In order to meet Portland chefs and taste some delicious food, I decided to start volunteering for a non-profit called Growing Gardens, which promotes home-scale organic food gardening to improve nutrition, health and self-reliance while enhancing the quality of life and the environment for individuals and communities. I thought that it would be fun to gain experience as a server, while also getting to interact with some of Portland’s best and most experienced chefs. As it turns out, I was right.
On Sunday night, I worked at the Chef in My Garden event featuring Chef Jake Martin of Genoa Restaurant (which is located on 28th and SE Belmont). Chef Jake and his assistants, Sean and Brandon were willing to answer all of our questions and were fun to watch work as they communicated, always referring to each other as “chef.” Sean, (who looked shockingly similar to Vinny from Jersey Shore) told us all about his plans to move to New Mexico to open an American/Mexican style food cart. If I ever travel to New Mexico, I will definitely have to check it out because I can only imagine how delicious the food will be if it is anything like what I tasted during this event.
The event was located on Bettsy and Wally Preble’s 10-acre working urban farm with horses, alpacas, chickens, and a lake. The landscape was absolutely stunning and I was also very jealous of the private tennis court alongside the lake. I mean…who wouldn’t want to get in a game of tennis before feeding their alpacas?! I tried to take as many pictures as I could while also serving tables, but they didn’t quite turn out as well as I hoped. And well… I had to take a selfie 🙂
Although I was there to be a server, I also got to taste the extra plates and sample the wine that was provided by Hawks View Cellars. I must say, I am not generally much of wine kind of girl, but this wine was DELICIOUS! My favorites were the Pinot Gris and the Cabernet Sauvignon, which apparently means my palette has quite a wide range since those types of wines are polar opposite. When 5:30 rolled around and the first dish was being plated, my eyes bulged with excitement, hoping there would be enough for me to have a small taste. The plate of heirloom tomatoes, melon, cucumber and sorrel was artfully plated, almost making my mouth water as I was serving it to my table of 10 guests. The course was refreshing and light and left my taste buds curious for the second course.
The second course was chilled corn creme, soft egg, roe and nasturtium. I know you might be thinking what does all of that even mean? At the time, I was a bit skeptical myself but after the first bite I was in heaven. The corn was smooth and the soft egg that was cooking at a steady 148 degrees was perfectly “poached.” I had never tasted an egg like that before but it was absolutely insane how well the texture paired with the corn creme. Roe, which are salmon eggs, was an eye pleasing addition on top of the soft egg, as well as the nasturtium petals.
The final dinner course was definitely my favorite because of the impeccably grilled beef striploin alongside confit squash, beef vinaigarette and pickled blueberries. The other volunteers and I went to town eating this one outside of view of the guests because we couldn’t get enough of the juicy beef and grill-marked squash. Just thinking about it now is making my mouth water…and the sad part is I just ate lunch. I kept finding it necessary to remind myself that I was volunteering to serve and that it was probably time to go clear plates in preparation for the dessert round, which was Oregon berry summer pudding with olive oil and sweet yogurt. Let’s just say I was also thankful to get an over-sized sample of this sweet delight!
This entire experience was one of the best nights that I have ever spent volunteering. Tasting delicious wine and fabulous food from Chef Martin was definitely not a bad way to spend my Sunday night. I am looking forward to volunteering more with Growing Gardens and getting the opportunity to interact with more Portland chefs.
Here is the list of restaurants that are catering the upcoming Chef in My Garden Events –