Is anyone juggling more balls than Departure chef Gregory Gourdet? The Top Chef semi-finalist, last seen in a Mexican standoff with Portland’s Doug Adams (Imperial) and Los Angeles’ Mei Lin, is currently sweating the details of a project he co-founded and spearheads: the second annual Chefs’ Week PDX, which kicks off Thursday with 34 chefs, five multi-course dinners and nightly after parties over 4 days, Feb. 5-8.
Right now, tickets remain for two dinners only: Saturday’s “Bound by Tradition” and Sunday’s blowout “West Coast 2015” at Departure, a 29-chef throw-down that brings together local heroes (Ox to Holdfast), LA’s wildest experimenter, neighboring talents (San Francisco to Vancouver, BC) and, not least, Top Chef’s hard-battling Gourdet, Adams, and Lin. Check the web site for dinner reservations and after-party details (free and open to the public).
For those with shallow budgets or tasting menu fatigue, we snooped out a wealth of Chefs’ Week PDX collaborations, adventurous ideas that speak to the mindset of Portland’s food scene: Everyone in, best ideas forward, no egos allowed.
Chefs’ Week PDX Secret Finds Cheat Sheet
Chef Tea Blending with Steven Smith Teas
Four chefs will create three teas each, with guidance from Portland tea master, Steven Smith. A blind tasting by Chefs’ Week PDX partygoers will pick the winners, served at chef dinners throughout week. (Will they be nicer than Top Chef judges?) Creating the blends: LA’s Mei Lin, Japanese maven Ryan Roadhouse (Nodoguro) modern oceanic forager Justin Wills (Depoe Bay’s Restaurant Beck) and playful Chinese chef Joel Watanabe (Vancouver B.C.’s popular Bao Bei).
Find it: Starting Thursday, the winning teas will be sold at Steven Smith Teamaker’s tasting room, 1626 NW Thurman St. until supplies run out.
Chocolate-Olive Oil Lollipop with Yogurt-Pimenton Caramel
The classic candy gets a makeover from Quin Candy, Ataula’s Jose Chesa and Oakland’s Rachel Saunders, American artisan jam pioneer and Blue Chair Fruit owner. Here’s the inside word from Quin’s chief experimenter, Jami Curl: “Jose does a (Nutella-like) dessert at Ataula combing olive oil and chocolate, so I suggested turning that flavor profile into a hard candy lollipop. We've been working with the idea of yogurt in our candy for some time because it adds great tang and depth to most everything. But yogurt with caramel and pimento? It’s brain explosion good.”
Find it: Beginning Wednesday, the lollipop (to be unveiled at the sold-out “West Coast Modern Dinner”) will be available at Quin Candy, Union Way, 1022 W. Burnside St., or online.
Top Chef dark horse Doug Adams and Double Mountain Brewery make a beer inspired By Kenny Loggins. I love how the Hood River brewery describes this super drinkable India Red: “blood orange in color, with pine and citrus to accompany the bread and biscuit on the back end.” But the logo tells you everything you want to know about Adams, Portland’s newest rising star.
Find it: Yacht Rock is now spilling from taps at Ataula, Coopers Hall, Imperial, Departure, Jackknife Bar, Dig A Pony, Urban Farmer, Ned Ludd, Trifecta, PaaDee, and Laurelhurst Market.
Langbaan’s Red Curry Fried Chicken Sandwich at Lardo
Chefs’ Week PDX has a sandwich, and it looks pretty epic, teaming Langbaan’s Thai flavor savvy (and PoMo’s Restaurant of the Year) with Lardo’s prolific sandwich machine. The brainstorm started with a recipe straight from heart and mind of co-chef Rassamee Ruaysuntia’s mom in Thailand: whole chickens marinated in galangal, lemongrass, garlic and chiles, then battered and fried crisp. Owner-chef Earl Ninsom stacked on the crunchy pickled vegetables, herbs, Bibb lettuce and what every sandwich needs: red curry coconut cream. How quickly can we get over there?
Find it: Wednesday-Sunday this week, all Lardo locations.
Modern Ice Cream from LA’s wild experimenter Craig Thornton and of course, Salt & Straw
Thornton runs Wolvesden, one of country’s most exciting supper clubs and the subject of a New Yorker profile. He’s teamed up with S&S’s anything-goes ice cream creator Tyler Malek to create the world’s first Fleur de Sel-Milk Ice Cream with Peach Glace, Honey Gelee and “Queen Bee” Crunch. What we know: the ice cream is a milky- flavored play on texture; the gelee is tricked into having the same texture as the peaches, and it’s all taken to the next level by a secret “crunch” technique Thornton is keeping to himself. .
Find it: The ice cream will drop at the sold-out “West Coast Modern Dinner.” But you can test drive it at two Chefs’ Week PDX after parties, free and open to the public: Friday, 10 pm, Stumptown Coffee Roasters (128 SW 3rd Ave) and Sunday, 10 pm, Cooper's Hall (404 SE 6th Ave.)
Moroccan Takeover at Whole Foods Pearl
The kitchen at the Pearl District branch is riffing off recipes designed by Vancouver BC’s Angus An, of the polished Thai restaurant, Maenom, St Jack’s Aaron Barnett, and Departure’s Gregory Gourdet. The lineup: An’s chicken-date-almond tagine and zaalouk eggplant, Barnett’s lamb kofka meatballs and cumin-glazed carrot with pistachio and yogurt, and Gourdet’s collard greens with raisins, pine nuts and roasted sweet potato with chermoula. It’s an interesting idea, and if there was ever a time to eat at a grocery store, this might be it.
Find it: This week only, Whole Foods Pearl (1210 Northwest Couch St.)