfully, I just want to go home and go to bed. This day is not a good one. We are at a big table in the back. My sister and I take the corner spot. I am in a daze. We order cheddar and caraway fondue with sausage and mushrooms for dipping. I sit and dip in my fondue. Listening to the surrounding conversations, glad to not be a part of them. We all trade fondues. We get the brie and gorgonzola pot, which is almost empty. It is much tastier than the grainy and runny cheddar and caraway fondue that we ordered.

What do you do for a living? Someone is talking to me. I clear my head enough to answer. I’m an HR Manager. But she also writes about food. Someone said loudly. Oh really? What do you write? I talk about my blog. My head starts to feel a little lighter. I like doing casual reviews of my dining experiences. I talk about my favorite restaurants. I talk about the restaurants I don’t like. I talk about the restaurants I haven’t tried. I talk about how people seem to be very sensitive about Mark Lindsay’s Rock and Roll Café and are still sending me flaming comments about my negative review from 5 months ago. I am forgetting about work and the shouting and complaining and crying that went on in my office this week. We converse about cooking while I eat my grilled romaine and pancetta salad and the others cook their meat in the broth. I order a virgin margarita. I enjoy my salad. Mainly I enjoy the pancetta.

So what would you say about this place? The guy across the table talks in a lowered voice so we don’t alert the waitstaff that we are about to critique their restaurant. I’ll tell you what I would say, he says. You are paying for an experience. You are not paying for a chef to create this meal – you’re paying for the staff to coordinate this experience. The sauces are not outstanding. We discuss the diverting tone of eating fondue and how it is fun but not amazingly delicious. The waitress forgets about my margarita and then offers me the drink on the house. Nice.

We order dessert. Chocolate hazelnut fondue. With cookie dough, doughnuts, bananas, pound cake and cheesecake for dipping. The cheesecake is still frozen. It is sweet. Super super sweet and rich. The guy across the table pours the rest of the caramel fondue into the chocolate hazelnut fondue and swirls it. Eat it with a spoon. Very diverting indeed.

Hugs. Kisses. Nice to meet yous. My sister and I head out into the rain. A yellow envelope sits on my windshield. Parking ticket.

Urban Fondue on Urbanspoon


LadyConcierge said...

When it comes down to it, meat cooked in your choice of broth is...boiled meat. It's a rip-off, imo, and I would never choose fondue if I had to pay. That said, I've been to that place twice, and their sides are good. Especially the spinach and the polenta.

This is a different writing style for you - very interesting.

The Guilty Carnivore said...

People became incensed over a negative review of Mark Lindsay's Rock and Roll Cafe?

That's like becoming apoplectic because TV Guide gives a lukewarm review of the latest episode of Two and Half Men.