Veggie Love: Bizarre Buffet

3 Amazingly Weird Things Chef Aaron Adams Does with Plants at Farm Spirit

The modernist chef is fearless when it comes to vegan ferments.

By Liz Crain August 14, 2017 Published in the September 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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Aaron Adams plates an early course from one of his veggie-loving feasts at Farm Spirit.

Black Limes

These wrinkled, traditionally sun-dried limes historically hail from the Middle East. The in-house version at Farm Spirit, the chef’s-counter-only restaurant Adams runs in the Buckman hood, look like moistened dried figs and taste, according to the chef, “intensely fermented, smoky, and packed with lime flavor—without any of that lime brightness.” Adams got his hands on some yellow limes, boiled them in salt water, and then dried and fermented them whole for a week. Farm Spirit has recently been using them in a beet-black lime stuffing that’s rolled up in fresh beet leaves and served in a tart, fermented broth.

Vintage Pink Bean Miso

Not all miso is made from soybeans. Take Adams’s slightly sweet miso, created with pink beans from Lonesome Whistle Farm in Junction City, Oregon (think pinto beans, but smaller). Thick and caramel colored, it smells like soy sauce, tomatoes, and umeboshi all at once—Adams loves it. Sous-chef Ricardo Perez fermented the beans with salt and koji (mold-inoculated rice or barley) for a year. Now they use the mildly nutty, addictive paste in all sorts of dishes, like sous-vide potato snacks made with waxy potatoes, served warm in miso-stout beer broth and topped with scallions and toasted hazelnuts.

Rejuvelac-Soaked Seed Sauces

Farm Spirit is all about nut, seed, and grain ferments. The kitchen uses house-made quinoa rejuvelac (a nonboozy fermented-grain drink popularized in the 1960s) for a host of cultured seed sauces. The one that Adams likes best is a rich and creamy one made from rejuvelac-soaked and fermented sunflower seeds. The kitchen serves it ladled over basil-rich dumplings stuffed with roasted and puréed zucchini, parsley, chives, and basil. Adams also dehydrates the sunflower sauce to make a zippy, crumbly topper for savory dishes.

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