Sunday, November 21, 2010

One of the reasons why Portland has such a vibrant food culture is because of the community here, and the web of relationships that facilitate partnerships and creativity. Food artisans are inspired by chefs and farmers and vice-versa. I get to observe this through my own friends and work with the culinary community here, but attended a dinner the other night where that was clearly presented to all in attendance. Portland Food Adventures is a new supper club of sorts, where diners are given insight into a chef's world for duration of a dinner. At a different restaurant in Portland each time (about once a month), diners are served a family-style multi-course dinner, described and introduced by the chef, with wine pairings if they want, and leave with a goodie bag full of the chef's favorite indie foodie spots around town. These could be bakeries, cafes, chocolate shops, breweries, coffee roasters, etc. And it's always an example of how chefs and food people here support one another's businesses.

This week's dinner was at Ned Ludd, "an American craft kitchen." Chef/owner Jason French (pictured above) cooks everything in a wood-fired oven, cures his own charcuterie, pickles his own vegetables, and welcomes diners to ask questions if they have them, addressed to him in the open kitchen. I love the feel of this place - warm lighting a blazing fire, piles of wood, jewel toned walls and repurposed wood details with staghorn fern and air plants peaking out of vintage containers. The interior is, very, "Portland." We had pickles, cured meat (amazing bacon), a smoked trout salad with feathery greens, a deliciously comforting and savory farro with smoked pork loin on top and rainbow trout. The dessert were s'mores with every element made by hand by David, of Xocolatl de David. I don't like s'mores traditionally done, but if those were always on the menu at Ned Ludd, I'd order them time after time. When every element of a dish is quality, the flavor cannot be topped.

In attendance that night were French's friends and colleagues from House Spirits distillery, Heart coffee roaster and the owner of local deli favorite Meat Cheese Bread. In speaking about their businesses, and one another, it showed how much support they each show each other, and respect that they have for one another. It was a great night of learning more about my city through the joys of dining.

For a great read about the Portland food scene, check out the November 2010 Travel + Leisure's article, "Portland's Cutting-Edge Cuisine," which features Jason French.

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