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

After The Rain

I'm fairly new to the west coast. So, foraging for mushrooms is a concept that's new to me as well. While talking with Dave Padberg, our chef de cuisine, he mentioned that it is an annual event for him to make chanterelle vodka with mushrooms that he's foraged himself, here in Oregon. Dave described the vodka as having an earthy and very unique flavor. A vodka good for drinking on the rocks.

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
Lemon Peel

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

Romance at Park Kitchen (?!?!)

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.

xoxo, Jenny