New year, new menu, new energy. That’s the message from Castagna, one of Portland’s most ambitious restaurants. Chef Justin Woodward, a modernist poet with a Japanese sensibility, is now exploring the next step in seasonal cooking, fine ingredients, and tasting menus. The new set-price menu plan revolves around three options: a $95 tasting menu that will change seasonally, a new 10-course vegetable menu (same price), and lastly, a new extended “Chef's Menu” mixing classic Castagna “snacks” and whatever Woodward is obsessing over that day (about 20 courses total, $155 per person). Winter’s menu kicked off recently with impressive beignets, light as clouds; beautiful crab etched in butter and burnt grapefruit; foie gras mingled with smoked hazelnuts; and silky, charcoal-kissed sturgeon to match the always jaw-dropping house rolls and Woodward’s exquisite dessert craft. “This is where I have wanted to be since starting at Castagna,” says Woodward, who joined Castagna in 2009 as right-hand man to Matt Lightner, now a New York food star. “We will continue to improve and grow.”1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd — Karen Brooks
Levant, East Burnside's Middle Eastern/French-Arabesque restaurant is launching Sunday brunch, starting January 25th. Chef Scott Snyder will cook up shakshuka baked eggs in tomato-pepper sauce, halva croissants, and a schwarma-spiced lamb burger. Brunch hours: 10 am- 2pm. 2448 East Burnside St
Boxer Ramen, the trendy ramen shop from serial franchiser Micah Camden, now has a second location. Boxer Ramen Northeast is even smaller than the original Union Way location and offers the same menu of springy ramen, bonito flake tater tots, and mochi ice cream. 2032 NE Alberta St
While we were wolfing down smoked, fried chicken at The People’s Pig on North Williams, owner Cliff Allen quietly shuttered his iconic downtown food cart for good. You can still get the greatest hits and some of the best barbecue in the city at the new North Portland location. 3217 N Williams Ave
The popular downtown salad nexus, Garden Bar, is expanding its leafy empire. Expect a new location in Old Town at 135 NW Broadway starting February 2, and a third location to follow downtown later this year. 25 Northwest 11th Ave
Nomad.PDX, the fledgling pop-up from Castagna vets Ryan Fox and Ali Matteis, has a new, semi-permanent home. From now on, they’ll be serving their modernist cooking at Kitchencru, the downtown culinary incubator, twice a week. Click here for tickets. 337 Northwest Broadway
There’s been a recent glut of Portland chefs hitting the airwaves recently. On the Food Network’s Chopped: Oven and Shaker’s Jun Robles, and St. Jack’s Aaron Barnett have already competed, with Ataula’s Jose Chesa taking a stab on February 3rd. Meanwhile, the Cooking Channel’s Taco Trip visited to some of city’s notable taco strongholds, including Uno Mas, Verde Cocina, and Mi Mero Mole.
Chocolate hedonist Xocolatl de David is launching a new line of “truffle bars.” Each pocket-sized square holds flavors like orange cardamom, rose hips and berries, and Earl Grey tea.
Elsewhere in Oregon
Suzeanne Mager, heir to Portland’s most storied German eateries, Der Rheinlander and Gustav’s, is opening a new concept in Keizer, Oregon outside of Salem. The open-air biergarten is slated to open in April, with German fare, Deutsche biers, house cocktails, and patio seating. Exact location and opening date still TBD.