Let’s face it, cooking during the summer can be a chore. Barbecues are one thing, but nobody wants to spend too much time in the kitchen during the nicest months of the year. Fortunately Portland is chock full of options for those who seek a home cooked meal from somebody else’s kitchen. To make things easier for all lazy eaters out there, we sampled an array of dishes that are essentially ready-to-eat and require only a bit of prep work (think turning on the oven or boiling some water).
We tasted dishes from businesses that specialize in pre-prepared meals along with traditional restaurant service. The dishes we ate are but a small sampling of what the restaurants have to offer. Because we tried only one dish from each restaurant, and because of the unique nature of these take 'n’ bake options, we opted not to rate each restaurant based on its offering. Think of this more as inspiration for those sweltering days when there are mouths to feed, but the thought of standing over a hot stove is unpalatable.
Dove Vivi – House Sausage Pizza, $22.50
Attracting pizza hounds with its perfectly executed cornmeal crusts, Dove Vivi is often too packed to get a table. So we picked up a “par-baked” house sausage pizza in the evening and heated it up the next afternoon. Despite its overnight stay in the fridge, the pizza turned out wonderfully after 15 minutes in the oven at 500-degree heat. The peppery fennel sausage dotted the pie along with caramelized onions and green peppers that tasted like they had been grilled before being put on the pizza—a very nice summery taste that recalls an Italian sausage at the state fair. The thick, garlicky tomato sauce, which comes on top of the cheese, was a robust complement to the other savory ingredients. And then there is the cornmeal crust—a smooth, crisp but not-too-crunchy base for Dove Vivi’s fresh ingredients.
Dove Vivi, 2727 NE Glisan Street, 503.239.4444
Pacific Pie Co. – Creamy Chicken Pie, Beef & Mushroom Pie, $6 each
Two signature pies from the Australian import quickly proved that the hype surrounding Pacific Pie Co. is well deserved. We picked up the creamy chicken and beef & mushroom varieties, two of the “signature pies,” which were cutely identified by the chicken and mushroom dough cutouts on top of them.
The creamy chicken was a bold take on the traditional chicken pot pie. The grayish, puréed filling was dotted with peas and carrots that dictated much of the pie’s flavor. The chunks of chicken were appropriately thick and did not suffer the blandness that can often befall plain white chicken. Perhaps the most enjoyable touch was the inclusion of celery, which elevated the dish from mere chicken pot pie to something a bit more exotic. Contained in Pacific Pie Co.’s legendary flaky crust, this pie was a winner.
Next up was the beef & mushroom pie, which featured a gooey brown filling that was at once airy and substantial. The crumbly beef meshed with a host of seasonings that did not create a particularly bold flavor but rather an understated savory feeling that had hints of Indian cuisine. Joining the beef were small mushrooms that contributed more to the pie’s texture than its taste.
Pacific Pie Co., 1520 SE 7th Avenue, 503.381.6157
Taste Unique – Lasagna Umbra, $15
For larger gourmet appetites comes the lasagna Umbra from Taste Unique. After 45 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees, the dish emerged golden brown on the edges and white in the middle. The driving factor in this lasagna was the béchamel sauce, a thick and creamy white sauce that was present in every bite. The sauce is populated by smooth mushrooms and mild ground pork and housed by mostly flavorless wide lasagna noodles. The dish did not seem to suffer at all from time spent in the refrigerator. It was completely hot all the way through after the suggested time in the oven. Lacking any trace of tomato, the lasagna is made savory by a potent amount of garlic, which helped balance the somewhat overwhelming thickness of the dish.
Taste Unique, 2134 SE Division Street, 503.206.7059
Perry’s – Chicken Pie, $27.50
The first observation most people would make upon seeing Perry’s chicken pie is the fact that the dish is the size of an actual pie. The massive crust spilled over the sides of the tinfoil container, and it was practically impossible to cut slices without the filling running all over the place. These logistical issues were immaterial, however, as the chicken pie was a creamy, herby delight. With a noticeable presence of sage, the pie may be more appropriate for autumn eating, but it was tasty enough to be appropriate on any night of the year. The large chicken chunks broke apart with the slightest nudge of the fork and contrasted nicely with the sizable bits of potato. The filling was held together by a thick chicken stock full of dark green specks of seasoning. While it features just a couple of ingredients, the Perry’s chicken pie is much bigger than the sum of its parts. Good luck saving room for dessert.
Perry's on Fremont, 2401 NE Fremont Street, 503.287.3655
Nancy’s Kitchen – Chicken Divan, $12
After 45 minutes in the oven at 375 degrees, the chicken divan emerges golden brown and bubbly with a crumbly crust on top. Unfortunately, the attractive appearance of the dish belies its mostly bland flavor. Essentially a casserole, the divan features white chicken mixed with broccoli and an unidentifiable white cheese. While the dish was piping hot throughout, the individual ingredients were all fairly unremarkable and did not complement each other at all. A white sauce held the entire thing together but did not contribute to the flavor. Chicken and broccoli often make a great pairing, but the flavorless chicken chunks and watery broccoli florets fell flat. Give credit to Nancy’s though—they will bake casseroles in your own dish so that it looks like you made it.
Nancy's Kitchen, 1611 NW Glisan Street, 503.241.1137
Justa Pasta – Gorgonzola & Spinach Ravioli ($8.50) and marinara sauce ($5.95)
With its house-made gorgonzola & spinach ravioli, Justa Pasta provides a perfect meal for a little midsummer vino intake. The perfectly round discs were nearly overflowing with the greenish filling. One of the most notable observations about the pasta is the fact that the gorgonzola taste is delightfully subtle. Oftentimes, gorgonzola can leave one with an overwhelming bleu cheese taste, but, in this case, the flavor was nicely subdued and provided a vehicle for the earthiness of the spinach. We topped the ravioli with Justa Pasta’s marinara sauce, which was garlicky to the point of spiciness. It was a classic combination of smooth and savory—the pasta and sauce seemed made for one another.
Justa Pasta, 1336 NW 19th Avenue, 503.243.2249