Friday, December 13, 2013

Doing my Part to Contribute to the Bernanke Bubble Economy

Dan and Louis Oyster Bar
208 SW Ankeny
Portland, OR

Signs of the Ben Bernanke Bubble Economy are all around us.

Ten bucks for a ball park hot dog.

Thirteen bucks for a beer at a concert. Forty-five bucks for the t-shirt to prove you were there.

Stores built around selling nothing but eight dollar cupcakes.

When “Helicopter Ben” creates trillions and trillions of dollars out of thin air, it makes the dollars the rest of hold in our wallet and bank account worth less.

That means it takes more and more of those less valuable dollars to buy the things we used to enjoy for a buck or two.

But that’s just okeydokey if you happen to be one of the chosen recipients of all the extra cash -- like government bureaucrats, bankers who are “too big to fail” or federal contractors feeding at the taxpayer trough.

And if you are not one of those chosen recipients?

Not to worry. Your congressman will send you food stamps in exchange for your vote.

Did I tell you that you can now use those food stamps to purchase $35 per pound slabs of organic, grass-fed Kobe beef and free range escargot at Whole Foods?

Do see where I’m going with this?

Whole Foods can sell a lot more Kobe beef for $35 per pound when the Federal Reserve prints money and hands it out to their hand-picked constituents.

And the rest of us chumps who still work for a living?

We’re stuck paying the same bloated prices.


That’s exactly how I felt as I slurped down the first of my thumb-nail-sized raw oysters here at Portland’s Dan and Louis Oyster Bar.

I mean, would you pay $3 to $4 for a midget oyster?

Who does that?

Me. Apparently.


I love my oysters.

It’s about the experience more than sustenance. When traveling to the coastal nooks and crannies of this great country of ours, nothing says seaside fun like a bucket of oysters.

From the placid shores of the Chesapeake to the shade of a Gulf Coast live oak hammock to the wind swept coast of Oregon, oysters bestow a sense of place on the half shell -- a salty shot of the ocean in every slurp.

Oysters are obligatory here in the Pacific Northwest where they have been harvested for the better part of two centuries.

And Dan and Louis Oyster Bar is the obligatory place to try them.

Established as a tiny bar by a local oysterman in 1919, Dan and Louis has old school charm and new school prices.

I almost fell out of my chair when my waiter told me a half dozen oysters on the half shell would set me back $22.

Attempting to justify his Bernanke Bubble price tag, the waiter went into a lengthy genealogical discussion of the oysters I was about to pay almost four bucks a piece for.

Farm-raised in the Hood River Canal, these oysters are sustainable, humanly treated, personally blessed by Pope Francis, yada, yada, yada.

I knew Oregon was the home of craft beer.

But craft oysters??

Yeah. That’s what it sounds like. Pretentiousness has no bounds in Portlandia.

Of course all this was confusing to an East Coast Suit like me.

Back home, when you order oysters, for $30 you get a big old bucket of muddy oysters pulled out of the local waters -- along with a handy oyster knife and a pitcher of Miller Lite.

No one would think to ask “what kind” of oysters.

An oyster is an oyster. And $30 will get you about three to four dozen.

Oh, and where I come from, the bigger the better. Right?

Not on the Left Coast.

Here, it seems the smaller the oyster, the more you have to pay.

My four-dollar-a-piece oysters were so tiny they almost slipped through the tongs of my fork.

That being said, these itty bitty dudes packed a lot of flavor.

My tiny farm-raised Hood River Canal $4 oysters were both saltier and sweeter than their wild East Coast brethren.

Less briny and sandy and more of a pure taste of the ocean, I was glad I splurged for an Oregon “craft oyster”.

Worth $4 per slurp?

Hell, no.

But at least I could say I tried them.

Now that that was over, it was time to order some actual food.

Unlike their itty bitty cousins, fried oysters actually qualify as real food because they are drenched in flour and, well, fried.

For half the price of my raw oysters, I got a plate of gigantic oysters covered in a thick tasty breading.

Bigger oysters. Breading. Fried. Real Food. Half the price.

I was so confused.

Are these oysters that get tossed in the fryer somehow inferior to the Pope Francis blessed nibble-sized oysters?

Maybe. But all I can tell you is they were delicious.

A glistening crispy coating and a zesty remoulade dipping sauce brought out the sweet salty flavor of these ginormous oysters.

I also had to try Dan and Louis’ version of Oysters Rockefeller.

Again, these were decent sized oysters, this time topped with a leaf of spinach and a touch of cheese browned in the oven -- just enough to add some excitement without distracting from the star of the show.

But my oyster feast still wasn’t done.

The most famous dish on Dan and Louis’ menu just might be the oyster stew.

I ordered it with a double order of oysters.

Of course.

I was glad I did. A simple broth of cream, butter and seasoning, the double portion offered up an oyster in almost every bite.

Lacking any distracting -- but tasty -- additions like bacon or onions, this simple stew let the oysters shine through.

I was already sixty bucks invested at this point -- and still hungry.

That’s the problem with eating oysters. Just because they charge you an arm and a leg for them doesn’t mean they count as real food.

My wallet was crying for mercy while was stomach was growling for more.

I solved that problem by ordering a couple cups of chowder, a specialty of the Oregon coast.

The clam chowder turned out to be the highlight of the meal. Creamy, thick and hearty, my stomach went straight from growling to crying “uncle” after just a few spoonfuls.

Loaded with clams, bacon and potatoes, this was filling soup.

The salmon chowder was even thicker, if that is possible. Smokey with generous chunks of pink salmon, I was glad I gave it a try.

Of course it would be a crime against man and nature to enjoy an afternoon of good Oregon oysters and chowder without good Oregon beer to wash it down.

In fact, I’m pretty sure the beer part of the “oysters and beer by the sea” experience is what makes it so enchanting to me.

Come to think of it, I could say the same about all my favorite life’s experiences. But I digress.

As anyone must expect, a famous oyster bar in Portland, Oregon like Dan and Louis offers up some nice local craft beer.

I started with the Alameda Klickitat Pale Ale, a local beer that is dark and hoppy without the braggadocio of an IPA.

It was a nice start, but the Ninkasi Total Domination IPA is what I came to Oregon to drink -- the type of manly, flavor-packed brew Portland is famous for.

Despite the good brew, I was a little let down that the lively and social original 1919 oyster bar up front was packed.

So I was relegated to my grandmother’s living room.

Well, not exactly.

But that’s what the more spacious back dining room reminded me of.

Built in 1937 to look like a ship’s interior, the main dining room is plastered with little pewter tea saucers and nautical knickknacks.

Portholes backlight artistic renditions of Oregon oystermen of yesteryear hauling in their catch.

Grandma’s seaside clutter and ambiance might not have been so depressing if the dining room wasn’t so empty.

A bunch of drunk guys singing in an Olde English brogue “Fifteen men on the deadman’s chest, Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum” might have livened the place up a bit.

Then again, maybe I’m glad there were no Eighteenth Century buccaneers dining with me. They’d have staged a violent mutiny when it was time to pay their tab.

Mine came to $92 for two beers, a few oysters and a couple cups of chowder.
Holy crap!

I felt ashamed as I paid my tab.

Ashamed because I was suckered into coughing up a Benjamin for some shellfish?

No. Ashamed because I realized I’m contributing to the very Bernanke Bubble Economy I rant about.

Oh well. I guess I’ll have to go drown my shame in a couple pints of $7 Oregon craft beer.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.

Dan and Louis Oyster Bar on Foodio54

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