With his I-did-it-my-way bluster, ceramic-chicken fetish, and locavore intensity (think chanterelle vodka), Jason French embodies everything to love—and parody—about Portland’s food scene. The playful depth of his homesteader’s cabin gone mad never lets up, from the name Ned Ludd (after the loom–smashing, anti-industrial 19th-century British folk hero) to the restaurant’s lone stove, a six-foot-high fireplace fueled by gnarly logs stacked everywhere. But after four years as Portland’s quirky command center, Ned Ludd has found its food groove and served some of the year’s best meals. Dishes inspired by Old World recipes, campfire odes, and French’s imagination change daily (or even midmeal) as supplies ebb and flow. Among the surprises tumbling out of the open kitchen’s 750-degree cavern: a plate-size chocolate chip cookie, rising in a cast-iron skillet, its salt-crunching surface emerging one lucky degree shy of torched. Served warm with a spoon and the suggestion to douse each bite with cold milk, it’s the sum total of Ned Ludd’s reward: a sweet, demented pleasure.