A Portland Entrée

Former Spago chef Thomas Boyce sets us a local table

By Rachel Ritchie February 14, 2011 Published in the March 2011 issue of Portland Monthly

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PLENTY OF PORTLAND CHEFS have achieved celebrity status—especially within the borders of our notoriously navel-gazing universe (see: Portlandia). It’s rare, however, that a celebrated chef from another universe arrives at our city’s rainy doorstep. But Thomas Boyce, who spent 15 years at LA’s famed Spago restaurant under Wolfgang Puck (nine of them as chef de cuisine, or second in command), has been quietly braving our elements since June, watching and waiting. “I love LA, but I see people here doing something that I think is really special,” says Boyce. “The nation is really looking at this place. It’s a community that appreciates and supports the food scene.”

Last March, his wife, Kim Boyce (a star pastry chef in her own right), unveiled one of the year’s best cookbooks, Good to the Grain, and has been supplying irresistible buckwheat scones, date muffins, and flaky hand-pies to local coffee shops like Ristretto Roasters. The couple hopes to use this wholesale bakery as a springboard for a full-fledged restaurant—but while they continue to contemplate their place in Portland’s culinary constellation, we requested that Thomas tide us over with a recipe. A chef after our Oregonian hearts, he responded with this homemade buckwheat tajarin (worry not: you can also use store-bought pasta) featuring our favorite 10-legged crustacean. “Dungeness crab along the North Pacific is just dynamite,” he says, “and its richness and simplicity work really well with the earthiness of this pasta.” Heightened with pancetta and brightened with lemon, it’s a dish full of dimension—without a lot of ingredients. And until the Boyces make their next move, it’ll do just fine.

Buckwheat Tajarin With Dungeness Crab 

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose white flour
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 3 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ lb pancetta, diced
  • 1 tiny pinch chile flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 8 tbsp butter
  • ½ lb Dungeness crab meat
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 lemon (zest and juice)
  • 1 handful arugula leaves


(1) MIX flours and salt in a stand mixer (if you don’t have a stand mixer, mix by hand in a bowl, adding one extra egg). (2) ADD egg yolks, whole eggs, and olive oil, and mix for a few minutes, until dough comes together in a ball. (3) WRAP dough tightly in plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour. (4) WITH a pasta rolling machine or a rolling pin, roll dough into sheets as thin as possible. (5) DUST sheets lightly with flour, fold them over themselves a few times, and cut into strips about 1 centimeter wide. (6) UNROLL the strips and set aside.


(1) Cook pancetta in a large saucepan over low heat until fat renders, about 5 minutes. (2)  ADD chile flakes and garlic and cook for about a minute. (3) ADD butter and cook until melted. (4) ADD crab, a pinch of salt, and lemon zest.(5) ADJUST seasoning, add lemon juice, and leave crab over low heat, without frying it.


(1) COOK pasta in at least 3 quarts of rapidly boiling, salted water—once pasta rises to the surface, it should cook for about 1 minute longer (about 8 minutes total). (2) STRAIN pasta and transfer to a warmed serving bowl. (3) ADD arugula leaves and warm crab mixture, toss together, and serve immediately.

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