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

Monday, January 28, 2008

Jack scores a ten (01)

As every foodie knows, it’s become a rite of passage for ambitious chefs to cook a dinner at the James Beard House in Manhattan. An invitation to this hallowed hall of gastronomy means cooking for some of the most jaded palates on the planet, and no chef would dare bring anything less than his or her A+ game.

Last Monday night, I was lucky enough to sample a repeat of the James Beard Dinner prepared by Chef Jack Yoss of Portland’s ten01, and I have to say, he did Portland proud.

Because a trip to the James Beard House can be a spendy endeavor, restaurants try to get all the mileage they can from the experience. That means making nice with as many New York media outlets as you can. Adam Berger, the owner of ten01, tells me that spent quite a while shooting Chef Jack at work, and there should be a segment about it on the website in early February—I’ll keep you posted. There were interviews with Food Arts and Wine Spectator, too.

At ten01’s James Beard dinner in Portland, just about everything was flat-out delicious. Bear with me because I’m going to regale you with a few highlights, starting with:

The bluefin tuna sashimi and hamachi tartare
, served with yuzu kosho, beet chips, and balsamic brown butter. One thing Jack Yoss seems to excel at is balance: flavor balance, texture balance. The secret weapon in this dish, aside from the impeccably fresh fish, was the yuzu kosho, an addictive Japanese condiment of yuzu zest, chile, and salt—yuzu being a Japanese citrus fruit. The beet chips supplied the note of crisp texture; the brown butter the umami (richness) to complement the lean tuna and hamachi. One of my tablemates said she’d had this dish at ten01 before. If you ever see it there, order it!

The same goes for the next course, a sweet onion and cauliflower soup, punctuated by a dollop of spicy lamb sausage with bits of golden raisin, chopped almond, and curry oil. Again, a wonderful textural contrast, with the almost crunchy lamb bits heightening the honest vegetable flavor of each creamy spoonful of soup.

Then came a perfectly seared sea scallop, surrounded by stewed Willapa Bay oysters, tender buttered leeks, and a drizzle of tarragon oil. On top was a spoonful of trout caviar—golden, pearl-sized beads as fun to bite into as they were pretty on the plate.

Quite honestly at this point, I could have happily retired from my meal. Each dish had been accompanied by a white wine from the Willamette Valley’s St. Innocent Winery, starting with all-but-unavailable 2000 Brut, and moving into a 2006 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Blanc, a 2005 Shea Vineyard Pinot Gris, and a 2005 Anden Vineyard (formerly Seven Springs Vineyard) Chardonnay, Each wine had been a crisp and refreshing partner to its course-mate.

But such is not the way of a James Beard wine dinner. Just as St. Innocent president and winemaker Mark Vlossak told us diners that night, “My father always said a wine’s first duty is to be red,” no such feast is complete without its red meat course. And so we were each treated to roasted lamb chops with butternut squash, honey-glazed parsnips, spiced walnuts, and Pinot Noir-lamb jus—and two vineyard-designated 2005 St. Innocent Pinot Noirs. To my palate, it was all a bit of a jump, but I must say most of the plates I saw were cleared away with neat, clean bones on them.

Where I really would have drawn the line, I think, was with the dessert, a panna cotta made with the deliciously unctuous Rivers Edge chèvre, made 10 miles inland from the Oregon coast at Newport. Accompanied by poached Mt. Hood pears and a star anise red wine reduction, it was a special dish indeed, but after this juggernaut of a meal, it was simply too rich for my blood. I think I could have made a complete lunch of it—would have, given a chance. As it is, my lamb chops came home in a box.

I’ll let you know about the segment as soon as I hear about it.


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