The Accidental Palate

After nearly ten wonderful years of editing Northwest Palate magazine in Portland OR, I've handed over the reins and am now enjoying the leisurely (not!), ever-changing (and then some) life of a freelance bon vivant. Hope you enjoy these posts, and if you want to reach me, contact ajabine (at) yahoo (dot) com. Cheers! Angie Jabine

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Portland Public Market: Home in Sight?

September 27, 2007, Portland, OR--With the latest twist in the ongoing search for a year-round public market, it's bye-bye, Union Station, and (maybe) hello, 511 Building.

With Melvin Mark Development Company as its partner, the Portland Public Market Foundation and its tireless consulting director, Ron Paul, (pictured below with James Beard Foundation President Susan Ungaro) are hard at work on a new proposal to site the Portland Public Market at the historic 511 Building on Northwest Portland's Park Blocks.

The building currently houses federal Homeland Security employees, who would need to be relocated. The building still belongs to the General Services Administration, but the adjacent parking lot, says Paul, has already been deeded to the City of Portland to be an extension of the North Park Blocks.

This is the latest chapter of a saga that stretches back six years, when Paul first floated the idea of a year-round public market in a central Portland location, where local vendors and artisans could sell their wares throughout the year. After all, Vancouver, B.C. has its Granville Island Market, Seattle has Pike Place Market, San Francisco has the Ferry Building. These aren't just seasonal farmers' markets--these are essential, year-round parts of each of these cities' economic life.

In an interview today, Paul said he couldn't be more thrilled with the new partnership. He noted that the six-story 511 Building, which was built in 1915 and originally was Portland's downtown post office, was one of the first candidates for the market, but the foundation lacked a use for the upper floors. The next candidate, the Skidmore Fountain area, ran into roadblocks from the city. Union Station, the most recent candidate--and, ironically, the site of a Public Market fundraiser this coming weekend--was determined to be too expensive, with about $40 million in needed seismic upgrades and other improvements.

Paul said the foundation was approached by Melvin "Pete" Mark and Bing Sheldon of SERA Architects about five weeks ago with the news that they were interested in buying the 511 Building and developing the upper stories as rental housing. But they needed a use for the main floor. Voila--a new partnership was born.

Melvin Mark should make a terrific development ally--his privately held company has overseen more than 30 complex development projects involving the federal government, including downtown Portland's Duncan Plaza and the Edith Green Federal Building.

No wonder Paul was smiling today. Joining him for the interview at the Oregon Historical Society was Susan Ungaro, president of New York's James Beard Foundation, who is in Portland overnight in advance of Taste America, a 20th anniversary celebration for the James Beard Foundation that's taking place simultaneously in 20 cities around the U.S. (She'll be in San Francisco tomorrow.)

She explained that the James Beard Foundation board has recently voted to allow Portland to name the eventual public market after James Beard himself. Beard, of course, is not just the patron saint of American seasonal, regional cuisine, he is also Oregon's native son, and he was one of Ron Paul's original inspirations for a Portland Public Market.

With any luck, it won't be another six years before Paul's dream becomes a reality.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Chef in His Studio

September is always a beautiful and delicious month in Portland. You can bank on it.

One of things I'll remember about this particular September in Portland is being invited to lunch by Robert Reynolds at his Chef Studio in Southeast Portland.

The Chef Studio is a small, workmanlike space in the rear of the building on SE 28th Avenue that also houses Ken's Artisan Pizza and Masu East (a sushi restaurant).

The Chef Studio is a more-or-less square room with a stove, sink, and counters on one wall, industrial shelving on another, books and art on a third wall, and more shelving on the fourth.

A great big square table sits smack dab in the center, directly under a generous skylight. It's a tossup as to which are the room's best features, the table-and-skylight, or the powder blue stove from France that looks vintage but isn't. (If anything in the room reflected Robert's gentle but driving spirit and his zest for all things Gallic, it was that stove.)

Three of us from Northwest Palate sat and talked with one of Robert's culinary students, a jewelry artist who has somehow come under Robert's spell (I didn't learn how they met exactly). She hopes he'll teach her to work as comfortably with food as she does with glass and metal.

Also in the room was Caroline Rennard, who has spent many years working as a marketing and graphic arts professional. She's always loved food and sees in Reynolds a talented and highly intuitive instructor who doesn't fit the usual niches for teaching the culinary arts. So she's been cooking with him and helping him publicize the two kinds of classes he teaches: evening classes for people who like to cook, and intensive daytime study for people who are already cooking for a living or pretty sure that's what they want to do.

We were there to brainstorm with him, but you'd probably rather know what we ate! I'm happy to oblige, though I regret I was not taking notes on how it all got made.

We all had little bites of crostini (bread from Grand Central) with a simple mixture of mascarpone and creme fraiche.

Our first course was pasta with a cool and savory sauce of uncooked chopped green tomatoes tossed with roasted garlic, capers, a little red onion, and olive oil very lightly flavored with chile pepper. We all sipped a 2004 Oregon Pinot Noir from Hatcher Wineworks.

Our second course was lightly breaded sauteed chicken breasts served with tender golden zucchini cakes and a red pepper coulis. Many clean plates in evidence.

We finished with a slice of blueberry pie, the warm berries just barely held together with a bit of cream, sugar, and flour.

Apart from maybe the mascarpone, there was nothing you couldn't find at the local farmers' market. Certainly not a lot of pomp and flash. Another reminder that trendsetters quickly become "so five minutes ago" while good cooking is forever.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Salish Lodge: My Dinner with Anna

As promised in my "Starters" column in our September/October issue (on newsstands now; if you don't see it, ask for it), this is the complete tasting menu that my daughter and I devoured in the dining room at Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie, WA. Anna had never before encountered a dinner on this scale of sophistication and sheer caloric intake--she's more of a sushi girl. The evening was my version of "take your daughter to work," you might say.

Our chef for the night was the lodge's Chef de Cuisine Darren McNally, formerly of Campagne and Earth & Ocean in Seattle. Our captain was the very engaging Brett Fallows. Eighteeen-year-old Anna did her best NOT to flirt with him.

Anna had a lovely virgin cocktail of some sort. I restricted myself to two glasses of wine, the first being a bright and stony 2007 Verdad Albarino from Santa Ynez, CA. It went terrifically well with my Salmon "Bacon" and Seared Diver Scallop courses. My second glass was a 2004 Long Shadows Sequel, a Washington Syrah made in partnership with John Duval of Australia's Penfolds. It was inky black in the candlelight, full of intensity, and cast a long shadow indeed over my Kobe tenderloin--but hey, I asked for it.

Salish Lodge & Spa Dining Room, Snoqualmie, WA, August 3, 2007
Roy Breiman - Executive Chef
Darren McNally - Chef de Cuisine
Brett Fallows - Captain

Dinner Menu Gastronomique Number 1 (Anna had this)

Amuse (I confess, I no longer remember what this was, but it involved truffle oil)

Sweet Garlic Bisque
Trumpet royals, thyme flower crème

Dungeness Crab
Fresh hearts of palm, fava beans, English peas, asparagus tips, heirloom cherry tomatoes, “ice wine sorbet”

Culatello prosciutto “Surf & Turf”
Pear carpaccio, Hawaiian blue prawns, micro arugula, aged balsamic volcanic fleur du sel

Slow-baked Alaskan Halibut
White potato mousseline, Cascade morels, white & green asparagus, wild watercress salad

Intermezzo (berry sorbet with fresh marionberries)

Potato-wrapped Kobe Tenderloin
Oxtail summer mushroom risotto, long-stem artichoke “Violet,” umeshu (plum liqueur) syrup

Northwest S’Mores
Homemade marshmallows, hot chocolate “shot”

Mignardises (tiny espresso truffles)

Dinner Menu Gastronomique Number 2 (Angie had this)

Amuse (as above, it involved truffle oil)

“Salmon Bacon”
Brown-sugar-cured and lightly smoked, with young leeks, fava beans, cracked black pepper, and a Pommery mustard emulsion

“Heirloom Tomato Harvest”
Heirloom tomatoes, morel mushrooms, and other locally inspired seasonal vegetables

"Wenatchee Pear Tasting”
Pear “panna cotta,” chilled pear “spritzer,” vanilla-poached pear truffle goat cheese mousse, Champagne gastric

Seared Diver Scallops
Truffle-infused cauliflower, heirloom potato chips, honey mushrooms, hand-formed truffle, sea salt Intermezzo (berry sorbet with fresh marionberries)

Intermezzo (berry sorbet with fresh marionberries)

Potato-wrapped Kobe Tenderloin
Oxtail summer mushroom risotto, long-stem artichoke “Violet,” umeshu syrup

Masquerade of Crèmes Brûlées, with inspired seasonal garnishes

Mignardises (tiny espresso truffles)