The city went into collective sugar withdrawal last May when baker Kir Jensen closed her NE Alberta shop the Sugar Cube—leaving Portland bereft of sea salt and olive oil brownies and potato chip-speared, caramel drizzled cupcakes. When the doors shut, she left little clue as to her next project, beyond some hints of a “higher calling.”
Now, after eating her way through Europe, the roving baker has reemerged at Renata, the highbrow wood-fired Italian spot that Portland Monthly named (with reservations) one of the city’s best restaurants of 2015. Jensen officially took the reins of its once anemic pastry program in early November.
“I took a nice break to explore and have fun and now it’s time for me to get my hands dirty in the kitchen again and make some sugar-love,” Jensen says, pointing to Renata’s supportive management and the kitchen’s focus on rustic fare as reasons she joined the crew.
“Kir brings a lot to the table,” attests Renata co-owner Nick Arnerich. “Her desserts are craveable and touch the soul.”
So far, Renata's menu features a short lineup of Jensen classics embellished with Italian accents. She’s paired her classic, cornmeal crusted brown butter honey pie with the boozy punch of nocino gelato—leaning on the classic Italian green walnut liquor for a bittersweet edge. Italian-born almond olive oil cake showcases her signature lemon curd chilled to a semifreddo, while four perennial Jensen obsessions—malted chocolate, deeply nutty sesame brittle, oozy hot fudge, and cocoa nib shortbread—tart up a simple panna cotta.
As for Jensen, she seems excited to start experimenting with desserts that take advantage of the kitchen’s biggest toys—its top-notch wood-fired grill and oven.
As for that “higher calling” Jensen teased last spring? Is she still considering a business baking edibles for Portland’s surging weed-friendly market? “Oh, that’s still in my back pocket. It’s just slowly brewing,” she assures us. “I see a great future at Renata and getting back to making desserts. At the end of the meal, it’s like a warm hug sending you out the door.”
Jensen’s pastry menu will evolve with the seasons, but here’s what’s on the docket right now:
Almond Olive Oil Cake | 10
Lemon curd semifreddo, cranberry compote
Chocolate Malted Panna Cotta | 10
Hot fudge, sesame brittle, cocoa nib shortbread
Honey Brown Butter Pie | 11
Honeycrisp Apple Crostata | 13
Quince butter, cinnamon gelato, salted caramel
Morello Cherry Sorbetto | 7
Affogato Normale | 7
Vanilla gelato, espresso
626 SE Main St.