To say that the dining scene in Portland is outrageously good would be an understatement. In fact, it is now widely accepted across the United States that our foodies are just about as ravenously successful and attention-grabbing as our musicians, our once small startups that have gone on to become global industries and our groundbreaking efforts in sustainability. Hey, Oregon is an exciting place to live these days!
Now that the winter weather has subsided and spring has dragged its feet long enough, Summer is finally taking the stage and the local and fresh vegetables, fruits, fungi, meats and grains are giving way to bountiful farmers markets, delicious menus and creative and inspiring ways of enjoying it all.
We are often times asked by our clients around the United States; “where should I eat when I visit Oregon?” This is honestly a really hard question to answer given that tourists usually just have two or three days to eat their way through our green state. With the plentiful restaurants, food carts, festivals and farm-to-table events, it is hard to choose just one or two. My wife and I find it hard to keep up with all that is happening across Portland’s culinary scene and we live here!
This weekend however, we did experience one dining experience that I would like to highly recommend. We were fortunate enough to visit “The Wild Goose Farm” on Sauvie Island for a great “locavore” experience. The proprietors have a wonderful small farm tucked away on the North side of the island where they grow all sorts of leafy greens, tomatoes, radishes, nuts, root vegetables, tubers, fruit trees and more. They have honeybees and chickens and they have converted an old barn into a makeshift kitchen, creamery, charcuterie, fermentation hall and more. They have built a wood-fired oven to grill homemade pizzas and to roast vegetables and to cook fantastically flavorful dishes. And they are sharing this experience with a few lucky guests throughout the year.
Their vision-statement on their website goes like this: “We are a 5-acre family farm on Sauvie Island that wants to share the adventure of eating the food we grow with others. We are involved in a kind of public homesteading, learning as we go and sharing the fruits of that knowledge by making and serving good things to eat.”
For a father’s day late lunch/early dinner they recruited the help of Thomas Boyce, formerly the Chef de Cuisine at Wolfgang Puck’s SPAGO restaurant in Los Angeles. After 15 years at the helm of SPAGO, Thomas has moved to Portland and, for the past year has been investigating the possibility of joining the restaurant scene in Portland (He and his wife have also recently started a local bakery called “Golden Oven Bakery.” That news was very exciting, but what was even better was the sneak peak that we received as he and his staff cooked a brilliant meal featuring the fresh vegetables, fruits, pates and cheeses that Yianni and Jessica produce on their farm.
My wife and our two boys and I sat down at a large communal table in a meadow under the pear and apple and plum trees by the old barn, with colorful chairs and tablecloths and aromatic peonies in vases. We joined about 40 other people (there was a table for all of the children as well) some strangers, some familiar faces, but all were excited about the communal and friendly dining experience.
The highlight of the meal was the freshness of flavors, the brightness of colors and the sign that it was spring again in the Pacific Northwest. The Salmon that was started in the frying pan and then finished in the wood oven sang with juiciness. Their homemade cheeses from fresh local milks stood up wonderfully to those cheeses made by well-established creameries around the state
and country. The oysters were so fresh and briny. I have never seen such an intense salad, nor such a large brick of homemade Paté! In short, the meal was superb and as we all sat outside by the orchard and gazed out across the fields to the towering oaks, alders and cottonwoods with the sun breaking through the clouds, I was very happy to be living and eating in Oregon.
To book an event at the Wild Goose Farm, just visit their website www.wild-goose-farm.com. Yianni offers multiple ways of enjoying their hand-crafted products including educational seminars on growing, fermenting, and enjoying great foods.