An early fall haul from small local farms

Image: Karen Brooks

 

If life were truly just, every neighborhood would have a place like Coquine Market—inviting, intimate, and more passionate than a Sound of Music sing-a-long. Who needs a million choices on the shelves? We just want someone to take us inside their food brain, narrow it down to the good stuff, and park it in a room with personality.

That's Coquine Market, a house of noshing and shopping at 6833 SE Belmont St. Next door is the acclaimed Coquine restaurant, where everyday Michelin-worthy cooking arrives in an unexpected place: a sleepy residential corner beneath idyllic Mt Tabor Park. The restaurant, recently reopened for limited indoor dining, never let up on its ambitions and commitments through a long stretch of take-out and curbside dining.

Coquine Market is all the things you might expect from an obsessive chef trained in the trenches of France. That includes the good olive oils, the lovely butter and eggs, the fresh chicken stock, the prized bags of Okinawan brown sugar used like finishing salt, and the big jars of maple syrup—the best you can imagine via Gresham farmer Dan Sullivan.

But Coquine Market is so much more.

Coquine co-owner and chef Katy Millard

Image: Karen Brooks

The first hint: chipper customers, cloth bags in hand, lined up on a Saturday afternoon for weekly CSA produce pickups, a pet project of Coquine's Katy Millard and Ksandek Podbielski. In the early days of the pandemic, the couple helped lead the call to provide income revenue for farmers and purveyors. What began as “farm direct pickup boxes” also helped keep the lights on and maintain staff jobs. Those early boxes—stocked with farm vegetables, Coava coffee beans, fresh eggs, picks from the Cow Bell cheesemonger,  sweet little bouquets by Coquine's house “florist”—are now the backbone of what grew into Coquine Market.

They're just the beginning. 

Coquine Market's coffee-pastry bar

Image: Karen Brooks

A coffee-pastry bar is situated to the right. Here, a dedicated barista turns Coava beans into spot-on espresso drinks to pair with changing baked goods stacked on pie plates—perhaps a huckleberry mascarpone Danish or a savory meat and cheese scone. Since the pandemic, demand for Coquine's baking quadrupled. “I'm not sure what happened with Covid and pastries, but it's insane,” says Millard.

Changing house breads, the handiwork of baker Charles Hanks, are the latest customer fixation, rye to cinnamon raisin; the day’s selection is also supplemented by Little T Baker breads. And always, always, the vaunted Coquine Cookies are on display, major chocolate chippers deep in the vapors of smoked almonds rolled in toffee. 

I don't know about you, but this is how I want to kick off my grocery chores. And wait, we're not done eating yet. 

Coquine's popular brunch, on hiatus since last year, lives again (Friday-Sunday, 10 am-2 pm), though the goal is to move it back next door with full service at some point. For now, order at the counter for take-out or sidewalk dining. House signatures, blueberry pancakes to barley flour waffles, cycle through the changing menus. But inspirations from veteran Coquine cook Greg Redfield are evident, including a textbook-perfect patty melt and terrific triple-cooked French fries, a labor-intensive process pioneered by legendary chef Heston Blumenthal.   

Coquine Market's produce island

Image: Karen Brooks

The heart of Coquine Market lies in the center of the room, an island of produce—what a kitchen counter would look like in heaven after a farmer's market run. Even the onions look sexy, each the size of bocce balls.

If you know Millard, you know she's fanatically devoted to small local farmers; you've seen her chewing her way through the Saturday market at PSU, hunting for the best products. How many farms are repped at Coquine Market? I ask and Millard rattles off an astounding nine farms, among them chef favorites like Ayer's Creek, Black Locust, Flying Coyote, and Pablo Munoz Farms.

The back of the store hits Coquine's other obsession, wine, which is Podbielski's territory. I've always found his palate interesting and eminently trustworthy, and appreciate his focus here: wines under $25. Ask for a recommendation and it comes with a back story, like Loop de Loops Wildflower Project 2020, from Washington winemaker Julia Bailey. “She salvaged her smoke-tainted vines last year,” says Podbielski. “This is what the vintage gave us. A little smoke in the right hands can be delicious.”

Going forward, the goal is to add more staples—a good unsalted butter alongside the nice French one. Also coming: more Coquine prepared foods and meal kits, which found a following during the pandemic. “We don't want to be specialty store,” says Millard. “The whole idea was to be a neighborhood place. We want it to feel like going to your neighbor's house to borrow a cup of sugar.”

That is, if your neighbor happens to stock Okinawan brown sugar.

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