On Easter Sunday, I ate the Baby Cheesus. I couldn’t picture my grandmother ever ordering the Baby Cheesus (nothing against a Patty Melt), so in honor of her 99th birthday yesterday, I went old school. I ordered the Kindergartner from the Grilled Cheese Grill. As a reminder, I believe birthdays should be celebrated even from afar. I think some in my family might prefer a gift, but instead I eat a meal (or two) in their honor.
A 99th birthday deserves a lot of honor.
My first stop for the birthday celebration was The Grilled Cheese Grill’s newest location at SW 10th & SW Alder in downtown Portland. The first time I went by the line was ten deep. Because grilled cheese sandwiches are one of my grandmother’s favorites, I had it in my head that I had to have a grilled cheese sandwich on her birthday. A line ten deep and I was starving.
I had no choice.
I decided to have dessert first. A rare display of flexibility.
I went down to Little Bird Bistro on SW 6th. Although my grandmother became 100% Irish when she married my grandfather, she likes to remind me that she is also French. Little Bird manages to capture the feel of a French bistro without trying to mimic one. Last summer I had one of the most incredible desserts ever, of all time, from anywhere – an apricot tarte tatin (a second round doesn’t have to be just for drinks, just sayin’). This time I tried the coconut cake with passionfruit vanilla sauce and it was worthy of 99 years. If I didn’t order seconds, it’s only because I hadn’t had lunch yet.
When I returned to the Grilled Cheese Grill, I was second in line. Rain will thin crowds a little bit, but this is Portland, so most people don’t skip a trip to the food carts just because of rain. It took hail. After ordering the Kindergartner (white bread, American cheese), I waited in the hail. I guess I don’t want to know what I would have to do to be first in line.
Later in the day on my way home, I thought, did I really just celebrate my grandmother’s 99th birthday with a grilled cheese sandwich? Oh, it was good, don’t get me wrong. And a grilled cheese sandwich will always remind me of my grandmother. But 99 seemed to deserve just a bit more.
Champagne, now that seemed to say 99.
Off to Ambonnay I went. Tucked among the warehouses on the east bank of the Willamette River, Ambonnay serves only champagnes and sparkling wines. I like that idea. (They also serve some little bites. I had the cheese plate.) Ambonnay is named for a village in the Champagne region of France. I don’t think I ever saw my grandmother with a glass of champagne, but champagne is for celebrations and, she does remind me that she is French, and well, I like champagne. This is probably one reason why my family would prefer gifts than to have me “honor” them – my honoring seems a bit self-serving.
My sister and I always think of my grandmother as liking coconut desserts. However, during her birthday party, she told my sister her favorite dessert is ice cream. Seems I have a little more honoring to do.