Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The Swiss have a penchant for gadgetry, which is probably why I am so fond of their customs and traditions. A devise called a girolle is used specifically to cut this cheese into beautiful, thin ruffles. The cheese has a sharp and intense flavor, quite nutty and salty, with sweet fruity notes, so these light curls of cheese are an appropriate means of approaching it without being overwhelmed. I thought this unique appearance would be the perfect way to start serving a composed cheese plate.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
You don't have to feel guilty about dessert,
Sunday, March 13, 2011
This is because last night we were totally packed. Every bar seat taken, the chef's counter full, no extra chairs, packed. We got close with everyone. They loved it. We loved it too- but it was a hell of a ride.
Have you ever been a server? If you have, you know what it's like. You start the night by drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee. By the time the first crowd has arrived, you are dancing between tables, smiling and fresh faced. At 8 pm, between the two big turns, you feel like you are getting away with something. Everything is going so smoothly! Maybe you have one more cup of coffee to keep you going. Could it really be this easy? But then that first turn decides to linger over dessert. The second turn is packed in at the bar, hungry, anxious. They look at you with sad, hungry eyes. Your blood pressure rises. You have now run from the front to the back of the restaurant for 3 hours and your bangs are starting to look a little messy. Maybe you're sweating. This is when things really get wild- but this is also the part that I can't describe. I know it involves making sure a lot of people are happy about leaving and happy about arriving, but otherwise it's a blur. I have heard that women forget the pain of child birth in order to keep the planet populated. I guess this is what nature does to keep servers in jobs- nature gives us stress, which causes us to temporarily black out. I remember once a table asked me if I was having an out-of-body experience during one of our most memorable rushes. I had to admit that I was. Last night when it was over we tried to remember the details of the evening but we were so breathless and exhausted, we couldn't look back.
Luckily I do remember the very end of the night- meatball subs for staff meal. They were like medicine.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Finding the right people to work with is the hardest part of what I do as a chef. Hiring and training occupy the biggest slice of my time pie chart. I particularly like the training piece because that’s where I start to see a return for my efforts. I’ve learned how to spot a great cook by how they look at their products. A great cook will treat my products as THEIR products. They respect them. They take responsibility for them. They know that their food will never be better than their raw materials.
I look at my staff in a similar way. They have become my products. I respect them and take responsibility for them in the same way that a great cook will take care of their products.
Arguably my best “product” is David Padberg. He’s been my Chef de Cuisine for the past 6 years. He has become one of the great forces that move Park Kitchen forward. There are many reasons for this. The biggest is his appetite for knowledge. Anybody who knows David will put to rest the idea that being a cook is an uneducated profession. He makes it his business to learn everything he can about our products. He knows how they are grown, who grows them, what’s the history behind them, if they came from another country, he will learn their language.
He’s not content to simply read about a subject in order to gain knowledge. He travels extensively and I’ve had the pleasure of traveling with him on many occasions. His travel itineraries are legendary. Twelve to sixteen hour days planned to the minute. He just got back from his third extended trip to Japan in the past 6 years to further his extensive knowledge of Sake. This time around, he traveled to Tokyo, Akita and Kyoto with esteemed sake gurus John Gaunter and Markus Pakiser. You can check out this trip on his blog Nourishing Ideas
Like all great chefs he is a perfectionist. Early on at Park Kitchen he would ride my cooks so hard that I had to temper his drive so that I wouldn’t lose cooks. He has mellowed slightly, but only enough to make the rest of my cooks feel comfortable.
These are obvious attributes that most people who know him and what he does here can readily pick up. What isn’t so obvious is what he has contributed to the evolution of the cuisine at Park Kitchen. From the beginning, David has contributed to the development of the menu. We have been constant sounding boards for each others ideas. This hasn’t always been peaceful and easy. Democracy and creativity aren’t always groovy bed partners. We have arguments just about every week about what should and shouldn’t be on the menu. But mostly we listen and have a great respect for each other after we rip each other apart over what should go on the menu next week. This has happened routinely for the past 312 weeks. It sounds a little bit like marriage. And it is…312 wonderful weeks… As a lifetime lover of women, a devoted husband and father of 2, I’d say my relationship with Padberg is about as close to gay as I want to get.
That’s probably too much information but what’s important is that David is the rare chef that needs to constantly better himself and in doing so he pushes me to do better things. In order for him to grow, I need to give him the space to move into. In the coming months, I’m going to give him that space at Park Kitchen. He’s hungry for it and deserves it. You will start to see more of his experience and his personality on the Park Kitchen menu. I know how it’s going to play out but I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to come in and feed.
I’m certainly not going to step out of the Kitchen. I will cook and be on the line as I always have, just not quite as much. David and my new young gun Kris Komori will be doing most of the heavy lifting in that arena. Now, I will have more time make sure that the quality of what Park Kitchen does as a whole continues to evolve and improve.
David’s wanted this change for a while. I’m excited to see what he does with it.
Friday, February 25, 2011
February, 26th 2011
It's the bleak part of winter. The holidays have come and gone. Spray tanning has lost it's luster. It's cold and gray. We will be reliving the same exact cold and gray day for another 3 months. The long haul of winter is in front of us. From a meteorological standpoint, February in Portland is a straight and unremarkable road with no horizon, no beautiful sunsets, no picturesque farm stands to entice us to pull over and enjoy the moment. Any sane person would want to escape from this, just for a little while. A vacation would be nice. We can rationalize the absolute need to travel to Hawaii or Mexico because the sun will inspire us. We'll get new ideas. We'll re-energize. We'll be able to reinvent the wheel as soon as we come back.
I've heard this story many times. This time of year, some overworked and underpaid Park Kitchen employee will half jokingly implore me to take the entire staff to the Bahamas in February. It'll do wonders for company morale. Actually, It'll be like a very large and dysfunctional vacation where all of my pasty-white cooks will get sun poisoning and I'll have to worry about employees getting detained at airport security. No Thanks.
It's not that they don't deserve it. I expect a lot and they give a lot. But this is a restaurant. No one gets paid what they deserve, including me. Somehow, this fact isn't so depressing in the summer. It's a lot harder to deal with it in February. Gray wet skies create no diversions for desperation.
Fortunately I have the power to stave off a mass onset of seasonal affective disorder and show a small token of my appreciation to my small and dedicated band of followers. I can provide the occasion for drunken debauchery.
The Park Kitchen staff party was a big hit this year. At least all those who remember it do so fondly. It started with a freakishly delicious crab boil cooked by Feastworks. Feastworks is new catering company run by Ethan Bizagna and his lovely wife Ashley Brown Bizagna. Ethan's day job is as the head butcher at Laurelhurst Market. Ashley was the chef at Kir and was a former Park Kitchen all star before she and Ethan started Feastworks. They nailed it. Root beer floats, Crabs, spicy sausages, mussels, clams, and a kale salad that my wife will not let me live down. If you are ever thinking about throwing a party, look closely at what these studs put on the table and remember to call them.
After dinner, I was presented with a really lovely gift.
That is a stunning glass musket filled with cheap tequila...and fireworks. What a thoughtful present. Not exactly the type of thing I’m going to take home and mount over the fireplace. We have no choice but to drink the booze tonight and light the fireworks off inside because it's fucking pouring outside. Very,very thoughtful.
And because I thought that things might get a little sloppy, I called the bus to take us around for the evening.
Very sweet bus.
First stop was black light 3-D pirate golf downtown. I got a hole in one.
Back on the bus and off to Spirit of 77. It’s amazing to me that as soon as you show drunk people a brass pole, they feel the need to hang on it like a horny monkey.
After we closed that down, it was back on the bus and off to Radio Cab but not before a brief stop at Voodoo Doughnuts. As far as I know nobody hurled at that point but it might have been a good idea.
The next day, nobody seemed to have a clear idea of what transpired after we got on the bus. We were able to piece it together through corroborated accounts and photos.
The hangovers were impressive and ubiquitous on Tuesday. Nothing like a little mid winter escape to re-energize my staff.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
A few weeks later, our other bartender, Nic Peterson, had gone chanterelle hunting and had returned with a copious amount of chantrelles, even more then he could use. Nic wanted to infuse vodka with his chantrelle excess, and we did just that.
To begin, you'll want to clean the mushrooms very well. We mixed about 3lbs of chantrelle mushrooms, of any size, that had been halved or quartered, with about 6 liters of vodka. For this recipe, an inexpensive, good quality vodka will do. We use Gordon's.
Let the vodka sit for about 3 weeks. While we let our vodka rest, The chantrelles changed vastly in size. At first, they were so plump they took up more space than the vodka. Eventually, the mushrooms shrank, and continued to shrink. The final state of the mushrooms wasn't the most visually appealing sight, more like a failed science experiment. But, if nothing else it was a great conversation starter.
Once we had our finished product, it was time to start experimenting. When conceptualizing this drink, I wanted to keep it very simple. I wanted the earthy, savory quality of the mushrooms shine through. I thought this vodka really lent itself to a martini style drink. My initial thought was to swap out the vermouth for sake. Many sakes have wonderful qualities that work very well in cocktails. I was hoping to find one that would pair nicely with our vodka. After experimenting with several sakes, I decided that it just wasn't going to work. I went back to basics. I immediately thought of a white martini. A martini that uses the sweeter blanc vermouth, as opposed to regular french or dry vermouth. The result is an extemely savory martini, with the mysterious and unmistakable flavor of chanterelles. The lemon oils expressed over top adds a brightness that makes this drink pop.
After The Rain
1.5 oz Chanterelle infused Vodka
1.5 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
Combine vodka and vermouth in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir well until the drink is nice and cold. Strain into a chilled martini glass, express the oils from the lemon peel over top of the drink, and discard the lemon peel.
One final note, we only have a few more bottles left so come in and try this cocktail while you still can.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Gentle readers, we are rapidly approaching Valentines day. Are you ready? Have you pre-ordered chocolates from Xocolatl de David? Have you decided where in your house you will hide the large bouquet of peonies you got for your honey (inside the shop-vac!)? Most importantly, have you made reservations for dinner at Park Kitchen yet? They are going fast!
Here is the plan. You will come in and take a seat. Maybe you'll even decide to sit next to each other, you know, for romance.We will start you off with oysters and bubbles. Next you can each choose between chickpea fries or a pomegranate salad with goat cheese and squash. Maybe now it's time for a cocktail? Or just more bubbles. Either way, you'll want something to go along with the evening's special fish preparation or lamb with winter vegetables and truffles. For dessert, there will be panna cotta with blood oranges or devil's food cake with red wine poached pears. A little Sauternes, a little coffee, what's next? Don't tell us.
You also have the option of doing the chef's tasting menu, where you throw your hands in the air and let the chef do all the work. That way you don't have to make any decisions and each dish will be a fun surprise.
You decide which you prefer- the set menu or the chef's choice. They are both $60 a head for the meal and include a delicious glass of bubbles.
Hate romance? Don't worry, we will have our normal menu all weekend. We do, however, anticipate 20% more hand holding at the restaurant over the weekend, and are crossing our fingers for festive Valentines day sweaters. Come in and make our dreams come true.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Flight #2 was "Dry style Riesling- focused on terroir". The wines were of the same vintage and region in this case, but from very different vineyard sites. I had a hard time wrapping my head around this flight because the wines were so different! It was helpful having a clear example of how terrior really affects wine- on paper it seemed like the wines should taste very similarly but in fact they were worlds apart. Stone, soil, sunlight, micro climate, shade, runoff... the list of variables is astounding. I have so much to learn.
Flight #3 was "traditional Riesling- Kabinett-Spatlese". These two had different weights but similar flavor profiles. Again, it was nice to focus on the texture of the wine and experience sweet wines with beautiful, lemony acidity. I am hoping to help spread the gospel of Riesling. People fear sweet wine- it has a bad reputation. I am about to wedge 2 or 3 of them on our list, and hopefully start turning that reputation around! Rieslings are made to be enjoyed with food!
Flight #4 was nuts. It was called "Rieslings well aged". We tasted a '99 Jos. Christoffel Spatlese and a '93 Jos. Christoffel Auslese. My first sniff of the '99 was memorable. My first instinct was to turn in horror, but mostly I was curious. The wine smelled like a dirty closet that a cat first peed in, and then died in. It was weird, it was bad, but it was interesting. I was nervous to taste it, and I am so glad I did! It tasted like an herb garden, full of honey and flowers. Wow. I don't know what the story behind the nose on that wine was, but I grew to really appreciate it once I tasted the wine it guarded. The '93 on the other hand had a beautiful flowery nose and tasted like dried apricots. Very easy to love.
Flight #5 was dessert wines. Beerenauslese and Eiswein. They were sweet, it's true, but the balance of acidity and ripe fruit was perfect for each of them. The eiswein was brighter and livelier than the beerenauslese, but I almost enjoyed the sweet burn of the beerenauslese more than the perfection of the eiswein...almost.
It is easy to think "Riesling" has only one identity, but in fact it has many. Rieslings can be bone dry, herbal, creamy, rich, or light. They can be wonderful, and yes they can be terrible. You wont find any of those ones here at Park Kitchen, however. Next time you are in, talk to your server about what we have available... I am imagining a Riesling glass pour in our future....
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
In today's world, seafood can only be considered in the global market. Unfortunately, what this means is that if the currency exchange is better in Japan and China, they will likely buy most of our Dungeness crab, or if the demand for salmon and king crab is greater in Japan than it is in America, they will buy most of Alaska's catch, as they have for decades. Portland is not a big city, and it is not on the coast. It is much easier to deliver large quantities of seafood to San Francisco or Seattle or Vancouver, and that is usually what happens.
This problem is compounded by the ignorance of the consumer. If you go to the fish counter of Whole Foods or New Seasons, you will find far more seafood from the Atlantic than from the Pacific Ocean, if they even bother to label its source. For all of these reasons, the question you should ask when buying "fresh fish" should be how well has it been handled in its fresh and highly perishable, highly vulnerable state. Is it better than that of seafood which has been frozen at the peak of its freshness, and delivered with no further handling damage to its final destination? There are certainly instances where frozen is better, like dense fleshed fish, and rich, oily fish. I'll always take frozen anchovies over fresh, unless I'm buying them on the coast.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Barnaby started his career in wine long ago at Papa Haydn. He started out as a young man washing dishes, then busing, then waiting tables, assistant managing, general managing, and finally buying wine. The day that Ewald brought him in a special collection of German wines was the day that Barnaby realized his future as a wine maker. He knew that he had a passion for German wines, and wanted to try making similar wines in Oregon.
He and Olga first planted 56 chardonnay plants in their back yard in order to experiment with grape growing. They made small amounts of "yard chard" while Barnaby studied up on wine making by reading books and taking classes. In 2005 Olga and Barnaby had the opportunity to plant a vineyard on their friends' land (an old garlic farm) in Alsea, Oregon. The site falls out of the Willamette Valley AVA and is very close to the coast- meaning they would have to work with cold, wet and difficult growing conditions. While some people might not like the sounds of that, these conditions sounded just right for the wines that they loved- lighter styled, mineral-driven wines. They planted 2 acres of Pinot Noir, Pinot Menuier, and Pinot Blanc. In 2008 they had their first commercial sale. Since then, Barnaby and Olga have run the whole show- from working the land and harvesting the grapes to bottling and selling the wines. They work long hours every week, but the wines are exactly as they want them to be.
I had the chance to taste their first vintage at a friends house last year. I had never tasted anything like their '08 Pinot Menuier, and still regret not buying a few bottles to hold on to when they were still available! But the name (and perfect label) stuck in my mind, and when I started buying wine for Park Kitchen in the spring of 2010, their Riesling was one of the first wines I selected. The Park Kitchen staff, as well as Chef Scott and his wife Mary, loved the wine so much that we were able to keep a steady order with Olga and Barnaby.
All of this adds up to one great story, and a story that we want to share with you in more detail at our dinner on the 28th. Come meet Olga, Barnaby and Ewald and try the wines that they, and we, love.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Thanks for everything Chris,
Thursday, January 6, 2011
This is a picture of Bubba eating duck cracklings.
That’s correct. Duck cracklings, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, are fried pieces of rendered duck skins. If that sounds crappy to you then don’t waste your time with this. I will explain how and why we are blessed with these small crunchy bits of heaven later. For now what you should know is that duck cracklings are one of my trophies. I look upon them as the cook’s spoils. So rarefied are these crunchy culinary elixirs that enjoying them is relegated almost exclusively to those who have the skill, and patience to work for a boss who has vision and is cheap enough to require their production. Until now, eating them has been one of the few fringe benefits of my cooks, particularly Bubba.
Creating them is a bit of a process. We break down our ducks 3 times a week. Each whole duck weighs about 4 ½ pounds. Each duck gives us 2 breasts, 2 legs, 2 wings, 1 liver, 1 heart, bones, a few bits of trim meat and a fair amount of skin that gets trimmed off the legs and breasts. It’s not hard to imagine the legs and breast making money for us in a very tasty fashion. The rub is that we pay for the whole bird by the pound. The legs and breasts only account for about half the weight of the duck. It would be disrespectful to that poor bird and frivolous of us to simply discard the remaining half. So, the wings become duck sugo. The bones become stock. The livers become a sauce (more on this later), and the skin gets rendered for duck fat. When we render the skin for fat, the bronzed bits of shin left on the bottom of the pot are our little trophies at the end of the night. A little salt, a bit of chili and we have the worlds best beer snack while we clean the hoods.
Why should our beer snacks be so important outside of their deliciousness?
They are the kernel of an idea for a salad.
Bubba and I were snacking on duck cracklings a while back. Like many times before, he suggested that we unleash duck cracklings on the dining public. In the past it seemed negligent to give away our prized snacks over the bevy of beautiful vegetables that are waiting to make a show on our menu. The difference this time was that Bubba had suggested this in December. December is slim pickins’ for us in the local vegetable department which makes it difficult for us to come up with ideas for new menu items.
The timing of Bubba’s exhortations could not have been better. That very day I had recognized that we were stockpiling duck meat trimmings and livers in our freezer. Duck meat, duck livers, duck cracklings… There’s a whole animal dish in there somewhere. But I already had a great duck entrée on the menu and I wanted ideas for a salad. Bubba saw that the wheels were turning, just not quite fast enough. “What if we used the duck liver sauce from the previous duck entrée as a dipping sauce for the cracklings?” he asked.
The duck liver sauce he was referring to is a sauce that we use now and again here at Park Kitchen as a condiment. It would be perfect. Slightly sweetened with red wine braised onions. Slightly sour with vinegar. It’s like ketchup. Trust me. A great foil for duck cracklings.
But duck cracklings and dipping sauce is still just a great stoney beer snack. A great salad needed substance, structure, visual appeal and balance. The substance could easily be provided by poached fingerling potatoes. The leaves of brussels sprouts, a trusty winter staple, could provide the structure. Mustard and pickles would be a natural if not slightly stodgy complement to this sturdy concoction. What if we pickled a fruit for this salad? Fruit and duck go way back together. Oranges would work but pears would be better. My favorite new way to make pickles is to compress fruit in our kryovac machine. With no cooking at all, it renders intriguing transparent slices of fruit that look and feel cooked but taste deliciously raw and fresh. Compressed pears it is.
But what about the scrap duck meat? It would be elegant if we could incorporate all of the spare duck parts into one salad. Usually what we do with the spare duck parts is cure them to make duck ham or incorporate them into terrines and pate. The salad that was formulating in my head could use a touch of salt. Instead of simply adding salt to the dish, I decided to try making duck jerky out of the scraps and using it to salt the salad. Duck jerky is easy to make and who doesn’t love a little jerky with their duck cracklings?
Duck parts and stoney beer snacks for cooks can be powerful tools. They can be used to create an intriguingly delicious salad on the menu now at your local Park Kitchen.
Ask for it by name. It’s called “The rest of the duck salad”.
Posted by Scott. Jan 6th 2011
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Now that we are back, we have started the new schedule (open Sundays, closed for lunch) and are very excited for our first Pork and Pinot Sunday on the 9th. In case you haven't heard about it, let me explain. Sunday nights from 5-9 pm we will be offering a special deal for our pork-loving friends out there. For $30 you can have a leafy green salad, a big plate of pork (how it will be prepared is a weekly surprise!) and a glass of 2008 Pappas Pinot Noir. In case you aren't familiar with it already, Pappas is made by Athena and Stewart Boedecker of Boedecker Cellars. All of their wines are lovingly hand crafted here in Portland, Oregon. We are thrilled to serve Athena's namesake wine along side our favorite beast (raised by Square Peg Farms... stay tuned for more about that!)- a truly local experience.
Of course the full menu will still be available on Sundays, as well as happy hour at the bar from 5-7 every night! Call ahead, give OpenTable a whirl, or just stop by. We look forward to seeing you soon.