By Katie Acheff
This month’s Portland Food Adventures led us to a perfect summer day on the patio at Xico, the stylish Mexican restaurant located on the ever-expanding SE Division. Run by Chef Kelly Myers, Xico quickly became one of Portland’s top rated restaurants, serving innovative Oaxacan inspired cuisine in a modern and elegantly designed dining space.
We started with an interesting shot of Sombra mescal in a lime slushie, mixed with worm salt,
and quickly moved on to the Esquites, a grilled sweet corn with queso cotija, chile de arbol, mayo and lime, paired with another Los Amantes Mezcal. I’ve never experienced Mezcal, a traditional Mexican drink, and it had a noticeable difference from tequila which is processed through steaming while Mezcal is smoked. Definitely went straight to the head!
The patio was really a lovely area to be set up for all of us, and it wasn’t long before Chef Myers and co-owner/general manager Liz Davis came out to explain a bit about what to expect that night. It was obvious they have a real love for the cuisine and that the whole team was deeply involved in providing innovative and authentic cuisine.
Next up was the orange and grapefruit pico, with pasilla de Oaxaca and garlic. This was certainly high on the heat, mixed with the tart acidity of the fruits led to a very memorable experience.
The chefs gave us a little taste of tableside cooking for our next dish, one of my favorites. Rabbit and morels in a mole Amarillo, paired with a Lopez de Heredia Gravonia Blanco. The rabbit was cooked wonderfully and the mole was a much lighter execution than the traditional, perfect for the summer.
Next up we had a beautiful squash vine soup with zucchini and epazote. Perfectly seasoned and very light, paired with a bubbly Cavichioli e Figlio ‘Vigne del Cristo. The dumplings in here were made out of masa that is traditionally used for building tortillas.
Chef Myers was very generous with her time and went around to each table to help explain the various dishes, as was Liz Davis who handles the beverage program and front of house. They both spent time with us explaining the various beverage pairings and unique preparations of the dishes we had.
This was a very interesting dish, a Turkey in Racado Negro with fried Masa, escabeche and egg, paired with a Fidencio Clasico Mezcal. The turkey is marinated in ash, leaving it with a dark, grey appearance and a gritty, smoky flavor. I felt that this course, while initially a little intimidating, is actually quite mild and had a lovely balance of flavors between the grittiness of the ash and the soft flavors of the turkey.
I took the opportunity to sneak into the kitchen and check out them prepping our flan dessert. The staff of Xico are obviously consummate professionals, from the servers to the cooks. They all look so at ease in these photos, but watching their preparation was fast paced and precise. The servers were also a dream, very informative and non-invasive with a genuine interest in our happiness. I love when restaurants have a full staff that are all on the same page, this is definitely one of those places.
This Oaxacan coffee flan was amazing, light with that creamy gelatinous texture and rich coffee flavor.
Chef Myers came out once more to explain some of the gift certificates, which includedMi Mero Mole, Three Sisters Nixtamal, Tamale Boy and a bag of Rancho Gordo beans at the Woodsman Market (pictured with Chef Myers above).
We even got a tortilla sampler package from Three Sisters Xitamal to take home! All in all this was a really nice summer evening at Xico. Thanks to all the staff for being so gracious, the Adventurers for keeping the energy lively and fun, and of course our host Chris Angelus for bringing us all together.
Next up on Portland Food Adventures’ adventure: St. Jack, and a preview of the WILD ABOUT GAME event put on by Nicky Farms.