WHEN VITALY PALEY and Benjamin Bettinger rendezvous, good food follows—and, sometimes, the war drums of reality TV. Bettinger first joined the legendary Paley’s Place as a potato-peeling intern. Six years later, he was chef de cuisine. In 2008, he broke away from Paley’s Franco-inflections to launch Beaker & Flask, unleashing a new breed of whole-animal butchery with big, bold flavors and blending the cuisines of Italy, Spain, and France into an updated comfort-food menu with a porcine focus. In his world, dreamy mac and cheese is tumbled with bright crumbles of blood sausage, and tender pork cheeks sit atop tangles of pickled octopus. It was no surprise that when Paley got his turn on Iron Chef in 2011, he recruited his former right-hand man for the smoke-fueled battle—nor that the pair earned a hard-fought victory over Food Network star Jose Garces.
This August 2012, the duo teamed up once again at Paley’s downtown kitchens—Imperial and Portland Penny Diner, both in SW Broadway’s Hotel Lucia—under a banner of forgotten Americana, fusing Paley’s locavore philosophy with Bettinger’s swagger. In an ode to Bettinger’s culinary rise (the talented chef now runs the kitchen at East Burnside's Laurelhurst Market), we’re celebrating not one of his meat masterpieces, but a seasonal side: grilled corn in a thick, spicy poblano aioli. This souped-up take on the Mexican street-food elote, traditionally served grilled or roasted and topped with mayonnaise and cotija cheese, is a quintessential late-summer snack: sweet, spicy, and mobile, with a dash of nostalgia.