“Take your cow and milk it directly into a bucket of cider.” Recipe instructions rarely get more real. By the time pastry chef Eve Kuttemann finished reading the directions for syllabub, a curdled dessert somewhere between cottage cheese and a milk shake, she was hooked on old American cookbooks. Her old-school baking tome collection grew, and between shifts at Trifecta Tavern & Bakery in Southeast Portland, Kuttemann tackled the fascinating art of pioneer desserts recipe by recipe.
Eat Beat has learned that the obsession is about to become a pop-up called Sage Hen, Western slang for “a woman.” Beginning April 3, the 32-year-old talent—whose résumé stretches from Michelin-starred Paris kitchens to Portland’s Castagna—will open her work space once a month for an evening of savory snacks, house punch, and centuries-old desserts. It’s meant to be an intimate experience in the heart of a working pastry kitchen. Cost is $35 a person for food and drink.
Guests will find eight seats only, ringed around a wood kitchen table plunked in the midst of 50-pound flour bags, cake pans and, of course, Kuttemann’s cookbook collection, available for mid-bite browsing.
“I’ll be in my usual spot, creating and plating,” says Kuttemann, envisioning the evening. “That’s the beauty of a chef’s table atmosphere. I have the oven, freezer, and mixer, right there. I can create things I normally wouldn’t put on menu – things too fragile or too temperature sensitive.”
The first menu will offer a genuine taste of a “corn puff,” a cornmeal soufflé gleaned from the 1903 edition of the White House Cook Book, considered a “comprehensive encyclopedia of information for the home, containing cooking, toilet and household recipes, health suggestions, facts worth knowing.” “The dish bursts with toasty popcorn flavor,” says Kuttemann, who pours her own lemon butter on top for extra dimension. “Recipes are vague—a little of this, a handful of that. You have to imagine a bit how they will taste.”
I’m personally psyched for Sage Hen’s Chocolate Potato Cake. The recipe comes straight from Kuttemann’s Oklahoma roots: the Triumphs of Women Book, 1911-1935, assembled by a community club. “It’s really good when done right,” says Kuttemann. “The mashed potatoes give that comforting texture; the cake has a melting crumb.”
In a world where crazy-idea desserts are the new normal, something unwaveringly old sounds downright radical. I can’t wait to try it.