In the early 1980’s I worked for a publishing company in the downtown industrial area of Portland. One of the most popular lunch spots in the city back then was Harris Wine Cellars on NW 23rd and Thurman. The restaurant was at the back of the wine shop and had long paper covered communal tables where, if you were a regular, you eventually got to know many of the people who worked in the area. The menu was small: soup, 4 or 5 sandwiches, a salad or two, and desserts. Back in the 80’s it was common to indulge in a glass of wine with lunch and their selection was good.
The Oregon wine industry was in its infancy in the early ’80’s and grocery stores didn’t have large wine selections to choose from. So small wine shops were where one would go to find any kind of selection. Wine wasn’t as popular back then and I think we served it for special occasions only like holidays, birthdays, weddings, etc… so unlike today where it’s a part of everyday life.
The food at Harris Wine Cellar was delicious and this shrimp sandwich was one of my favorites. What makes it extra special is the Vermouth Sauce that is spread on the bread. It doesn’t sound like much but it adds a very special flavor to the sandwich. FYI…Vermouth is a fortified wine, like Madeira or sherry. At 18% alcohol by volume, it is one of the most potent things you can buy at the grocery store. “Fortified” means the wine has had a distilled spirit – in this case brandy – added to it, which accounts for the higher alcohol content. Additionally, vermouth is flavored with herbs and spices (like cardamom, cinnamon, majorjam, and chamomile), so a little bit of vermouth packs a lot of taste. It’s amazing what a smear of this cream cheese sauce can do for a meatloaf sandwich… or a roast beef one!
Harris Wine Cellar is long gone from the Portland restaurant scene and is now a branch of the Multnomah County Library. If you are familiar with this wine shop/restaurant and have any other recipes from their menu I would love to know about it. After the closing members of the family opened a restaurant in Redmond, Oregon. I’m going there next week and will stop by for lunch and a little reminiscing. Maybe they will have a recipe or two they will share. I’ll let you know.
- 1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
- ¼ to ⅓ cup dry vermouth
- 2 cups bay shrimp (tiny cooked shrimp)
- ½ cup diced celery
- ½ cup chopped green onion
- ⅔ cup mayonnaise
- ⅛ teaspoon celery salt
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic salt
- ⅛ teaspoon onion salt
- dash cayenne pepper
- dash angostura bitters (optional)
- 1 loaf good bread
- cucumbers, peeled and sliced
- iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
- In a medium bowl, blend together the cream cheese and vermouth until smooth.
- In a medium bowl stir together the shrimp, celery, scallions, mayonnaise, celery salt, garlic salt, onion salt, cayenne pepper and angostura bitter.
- Spread butter and mayonnaise on one side of a slice of bread. Spread Vermouth Sauce on the other slice, followed by a layer of cucumber slices. Top with a spoonful or two of the shrimp mixture. Top with shredded lettuce and first slice of bread.