Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Interview with Maria Hines, Chef and Owner of Tilth, Golden Beetle and Agrodolce

The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.

Photo by Frank Huster

Maria Hines, Chef and Owner of Tilth, Golden Beetle and Agrodolce

Award-winning chef Maria Hines has been front and center of Seattle’s culinary scene for more than a dozen years due to her impressive restaurants Tilth (New American), Golden Beetle (Eastern Mediterranean) and Agrodolce (Southern Italian). From numerous James Beard awards, to Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef and Iron Chef America, Chef Hines's accomplishments are many. Early on, Maria shot onto the Seattle scene at the original W Hotel restaurant concept, Earth and Ocean. She opened Tilth in 2006, and it quickly became a national darling when the New York Times named it one of the best new restaurants in the country. 

Since picking up a love of cooking from an early age, Hines has cooked her way across the world, seeking new and creative ways to cook. Considered a thought leader on the subject of sustainability, her commitment is impressive and is practiced throughout all aspects of her company.

How do you describe Northwest cuisine?
Northwest cuisine to me is the technique of marrying hyper-seasonal local ingredients and classic European cooking techniques. 

Who are your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?

Skagit River Ranch has the only certified organic wagyu beef in the country.
Oxbow Farm is a small farm that pays attention to detail on quality produce.
King’s Garden— I still buy product directly off the truck when she comes by. It’s a true old-school produce-buying experience.
Black Sheep Creamery has the best sheep’s milk in the state.

When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?
Lark
Canlis
Cafe Juanita.

Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?
Ethan Stowell (Staple & Fancy, Tavolata, et al.) really understands what people want and is committed to making them happy. John Sundstrom (Lark) is so committed to supporting and using farm-direct product.

Looking toward the future, what about Northwest cuisine most excites you? What are you most excited to do in the kitchen?

The relationships built between chefs and local producers will always be the backbone of northwest cooking.

Tilth
1411 North 45th Street
Seattle, WA
tilthrestaurant.com

Monday, July 27, 2015

Interview with Justin Woodward, Executive Chef of Castagna

The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.


Justin Woodward, Executive Chef of Castagna

Opened in 1999, Castagna is Portland's most underrated, and arguably, most innovative, restaurant. Chef Justin Woodward has the technical skills of M.C. Esher in the kitchen, and his modernist, tweezer food is boundary-pushing without relying on gimmicks: His creative, technically savvy cooking techniques are all in the service of the inherent flavors of the ingredients. Whether ordering a la carte or enjoying the Chef's Tasting Menu, which can reach up to 15 dishes (don't worry, several of these are scintillating, one-bite "snacks"), prepare for an artistic display of foraged and lovingly sourced ingredients. Additionally, prepare for prices that seem ludicrously low when compared with those of similar restaurants in larger cities: the 3-course prix fixe menu costs $55, and the Chef's Tasting Menu costs $155.

Chef Woodward has worked at WD-50 (one Michelin star) in New York; Noma (two Michelin stars) in Denmark; and Mugaritz Restaurant (two Michelin stars) in Spain. He also trained beneath Castagna's previous chef, Matt Lightner, who left Castagna to open Atera (two Michelin stars) in New York in 2011.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

To me, it is cooking seasonally and being aware of what is going on around you. What has the weather been like—has it been wet, dry? Even current events can spark small changes in the menu. If it is very cold outside, we might offer a few more warm dishes. In summer, I want most of the menu to be very refreshing.

Cooking in restaurants in this day and age, it is easy to order whatever produce you want. For me, I am constantly searching the Northwest for fresh produce. These are the most inspiring moments for me. These shifts in the market kick-start my creative process like nothing else could. It is easy to come up with a dish and order bulk produce from a giant company, but where is the love in that? I cannot speak for other chefs but for me the products are what make the cuisine. Creativity plays a small role after taste and seasonality. Some products just scream the Northwest. Salmon, hazelnuts, wild mushrooms. Others are a little less known but just as important to me. We get great local goat's milk, amazing huckleberries and black cod. Also, we have so many small vegetable farmers. All of the farmer's markets make it a great place to be a chef!

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?

Your Kitchen Garden. This is our main vegetable provider. What he grows writes the menu at Castagna. 

Ayers Creek Farm provides dried cornmeal, freekeh, and amazing chicories.

Groundworks Organics delivers amazing produce all year. 

Baird provides apples, stone fruits, and cider.

Prairie Creek, for its beets, carrots, potatoes. 

Jacobsen Salt

3. When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?

Apizza Scholls has the best pizza in Portland. Ox and Laurelhurst Market are great for a steak. 

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?

Blaine Wetzel is really putting himself out there. He's cooking on a small island and sourcing strictly locally. I admire the amount of work he is putting into creating a special place. 

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?
The media focuses so much on what is trendy. What is the new kale, what is the new blah blah. What about chefs and farmers that have been doing great things for years? Digging below surface value seems to elude the mass food media. 

6. Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?

I am always excited for the new coming season. Right now, I am so excited for spring. Portland in the springtime is a magical place. The whole city seems to sprout and grow. There is this feeling in the air during spring. I love that.

Castagna Restaurant
1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, Oregon 97214
www.castagnarestaurant.com

Friday, July 24, 2015

Interview with Terry Pichor, Executive Chef of Sonora Resort

--> The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.

Terry Pichor, Executive Chef of Sonora Resort

To understand Chef Terry Pichor's cuisine, you first must understand the Sonora Resort. Located in the Discovery Islands in British Columbia, the luxurious eco-adventure resort is accessible only by helicopter and seaplane, and that means that it's surrounded by pristine coastline teeming with Canadian delicacies, including sea grasses, mushrooms and shellfish. The recipient of two medals at the Gold Medal Plates, Chef Pichor draws inspiration from his bountiful surroundings, serving such dishes as Quadra Island Scallop with pickled wild kelp, miner’s lettuce, organic shiitake mushrooms, and bonito butter. Further, he travels abroad regularly to learn from his fellow chefs, and he has quick access to international ingredients through Vancouver. The result is comforting yet luxurious dishes that hit a five-star culinary standard.


1.   How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

This is a hard question to answer. The food of the Pacific Northwest is influenced by so many different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, and this plays into fine dining menus all over the major cities. I’ve eaten some of the best Japanese food, French food, Italian food, Thai food, Indian food, and it’s all here, good and bad. I don’t think there is a place in North America where people care more about the raw ingredient and where it is sourced, and this sets a high standard for the suppliers of local produce. The foods that are found in the wild are abundant and always have a place on my menus. The seafood in the Northwest is second to none. We are blessed in this part of the world, and when I travel and cook in other places, its always something I think about.

2.   Who are six of your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?

Glorious Organics
Outlandish Shellfish
Ponderosa Mushrooms
Two Rivers Specialty Meats
Benton Brothers, for cheese.
Oyama Sausage

They all have great service and they all stand behind the quality of the product.

3.   When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?

Bao Bei
Suika
Nook
Zest
L’Abattoir

4.   Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire? Why?

Chef Joel Watanabe of Bao Bei— Nobody can duplicate his food. It’s unique. It has its own style and is always delicious.

David Hawksworth and Kristian Eligh of Hawksworth Restaurant— They run one of the only modern fine dining restaurants in Vancouver. The menus are constantly changing, interesting and delicious. David trains the best cooks in the industry, and after two years at Hawksworth, you can go anywhere. I’m big fan of the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship Foundation. It’s a great idea, and the young cooks love the competition.

5.  In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?

Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of any.

6. Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?

The area continues to attract great chefs because of the quality of local produce and seafood. I’m excited to see the many young talented chefs coming up through the ranks and what they are going to bring to the table. I’m just looking forward to the 2015 season and getting back into the kitchen and continuing to develop new ideas for the tasting menus as they come to mind. I’m lucky that I get to cook in the spring and summer, when the ingredients are most fresh and available.

Sonora Resort
Sonora Island, Discovery Islands
www.sonoraresort.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Interview with Rachel Yang, Chef and Owner of Trove, Revel and Joule

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The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.

Rachel Yang, Chef and Owner of Trove, Revel and Joule

Rachel Yang, chef and owner of Seattle restaurants Joule, Revel and Trove, exemplifies global cuisine. With influences based in Asia, France, Germany and other spots around the world, Yang creates modern and creative cuisine in her restaurants. Her biggest influences are her Korean heritage and the classic French techniques that can be seen and tasted throughout her dishes. Chef Yang works in tandem with business partner and husband, Seif Chirchi, who is also a chef, and together, they have created a restaurant group that is making a name for itself through harmonious innovation.

How do you describe Northwest cuisine?
Personally, I believe that you are cooking Northwest cuisine when you cook using the best produce that you can find locally in the Northwest. The region and the food scene have grown so diverse that there is no other way to define our cuisine.  

Who are your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?

Alvarez Organic Farm— For instance, it has a page-long list of different pepper varieties each summer.
Local Roots Farm has exceptionally fresh greens that keep so well in the walk in.
Willowood Farm plants specific produce on request.

When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?
Rock Creek. They have the best seafood in town.

Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?
Matt Dillon. His dishes are very northwest, but he will surprise you by slipping different regional influences in.

Looking toward the future, what about Northwest cuisine most excites you? What are you most excited to do in the kitchen?
People. There are so many people, from farmers and chefs to customers, who are passionate about Northwest cuisine.

Trove Restaurant
500 East Pike Street
Seattle, WA
troveseattle.com

Monday, July 20, 2015

New Article: A Cheese Lover's Guide to Portland, Thrillist


Chizu Omakase Cheese Boards, by Chizu
Originally published on Thrillist.com

Portland chefs use cheese better than MacGyver uses paperclips, so this article is long overdue: time to unleash the most creative uses of cheese in Portland. Short of wrapping cheese in cheese and deep-frying it in cheese, the following dishes are the cheesiest around -- the crème de la crème of cheese, if you will...

Continue Reading------>

Interview with Cathy Whims, Owner and Executive Chef of Nostrana

The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.


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Photo by John Valls

Cathy Whims, Owner and Executive Chef of Nostrana                       

In Portland, Chef Cathy Whims defines Italian cooking. A six-time James Beard-nominee for the Best Chef Northwest award, Chef Whims began her career as a dishwasher at Genoa, one of Portland's most legendary restaurants. Genoa marked the beginning of a new style of dining in Portland: It offered formal, multi-course meals made in what was then an exotic cooking style: traditional Italian, featuring seasonal, local ingredients. Chef Whims stayed at the restaurant for 18 years, going on to cook and co-own the restaurant.

At the behest of legendary Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan, Chef Whims went to Venice, Italy, to learn from Hazan first-hand at Hazan's home. She also cooked at Biancinto Albarello's Antica Torre Trattoria and Marco Forneris's Osteria La Libera in the Langhe region of Italy. Chef Whims opened Nostrana in 2005, and her dishes combine maximum-quality ingredients and humble and authentic Italian-cooking techniques. Constant trips back to Italy ensure that there's always something new on the menu. Nostrana is dedicated to wood-fire and wood-oven cooking and dishes that you won't often find outside of Italy.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

It is about knowing where your food comes from and understanding the relationship between food and the geography of the landscape where it grows, the farmers, the animals, the seasons and the environment. Northwest cuisine cuts right to the core of the experience, and it is not edible décor.

We don’t really have a lot of culinary traditions, so we are free to make our own, which usually involves celebrating the products available in our region. Here's an example: Oregon isn’t particularly famous for its veal, and at Nostrana we like to feature “saltimbocca”—a traditional Italian dish made with veal. Accordingly, we decided to use pork instead, because we can get whole pigs and butcher them in-house. On the other side, Oregon is famous for its albacore tuna. We feature it to make traditional Sicilian dishes such as tuna conserva and corona bean salad, an item that never leaves the menu at Nostrana.  

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with? Why do they stand out?

It is really hard to pick just six! We have an amazing list of purveyors, and of course, I can’t share them all here, but we do list them all on our menus at Nostrana. I have been working with many of these businesses for 20 years. Each of these purveyors stands out to me because of their focus, expertise and willingness to provide beautiful ingredients.

For example, Ayers Creek Farm is working on trying to get melons to ripen before August because that is when they taste best. Jim Dixon brings in the best olive oils as well as a really special fennel pollen that is to die for. Other standout purveyors include:

Real Good food
Viridian Farms
Ayers Creek (20 years)
Your Kitchen Garden (20 years)
Cattail Creek Farm (10 years)
Laney Family Farm
Pickleopolis
Chop

3. When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?

In no particular order:

Portland
- Xico
- Higgins
- Davenport

In the Northwest Region
- Cafe Juanita
- Nick’s Italian Cafe
- I LOVE lunch at Il Corvo in Seattle

4. Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?

Christopher Israel has brought a very refined and delicate sensibility towards northwest ingredients. His food is beautiful.

Greg Higgins and his Sous Chefs have been so instrumental in helping people recognize that the Northwest is a place that HAS a cuisine. Greg really showcased the unique quality of ingredients and was one of the first chefs to do that here.

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?

Our local grains movement could certainly use more exposure. It’s very important and relevant. Just like with any other ingredient, the nuances of locally grown grains are reflective of the growing conditions of each particular season.

6. Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?

I am especially excited by the local grain movement. I have been sourcing flour for pasta from local grains and learning how to working with them. I love taking the time to hand roll out pasta and hand form it. The texture is so amazing, and it is so rewarding to make and share handmade pastas. The skill and tradition is something that is dying away even in Italy. I am truly excited to share these methods and this approach to ingredients with my cooks and peers.

Nostrana
1401 SE Morrison St
Portland, OR 97214
www.nostrana.com
 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Interview with Chef Mark Filatow, Executive Chef and Sommelier at Waterfront Wines

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The following interview was made possible by the NW Tastemaker, a culinary travel publication forthcoming from Northwest Travel Magazine. To read more interviews with the best chefs in the Pacific Northwest, visit Northwest Travel Magazine and TableTalkNorthwest.com.

Chef Mark Filatow, Executive Chef and Sommelier at Waterfront Wines

 
In 2005, Chef Mark Filatow opened Waterfront Wines, a casual fine-dining restaurant located in the city of Kelowna in the lush Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Chef Filatow cooks with both ingenuity and humility, and when asked about his dishes, he always spotlights the purveyors that he works with, whether a local winery or "the bicycle farmer," an artisan who delivers whatever's freshest to the restaurant's back door—by bike, of course.

Chef Filatow's ability to accentuate the incomparable flavors of Okanagan produce and other local culinary ingredients is where the magic happens. His in-kitchen ingenuity concentrates natural flavors, and his dishes range from the most asparagus-y asparagus soup you'll ever eat to Berkshire pork loin served with a whey and pickled shallot jus.

Before opening Waterfront Wines in 2004, Chef Filatow cooked beneath Chef Rod Butters at Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn; Chef John Bishop at Bishops Restaurant; and Canadian Iron Chef, Michael Noble, at Diva at the Met Restaurant. He is a sommelier certified by the International Sommelier Guild, and his focus on Okanagan wines has resulted in five consecutive Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence." Additionally, for the past six years, Waterfront Wines has been named the ‘Best Okanagan Restaurant’ at the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

To me, Northwest cuisine is based on the idea of cooking with ingredients that are on our doorstep. Staying in season, and cooking with what's around us. It's about celebrating what we have.

The cooking methods are where we can break out and look to other cultures for inspiration. At Waterfront, we use everything that we can find locally and insert it into classical or really old school preparations. Staying true to the ingredient, and staying with-in the context of our season is key. Not always trying to re-invent the wheel, but striving to do it well, and keeping the ingredients at the forefront.

2. Who are six of your favorite purveyors that you regularly work with?

Sweet Life Farms— Owner John Cox the potato farmer test grew russets for us until he found us the right one. He is a stickler to detail. It took me three years to convince him to grow russets. Now he keeps us in supply ten months out of the year.

Arlo's Honey Farm— Helen Kennedy has great honey, especially if she captures the elderflower honey. But she's not just about honey! She does great garlic, raspberries and English peas. But her asparagus is best of all. She harvests the spears at 4-5inches.

Wild Moon Organic Berkshire— Richard has built a legacy-type farm growing fantastic pork. He will hold them an extra month for us to ensure some nice back fat! We get in whole animals and break the entire pig down and process it into our various charcuterie.

Stoney Paradise— Milan is the ultimate tomato farmer. He only picks his tomatoes when they are ripe, and he has nailed down the varieties for sugar, flavor, acid and texture balance. Also, he grows the best French beans. We only call him The Tomato Man because it sounds better than The Bean Man.

Claremont Ranch Organics— Molly and Matt bought this old orchard a few years ago. They keep us deep in supply of heirloom apricots, peaches, plums, pears and apples like Gravenstein, Cox orange, and Boskop.

Scott Moran— Our Forager. He is a young guy with a hunger for wild edibles. He challenges our notion of ingredients and forces us to read up on the uses for milkweed pods, bullrush, chokecherry blossoms and endless mushrooms.

3.
When you go out for a nice meal, what are two or three of your favorite spots?

L'Abattoir and La Quercia, both in Vancouver.

4.
Who are two other Northwest chefs that you admire?

Nicholas Nutting at The Wolf in the Fog in Tofino. Maybe I am just jealous of the seafood or his seemingly relaxed approach.

Lee Cooper of L'Abattoir in Vancouver. He's always fine-tuning, always evolving, never standing still.

5. In your opinion, is there an area of Northwest cooking that doesn't receive enough attention?

This is a hard question. I feel that bitterness as a flavor is often overlooked and, even, avoided. Rather than an area in cooking it's more of a flavor component. It has a great place if used in the right amounts. Too often, sweetness is the flavor that is built upon.

6. Looking toward the future, what are you most excited to do in the kitchen?

I am really looking forward to working with more wild foods. I'm also really excited about the uprising of locally grown animals. Breaking down whole animals, cooking parts with fire and curing other parts has been an exciting time for us. As well, I'm excited about wild fermentation. We are lacto fermenting tons of different things, and it is forcing us to look back in our research to see what was done 200 years ago.

Waterfront Wines
#104 – 1180 Sunset Drive
Kelowna, BC, V1Y 9W6
Canada
www.waterfrontrestaurant.ca