First Blush at Casa Naranja

Aaron and I received a phone invitation to have dinner with Aaron’s mom (Laurie) and step-dad (Jim) last Wednesday. I’m always happy when they call with a last minute idea because they are delightful and interesting people. Aaron and Laurie are alike in far more ways than they are different: they share a nearly identical view of the human experience (bad circumstances lead to unexpectedly awesome results) and they have an uncanny way of disarming people to create friendly and informative verbal banner. I’m pleased that Jim and I share a similar viewpoint on dinning out: know where you’re going before you get in the car and try new restaurants as often as possible (this is Portland, after all).

Casa Naranja is a laid back restaurant in North Portland with genuine service and good food. They have a patio that surrounds 3/4 of a cute little house. We scouted the back patio where tanned men were lounging in hammock chairs and smoking cigarettes. Laurie requires a smoke free exsistence (she’s classy like that) so we turned back to sit on the front deck. Our table provided ample seating for a party of four and a great view of North Mississippi Avenue.

We shared many small plates throughout the evening and I was very pleased with the vegetarian options that Laurie and I were able to enjoy while Aaron and Jim sampled wild boar ribs and a unrelated dish of chorizo in puffed pastry.

Spicy Basil

Spicy Basil

The cocktails were good but they all seemed to explore the sweeter side of alcohol charged libations. This Spicy Basil concoction lived up to it’s name. . .in the Basil department. Not as spicy as I would have liked. The real cocktail winner of the evening was the Portland Manhattan that Jim ordered, a Pacific Northwest berry-centric delight with just the right amount of bourbon.

I decided to post about Casa Naranja because I wanted to share the following dish with a few vegetarian friends who read this blog.

Veggie Tartar

Veggie Tartar

The Veggie Tartar is great, almost as great as the smoked tofu salad with roasted beets, arugula and sherry vinigrette. A micro thin slice of zucchini surrounds an army of diced veggies that are perched on a fantastic sun-dried tomato base. The dish is topped with micro greens and crispy wontons. This is truly a great veggie take on a classic meat-centric French dish.  The whole package is drizzled with quality olive oil.

When I lived in the South I tried to visit a restaurant several times before posting an opinion. Some restaurants (like a certain Ryan Adams themed pizza parlor) were strong contenders for a great blog review and over time the consistency failed and I chose not to write about the restaurant instead of writing a negative review. I feel a bit more bold in Portland so if my initial experience with a restaurant warrants an A or B average I’ll write about here and you are welcome to read my unsolicited (and anosmic) advice.

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