Portland Chef Jam: For Love of Vegetables

Portland Food Scene: For Love of Vegetables
My love of vegetables, leafy greens, and fresh herbs has taken me to some mighty strange places as a cook. I have made strawberry tomato dessert sauces, carrot basil ice cream,  and candied fennel. I serve Burmese Grated Carrot Salad alongside steamed rice and call it dinner. I am not a vegetarian, but to me, vegetables are far more interesting than meat.

And now at long last, my dream of a vegetable loving Portland restaurant scene may be coming to fruition. Hallelujah! We have been subject to meat-centric menus for far too long. Big hunks of meat everywhere we go. Every restaurant with the same tedious list. Where’s all that Portland creativity we love to boost about? Are there not 1000 tantalizing ways to serve a carrot? Maybe even as dessert?

So I was thrilled today to see the announcement that Chef Josh McFadden of Ava Gene and Chef Gregory Gourdet of Departure (both restaurants listed in PDX Eater’s The Essential 38 Portland Restaurants, April 2014) are launching a collaborative Vegetable Dinner Series on May 22 and Sept. 25.  We have the chance to experience two nine-course menus from a pair of Portland wonder chefs who aren’t afraid to push vegetable creativity to the max. Bring it on!

Chef Gourdet says, “Applying technique or unusual combinations is an exciting way to explore this. Collaboration dinners like this help us chefs experience things with a different perspective, through a colleague’s eyes. If we can form new relationships with farmers and help diners understand the story of the season a bit more as well we have done our job.”

From EatBeat: “The meal’s conclusion looks most intriguing, an effort to get as many vegetables as we can get into one dessert, as Gourdet puts it. The focus is on sweet, tender, young vegetables, prepared in various states of dried, candy, chips, and curds. It’s all paired with carrot ice cream made from carrot juice, carrot puree, and coconut milk. Gourdet says they’ll semi-dry beets to get them chewy, add candied fennel for licorice tone, make sweet, pickled rhubarb for pop and crunch, then add vegetable chips and leather. Herbal notes will come from cilantro syrup and Ava Gene’s stash of fine Katz olive oils, rich and green. It might be a disaster or an eye-opener, a taste of things to come.”

“A disaster or an eye-opener.” Now that’s cooking on the creative edge. It’s just what we need to launch a vegetable renaissance in Portland. I have a very good feeling about this.

Check out the full article (and menu): EatBeat: Two Portland Chefs, Two Vegetable Dinners, One Leap Forward.


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