Bonnie Henderson

French bistros and café au lait without the airfare

Bonnie Henderson,  –  January 20, 2005

There’s something about winter nights in Portland, the rain drumming on awnings and splattering on black sidewalks, that conjures thoughts of Paris ― at least, the Paris of my imagination.

In this mood, shy of catching the next plane out, I find it helps to rent an old French movie or two ― say, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg or Ma Nuit Chez Maude ― after a bite at one of my favorite Parisian, that is, Portlandian, haunts.

At the edge of the Pearl District is Le Bouchon: comfortably crowded, warmly welcoming, and delicious, from the onion soup to the lamb shanks. But it doesn’t duplicate the look and feel of a Paris bistro like Carafe, which could have been lifted whole from a leafy Left Bank avenue, with its banquettes and zinc bartop, its croque monsieur and cassoulet. (Bring your own French accent.)

Then, in the morning, I may head down to St. Honoré for café au lait and a buttery, sweet pain au raisin from the brick oven. And maybe a loaf of walnut bread to go ― no telling how long the mood will linger. Carafe ($$; lunch Mon-Fri, dinner Mon-Sat; 200 S.W. Market St.; 503/248-0004); Le Bouchon ($$; lunch Tue-Fri, dinner Tue-Sat; 517 N.W. 14th Ave.; 503/248-2193); St. Honoré Boulangerie ($; breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily; 2335 N.W. Thurman St.; 503/445-4342)

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