Consider the condiment. Without it, food would fade to black and white and our seasonal depths would be even darker. Fortunately, Portland’s chefs are keeping the flames of hope burning with creations that span the heat spectrum and add bursts of boldness to their cooking. From mild to fiery, here are four of the best
1. OX'S CHIMICHURRI
Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton’s tribute to Argentina’s meaty kitchen culture gets an all-purpose enhancer: chimichurri, the traditional match for red meat grilled along Buenos Aires’s Rio de la Plata. The Ox version begins with golden, fruity Arbequina olive oil. Chopped Italian parsley, oregano, onion, and garlic join chile flakes and a touch of red wine vinegar.
2. MI MERO MOLE’S TOMATILLO-CHIPOTLE SALSA
Nick Zukin offers a variety of add-ins to accompany his specialty stews, or guisados. The most popular is this moderately spicy combo, which Zukin says “is a very common table salsa in Central Mexico.” The tomatillos provide tartness while the chipotles add heat and sweetness.
3. SMALLWARES’ SRIRACHA MAYONNAISSE
Johanna Ware says inspiration for this rowdy mayo, and the deep-fryer-fresh chicken “lollipops” it accompanies, comes from a Queens, New York, Indian-Chinese restaurant she used to frequent. For the magic ratio of one-third Sriracha to two-thirds Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise, Portlanders need travel only to NE 46th Avenue and Fremont Street.
4. WOLF & BEAR’S HOT SAUCE
This food cart’s two locations serve Middle Eastern sandwiches, but the true star of Wolf & Bear’s little road show is a fiery, deep-emerald potion of finely chopped jalapeño, cilantro, and garlic in an oil-and-vinegar base. Happily, it’s available by the jar.