Eight Classic Portland Recipes, 1932 to Now

From Henry Thiele’s German pancakes to Lucy Brennan’s avocado daiquiri, here’s how to eat (and drink) your way through Portland history.

By Benjamin Tepler, Kelly Clarke, and Karen Brooks August 15, 2016 Published in the September 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

James Beard's Oregon Seafood BuffetHenry Thiele's German Pancake • Zefiro Caesar Salad • Mint 8/20 Avocado Daiquiri, Ad Lib, & Ruby Cocktails • Pok Pok Ike's Fish Sauce Wings • Robert Reynold's Fine Crumb Genoise Cake

What We Ate, 1950: James Beard's Oregon Seafood Buffet 

Food history james beard seafood buffet rqbnod

Oregon’s patron saint of food and the future heavyweight champion of American cuisine spent summers during his formative years on the coast, starting in 1908. James Beard was 5. The family traveled along the old Astoria Railroad to Gearhart, Oregon, where they clammed, crabbed, picked berries, and created extravagant beachside spreads with some fellow gourmands, the Hamblets. “These days on the Oregon shore were among the most memorable in my life,” he wrote in James Beard: Delights and Prejudices (1964). “We went to the sea for our food, and it sustained us perfectly.”

Beard’s locavore ethos was generally unheard of in the midcentury world in which he rose to national fame as a cookbook author and a TV gourmand. But it was born here, among the chinook salmon, Dungeness crab, and razor clams. We think this banquet of cold-poached salmon in red wine aspic, stuffed oysters, and brioche canapes would make him proud. (We’ll spare you the nitty-gritty of making fish-head Jell-O). The deviled crab dip, a toasty cross between crab cakes and seafood casserole, is the kind of party dish that stands the test of time. “I have maintained all my life that this is the best cooked crab I have ever known,” proclaimed Beard. What more do you need to hear? 

James Beards “Grammie Hamblets Deviled Crab”

(Serves 4–6) 

  • 2 lbs Dungeness crabmeat
  • 2½ cups coarsely crushed cracker crumbs
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup minced celery
  • 1 large green bell pepper, deseeded, cored, and minced
  • 1 cup finely sliced scallion
  • ½ cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1½ tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Dash of Tabasco 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine crabmeat, 1½ cups cracker crumbs, butter, celery, bell pepper, scallion, parsley, cream, mustard, salt, and Tabasco in a large bowl and toss lightly. Spoon into a buttered baking dish, top with remaining 1 cup crumbs, and bake 25–30 minutes, or until top is delicately browned. 

Adapted from James Beard’s American Cookery

What We Ate, 1932–1990: Henry Thiele's German Pancake 

Foos history german pancake xdtrmb

Chef Thiele’s stucco-clad dining room lorded over West Burnside and 23rd Avenue for 50-plus years, serving German specialties from his Hannover childhood. The waitresses wore mustard-colored uniforms, and the dill pickles were put up in the basement. By the time the storied restaurateur debuted his massive menu—40 to 50 entrées, from fried Olympia oysters to Princess Charlotte pudding—he was already a local culinary pillar. In 1914 the voluble chef ran the schmancy Benson Hotel restaurant*; by 1921 he conceived and managed hotel owner Simon Benson’s next project—the Columbia River Gorge Hotel. Unsurprising in a town that birthed both the Original Pancake House (1953) and Elmers (1960), locals seem to miss a Thiele breakfast dish most: “The German pancake was huge, dripping over the plate, crisped on the edges, eggy in the middle with a blanket of powdered sugar,” remembers chef Leather Storrs, who often stopped at Thiele’s after shopping next door in the “Husky Kid section at Youngland” with his mother in the 1980s. “It hurt your teeth, it was so sweet. I washed it down with Green River soda and shook for several hours.”

* Turns out that tabletop TMI a la Portlandia’s Colin the Chicken is nothing new around here: “[Mr. Thiele] accepted the position of chief steward at the Benson Hotel in 1914. Here he introduced a novel feature, that of delivering addresses to his guests upon how their food is prepared and cooked, while the meals are being served. He also explained to them how many of the articles of their diet are grown. One particularly interesting lecture is on the fattening of the buttermilk-fed chicken. The innovation which he has introduced seems to be greatly appreciated by the guests.” From History of Oregon Illustrated, Vol. 3 by Charles H. Carey, published in 1922.

Henry Thieles German Pancakes

(Makes a single 10-inch pancake)

  1. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
  2. Once preheated, combine ½ cup all-purpose flour, ½ cup whole milk, 1 tbsp sugar, 3 eggs, and ¼ tsp salt in a blender and blend for 30 seconds.
  3. Remove skillet from oven and add 4 tbsp butter, coating evenly until melted. Immediately pour in batter and bake until the edges are puffed and golden-brown, 15–20 minutes.
  4. Brush lavishly with melted butter; sprinkle with powdered sugar and a few drops of lemon juice. Roll if desired. Serve at once. (Alternatively, serve with warm syrup or apricot jam.

What We Ate, 1990: Zefiro Caesar Salad 

Food history zefiro caesar salad mooszo

It was, “The first truly excellent Caesar salad the city had seen,” proclaimed Willamette Week food critic Roger Porter, reflecting on his 1990 Zefiro review. But it was more than that. Karen Brooks explained in her 2000 cult cookbook Dude Food: “What puts this one on top of the Caesar empire is its refusal to stint on the potency issues—garlic and anchovy. Instead of predictable torn lettuce leaves, it uses ultra-crisp hearts of romaine piled up like canoes and dispatched in true guy fashion: with your fingers.” That salad was a gateway to chef Christopher Israel’s signature style, at Zefiro and, later, at Grüner: simple, seductive, and always perfect. Even today, among lettuce cognoscenti, it is the yardstick by which all other Caesars—or, hell, all salads—are measured.

Zefiro Caesar Salad

(Serves 6)  

  • 1 egg, coddled*
  • 1 heaping tbsp minced garlic
  • 4 anchovy filets, minced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated, plus more for garnish
  • 3 heads romaine lettuce, chilled
  • 1½ cups large croutons
  • Ground black pepper 

MAKE THE DRESSING Peel the coddled egg. Whisk the garlic, anchovy, salt, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Add egg, whisking until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking vigorously to thicken. Whisk in the 1/4th cup cheese.

ASSEMBLE THE SALAD Separate the romaine leaves, discarding the coarse outer leaves and saving the inner leaves and hearts. Pour 1/2 cup of the dressing in the bottom of an oversize mixing bowl. Add the croutons, tossing them in the dressing until coated. Add the inner romaine leaves and hearts, tossing until coated. Transfer to a salad bowl. Garnish generously with cheese and black pepper and serve.

*Place egg in a mug, cover with boiling water, and let stand for 1 minute. Immediately run cold water over the mug until the egg is cool to the touch.

Adapted from: Dude Food: Recipes for the Modern Guy, by Karen Brooks and Gideon Bosker

What We Drank, 2001: Mint/820 Avocado Daiquiri, Ad Lib, and Ruby Cocktails 

Food history mint 820 robyzc

While microbrews boomed and Oregon wines garnered cachet, cocktail culture in late-1990s Portland remained a blur of well rum-and-Cokes and sugary cosmos. Then Zefiro and Saucebox bar veteran Lucy Brennan started poking around the kitchen for inspiration: “I was playing around and put an avocado in a daiquiri,” she remembers of her silky-sweet signature drink. “Everybody thought I was absolutely cuckoo for doing it.” Or not. When she opened her restaurant Mint in 2001 (and, shortly after, the adjoining bar 820), drinkers packed the N Russell Street space for her seriously fresh, perfectly balanced cocktails—from earthy, beet-infused dirty martinis to cilantro-smacked lemon drops. A well-received cocktail book and packed roster of classes followed—kicking off our current landscape of intense boozy experimentation. “Lucy is what I would call Portland’s first celebrity ‘craft’ bartender,” says Oven & Shaker co-owner and bar guru Ryan Magarian, who manned the bar at influential Pearl District spot Bima in the late 1990s. “[With her] use of fresh ingredients, herbs, and dramatic presentations ... she began to drag Portland into the next evolution of our craft.” After a quarter-century in the biz, Brennan sold Mint in 2015. Now she teaches home cocktail classes around the city.

Mint’s Ruby Cocktail

  • Cocktail ice cubes for chilling and shaking
  • 3 oz beet-infused vodka*
  • ½ ounce lemon-lime juice (equal parts lemon and lime)
  • ½ oz simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar)

Fill a 5-ounce martini glass with ice and set aside to chill. Fill a pint glass with ice and add the vodka, lemon-lime juice, and simple syrup. Cap the glass with a stainless steel cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Empty the ice from the martini glass. Strain the drink into the chilled glass the serve immediately.

*Combine 3 red beets (1½ lbs), trimmed, peeled and quartered, with 1 liter Monopolowa vodka in a wide-mouthed glass jar with a lid. Store in a cool, dark place for 3 days, stirring each day. Remove beets and store vodka in refrigerator for up to 6 months. 

Mint’s Avocado Daiquiri 

  • 2 oz silver rum
  • 2 oz gold rum
  • ¼ medium-ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
  • ½ oz half-and-half
  • ¼ oz lemon-lime juice
  • 2 oz simple syrup
  • 1½ cups cocktail ice cubes
  • Pomegranate concentrate for garnish* 

In a blender, combine the rums, avocado, half-and-half, lemon-lime juice, and simple syrup. Add the ice and blend 20–30 seconds, or until the mixture has no trace of ice. Pour into a balloon wine glass and lightly zigzag pomegranate concentrate over the top. Place a small drink straw or toothpick at the top of the zigzag pattern and pull through the center to make a series of pomegranate hearts.

*Find pomegranate concentrate at World Foods.

Mint’s Ad Lib Cocktail

  • Cocktail ice cubes for muddling and shaking
  • 5 to 7 fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2½ oz Crater Lake vodka
  • 1 oz lemon-lime juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup.
  • Lollipop rim* for garnish

Fill a tempered pint glass with ice and add the cilantro. Muddle until the ice is slushy and the cilantro is evenly distributed throughout the ice. Add ice to fill the glass. Add the vodka, lemon-lime juice, and simple syrup. Cap the glass with a stainless steel cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a 10-ounce martini glass garnished with a lollipop rim. 

*Put 1 cup bakers sugar into a moderately deep, wide bowl. Make a cut in the middle of 1 lemon or orange wedge. Place the slice on the rim of a 10-ounce martini glass, and rotate around to coat the rim. Insert the lip of the glass into the sugar and quickly spin to coat. Tap the bottom of the glass to remove excess sugar.

Mint recipes adapted from: Hip Sips: Modern Cocktails to Raise Your Spirits by Lucy Brennan

What We Ate, 2005: Pok Pok Ike's Fish Sauce Wings

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Yes, there’s Voodoos maple bacon bar. Nongs chicken and rice. But the emblem of Portland’s past decade as a burgeoning food city is, without a doubt, a platter of Pok Pok’s fish sauce wings. During a time when Northwest chefs embraced the land and eschewed foreign flavors, owner and chef Andy Ricker was in Thailand, gleaning the secrets of Southeast Asian cooking with manic fervor. The success of these sticky-sweet wings (which Ricker says “basically pay our mortgage”), stippled with bites of caramelized garlic marked the birth of Portland’s modern identity as a serious national food destination. As we warned when we first published this recipe in 2013, there are no shortcuts—but the intricacies are what make Pok Pok’s wings exceptional.

Pok Pok’s Ikes Fish Sauce Wings

(Serves 4)  

  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • ½ cup Vietnamese fish sauce (Ricker recommends Phu Quoc or Three Crabs brand)
  • ½ cup superfine sugar
  • 2 lbs medium-size chicken wings (about 12), split at the joint
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • ¼ cup tempura batter mix (Ricker recommends Gogi brand)
  • ¼ cup water
  • Optional: 1–2 tsp naam phrik phao (roasted chile paste, for “spicy wings”)  

MARINATE Chop garlic finely, sprinkle salt, and chop together for about 15 more seconds. Scrape into a small bowl, add warm water, and let sit for a few minutes. Pour through a fine sieve set over a bowl, and use the back of a spoon to stir and smoosh garlic against the sieve, reserving leftover garlic. Add fish sauce and sugar to bowl, and stir until dissolved. Place chicken wings in a separate large bowl, add ½ cup of fish sauce mixture (reserve the rest in the refrigerator), and toss well. Cover and refrigerate wings for at least four hours, or overnight, tossing every few hours. 

FRY Heat ¾-inch vegetable oil in a small pan over high and add reserved garlic. Reduce heat to medium-low, fry until garlic is lightly golden brown, about 5 minutes, and transfer to paper towels to drain (reserve until final cooking stage). Transfer wings from refrigerator to a colander in the sink and let drain for 15 minutes. Stir together rice flour and tempura mix in a large bowl and toss wings until coated well. Pour enough oil into a wok or dutch oven to completely submerge the wings, about 2 inches, and bring oil to 325 degrees. (Measure with a candy thermometer.) Fry wings in two batches, gently knocking them against the bowl before adding to the oil. Cook each batch until evenly golden brown, about 10 minutes, prodding every few minutes. Transfer wings to paper towels to drain. 

FINISH Add ¼ cup water to the reserved ½ cup fish sauce mixture. Combine ¼ cup of the water–fish sauce mixture and half the chile paste (if you are using it), bring to a full boil in a nonstick wok, and reduce for about 45 seconds. Add half the wings and toss every 15 seconds, until a caramelized glaze coats the wings, about 1 minute. Add 1 tbsp of the fried garlic, toss well, and cook about 30 seconds longer. Rinse and wipe out wok, and repeat with the next batch of wings. Serve wings with pickled vegetables, cucumber spears, and herb sprigs. 

Adapted from: Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand by Andy Ricker

Bonus Web-Only Recipe! What We Baked, 1996: Robert Reynold's Fine Crumb Genoise Cake 

Robert reynolds genoise recipe courtesy kristin murray hupxia

Legendary local cooking teacher Robert Reynolds was fond of this light Italian sponge cake, a recipe he often taught to students at his Chef Studio in SE Portland. “He loved things like genoise cake,” says former student Mike Thelin, the cofounder of Feast Portland. “He loved the recipes that were really simple—and transform into something great [as if by] alchemy.” Try topping this cake with fresh whipped cream and strawberries.

Robert Reynolds’s Fine Crumb Genoise Cake  

  • 2¼ oz cake flour
  • 2 oz cornstarch
  • 1½ oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 5 oz sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ oz butter, melted
  • parchment paper 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round piece of parchment paper.

Place the eggs, yolks, and sugar in a bowl of a mixer and whip on high until they “form a good ribbon.” Meanwhile, sift the flours and cornstarch together into a bowl—sifting the mixture three times to incorporate. In another bowl, combine the butter and vanilla.

Fold the dry ingredients into the whipped eggs in three batches. Then add the butter mixture and, again, fold gently but thoroughly. Scrape the batter out into the prepared pan and bake until done, about 40 minutes.

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