Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 14, 2009--LUNCH TODAY WAS unexpected — we were planning to skip it, just drive straight through from our (delayed) breakfast of caffe latte and croissant in Ashland to dinner at home. But we stopped for gas in Orland, and I noticed a Portuguese Plaza — a good-sized stucco building out by itself at a freeway offramp next to a cutrate gas station. I took a quick look at its deli counter and bakery case, bought a piece of fry-bread and a cookie, and told Lindsey what I'd found.
She allowed as how we had time to stop in for a light lunch — seduced, I think, by my mention of salt cod — and we wound up with a cup of caldo verde apiece and a platter of cod croquettes: potato, cod, onion and parsley, rolled in crumbs and deep-fried. I'd have liked a glass of vinho verde with this, but it wasn't on the lunch menu.
We had a nice talk with Margarida, who'd cooked our lunch, and who then took us upstairs to see her most amazing Christmas-tree setup; it filled a large room with figures, crêche, mills, electric train, marching band, aerial cablecars, mechanical ice-skaters, airplanes — I can't begin to describe the amount of detail: thirty years of collecting has gone into it, and the result is a joyous excess of detail in tin, plastic, glass, high spirits.
I like everything about this place, so unexpected, so down-to-earth, so unpretentious yet so proud of its heritage and its place. I want to go back, have dinner, spend a night nearby, and return next morning for breakfast. Steak and eggs, I think, with a glass of red.
And here we are, for no good reason except that someone snapped us a few days ago, eating again. It was nice to be in Portland for almost a week; it's nice to be back home.