Every summer, I look forward to cooking with my husband and my good friend DB for a dinner benefiting the Portland Fruit Tree Project. This year marked our fourth year together, cooking for roughly 40 people, and I think we even manged to top last year’s dinner which was quite a feat.
My husband, being a chef, puts together the menu. DB and I just trade our time and culinary skills for beers and burgers afterwards. It’s a pretty good deal, considering all the sampling we do as we cook. I never turn down an opportunity to sneak bites of foie gras torchon!
The dinner takes place in an urban garden called Tabor Tilth. Connie, the owner, is extremely knowledgable and even has interns who live with her so they can learn the secrets of success urban gardening. She has everything from elderflowers to mulberries to tabacco growing in her yard. For a more in-depth look at Tabor Tilth, check out my post from 2 years ago.
While Connie is serious about what she does, the whimsical aspect of her house never fails to entertain me. These are some of the cool things I spotted in her kitchen this year. (The fact that she raises meat rabbits makes her rabbit art all the more fun to me.)
Anyways, fun art aside, this post is dedicated to the snacks we served as our dinner guests started to arrive and began their guided tour of the garden. My husband tries to incorporate fruit into the dinner as much as possible, as well as making use of items that Connie grows, so this dinner is really an ode to fresh seasonal produce.
Given the numerous Pok Pok posts on this blog, it’s clear I’m a girl with a serious hang up. Maybe it’s because I eat there often enough to know how good the food is, giving me extra motivation to replicate the dishes at home using the cookbook. Or because I know Chef Ricker’s recipes are spot-on and precise, which makes going through the effort all the more rewarding.
But, besides delights like yam khai doa and phat si ew, if you also own this cookbook, it’s possible you bought it just for one recipe: Ike’s Fish Sauce Wings. It’s okay — no judgment here! Ike’s wings are killer. The most perfect bar snack since beer nuts, they are at once salty, sticky and sweet. Every bite is full of umami bliss.
I can say with certainty I have never been to Pok Pok without ordering these wings. (Wait! The very first time I was there the wings hadn’t even been put on the menu yet!)
Fried Egg Salad (yam khai dao) from the Pok Pok Cookbook
Last year was the year for Portland cookbooks. In fact it seemed like every time I went on Eater, another chef had landed a deal and was working on a book. In the final few months of 2013, several well-known local talents, like chefs Gabe Rucker and John Gorham, released books that were hot commodities all over the country.
Most of the books I was content to just flip through at Powells, but there was one that had to be mine — Andy Ricker’s cookbook for his nationally acclaimed restaurant Pok Pok. Pok Pok is a place dedicated to Thai street food, made famous by their incredible fish sauce chicken wings. After a few very successful years, Pok Pok became so popular that Ricker opened several new restaurants throughout town (all with a slightly different Thai spin) and even opened a spot in NYC.
And while I, like most people, love the Pok Pok wings, the one dish I always, always order is the yam khai dao or fried egg salad. It was hard to put my finger on why I love it so much but after reading Ricker’s description of the dish, I solved the mystery.
The vinaigrette that dresses the greens, herbs and crispy egg is perfectly balanced. There is heat fire from the Thai chiles, a bit of funk from the fish sauce, sweetness from the palm sugar simple syrup and zing from the lime juice. It’s one of those dishes that sucks you in from the first bite and you just can’t stop eating it. Or thinking about it. Or craving it.
Fried baloney sandwich, by Chef Sean Brock. Rocked my world.
So for the second in year in a row, Portland has hosted Feast, an extravagant food festival that lasts for four days and bring in chefs of international fame. Last year I attended a few events (primarily the Night Market and the Oregon Bounty), this year I attended a few new ones, including the rather exclusive High Comfort dinner.
Sous Vide striploin, served on a bed of fresh tomatoes, plums and garnished with puffed wild rice.
Last weekend marked the third year that my husband, my friend DB and I cooked for a party of 40 to help benefit the Portland Fruit Tree Project. The PFTP does a series of “Orchard Banquets” every summer to raise money and for the past three years they’ve asked my husband to donate his time by heading one of the dinners.
This year, like last year, we lucked out and had the honor of cooking our dinner at Tabor Tilth, a crazy, magical dream in urban gardening. (If you want your mind blown, click this link to watch a video about the garden, hosted by the woman who owns it.)
My husband, because he is constantly ambitious with his cooking, always dreams up amazing menus for this dinner, which has become the event that DB and I look forward to helping him with the most.
And clearly other people look forward to it too. Many people from last year’s dinner attended this one and we heard from staff that our series sold out a month in advance. I guess the word has gotten out that my husband throws down when it comes to food!
Here’s some pictures from last Sunday’s soiree…It should also be mentioned that many of the produce used came from Tabor Tilth, some of which we foraged for the day of the dinner. Nothing beats the taste of freshly picked fruits and veggies!
I’ve written time and again about how much I love my job as a meat distributor. My hands-down favorite part is being able to eat the dishes that chefs create with our meat — from the basic cuts to the more unusual offerings. These pictures are a perfect example of offal at their best.
The restaurant Kingdom of Roosevelt is fairly new to Portland, though the chef has been around for a while and is even slightly infamous in this town for entirely different reasons. The menu is not for the faint of heart — take a peek at the last picture if you don’t believe me — but let me tell you, the food is incredible. Every dish was superbly executed, not something that happens often especially with such ambitious ingredients.
Fallow Venison Heart Tartare, Venison Marrow Bone and Arugula Salad