Friday, July 31, 2015

Interview with Chef Scott Mechura, Executive Chef at Bucks T-4 Lodging and Dining

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 Scott Mechura, Executive Chef at Bucks T-4 Lodging and Dining

With a history dating back to 1946, Bucks T-4 Lodge is one of the most famous dining options is Montana, and the historic restaurant is known for preparing local game, such as antelope and bison, using traditional European cooking techniques. Think Cast Iron Seared Red Deer Loin with maple gratin, foraged mushroom conserva and apple jam, and Southwest Montana Raised Rainbow Trout with oyster mushrooms, creamed kale, red quinoa and lemon-sage olive oil. In addition to these game-centric dishes, Bucks T-4 Lodge also serves a host of burgers, quesadillas, and, even, bahn mi.

Executive Chef Scott Mechura heads the kitchen at Bucks T-4 Lodge. Originally from Minnesota, Chef Mechura started his career in some of Minnesota's most lauded restaurants, including Forepaughs and Aquavit, and he soon found that he could find as much inspiration from the eating habits of dishwashers and prep-cooks as he could from executive chefs. This is how he learned the complex but homey flavors of Laos and Korea, for instance, and he loves international cuisines, including Swedish, French, Thai, and Vietnamese. After cooking in Minnesota, he moved to Montana, where he cooked in famous lodges for several years. Then, he moved to Austin, Texas, for three years. In 2014, he returned to Montana and joined Bucks T-4 Lodge, where he took over the kitchen from long-time chef Chuck Schommer. Schommer started cooking at Bucks T-4 when he was 22, and he now owns the restaurant.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

With such a bounty of fresh, regional, and interesting products to choose from from right outside our back door, Northwest cuisine to me is wild mushrooms and ramps; extraordinary seafood, game, and poultry; wild berries; and amazing herbs. With its long seasons and mostly mild climate, the Northwest has all of these items and more to offer, and the chefs here prepare these ingredients with a practical sensibility that isn’t too fussy or contrived. 

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

With Buck’s T-4 being located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, we work with many purveyors right here, as well as all over the Northwest. In tying in to the previous question, Fresh And Wild is one of my favorite purveyors. We have a farmer here in the Gallatin Valley, Doug Stream, who meets with us each year and asks us what we would like him to grow for us. Gallatin Valley Botanical provides wonderful produce. Sierra Meats is a great supplier of game and proteins, and importantly, it has no problem keeping up with our volume. Lazy SR Ranch provides us with pork and marrow bones. We use Taylor Shellfish out of Shelton, WA, for great West Coast mussels.

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

We have a great little Thai restaurant here in town called the Lotus Pad. They work with many local growers and ranchers. How many Thai restaurants do that?! In our nearby town, Montana Ale Works always provides consistent local cuisine, great microbrews from our area, and warm, friendly, service.

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

Greg Higgins set the bar high for chefs around the country in building sustainable relationships with ranchers, growers and vendors. The Paley’s of Paley’s Place have a finger on the pulse of knowing how to connect with their guests in an unpretentious way.

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

I really don’t. I feel like many other regions of this country—The Rockies, Texas Hill Country, New England, The Upper Midwest, The Central Coast—all have a respect for each other, as well as a very deep respect for the entire Northwest.

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

Much like central California, we’re starting to see many ingredients that are indigenous to other parts of the globe being successfully cultivated in the Northwest. Truffles and wasabi, for example. I am very excited to develop locally sourced products that we can market outside our restaurant, as well as in our forthcoming retail store.

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

Monday, July 13, 2015

New Article: Legendary Railroad Adventures, Northwest Travel Magazine

Photo by Rocky Mountaineer
Originally published in the July 2015 issue of Northwest Travel Magazine



Train travel is famously relaxing and romantic, but in the Northwest it is also an adventure. Just try to spot a grizzly bear from your seat on your next flight. Or on your next road trip, try to navigate the jagged cliffs of Hurricane Gulch. With train travel, the journeys are as fun as the destinations. You can sit back, order a drink and watch the glaciers, big-horned sheep and isolated coastline pass by... 
Continue reading----->

Interview with Troy MacLarty, Owner and Executive Chef of Bollywood Theater

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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.

Photo by Jeremy Fenske

Troy MacLarty, Owner and Executive Chef of Bollywood Theater

Previously of Chez Panisse, Chef Troy MacLarty opened Bollywood Theater in Northeast Portland in 2012. The restaurant simultaneously filled the Indian-food gap in Portland and served up authentic Indian street foods that were hard to find anywhere in the United States. Finding a particularly fast following was the Kati roll, a specialty from Calcutta, involving either marinated meat or paneer cheese wrapped in paratha bread with pickled onions, a spicy tomato sauce, and green chutney. Yes, Chef MacLarty brought an Indian burrito to Portland.

Chef MacLarty is an expert at importing rare ingredients that cannot be locally produced, and this includes Indian culture. The two Bollywood Theater locations have the feel of India, from the steel water glasses to the Bollywood films playing nonstop in the bathrooms. That said, the restaurant sources everything else that it can locally. Notably, both locations offer counter service, with patrons busing their own tables, too.

1.   How do you describe Northwest cuisine?

I would say that the food scene in Portland is really personal. Diners gravitate towards places that have a lot of character and have put a lot of heart into their business. Places that are "in it for the money" don't seem to do as well. Also, I would guess that there are more restaurants in Portland owned by chefs than in any other city in America. If the chef wants to create an Indian or Thai restaurant, or focus on just one dish, this is the city in which that can happen. That has led to an eclectic and evolving food scene that follows the whims of individuals. I don't know that I could have opened Bollywood Theater in another city.

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

Being an Indian restaurant, it can be difficult to find products that live up to our expectations. Because of this we have created many of the products we use. We have a small Indian market inside our Southeast Division location. For this market we create our own line of products, from snacks, like Cheewra and Sev, to fresh Paneer and Ghee. We are working on chutneys, sauces and additional snacks to expand our line.

We've also been working in conjunction with the Reluctant Trading Experiment to create a line of spice masalas based on our blends. These masalas will be blended in India and shipped quickly to maintain the best quality. Currently, we are working on a Chai masala, Tikka masala, Garam masala and Vindaloo masala and expect them to be available by this summer (2015). 

One way we differ from many of the Indian restaurant in our area is our use of local and seasonal products. We buy from local farms like Dancing Roots and Groundworks Organics.

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

My new favorite place in Portland is my friend Brian Leitner’s restaurant Le Vieux. Brian and I were on the line together at Chez Panisse, and he really captures the ingredient driven, simple-yet-detailed food that I crave on my days off. I can’t wait to go back.

When I’m looking to splurge I walk up the street to Ave Gene’s for vegetables, salads and the best pastas in town. Nobody fills the gap between farm and table better than Chef Josh McFadden.

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

Now that I own two places, I have the most respect for those who took the plunge and stuck their neck out. I greatly admire Nong Poonsukwattana for her “do one thing and do it well” focus. Nong’s Khao Mon Gai is definitely the place in town I eat most. I’m definitely biased towards counter service places that do it right. Rick Gencarelli opened the first Lardo sandwich shop around the time that we opened the first Bollywood Theater. Since then, he's opened two more Lardo's and the pasta restaurant Grassa. I've been impressed with his ability to manage their growth while maintaining his sanity. And you couldn't find a nicer guy in our food scene.

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

In my opinion, what Portland does best is the $18-$24 entrée. Our rents are relatively low, which allows us to serve exactly what we want. We generally don’t have to put a bunch of unnecessary ingredients on a plate to justify a $35 price tag. I love that Portland generally chooses delicious food over crystal and silver.

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

I am excited that there are more and more delicious take-out places popping up in Portland. Some of the best food in town can be found at food carts or counter-service restaurants. I don’t often have the patience or time to sit down for an extended meal. I’d choose the Blazers on TV and a box of Nong’s chicken over any fancy restaurant in town.

In the kitchen I am most excited when teaching and sharing my knowledge with others, and a great deal of that has nothing to do with Indian food. Showing a young cook the road they could take to be successful really excites me. We start with our people. Good food follows.

Bollywood Theater
2039 NE Alberta St
Portland, OR 97211

3010 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97202
www.bollywoodtheaterpdx.com

Friday, July 10, 2015

Interview with Alaskan Chef Laura Cole, Owner and Executive Chef of 229 Parks

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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.

Laura Cole, Owner and Executive Chef of 229 Parks

Alaska has one of the most challenging seasons in the Pacific Northwest for growing fruits and vegetables, and Chef Laura Cole embraced it with a pioneering spirit. In 2005, she opened 229 Parks, a restaurant located just south of the Denali National Park and Preserve entrance on Alaska Highway 3. Through developing mutually beneficial relationships with Alaskan farmers, fisherman and gamers—not to mention neighbors who sometimes bring back key ingredients from trips to Anchorage—Chef Cole serves a menu defined by Alaska's unique culinary offerings. Seafood is at the forefront—whether Alaskan halibut or Alaskan razor clams—and harnessing the power of Alaska's 24 hours of photosynthesis in the summer, the restaurant grows many of its vegetables onsite, including lemon grass, bok choy, and napa cabbage. 229 Park's success is a model for localvore cuisine in Alaska. Chef Cole holds a master certificate for confections from the Ritz Escoffier L’Ecole de Gastronome in Paris and a degree from the New England Culinary Institute.

1. How do you describe Northwest cuisine in Alaska?

We are a restaurant looking to define Alaskan Cuisine. In regard to the Greater Northwest, our cuisine is based on our shared waters and the bounty it provides. Our seafood, sea kelp, sea weeds, etc. But our topography and our climates are vastly different. Much of what I think of as Northwest cuisine is not only dominated by plentiful, sustainable, fresh seafood, but also by the bounty of orchard fruits, grapes, vineyards and wines. Here in Alaska, our cuisine takes on a decidedly more Nordic note that comes from our local harvests, both wild and cultivated, and on our short, yet intense, growing season.

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

We have many hands helping with wild harvests, including wild mushrooms, berries, spruce tips, ramps, tender fireweed, fiddleheads, rose hips, juniper and chamomile.

Denali Organic Growers is our go-to for much of our cultivated harvests. They grow about 80 percent of all of our purchased vegetables, and they grow them completely off the grid. It's 100 percent rain-water fed, which means that we have to account for dramatic climate changes and the occasional moose grazing. Working with theses guys has taught us the importance of not being too rigid with menu creation. Being able to work with what is the best harvest for that day takes precedence.

Alaskan Barley Company is our go-to grain provider. They are the only grain producers in the state right now. We use their barley, barley flour, and barley couscous. We use their barley flour in every baked good we make, including our éclair shells. It is wonderful to have this available to us in the interior.

Moonstone Farms— This is a small family farm that is growing everything they can. They just started to get into small scale ranching, too. Their product is excellent, and they continue to strive for excellence in all they do.

Alaskan Birch Company— We love their birch syrup. It is great in both sweet and savory applications, and it definitely gives a distinctive, Alaskan flavor. 

Sagaya Seafood— They insure we get the best, freshest, highest quality seafood that Alaska has to offer.

Rachels Ginger Beer— This is a Seattle company that we love and use for inspiration in creating our own sodas. We certainly wouldn't make our own, if we could use theirs. They're just the best.

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

In Seattle, I love Lark. It's a great, small-scale restaurant that has an inspired menu and strong commitment to sourcing locally. In Anchorage, Torchon, a new bistro, is utilizing the whole pig and creating very inspired dishes.

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

Kate Consenstein— Although she is not a professional chef, she comes from a scallop fishing family, and she's been a life-long advocate for Alaskan Seafood. She has worn many hats to promote this; formerly, she served as marketing director for Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, and currently, she is running her own PR firm, Rising Tide Productions. She continues to challenge and inspire me everyday to be the absolute best in supporting a better Alaska through our food future and cuisine.

Aaron Apling Gilman— He is a truly inspired Alaskan Chef. He's pushing the conversation forward to help Alaska be a more culinary self-sustained state. He's always inspirational and completely dedicated to a tradition of excellence.

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

I feel the area of Northwest cooking that gets most overlooked is the bounty of the natural land harvests we have. There is always such a strong view and voice regarding seafood, but we have so much more to offer. The conversation can change from protein-based plates to protein-enhanced plates.

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

The possibilities are endless. Here in Alaska, our waters are still relatively pure. Our ground has not been overrun with harmful pesticides, and our livestock has not been affected by an overuse of antibiotics. I look forward to the change in conversation from quantity to quality. To a wider understanding of farmers and other purveyors as true artisans of our land and waters.