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Clams, Creole and Crème Brûlée: A downtown date night in three parts 

A three-course downtown date night.

click to enlarge chow_zydeco.jpg
There's a calming sense of symmetry when doing everything in threes and last Tuesday marked my third year of marriage to my lovely wife, Gwendolyn. To celebrate our anniversary, we decided that instead of going out for a nice meal, we would go out to three: One place for appetizers, one for the main course and another for dessert. Our evening went like this:

Appetizer and drinks at Pine Tavern

Gwendolyn and I honeymooned in Seaside, Ore., and probably ate 50 pounds of steamer clams while we were there. It was the dead of winter and the town was deserted, except for us, as we walked from our resort to a different restaurant every night through the light rain and mist. We sampled the clams wherever we went and tried to decide who did them the best (my vote went to Pudgy's). We left Seaside after a week with a deep love of steamers smothered in lemon and butter sauce.

Pine Tavern rekindled that love with a vengeance. Instead of a bucket of 50 tiny clams where 10 or so shells are empty, we received around two dozen large clams, each packed full of mollusky goodness. The white wine, lemon, garlic and herb sauce was light enough to bring out the flavor of the clams, yet flavorful enough to make the lightly toasted French bread absolutely explode with taste. This, combined with the fresh scones and their unbelievable honey butter, made for a perfect way to start the evening.

My wife's Grey Goose martini was fantastic and strong like a bull. Our server was warm and attentive, and almost made us decide to spend our whole evening there. But alas, symmetry is a harsh mistress.

Main course at Zydeco

After leaving Pine Tavern, we had more than an hour until our reservation at Zydeco, so we strolled through downtown and window shopped, marveling at how every place that didn't serve food was closed up at a quarter after six. After killing the remaining time at Corey's with shots of Maker's Mark, we arrived at Zydeco and were seated promptly, even though the place was packed to the gills.

I ordered a Sierra Mist in an attempts to pace myself, while Gwendolyn had a lovely Ken Wright Pinot Noir, which had legs that went all the way up. We were just going to order main courses, but the grilled baby artichokes and the tri-color beet salad spoke to us. The salad was really good, prompting me to enjoy a beet for the first time in my life, but the artichokes were flavorless until dipped in the unreal chipotle aioli - then, all was forgiven. I ordered the crawfish, shrimp and andouille jambalaya for my main course and Gwendolyn ordered the creole smoked tofu (which was missing something until you combined everything on your fork and then it all made sense). My shrimp were massive and the crawfish disintegrated on the tongue and made for the best Cajun meal I've had since the first time I went to Delta in Portland. Zydeco was loud and shoulder to shoulder at times, but the food was worth the minor discomfort.

Dessert at Tart

The initial plan was the chocolate fondue at Gatsby's, but they were closed, so we switched it up on the fly and went to Tart for the mocha crème brûlée . The problem: we were full to the point of ridiculousness. The solution: a giant glass of Knob Creek. The Knob Creek didn't help so much as just numb it all enough to make room for the dessert, which was airy and devoid of the syrupy stickiness found in lesser desserts. It was flawless. The unique vibe that Tart employs (French lounge music meets metro décor), made for a perfectly mellow end to a very romantic evening. As we walked back to our car (and Gwendolyn gave me three kisses), it was hard not to be swept up in the loveliness of downtown Bend and how, with the wind and misty rain on our faces, we could almost smell the sea.

Pine Tavern Restaurant

967 Northwest Brooks St. Bend.

Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:30am to 2:30pm

Dinner: Daily 5:30 Pm to Close


919 Bond St. Bend. 541-312-2899

Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:30am to 2:00pm

Dinner: Daily 5pm to Close

Tart Bistro

920 Bond St. Suite #105 Bend.

Tuesday-Thursday 11:30am to 10pm

Friday and Saturday 11:30am to 12am


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