There’s no sign of the signature wood-fired pizza at Roman Candle Baking. The big morning pastry case is gone. In fact, after five years, all that’s left of the once-promising Roman Candle is the word “baking,” painted over the door. Duane Sorenson’s stylish neighborhood spot is undergoing a complete personality transplant, without a peep to the public. As Eat Beat has learned, the space has a new focus and a new, still unannounced name, Holiday. Get ready: the vegan toasts have landed. Plant-based cooking is in the house. Pretty soon, all will be gluten-free. And that’s just the beginning.
Roll your eyes if you like. This is a good thing. Roman Candle has long felt adrift, burnt out. Holiday feels alive and engaged. In just two weeks, while still flying under the radar as a no-name space, the room has an identity and personality that never quite jelled as Roman Candle.
Now, jungle plants are climbing the walls. A turntable has taken over a corner, pulsing old-school reggae beats. Unusual foraged mushrooms and scrambled eggs emerge from the former pizza oven. Meanwhile, the communal table fills with people digging into Buddha bowls, organic fresh juices, plant power shots, and “magic waters.” What’s surprising is how tasty it all is.
And the even bigger surprise? Behind the futuristic La Marzocco espresso machine, wearing a bright purple tee, stands a reborn Duane Sorenson, pulling shots from beans roasted at the company he founded 18 years ago up the street, Stumptown Coffee Roasters. After selling the company for a sweet bundle a few years ago, Sorenson is getting back to his roots, making coffee for customers at Holiday, as he readies to launch another project: Puff Coffee, a few blocks away behind his Woodsman Tavern restaurant. “I’m working three days a week! I’m on the schedule! I’m the lead barista!” says Sorenson, with a big laugh and puffed-out chest.
As much as anything, Sorenson is known as a hard partier. No more. At 45, he’s given up drinking and embraced the healthy, plant-based, juice-swigging life—washed back, of course, with good coffee. With Holiday, open daily from 7 a.m.–4 p.m., he wants to share the lifestyle and gospel with others. “I’ve never felt better, and I can’t stop talking about it. I’m high by drinking juice. I kind of went down the rabbit hole.”
The game plan going forward is multi-pronged. I’m most excited about the monthly dinners, beginning in July. Sorenson is recruiting a roster of star chefs to create plant-based dinners, with profits going to a hunger-based charity. So far, the lineup is impressive: Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker, Danny Bowien (of New York/San Francisco’s famed Mission Chinese), and modernist, Michelin-starred vegetable thinker Matt Lightner.
Juices will be the backbone of Holiday. Right now, about eight options are available to order, from Root Punch (beautifully balanced apple, carrot, and beet) to a screaming, sunshine-hued “D-shot” (oranges, ginger, turmeric), with more complex flavors to come. Sorenson will soon unveil a new line of bottled, cold-pressed juices, under the Holiday label. (Might this be a wholesale juice company in the making?)
Also in the works: a possible weekly farmers market in the parking lot. Sorenson is working with Southeast Portland’s excellent People’s Co-Op to help curate and manage the project. Holiday’s direction is organic and farm-connected. This being a Duane Sorenson operation, it also has a house mushroom forager.
No word yet if Holiday will serve Puff Coffee. Sorenson tells Eat Beat the new roastery will be mail-order only. No café, retail, or wholesale (though he envisions a “clubhouse vibe” with friends, and open house days for customers). For now, Holiday is well-stocked with Stumptown caffeine.
Sorenson put Holiday’s kitchen in the hands of passionate, unknown chef, 29-year-old Ryan Kennedy, who has kicked around coffee shops and restaurants in Napa Valley, Houston, and Portland. I like how he’s layering leaves, pickles, ferments, and wildflowers into the mix. Kennedy calls this a ground-level menu—he says he “bonded with Duane,” then jumped in with short notice. But already, I’d come back for the cashew butter toast, crowned with pears, cardamom, and walnut crumbs, or the seared, smashed potatoes sporting sweet, pickled mustard seeds over cashew cream.
The burning question: Will Sorensen do for the plant-based world what he did for coffee? That is, will he change the conversation? It’s going to be interesting. Bottom line, says Sorenson: “You know me, it’s going to get freaky.” We can only hope.