June 18, 2008

My Life with Bread

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I've never been to Italy. Pretty much the extent of my expertise in Italian food is that it has been my favorite kind of food since I was very little. In kindergarten, when my class wrote a cookbook, I wrote a recipe for spaghetti, which included directions to pour the water and pasta "in a big green bowl with holes in it."

I still love making spaghetti, even though I use a silver colander now, instead of a green one. I think bread is a necessity when eating pasta of any kind - that's a given. But what kind of bread is the key. When I was still making spaghetti with a green colander, I loved the squishy French bread, loaded with an inch of butter and garlic and parsley, pre-loaded at the grocery store, of course. I loved it when I took a big bite and the butter would run over my lips and down my chin. And I could get my tongue to stretch all the way to the bottom of my chin to get it all.

Then sometime in college, I discovered the wonders of sitting on the living room floor with a loaf of crusty bread and some butter, a step up from the squishy pre-loaded kind, always followed with a good vacuuming of the thick, shaggy, cheap apartment carpet.

One day after I had moved to Portland, I discovered a yeasty, beast of a bread soulmate on an afternoon payday excursion to bring dinner home to my parents.

This little Italian grocery store in Lake Oswego, in a strip mall on State Street. Unassuming. Port City Pasta. The first time I walked in, I was overwhelmed with my favorite scents - bread, tomatoes, warmth, and my favorite sights - bread, fresh pasta, Italian deli meats, cheese. I was in absolute heaven. I'm not sure what happened, but before I knew it, I had spent $40 for dinner. And part of that $40 was a large round of salt-blistered focaccia bread, with shards of garlic and rosemary baked into the slightly glistening surface. It was chewy and crispy and so so SO perfect.

My love for bread soared to a whole new level. The doughy, loafy herbed focaccia bread from Fred Meyer died in my heart. There was no room for any other kind of bread. It was no longer bread and pasta, but bread and salad, bread and chicken, bread and pizza. It didn't matter what the main course was, Port City Pasta focaccia bread always paired marvelously.

For a while, I would stop on a regular basis and get two rounds of focaccia. One for me. One for dinner. I was obsessed. Their focacciasandwiches - hearty, so flavorful, and touched with that crunchy salt and olive oil and finesse. At some point, I got a hold of myself and remembered that there were other cuisines out there. Then I moved a little further away. My visits became less and less and finally, not at all.

Though I haven't been to their store in a long time, every time I go to an Italian restaurant and order focaccia bread, I'm silently comparing it to Port City Pasta, like when you just can't get over an old crush who has moved away. And every time, the restaurants fail to live up to my saintly memory of Port City Pasta.

I'm going to have to bolster my reserve self-control and run over there for a little visit this week. My salivating-inducing memory will haunt me until I do.

Port City Pasta on Urbanspoon


Chelsea said...

I need some right this second.

Karla said...

My love affair w/ bread continues & ur blog makes me swoon!

Anonymous said...

Jenny P had that exact same colander...