Million Dollar Meal, Baby

Last night we had dinner with Hilary Swank.

OK, the Oscar-winning actress didn’t show up at Portland’s top-rated restaurant Beast to dine with us specifically, but we were seated at the same communal table. She was there with her father and other family members, who apparently have connections with the local area. Hilary lived in Bellingham as a child, and her dad was a Portlander up until a few years ago. I didn’t know those things at the time, and even though Tara immediately recognized her, I had my doubts. It’s not everyday you have a run-in with a Hollywood celebrity in Portland, after all. But she kept insisting it was her, the star of Million Dollar Baby, Boys Don’t Cry and other films. I had to admit, there was more than a passing resemblance, but figured she was just one of those women people are always mistaking for somebody famous. Like the way people are forever confusing me with Matt Damon.

Our dining companion last night.
Our dining companion last night.

Tara asked the diners next to us whether they thought Hilary Swank was seated at our table, and they had already come to that same conclusion. Still, it wasn’t until we got home and I Googled her father that I was 100% convinced we had been dining with Hilary Swank. Because the old guy whose shoulder she was resting her head upon between courses was clearly, beyond the shadow of a doubt, Steve Swank, the same man whose picture was online.

“How cool!” I said to Tara excitedly. “That was Hilary Swank!”

“Duh,” came my wife’s cool reply.

This reminded me of that episode of The Office where the characters got into a debate over whether or not Hilary Swank is hot. I remember at the time being very much in the no-she-is-not-hot camp. But I have to say, she looks better in person. 5 years later I think I’ll officially change my position on the matter.

Even if Hilary Swank hadn’t been there, it still would have qualified as one of the greatest nights ever, because – start to finish – the meal was the best of my life, hands down. Beast is the brainchild and baby of Naomi Pomeroy, a James Beard award winning chef who starred on Top Chef Masters who, incidentally, makes great food. It’s a prix-fixe six-course meal that changes every Wednesday. Seasonal, local, and organic. The menu is made up of foods that are hard to pronounce. We had the following:

  • Spring wild leek & fish chowder with salt cod and a Meyer lemon croquette
  • Charcuterie plate that included chicken liver mousse, squab breast terrine, black garlic & hazelnut blood sausage, cured duck breast, steak tartare on toast with a quail egg, and a foie gras bon bon with vanilla gelee
  • Pork shoulder with pickled mustard seeds & apple cider glaze, carrot puree, kale rapini, and pommes anna with brown butter au jus
  • Peach and elderberry sorbet (a palate cleanser)
  • Mixed spring greens salad with roasted and raw beets, blood orange & Campari vinaigrette, and fried chèvre
  • Cheese plate with two cow’s milk and one sheep’s milk cheese, fried & salted marcona almonds, honey, and Armagnac poached prune
  • Salted chocolate pot de creme with caramelized bananas, whipped creme fraiche, and toasted coconut tuile

Every course was fantastic. Highlights included the steak tartare, foie gras bon bon, carrot puree, fried chèvre, and dessert. Actually, I take that back. The whole meal was a highlight. We ordered it with the wine pairing (3 whites, 2 reds, 1 rose) and French press coffee with dessert. You might not want to look at the bill if you suffer from a heart condition, but this was Tara’s Christmas gift to me, so it was both a splurge and a special occasion.

We would definitely do it again.



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19 thoughts on “Million Dollar Meal, Baby

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie with Hilary, but as a huge Bravo and Top Chef fan, I’m very familiar with Naomi! What a fabulous night you had! I did a post a few months back about how obsessed I’ve become with marcona almonds. Damn them! They are now up to $21.99 a pound at my grocery store.


    1. Wow. If I’d known marcona almonds were so pricey, I wouldn’t have left those couple of stragglers on my plate. But coming in at the very tail end of the meal like that, we were at the point where we had to pick and choose wisely. The cheese and honey won out.


  2. ” beyond the shadow of a doubt, Steve Swank, the same man whose picture was online.

    “How cool!” I said to Tara excitedly. “That was Hilary Swank!”

    OMG Mark, you KNOW how starstruck I am so I would have died! I probably wouldn’t have been able to eat because I’d be too excited about sitting at the same table with HILARY SWANK. Who btw, I ADORE! Not only a great actress, but very pretty as well! I love her dark hair and dark eyes.

    Your meal sounded and looked faaaaaaaabulous!

    “Cheese plate with two cow’s milk and one sheep’s milk cheese, fried & salted marcona almonds, honey, and Armagnac poached prune”

    WOW! My mouth is watering just reading that.

    “Like the way people are forever confusing me with Matt Damon.”

    And yes, absolutely!


    1. At first I was thinking, why would Hilary Swank be here of all places? But upon further reflection, it makes sense. Ties to Portland…one of the city’s most popular restaurants, run by a well-known chef who has appeared on TV more than once…where else WOULD she go? Burgerville? As much as I love their pepper bacon burgers, I don’t think so.


  3. Joe and I seriously need to plan a trip to Portland soon. I ogled your photo on FB and instagram – that food looks so good. Ok, that would be really fun actually. A trip to Portland filled with food, and live music?, with you and Tara? We really do need to plan this. 😀

    And Hillary Swank is hot. Yay for girls with big teeth! What happened to her though? She was an Oscar darling and she’s been vacant the last few years. Hmmm…


    1. We’d love to entertain you guys if/when you ever find yourselves out this way again! A nice restaurant, a rock show…let’s do this! 🙂

      Doesn’t it seem like once somebody wins an Oscar, they sort of fall off the face of the earth? Meryl Streep being the exception, of course…


  4. Curious what Beast charges, if you don’t mind me asking.

    At The Kitchen, we partook in some of their extra things, like sake tasting, the tea with desert, and wine. We walked out of their with a nearly $500 bill. But we look at it as dinner and a play prices. And, like you, it was a memory. Certainly something you want to reserve for a special occasion.

    Glad you had fun!


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    1. Wow. $500!! I hope that was the best meal of your life. The dinner at Beast is $75. Add $35 for the wine pairing. That’s two really pricey meals we’ve had in six months – here, and Elway’s in Denver. Beast blew the other place away, hands down!


  5. Alright my friend I am going to ask the obvious question, if you questioned whether you were dining with Hilary Swank why would you not sneak a photo!? We are all curious! Lol! But that sounds like an amazing restaurant and a great time! I would love to go to a place like that!


    1. One simple reason: dim lighting. The dining room was basically candlelit, and we thought using the flash would have been too obvious. Having said that, I was taking pictures of my food with the flash, so I should have pretended to be taking Tara’s picture and instead focused on Hilary, who would have been in the background. Oh, well…


    1. That’s what I love about Portland. Even our excess isn’t excessive. You’d have to try really hard to spend more than that on a dinner for two in this town, though I suppose it could be done at one of the other “it” places. If you loaded up on cocktails, appetizers, and desserts.

      How are dining-out prices in Cuenca? I’m imagining you’re going to say “cheap!” Or, this being South America, “el cheap!”


  6. The meal sounds fabulous. Next time I am that way, this one goes on the list, from reading the comments above the prices sounds more than reasonable, even with the wine pairing.

    As to Hilary, I have never understood how any man could not find her Hot. But then I am a woman, I have always thought she is utterly beautiful.


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