Say goodbye to cucumber cream cheese sandwiches and hello to sencha quinoa, masala chai morning buns, and rose-pistachio rubble. Chef and forager Karl Holl, PoMo’s 2018 Chef of the Year and culinary consultant for Smith Teamaker, is helming the menu at the company’s new Andee Hess-designed cafe, slated to open May 29 at 500 NW 23rd Ave on the late namesake teamaker’s birthday. The vegetarian, plant-focused menu will incorporate Smith’s teas into dishes in creative ways, ranging from jasmine-roasted beets to sheep’s cheese infused with tea powder. “My goals were, how can we highlight our tea—[creating] a new tea time, in a sense?” Holl says.
Holl’s approach to working with tea as an ingredient? Use it like a spice—sparingly, not overpoweringly. Jasmine tips replace the thyme sprigs he’d typically use to roast a rainbow of beets; the beets are then thinly sliced like sandwich meat, layered with avocado, veggies, and powdered White Petal tea blended into sheep’s cheese, all sandwiched between Grano Bakery’s spelt bread to make the Garden Sandwich. For one of his breakfast cups, Holl will combine coconut yogurt with Red Nectar tea-infused strawberry jam, toasted coconut, orange zest, fennel pollen, and a concoction he calls raspberry-rose rubble: rose petals, toasted genmaicha, pistachios, and white chocolate. The Smith Bowl will combine sencha-infused quinoa with tea-plumped raisins, kale, apples, spiced sweet potato, and chai walnuts. For dessert, Holl will offer thumbprint cookies filled with tea-infused jam, among others (he’s been playing around with tea cookies for a while; we featured Karl’s chai chocolate chip cookie recipe in last winter’s issue of Portland Monthly).
Because the tea flavors are mild, Holl says, you can pair these dishes with any of Smith's numerous tea options, whether served hot by the cup or the pot, in a curated tea flight, gaiwan-style, iced, in a nonalcoholic tea cocktail, or pulled from the espresso machine to make a latte. And not every dish involves tea—take, for example, the turmeric noodles with Napa cabbage, pickled carrots, and herbs that were a hit during Holl’s pop-ups at Smith Teamaker over the summer, or the buckwheat peanut butter miso cookies on the dessert menu. But Holl is confident he can turn visitors into tea-loving converts if they aren’t already.
“Kind of funny—pre-working with Smith, I was an avid coffee drinker, not so much a tea drinker,” Holl says. “But if you know me, you affiliate me with a couple of things, and it’s pigs, mushrooms, and plants.... Our ethos aligned [with] my style of cooking—being connected deeply to where my food comes from... What we do at Smith is very much in the same form of how we source our ingredients—very connected and thoughtful,” he says. After a tea tasting with Smith’s head tea maker, and a discussion of their similar approaches toward building flavor, Holl says, “I instantly fell in love with tea.”
Smith Teamaker, opening May 29; 500 NW 23rd Ave, indoor and covered outdoor seating available, plus takeout and delivery, 9 am to 5 pm.