Monday, October 15, 2012

Burgers & Beer

(early september. number 33.)

Doing an outdoor seating during the first week of September on the upstairs front porch seems a bit of a tradition now, following in the footsteps of #8 and # 21

The idea for a "burgers & beer" Secret Restaurant was something we had last year, but never actually got round to doing. This year, with the garden exploding, the home brew operation more fervent, and the summer's waning light– it seemed as if the time had come. 

Dinner plate:

Romanesco slaw
Romanesco (S.G.) and carrots (S.G.), tossed with a fresh ceasar-esque dressing. 

Cranberry bean salad

Cranberry beans (S.G.), meticulously split and shelled. Then the fibrous insides scraped clean, and the shells french cut. Tenderized with lemon juice and white wine vinegar. Tossed with the shells beans, purple basil leaves, and cracked black pepper. 

Burger Sliders: 

My grandmother's hamburger bun recipe, a delicious half-whole wheat recipe, made soft and deeply savory with wheat germ and dairy. Slightly modified since last time, with the use of sour cream and my wild-yeast starter in the dough. 

'Summertime' head lettuce (S.G.). Black cherokee heirloom tomato (S.G.)

Fresh wasabi aioli (actually made with fresh wasabi). The lightest brushing of dijon mustard. 

Slice of Special Reserve aged Tillamook extra sharp cheddar. 

Orange heirloom tomato (S.G.) ketchup. I used apple cider vinegar, and cooked it with coriander seeds and dried porcini mushrooms wrapped in cheesecloth. Emulsified with walnut oil. 

VEGGIE: Andrew's work. Three varieties of grilled eggplant (S.G.), roasted garlic, oregon brown lentils, oatmeal, and pulverized sunflower seeds. Seasoned and formed into patties, then prepared not unlike eggplant parmesan, with a bread crumb/egg coating, slow baked on parchment paper till crispy on the outside, warm and giving on the inside. 

MEAT: Lucas's work. Entirely ground in-house, day of: beef rump, lamb, and bacon. Mixed with garlic and herbs, grill-pan fried. 

Dessert plate:

Apple pie:

Frequent guest Courtney Allen (she was at the first dinner! Look at our header photo!) made us this beautiful pie from the first crop of Gala apples at her family's orchard in Hood River. She actually made two, and was bringing them on the bus. Quite tragically, a man bumped into her as they were exiting the bus. The pie fell to the ground, shattering the glass pie dish, and splaying the dessert onto the pavement. The man proclaimed "SHIT," paused, looked closer at the detritus, then inquired, slowly "Is that a homemade apple pie??" When Courtney replied "Um, yes," he then proceeded to pick half of it up off the ground and amble away, without another word! This mildly unbelievable, ghastly story at least made for many an entertaining retelling, but remains rather tragically true. 

A lil square of cheddar. 

Apple Butter Ice Cream

Very creamy and rich texture, due to the inclusion of sour cream. This made the magic happen, beautifully off-setting the sweetness of the apple butter. The body of the ice cream was apple buttery, and there were also ribbons of apple butter throughout. One of our best ice creams ever, as noted by some frequent guests. 

Once again, the gorgeous latter photos were taken by Peter Schweitzer. Expect to see more of his work with us from here on out!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Picnic At The Bluffs

 (late august. number 32.)

When my parents were visiting Portland the week before Christmas last year, I took them to the Skidmore Bluffs on an afternoon where we had a spare hour. As we stood on the precipice, in the unseasonable warm and sunny air, I had the idea to do a sack lunch Secret Restaurant in that very spot. I could see it all, right then- the hazy light, the cold food and beer, a dramatic climax to the summer that was still so far away. 

Everyone met and set out picnic blankets under and enormous apple tree. We passed around beverages and then paper bags filled with delectable lunches. 

The drink options:

Waves Of Grain Amber Ale
Our home-brewed Amber ale, served up in unusual bottles, decorated with my letterpress labels. 

Lavender Lemonade
Our frequent guests Amanda & Jordan were married in July, and the whole wedding was festooned with lavender they had harvested out on Sauvie Island. The primary use since has been lavender lemonade. So delicious! So refreshing! 

What guests found inside the brown paper sacs: 

1. Cucumber Sandwich. 
            Thick slices of ever-so lightly pickled (w/white wine vinegar and lemon juice) lemon cucumbers. 
            Thick slice of fresh sheep's milk feta.
             Creamed honey. 
             Flat leafed Italian parsley. 
             I made this sumptuous "grandma-style" fresh white bread. Yogurt and lemon thyme added both a soft tanginess and a fresh snap. Dough rolled in butter at different rising stages. So rich and satisfying!
            Credit for this sandwich idea must go entirely to the entirely phenomenal food cart called Picnic, located at NE 20th & Everett. I ate something very similar there a few weeks before this event, and couldn't stop thinking about it. Go there & treat yoself. 

2. Vegetable Sticks in a Jar

Rainbow chard stalks (S.G.)
Broccoli (S.G.)
Carrots, both Mokum Orange and Purple Haze (S.G.)
Yellow Crookneck Courgettes (S.G.)
French Green Beans (S.G.)
            Dressed in a Wild Plum Vinagrete. 

Our garden at that moment, blanched briefly, meticulously cut, cooled, dressed, jarred. 

3. Sea Salt & Vinegar Kale Chips

White Russian and Lacinato Kales, as well as a few Cauliflower Leaves (all S.G.), dressed in sea salt and apple cider vinegar. Tossed with a single bag of Kettle Sea Salt & Vinegar potato chips, just to sort of love-tap the batch with the original inspiration. 

4. Figs

Wouldn't be August and Secret Restaurant Portland without figs. One green, one black mission, straight up. 

5. Plum Cake 

Made by Aria, the cake was delightfully soft, opened-crumbed whole wheat cake, tangy with plums and crusted with raw sugar. 

6. Summer Sorbet

Raspberry, blackberry, and mango sorbet made by Lucas with his fancy Vitamix. So smooth and delicate! Delicious with the cake. 

A special shout-out to Peter Schweitzer, a recent addition to our crew of frequent guests. His incredible photos grace the vast majority of this post (all except the prep shots in the middle and the random shot of the beer bottle), and his photos will likely be our primary source whenever he attends our dinners. Cheers to Peter! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Purple & Green

(late june. number 31.)

photo on the menu by Aria Mikkola-Sears

        This was the best spring we've had in Portland, weather-wise, in many years. 
        In contrast to the splendor of April and May's crisp but mild days decorated with vivid greenery and beautiful perennial flowers, however- June was a little dreary. The old "June-uary" talk was going around. 
        On the day of this Secret Restaurant, the weather was in line with this mode- more than half of our scheduled guests cancelled in the hours leading up to the event due to everything from getting lost to rain-influenced mild sickness, to family emergencies. We forged on, having an intimate yet mildly extravagant dinner with a few friends by candlelight. 
         Lucas and I felt like it was a nice way to check in with how the project is going, feeling with this dinner like we were able to attend Secret Restaurant Portland as guests. 

AN ANOUNCEMENT: Starting here with June 2012, I'm going to start indicating produce grown by us on our large kitchen garden/small urban farm plot by "S.G." for SECRET GARDEN. 

To Drink:

Our home-brewed 'Charles Brown Ale'

A nutty, well-balanced brown in pop-top old school bottles. Letterpress labels designed and printed by me. See the last picture! 


Spinach Cup

An heirloom spinach called Galilee (S.G.), used in abundance with just a touch of cream and cracked black pepper. Topped with an italian style mashed potatoes/egg mixture to create a sort of raised, browned top, like a souffle. We bought some of the potatoes, found one or two insufficient, and so pulled up one of our potato plants and used the tiny new potatoes to fill out the dish. 

Served with a flower-cut enormous radish (S.G.), kissed with sea salt.

Plain, simple, and warm. Perfect for a rainy early summer evening. 


Dark red & bright green salad

Dark, dark red leafed lettuces (S.G.), dressed simply in olive oil/dash of white wine vinegar/cracked pepper/lemon salt. Topped with delicately opened english shelling peas (S.G), the casing of which were filled in with deep, rich (fancy, expensive) balsamic vinegar, matching the lettuce and complimenting the crisp sweetness of the peas. Shavings of a spanish semi-hard goat's cheese recommended by the cheesemonger at City Market. I'd tell you what it's called, but saving cheese wrappers is never something I actually remember to do. 


Smoked trout cappelletti in broth, with greens

A recipe by Alice Waters, interpreted more closely than we usually do, from Chez Panisse Pizza, Pasta, & Calzones (I recommend this book highly. So much inspiration for simple but memorable weekday suppers). Fresh pasta triangles stuffed with caramelized shallots, smoked trout, and lemon thyme. Cooked gently in prepared fish broth (trout and broth from Newman's, our usual). Served in bowls with the broth and garlicky/buttery white russian kale (S.G.) and wilted edible chrysanthemum (S.G., a celery-ish slap to its taste). 


White currant cheesecake with early summer fruits

The first thing that must be noted about this cheesecake is that we actually made the graham crackers which made up the graham cracker crust. And in order to get the right taste, we made two kinds- dark and a light, then pounded them together. 

Rolling with the idea of the creamiest, fluffiest cheesecake being the most ideal to pair with lip-smacking, tart fruit, we made an unbaked style filling, with whole milk, caster sugar, sour cream, and cream cheese. 

It was topped with a batch of white currant jam that I made last year from the white currant bush in South East Portland that we gleaned from for the ice cream featured in dinner #21, which we certainly intend to use again this year. 

The cheesecake was served with an intensely pureed sauce of gooseberries and honey, as well as some dark Ranier cherries and some early-Sylvan berries, straight up.

Paired with a Riesling.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Magnolias & Morels

(late may. number 30.)

This dinner was a result of a late night session in Hannah's kitchen– where we ate a bunch of rhubarb betty, drank tea, and attempted to scrawl down ideas as they came to us. We were both a little bit sleepy and out of it. Perhaps this is why we ended up with  three ludicrously ambitious and rich entree items on the same plate. And then followed it with mousse. All I can say is that it was intense to both prepare and eat, but worth it. 

To Drink

Rhubarb Vanilla Spritzer
Rhubarb slow roasted with vanilla beans and honey, turned into a syrup and mixed with rum, white wine, and tonic water. Served in champagne flutes.

On The Table

Caramelized Onion Country Bread
Tartine method, as usual– but actually my own recipe for the variation. The taste/texture of Fressen's Caramelized Onion Rye inspired me to figure out how to properly incorporate onions into the bread. The response was very positive. 

Served with black pepper/lemon salt whipped butter. 


Shaved radish & ribboned asparagus salad.
Dressed with grapefruit vinaigrette made by amending a ruby grapefruit gastrique with oil and additional white wine vinegar. Garnished with turnip greens turned into chips, sort of like the kale chips we made this fall. Sprinkled with dried lemon zest and lemon pepper. 


Lobster bisque, morel macaroni & cheese, spring turnip knisch. 

Bisque– Miripoix, blitzed, reduced lobster cooking broth, Newman's prepared fish broth (Halbut bones), freshest lobster meat, cream, tarragon, thyme. 

Mac & cheese– Super intense molecular gastronomy slam venture entirely credited to Hannah. Some crazy ass powder from The Modernist Kitchen, which makes the flavor of cheeses completely explosive. Featuring mild young gouda, wisconsin medium cheddar, oregon aged white cheddar, and aged gouda. Black truffle shaved in. and topped with a broiled morel mushroom.

Spring turnip knisch– those delicate, white, delicious turnips that not nearly enough people know to love, baked slowly in butter and herbs. Folded together with pan-caramelized spring onions and fennel, topped with chévre, then wrapped up in pastry roses. 

Cold press coffee interlude. 


Honey lavender mousse
Guest-chefed by Rachel McDevitt, our 3rd cook Hannah's sister, who is a pastry chef at Grand Central. Delicate and delicious. Served in tiny ramekens with lavender flowers and honey drizzle.