Monday, December 20, 2010

The Golden Luncheons

We are starting to feel a little pre-nostalgia for lunch here at Park Kitchen! Come celebrate our last week of lunch service and help us make some final extra-special memories to look back on. Have you tried Bubba's Swan Song Sandwich? It might not contain actual swan, but it does boast our other favorite water fowl. Or perhaps you're still crazy about the flank steak salad after all these years. So are we!
Maybe this week you can finally have that lunch time cocktail you've been resisting.
Another perfect goodbye-to-lunch at PK idea is the tasting menu. Leave it up to Scott to show you the way around the lunch menu, one last time.
Whatever you choose, we you soon...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Addition

Purchasing liquor for a restaurant can be difficult. As bar manager, I only have so much space on the back bar, and it is important for me to have a varied, yet selective, spirits list. When it comes to the more expensive spirits, you have to be especially discerning; high end products move off the shelf at a slower rate than the more moderately priced labels. About a month ago we sold the last of our Pappy Van Winkle 20 year (We still carry the 12yr "Lot B" as well as the 23 yr "Family Reserve"). I didn't feel the need to replace the 20 year Pappy for one reason in particular: Every fall, Buffalo Trace Distillery releases their "Antique Collection," a line of 5 different whiskeys. These bottles are highly sought after due to their very limited release. Especially in a control state, like Oregon, these bottles can be very hard to come by. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to procure one bottle of George T. Stagg from this years release. Out of the five, Stagg has always been my favorite. Last year, it was awarded the title: "Bourbon of the Year" in Jim Murray's Whiskey Bible. This year's release was distilled way back in the winter of 1993 and packs a serious punch at 71.5% ABV or 143 proof. It's uncut and unfiltered, and I've seen bottles that have a small amount of black soot that has settled in the base, evidence of barrel char. Stagg is best enjoyed by itself or, if you're like me, with a little water as well, to bring down the proof a bit. If you're going to mix with Stagg, I highly recommend using it in a Old Fashioned or Staggerac, which is simply a Sazerac made with George T. Stagg. Another little trick I use is: make an Old Fashioned and use 1.5oz of Buffalo Trace bourbon as well as an additional .5-.75oz of the Stagg. Since Stagg is so flavorful, you can really stretch the flavor and make the bottle last. Now, I just have to decide if I'm going back for the Thomas H. Handy Rye.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What to do with a Medlar?

What is a medlar? It sounds like a creature from the latest Harry Potter film. Few people have heard of these eclectic fruits, much less tasted them. They have fallen out of fashion over the past century, perhaps because they aren't very easy to eat. In centuries past, they were more common, with remnants strewn through English literature. Shakespeare alludes to medlars in "As You Like It," where he writes "'ll be rotten ere you be half ripe, and that's the right virtue of the medlar." Before they can be eaten, they must be bletted, but what on earth does that mean? There are a few fruits that are terribly astringent in their immature stages, most of them are Asian fruits like the durian, loquat, hachiya persimmons and hawthorns. The flesh must be completely mushy before that astringency is transformed into sweetness and acidity.

Tremaine Arkley sells his quince to Park Kitchen, and we ended up in a conversation about medlars, which his wife planted after reading about them in a Victorian novel. He gave me twenty five pounds of fruits to develop recipes this year. Once the medlars have bletted, they are very soft and oozing with clear juices. They have a very large seed pod and thick skins, much like rose hips. In fact, it was a thought about rose hips that brought the medlars to my door. I was watching the squirrels in my back yard as they foraged for food. They were nibbling on the rose hips, high in vitamin c and other nutrients. Suddenly, I thought of our conversation about the medlars, and I pictured birds and squirrels feasting on them in the trees. I called Tremaine right then, who had forgotten about our conversation. He rescued the harvest for my cooking.

I have stewed the medlars into a paste, which can then be used for a number of applicatioins both savory and sweet. I've made some medlar frangipane for apple tarts, and simmered the paste with bourbon to make a glaze for braised pork belly. I just put up a batch of medlar bourbon as well, a simple infusion of quartered fruits, sugar a split vanilla bean and bourbon. It should be ready for tasting by New Year's Eve. Come and taste a forgotten fruit.



Monday, December 6, 2010


Let's get one thing straight. I never thought that I would post a blog. Ever. Given a choice of tools that would enhance the human condition I would choose a stove and a my Nenox knife over a computer and a wireless modem every time. The kitchen is my cage of choice. I want to spend my time cooking and computer time is the antithesis of cooking time. So why am I rationalizing as I sit on my ass writing this first post on the Park Kitchen Blog as my cooks scrub the hood?

There are stories to tell about Park Kitchen. There is information that will make your experience at Park Kitchen more relevant, more enjoyable. You can read about it here if you want.

Not that we won't enjoy telling a good story either. It's true. We've said in the past that we like to let people come to their own conclusions. We don't want to use Park Kitchen as our soap box to talk about our brilliant food choices. Although it could be said that would be very Portland...This isn't about that.

I was terrified when I started Park Kitchen that I would have to stop learning and evolving in order to be an effective boss. Thankfully I work with whip smart cooks and servers who have proved me wrong every day I've come to work over the past 8 years. Not one day has passed without a cook, a server or a purveyor sending me off on a half an hour research project. So, if I need to do that much digesting of information just to keep up with my own restaurant, how are we supposed to keep our guests informed with 3 measly pieces of menu paper. We must really be keeping our customers in the dark.

Fear not. The Park Kitchen Blog has arrived... with stories to tell.

Information first. Stories later. The rumors are true. Park Kitchen will be opening for dinner on Sunday nights starting on January 9th. We've been trying to ignore your requests to have Sunday evening service for a few years but we've learned to listen to what our business is telling us. It's whispering, "Sunday night is calling. Your customers want it. Your landlord wants it. What are you waiting for." We're not going to wait any longer. Not only are we going to do it, we're going to do it like a proper Portlander...

We're going to offer Pork And Pinot Sundays.

Even for us vegivores, pork can always substitute as our favorite vegetable. Especially when it comes from Chris and Amy out at Square Peg Farm. That's why every Sunday will be a Pork And Pinot Sunday at Park Kitchen. We'll supply a generous green salad, a large plate focused on our favorite "other white meat" and a generous glass of Pinot Noir from the Beaver State. You, the dinner, simply supply $30 plus a tip. Easy. Cheap. Delicious. No thought involved. Of course we will have other fantastic choices for you to contemplate on Sundays but why make it hard? Pork And Pinot Sundays. Save your thought processes for the rest of the week.

There must be some catch here. In dark economic times, we can't always wear our golden speedos. In order for us to focus our attention on dinner 7 nights a week for the rest of our lives, we are putting Park Kitchen's lunch up on the chopping block. December 24th will be the last lunch at Park Kitchen. We've put a lot of thought into this decision. We know that there are a lot of regular customers that prefer Park Kitchen lunches to Park Kitchen dinners. In order for us to sustain the level of work that we put into our food and service, we felt that we needed to focus on one service. We put a lot of work into what we believed to be the best lunch in town. It was fast and affordable. It was delicious and restorative. All of the same meticulously sourced ingredients. The same technique. The same gracious and warm service. Arguably the best house made hot dog outside of Chicago. Half the price. It was a business owners poster child for a labor of love. We feel that this is the right time for us to make the decision to focus on dinner. For our regular lunch customers (you know who you are) Park Kitchen offer's our heartfelt appreciation for your patronage. In many ways, we will miss it as much as you will. Come and get your hot dogs while they last. Don't miss Bubba's Swan Song either. (It's a duck confit sloppy joe)


Friday, December 3, 2010

Wine & Youths Today

Wines, arranged as though in a teenager's bedroom

I am the wine buyer for Park Kitchen, and I am also 25 years old. These two things are, for the most part, not related. However, when you do the math and realize that I have only been able to drink (legally) for 4 years, maybe they become a little bit more related.

The world of wine is a world I don't always feel like I fit into. I don't have a big interest in vine clones. I can't tell you what Burgundy vintages were like in the 70's, 80's or 90's. I don't own any wine charms (but am certain that they are in my future), and my licence plate does not declare that "life is a Merlot". When I first stared buying wine earlier this year, I looked for these kinds of differences as indications of my inadequacy. I felt like I was just too young to be taken seriously in the field.

But. Weeks went by, and I didn't give up. My co-pilot Nic sat by my side during tastings, making jokes and forcing wine vendors to laugh with us (not at us. OK, at us). Eventually I realized that there are lots of people in the wine business who are down to earth, lively, and ready to make fun of anything. In other words, my people. Wine doesn't have to be an elitist hobby, it doesn't have to be expensive, and it doesn't have to be intimidating. Wine is a delicious agricultural product. It goes great with food. It is nothing to be afraid of.

Our wine list reflects the fresh palettes and attitudes that we possess. The list was originally created by people with more experience and superior knowledge of wine, and now it is being adapted by giant geeks who can't stop buying unheard of varietals. We are excited about wine, and for this reason the list is getting stronger every week.

Don't be afraid to ask your server who still has braces what their favorite wine is on the list. They might surprise you.