Brown’s attorney, Gloria Trainor, tells WW that St. Mary’s has not contacted Brown to offer her job back.
St. Mary’s Academy president Christina Friedhoff says that’s because the school already gave Brown’s job to somebody else.
“In preparation for school, which starts on Monday, we offered another candidate the position,” Friedhoff says. “We will be reaching out to Ms. Brown and Ms. Brown’s attorney and are open to further discussions with her about reconciliation.”
The policy announcement shows the Catholic all-girls school is rethinking its decision to withdraw Brown’s contract, a move school officials said was because Brown planned to marry her girlfriend. (Brown says she’s not engaged, and merely asked the school what would happen if she got married.)
WW reported Brown’s story Tuesday night. In the day since, Mayor Charlie Hales, Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler and major donors Mary and Tim Boyle have called on the school to reconsider its decision.
The last 24 hours held a remarkable and dizzying turn of events for St. Mary’s, Portland’s oldest private high school and one of its finest.
Parents, students and alumni expressed alarm today that a school dedicated to educating young women in diversity and social justice had been quietly forcing its LGBT faculty and staff to remain in the closet.
But by reversing its policy on LGBT hiring, St. Mary’s could be risking a war with its Catholic supervisors, including Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample, a staunch foe of same-sex marriage. Sample aggressively defended the school’s decision today, while denying he played any part in it.
The school’s plans to move forward could become more clear Thursday, when it plans to hold three meetings with parents and their daughters, the first at 8 am.
This evening the board of St. Mary’s Academy voted unanimously to support the administration’s recommendation to amend and broaden St. Mary’s policy on equal employment, bringing our employment policies in line with our mission and beliefs. Effective immediately, St. Mary’s has added sexual orientation to its equal employment opportunity policy. St. Mary’s is a diverse community that welcomes and includes gay and lesbian students, faculty, alumnae, parents and friends, including those that are married. We are proud of our work preparing the next generation of women leaders for service and leadership. We are still deeply committed to our Catholic identity.
In 2013, Quarto Negro, a two-man atmospheric pop group from Brazil, flew to Portland to record an album with the help of another duo, the Helio Sequence, and brought filmmaker Daniel Barosa with them. What was initially meant as a documentary of the band’s time in the studio became an outsider’s exploration of an independent music community that simply doesn’t exist anywhere in Quarto Negro’s home country.
Mixing interviews with everyone from the Dandy Warhols to Bim Ditson, full-length performances culled from Into the Woods and visits to house shows and record stores, GRU-PDX, which opens the Portland Film Festival, paints an image of Portland as the sort of DIY oasis many feel is fading, if not already obsolete. It’s sure to rankle the “Don’t Move Here” brigade. But as Barosa explained from his home in Sao Paulo, he mostly just wants the people already living here to realize how good they’ve still got it.
WW: Did you have any conception of Portland before starting this project?
Daniel Barosa: The only thing I knew about Portland before going there was a couple bands from there that I liked. So, not much.
What surprised you the most about Portland?
Band-wise, there’s so many styles, which is something I didn’t expect. All the bands I knew from Portland had this similar style. But there are so many different kinds of bands there. In the film, there isn’t much about it, but there’s hip-hop and techno as well.
As you mention, there’s no discussion of the hip-hop scene. Was that a conscious decision?
When we were doing research for other bands, we interviewed [Fresh Selects label head] Kenny Fresh, and when we talked to him, he was talking a lot about hip-hop, and we got this huge new list of more people to talk to. But we focused on indie music—rock and the variations of it—and we thought if we went too deep into all the other styles, it’d become a huge ball of snow that wouldn’t work once we were in the editing room.
As an outsider, what was your sense about how artists feel about the future of Portland?
A lot of the people who’ve been there for a while, they don’t like how the city has gotten so much hype. I had an impression people don’t like where the future is going for the city.
What do you hope Portland audiences get from the movie?
I wanted to say, âThis is the impression the city made on someone from way, way far away.â So I hope it makes them see Portland like the way I saw it, with a fresh take. Sometimes, when foreigners come to Sao Paulo, they see something and go, “Look at that! That’s so cool!” and I go, “I know, that happens all the time.” But when I see through their eyes, it’s like, “Yeah, that is nice.” So hopefully Portland will see the city like I saw it, like it’s something new, and not like the place where they live and they’re used to.
SEE IT:GRU-PDX screens at Mission Theater, 1624 NW Glisan St., as part of the Portland Film Festival, on Tuesday, Sept. 1. 7:15 pm. $15-$50.
BEST (IN) SHOW: Tom Scharpling (left) and Jon Wurster.
IMAGE: Mindy Tucker
If you’ve never heard of The Best Show, the beloved New Jersey-based Internet radio program, the first thing you must know is that its phone lines are a sacred space, and host Tom Scharpling guards them like a mother bear protecting her cubs with a baseball bat. Take, for example, the tragic case of Cory.
“We’re gonna have a nice conversation, Cory,” Scharpling tells the caller on a typical Tuesday evening, attempting to put him at ease. “You’ll tell your whole family about it. You talked to Tom.”
“I struck out the last few times I called,” the caller says, “so I don’t wanna strike out again this time.”
“What happened the last couple times?”
“Yeah, I got, uh, Bad Company’d last time, because I mispronounced Amish Mafia. I said ‘ay-mish.’ And I don’t want that to happen again this time.”
“I know what you mean. So what happened? You called, you were talkin’ about the show Amish Mafia?”
In the distance, a familiar strain begins. A rolling cymbal and a piano line: the opening of Bad Company’s 1974 classic-rock staple, “Bad Company.” The caller can’t hear it, the harbinger of his fate, so he continues.
“I said Ay-mish instead of Amish, and it was rather embarrassing, but I think I have something good here.”
…always on the run…
“I read an article and I tweeted it at you. It’s about a group, I can’t say anything other than losers.”
…ohh, six-gun in my haaaaaand…
“People literally dressed up like the characters…” The caller’s voice fades out. The piano swells. “THAT’S WHY THEY CALL ME…” Drum kick. Scharpling hangs up. Cory is once again “Bad Company’d”—Scharpling’s preferred method of disposing of anyone with the temerity to ramble on his phone lines.
The Best Show—which initially aired on New Jersey’s free-form station WFMU, and is now available on your podcast manager of choice—is what its title says. The show has the structure and discipline of a great call-in radio program—three hours of nonstop talking, callers, pre-written comedy, a little bit of music and a lot of music-geek humor—and combines it with the free-flowing anarchy of a modern comedy podcast, a spirit Scharpling invented nearly on his own 10 years before it was profitable to anyone.
Even the closest FOTs—that’s Friends of Tom, the name of the show’s devoted fan base—will admit the show is not accessible. It is a weekly three-hour commitment, a fantastic feast to the initiated but daunting to newcomers. Some routine in-jokes have been going for five years.
Scharpling’s approach to hosting takes a while to embrace. If WTF, for instance, is about Marc Maron being forthright about his life—a performance based in honesty and exploring the core of one’s self—The Best Show is born from Scharpling’s various games of obfuscation. On a given night, he’ll tell the audience that he’s 63 years old (he’s 46), accuse his call screener of selling bootleg DVDs, make fun of his guests with a squirrel puppet named Gary; boil over in apocalyptic rage for no reason, and accuse a random male caller of being a peeper. Think of him as a sort of wandering folk troubadour of radio, the Woody Guthrie of spoken-word audio, spinning yarns of half-truths in service of a broader storytelling vision.
The most prominent of these lies is that Scharpling is a lifelong resident of Newbridge, N.J. Newbridge is extremely fake, The Best Show‘s Lake Wobegon, for all intents and purposes, populated by a madness-gripped citizenry that calls into the show nearly every week to harass Scharpling. All of these citizens are portrayed by Scharpling’s writing partner, indie-rock super-drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Bob Mould, the Mountain Goats), who specializes in portraying a specific sort of mildly idiotic, self-mythologizing sociopath. These bits seem loosely improvised but are actually planned out extensively beforehand. They’re often lengthy, anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. They take shape gradually and utilize a bevy of recurring jokes and references to previous Newbridge adventures.
These two-man radio plays form the core of any given episode of The Best Show and are the most accessible entry point to anyone looking for a way in. Blessedly, Numero Group recently released a 16-disc box set chronicling the finest moments of the Scharpling and Wurster partnership in the WFMU years. Here are some good starting points:
POWER POP POP-POP: A local power-pop enthusiast calls in to talk to Scharpling about Poptastrophe 2007, a local power-pop festival. But there is a dark pall over the proceedings. Power Pop Pop-Pop, the patriarch of the national power-pop scene, is on a mission to consolidate power and preserve the purity of power pop: “He calls himself Power Pop Pop-Pop, like a lovable grandfather, but he’s more like this power-pop dictator.” Features a startlingly virtuosic list of fake power-pop bands.
LAKE NEWBRIDGE: A local fish calls in and gossips about Aquaman while he squats in the superhero’s summer home.
PHILLY BOY ROY’S MEMORIAL DAY: Philly Boy Roy is a proud, middle-class Philadelphian, with a wife named Rhoda and a son, Roy Jr., who tricks him into doing various stupid and illegal things. He is The Best Show‘s most frequently recurring character, a man fueled exclusively by hoagies and a deeply held belief that “Jersey sucks.” For a while, he was the absentee mayor of Newbridge.
THE GORCH: One of the most legendary of the legendary calls. Scharpling speaks to Roland “The Gorch” Gorchnick, a childhood friend of Garry Marshall and the model for Happy Days breakout character Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli. The Gorch is not a big fan of his television counterpart, who he believes has been sanitized for a mass television audience. “Asking questions isn’t cool! You don’t see the Gorch askin’ no questions!”
TIMMY VON TRIMBLE: Timmy is a 2-inch-tall man who sleeps in a thimble. He also has some unsettling opinions, which he shares with a scandalized Scharpling.
THIS IS ZACHARY BRIMSTEAD: Newbridge’s foremost barbershop-quartet enthusiast phones in to talk about the dissolution of his group, Barbershop Sweat, and regale Scharpling with his one-man barbershop renditions of current and classic rock-‘n’-roll hits.
THE SPRINGSTEEN BOOK: Steven Jennings, author of Darkness on the River’s Edge in the USA: From Greetings to the Promise: Bruce Springsteen: The Story Behind the Albums, calls into the show to talk to Scharpling about the life and times of the Boss. Jennings details his deeply ingrained working-class fear of failure, his various attempts to join the Army, his yearly attempt to get a job at the local Halloween superstore and his prototype for “a shirt you can drive like a motorcycle.” Did you know Micky Dolenz played drums on “Born to Run”?
REGGIE MONROE: Reggie was the greatest Survivor prospect of all time and the pride of Newbridge, until a fatal mistake on the island changed his life forever. A tragedy that unfolds like a never-retracting Slinky going downstairs.
ROCK, ROT AND RULE: In the first Scharpling and Wurster call, from three years before The Best Show started in earnest, Scharpling interviews Ronald Thomas Clontle, a music writer who claims that his new book is “the ultimate argument-settler.” In the book, Clontle definitively decides whether every band in the pop-music canon “rocks,” “rots” or “rules.” He also claims Madness invented ska, and gets in a fight with an angry caller about it. If Scharpling and Wurster hadnât spent the next decade and a half pursuing and refining their craft, “Rock, Rot and Rule” would stand up as a perfect pass-it-around cult-comedy piece. As is, it’s the seed from which the mighty oak of their craft has emerged. CORBIN SMITH.
SEE IT: Scharpling and Wurster are at Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside St., on Saturday, Aug. 29. 9 pm. $25. Advance tickets sold out, limited tickets available day of show. 21+. Stream The Best Show live every Tuesday, 6-9 pm, at thebestshow.net.
The king of the jungle often winds up in the cross hairs of high-paying hunters. In the past five years, according to federal records, Americans brought home more than 200 dead lions.
Doug Stromberg, 67, one of the most prolific big-game hunters in the Northwest, is among the few Oregonians who knows what it feels like to shoot a lion. Stromberg says he’s shot 300 species of animals. Among his most notable kills: hippos, leopards—and two lions, the last in 2007.
Stromberg is no defender of Palmer, but he says critics fail to understand that the dollars Western hunters bring to impoverished countries provide a vital alternative to native poaching.
Stromberg, who owns a warehouse supply company in Donald, Ore., says he’s a conservationist, and he touts hunting’s life-affirming qualities. He once sponsored a 7-year-old leukemia patient who wished to kill a sheep.
Stromberg says he follows strict guidelines: He avoids shooting female animals, and he would never shoot a giraffe or gorilla (“even if it were legal”). He focuses on the biggest, oldest males, a practice called
WW talked with Stromberg in a conference room at his offices, where elk, buffalo and African longhorn heads are mounted on the walls.
WW: Could you tell us about the last lion you killed?
Doug Stromberg: We had looked for this particular lion for seven or eight days. We finally got a call saying, “We’ve seen lion tracks, and we think it’s him.” So we got there and the tracker was sitting there pointing. This thing was close, in a full, crouched attack position at 22 yards in the grass.
What were you thinking before pulling the trigger?
What I do generally: Once I spot the animal and I know that it’s one I’m going to take, I look away for a split second and I just go, “It’s show time. Don’t mess it up.” It isn’t like, “Oh, this is what I dreamed of,” and I get all nervous. There’s no time to be excited. When I hunt dangerous game, I slow down as far as I possibly can. The first shot was a killing shot. Then he whirled around and started to run. I hit him right in the back of the head. Boom—it was over.
What did you feel when you saw him drop?
You feel relief that you did what you should do, and elation that you got a fine trophy. It’s kind of like hitting one out of the park, or winning the Super Bowl.
You were with a professional hunter and a team of trackers. Did that lion have a fair chance?
Of course it did. It took me seven or eight days to find him. A person who does their homework and works hard at something, usually it looks easy to the outside world. I do my homework.
What’s the closest you’ve come to an animal killing you?
Probably a Zambezi river crocodile, about 12 feet long. When I shot him, I didn’t know I hadn’t hit him perfectly. I had to go bring him to the truck with some trackers. So I tied a rope around him, and I started walking upriver with him. The oxygen started going into him, and he came back alive. He whipped his tail and almost got me in the back of the leg. And then he pulled around with his mouth, and all the trackers left because they thought this was really a bad deal. So I was sitting there roped to this croc, and the hunting guide finally gave me a pistol. I got him, so he was finished.
Why do you hunt?
I hunt because it’s in my DNA. I trophy hunt because I want to pit my wits against
the animal on his terms, in his territory. I get a calming effect from hunting. I think it’s part of the cycle of life—or it used to be. Dinner used to start with a straight shot, not going to get a Big Mac.
Why do you think people criticize sport hunting?
Hunting has almost been bred out of most Americans. The kids are not taught. Most of the colleges have liberal professors, not that that’s bad or good. But they’ve never hunted before. They don’t really understand the logic of it.
If you give something value, you have a shot at saving it, if you can get the indigenous people to go along with it. It costs a certain amount to hunt animals, and usually a decent camp will have 40 or 50 native employees.
What do you think of the dentist who killed Cecil?
If I saw a lion like that, I’d have to question the situation. First off, he was 13. Lions don’t last that long in the wild. They do if they’re in a park, like he was. If they baited him out of the park, throw the book at them.
If you could go back to Africa and shoot another lion, would you?
Probably not. I’ve already shot two, and that’s enough. Same thing with elephants. I told myself I’d shoot an elephant, a bull elephant, once, and I did. Would I go kill lion after lion after lion because I get a big charge out of it? No, that’s the furthest thing from what I do.
[SINGER-SONGROCKER] Wikipedia says the name Fernando means “courageous, adventurer, conqueror, and leader,” and as longtime watchers of Portland’s Americana scene know, in the case of Fernando Viciconte, that’s no misnomer. He is courageous in the naked passion he’s always brought to his songwriting and performances, adventurous in his studio productions and a rousing bandleader.
The good news is that he’s finally conquered the health problems that have long hampered his career progress despite widespread acclaim (Billboard once compared him to Elliott Smith), and a 2013 operation to repair a long-misdiagnosed problem affecting his vocal cords means that Viciconte can finally give his latest and perhaps finest album, Leave the Radio On, the push it richly deserves. Peter Buck is far from slumming when contributing guitar or mandolin to all but three of the album’s 11 tracks. These tough and lovely songs absolutely befit his world-class accompaniment.
Richmond Fontaine guitarist Dan Eccles and the album’s other players deliver inspired performances as well. Viciconte’s Lennonesque rasp has never sounded stronger, or more tender. This singer-songwriter is no self-obsessed navel-gazer; the operative pronoun here is “we,” not “I.” And despite some bleak sentiments, Radio ultimately conveys a bruised but enduring sense of hope. JEFF ROSENBERG.
SEE IT: Fernando plays Star Theater, 13 NW 6th Ave., with the Delines and Mike Coykendall, on Saturday, Aug. 29. 9 pm. $10. 21+.
[OUTLAW COUNTRY] Stray from Interstate 5 a ways and Oregon gets a little bit country. “A little bit country” also describes the Lonesome Billies, four childhood friends turned western roadhouse band from just outside of Vancouver, Wash. The gang has spent the past several years establishing its country roots in Portland, digging deeper still with its latest LP, It’s Good to Be Lonesome.
Produced by Brandon Eggleston (Modest Mouse, the Mountain Goats), the 13-track effort is drenched in whiskey. It’s a drunk-and-dusty lesson in self-loathing, influenced by Waylon Jennings and Sturgill Simpson. While there’s kitsch in the band’s stage names—Gator Bill, Whiskey Bill, Bill Collins and Ornery Bill—there is bona fide sincerity and gloaming in its sound. The record trots at times and wallows at others, shadowing the stereotypical up-and-down lifestyle of the hard-working, hard-drinking agrarian.
There is the glass-clinking, gently swaying track “Better to Forget” and the wild shuffle of “Y’all Never Came Out West,” each given a gun-metal shimmer by steel guitar. Throughout, there is vocal camaraderie served alongside bobbing, two-stepping song structures. Life deals its various shitty blows, but the Lonesome Billies are here to help you cope, with little fuss or fabrication and plenty of plucky grit.
SEE IT: The Lonesome Billies play Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Travesura and Jake Ray, on Saturday, Aug. 29. 9 pm. $10. 21+.
IMAGE: Alexander Barrett Guys, look in the mirror.
Domestic violence plagues heterosexual and same-sex couples. Women can be perpetrators, as well as victims. More often, however, abuse comes at the hands of men against women.
It doesn’t have to be physical. Here are questions to ask yourself to understand if you’re victimizing your partner.
1. Does your relationship feel collaborative?
If you make all the decisions—how much money to spend, what’s for dinner, where your family goes for vacation—that’s at least a warning sign that you’re not taking your partner’s concerns or interests into account.
2. What happens when your partner expresses an opinion different than yours?
Let’s say you want Chinese food for dinner, and your partner wants Italian. If you feel like you can’t possibly compromise or you have to “win,” that’s dangerous. It means you put yourself above others—at least those inside your own home.
3. Is there an ongoing pattern of bad behavior in your relationship?
Anyone can have a bad day. Couples can have nasty fights but still have healthy relationships, the same way a nonalcoholic can occasionally get drunk. But if you frequently berate, scold or silence your partner when she disagrees with you, you have a problem.
4. Is your partner afraid of you?
If your partner or your children walk on eggshells to avoid triggering a blowup, they’re afraid of you.
5. Do the people closest to you think there’s a problem?
If your answer is, “The only person who complains about my behavior is my wife,” that’s not a clue she’s crazy. It’s not uncommon for batterers to be perfect gentlemen with everyone but their wives.
6. Are you quick to see your partner as being against you?
If your wife is afraid of you but you feel like the victim, your mind is playing tricks on you. You may have never hit your wife. That doesn’t mean you’re not abusing her.
Jorge Cervantes is old school. He smokes joints. He wrote a book that’s never going to make it onto Kindle.
Cervantes—real name George Van Patten—is the author of The Cannabis Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to Cultivation & Consumption of Medical Marijuana (self-published, 596 pages, $50). He is visiting relatives in Portland on his way to Seattle’s Hempfest—his trunk filled with copies of his 330,000-word tome. Looking every bit the hippie with his long blond hair, full white beard, and brown-tinted sunglasses, Cervantes notes it’s been 32 years since he printed his first marijuana-growing book, Indoor Marijuana Horticulture, by renting a lithograph at the Instaprint on Southeast 82nd Avenue and Foster Road. The book sold more than 1 million copies, Cervantes claims, and was dubbed the “Indoor Grower’s Bible.”
Cervantes turned his early authorial success into the Jorge Cervantes’ Indoor Garden Store in Portland, selling high-intensity discharge light systems of his own invention, until he was raided and shut down by the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1989. After what he calls the scariest years of his life, he republished his first book as Gardening Indoors With Soil & Hydroponics in 1995 and left the country, staying mostly in Spain. He and his wife, Estella, eventually moved back to the U.S. in 2006, buying a home in Sonoma, Calif. Seven years ago, he started work on The Cannabis Encyclopedia, calling it his final book. He said he broke down emotionally and had to stop writing the opus at least once a year.
“After 33 years of writing for money, publicly, I’m pretty good at it,” Cervantes says. “But now I have made enough money to hire good editors to make the writing great.”
Cervantes calls his tome a “true encyclopedia with everything in it,” complete with a background on medical cannabis and gardening case studies he recommends reading before starting a grow. Fifty pages are devoted to nutrient deficiencies in soil. Fifty more are dedicated to pest control, and another 50 to hydroponics.
This book isn’t just for advanced gardeners, however. There are step-by-step pictorial instructions on how to make a tincture and to create clones, which he calls âthe most traumatic incident cannabis plants can experience.â He also opines on the proper way to add cannabis to beer (using kief, hashish or oil) and to make cannabis wine, “the only original style of wine created in the New World.” The only marijuana-related question left out was how to roll a joint, which Cervantes was happy to demonstrate at a table outside Crema cafe. He rolled it Spanish-style.
GO: Jorge Cervantes will sign copies of The Cannabis Encyclopedia in the public lobby of Oregon’s Finest, 1327 NW Kearney St., 971-254-4765, ofmeds.com, on Thursday, Aug. 27, 6-8 pm. Free.
When an “epic windstorm” took down the fence at Larry Yes’ North Portland home in 2014, the local jack-of-all-trades decided not to rebuild. Instead, he painted the fence posts with bright colors—like a Crayola explosion—and the most optimistic words he could find.
Yes (that is his real name) was working as the art curator for NoPo’s Cherry Sprout Produce market and had an exhibit fall through, so he filled the bare walls with his technicolor fence posts instead. The cedar slabs read things like “brave,” “spectaculous,” “you” and “truth,” words he crowdsourced from customers. In contrast to dark, intellectual and subtle art installations, Yes’ Positive Words hits you with all the effervescence of Pop Rocks and soda.
“My wife was pregnant at the time and I was high on the super-joy of having a kid,” Yes says. “There have to be dark arts, I dig that. But all the skull and crossbones, ‘I hate my dad,’ blah blah blah is super-taken care of.”
A self-described “poor, chubby kid,” Yes says he’s seen a lot of dark shit, including witnessing two of his best friends suffer fatal injuries while biking when a drunken driver veered to miss hitting Yes and drove into his friends. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more optimistic indie artist, though. According to Yes, on some strange level any word can be turned into a positive. “Maybe being overly optimistic is kind of my mission,” he says.
Patrons at Cherry Sprout bought into the optimism, purchasing fence posts for $10 each. “Yum,” “peace” and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” were top sellers, and Yes used the money to buy diapers. But the audience was less sunny on Southeast Holgate Boulevard, where Yes put up a second installation at Marigold Coffee. ‘People there were angry,â he says. They pointed out misspellings and faulted the work for being overly happy. Still, Yes was pleased. âThat made me so happy,” he says. “I guess I was just glad they had a response. I want people to feel how they feel.”
Yes’ downed fence posts are now long gone, so when he’s not playing gigs around town with his band Larry Yes & the Tangled Mess, he trolls NoPo’s streets and Craigslist for broken cedar fences, repurposing them into “cathartic and cheesy” art. Starting on Saturday, Positive Words will scream neon “fantasticalness” and “forgiveness” to passersby from PDX Contemporary Art’s Window Project on Northwest Flanders Street.
“Ninety-nine percent of life is pretty awesome,” Yes says. “It’s all, like, harmonizing together. I think we need that instead of, ‘We’re all gonna diiiie!”
SEE IT:Positive Words opens Saturday, Aug. 29, at PDX Window Project, 925 NW Flanders St., 222-0063. Through Sept. 26.
Supermarket sushi isn’t just for the cold case anymore. Head to Hawthorne and there, within two blocks of each other, sit two sushi restaurants inside grocery stores. The Hawthorne Fred Meyer has a conveyor-belt sushi kiosk with color-coded plates of spicy salmon and tuna roll. Meanwhile, at Pastaworks, the old Evoe space is home to an ultra-exclusive, 12-seat Japanese formal dinner called Nodoguro.
Fred Meyer perhaps gets the edge on sushi, because it’s actually possible to get—Nodoguro’s $120 Sunday omakase often sells out within a half hour. But after eating the 10-course, $85 Zen sousaku (“not-sushi”) dinner, which rotates monthly-ish at Nodoguro, we also fashioned our own complementary 10-course dinner at Frushi, which is what we’re calling the sushi train at Freddy’s. We came in under $30, including soda pairings.
Nodoguro is a soothing elbow of hardwood in dim light—the still-blazing sun blunted by screens—in an intimate side-room restaurant serviced by chef Ryan Roadhouse, his wife, Elena, and Nong’s Khao Man Gai operations manager Colin Yoshimoto. The diners, who’d reserved tickets months in advance, came in pairs and ordered wine. Frushi is a fluorescent-lit island in the Fred Meyer deli with a doubled-up sushi conveyor. Everyone at Frushi ate quickly and alone.
Nodoguro’s drink pairings are curated by Paul Willenberg, a devoted Nodoguro patron with discerning taste whom Roadhouse tapped for the job after Willenberg scowled at all others’ previous pairings. The pairings are among the most impressive in town: A Johan Vineyards pinot noir called out earthy notes in sesame tofu, and it warmly met the acidity of pickle in the next course; while a Ten to Chi junmai daiginjo sake held up to the sweet richness of both fig and albacore. And Nodoguro’s courses move swiftly enough that two diners can split a $30 pairing of four drinks. At Fred Meyer, there’s a fancy, computerized soda machine offering a free refill and access to a vast panoply of flavors for $2.
First Course: Tofu
Nodoguro: The 3 Day Monk meal is designed as a tribute to the stern shojin fare of the Buddhist monk. So the first dish was a perfect half-moon of austere sesame tofu, with a kick of uni and salted sesame seed on top with lavender flowers. When finished—quickly, gracelessly, surreptitiously—I lifted the bowl and downed the ginger dashi. It was terrific.
Frushi:I had to take my tofu ($2.50) the old-fashioned way: in cubes, in miso broth filled with scallions and clouds of soy. I was offered a free refill.
Second Course: Salad
Nodoguro: Evoe set the bar high for pickles, but this was hurdled gently with a dainty course of lightly vinegared cucumber on its first night away from the farm, plus burdock—a sort of thistle—in thin strands, and a pungent pickle plate of fennel, ginger blossom and baby burdock.
Frushi: The salad came in tube form, a $2 summer roll of cucumber, lightly oxygen-browned avocado, and carrot sheathed in rice so oversoft its grains blurred.
Third Course: Fancy Fruit
Nodoguro:I usually hate figs—but I loved this one. It was warmed in oil until it exploded in two, then doused in ginger dashi. The result was seemingly the platonic form of fig: sweet, savory, satisfying, and endlessly jammy. Dear Lord.
Frushi: There is no fruit at Frushi.
Fourth Course: Tuna
Nodoguro:The one bit of sushi-restaurant fare at the not-sushi dinner, the albacore sashimi was nearly a cruel tease, foiled at one edge with fat thin as gold leaf and seared with scalding water and oil, stoically alone in three slices on the plate. Previously, my companion and I had been savoring our bites and dissecting the excellent wine and sake pairings. I wolfed this motherfucker.
Frushi: The tuna nigiri ($3) was a thin strip of pink—like acid paper made of meat—atop an unending mass of rice less sticky than congealed.
Nodoguro:This was the midstream punch line of the fancy feast—Dungeness crab pizza. Which, in practice, was a bit more like crab dip on a sesame cracker, with an acidic burst of tomato and the bitter-citrus accent of shiso.
Frushi:There is no crab at Frushi. But there is krab—whitefish with a pink-dyed topper to mimic iodine—stuffed in a huge nori cone. With Sriracha, this would have been my favorite item, due to misplaced nostalgia; my parents didn’t waste real crab on an overeating 12-year-old.
Sixth Course: Roots
Nodoguro:Soft, miso-soaked daikon radish chunks the size and texture of English stew-cut potatoes are paired with blanched seaweed in a bit of green dashi vinegar. It was spare but effective comfort fare, with the same vibrant dose of vinegar a Brit might toss into his fries.
Frushi:The carrot roll at Frushi is still more austere—carrot wrapped in rice wrapped in nori. But it was oddly pleasant, sweet and crisp, a perfect snack for kindergartners.
Seventh Course: Poultry
Nodoguro:Three tender slices of seared confit duck breast, marinated in soy and served alongside flash-fired eggplant, are wonderfully tender within and slightly crisp on the edge, with little coins of seaweed dashi to add salt and depth.
Frushi: There was only one poultry course—a chicken teriyaki roll—but it was unavailable. I subbed eel in a soy marinade. In perhaps a Zen touch, it tasted like sweet, salty nothingness.
Eighth Course: Salmon
Nodoguro: This was three beautiful strips of salt-cured, cold-smoked sockeye warmed in koji butter, over a bowl of rice, corn and chanterelles—a reminder that the first country to truly value Oregon’s mushroom crop was Japan.
Frushi:Here the spicy salmon roll is a salmon-avocado fat bed blanketed with a Japanese-American take on fry sauce. It is not good. It is not bad. Like a game of basketball according to Kobe Bryant, it is what it is.
Ninth Course: Egg
Nodoguro:Tamago is simple—a square of egg that is a sushi chef’s most naked showcase of artistry, and Roadhouse says his only true criterion is deliciousness. Nodoguro’s tamago was indeed delicious, airy and caked high, lightly touched with sugar like the syrup overflow at a diner breakfast.
Frushi: This was the only true head-to-head matchup between the two spots—and the tamago here was surprisingly good, both in color and its light texture. But it doesn’t have a chance. Nodoguro wins.
Tenth Course: Dessert
Nodoguro:This was a dish of peaches and cream, except the peaches were drenched in shiso syrup, and the dairy was a mix of buttermilk and cream frozen into shards. Amid one of the most singular dining experiences in Portland, only this dish was overlabored; the contrast of texture and temperature was less interestingly novel than outright alienating.
Frushi:Given the entire store’s worth of options, I went for a Tillamookie—low-rent, no-frills, middle-class mint-chocolate-chip ice cream sandwiched in a waffle cookie. Victory to Fred Meyer, just this once.
EAT: Nodoguro is at Pastaworks, 3735 SE Hawthorne Blvd., nodoguropdx.com. Dinner Thursday-Sunday by reservation. The Hawthorne Fred Meyer sushi counter is open 11 am-7 pm daily at 3805 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 872-3300, fredmeyer.com.