Every week, the Bite Club leaves the Portland Farmers Market fully loaded: a bundle of fresh spinach, ripe red tomatoes, purple potatoes, and a half-round of Pearl Bakery pugliese balanced in our arms. But once the farm-fresh booty hits our kitchen shelves, all this good stuff is more likely to end up a spoiled mess of refrigerator compost than a delicious dinner. Why?
"It's difficult for most people to go from identifying what you see [at the market] to figuring out what to do with it," says Northwest Culinary Forum's Robert Reynolds, the smartypants chef who heads up Shogren House's Sunday Suppers.
That's why Reynolds launched Market Tours, a series of Wednesday and Saturday cooking classes that aim to help big-eyed shoppers fill their stomachs.
On a recent Saturday morning, Reynolds' class stopped by the Portland Farmers Market booth to buy some tiny, white asparagus, and then picked up a few beautiful eggs. After discussing what to do with their treasures, recipe-wise, Reynolds helped the market walkers make use of their raw lunch materials in the Shogren House kitchen. "I showed them a technique to blanch the asparagus, and how to poach an egg," Reynolds says. "Then we added a bit of salt and olive oil, and that was it. [The class] thought it was the best thing they had ever eaten. And they were right."
Want to impress a French chef? Take him to the river. Recently, the Bite Club spent an entire evening at the Heathman Restaurant (1001 SW Broadway, 790-7752) in the throes of a prolonged petit mort. Los Angeles-based chef Jean François Meteigner hosted a guest dinner at the restaurant and, in his honor, Chef Philippe Boulot created a special menu of the La Cachette owner's French-lite recipes.
But it was halfway through our moan-worthy Bay scallops and risotto (anointed with a decadent lobster emulsion) that Boulot offered the real jolt. The reason he's able to snag über-famous chefs the likes of Meteigner for Portland dinner dates is simple: He takes them fly-fishing.
Boulot spends most weekends when he's away from the kitchen hiking and cooking in some untrampled corner of Oregon. He and Meteigner were taking off on a rafting and fishing expedition not too long after all that fancy food had been eaten.
"All the good [French] chefs love to fish," Boulot says. "It's exotic and relaxing, but it takes concentration--like cooking." Huh? The Bite Club likes marine life in its natural state as well--we just call that pan-seared.
The Ponzis, Oregon's first family of the vine, are sexin' up your Memorial Day wine weekend early this year. At a "Seduce Your Palate" tasting party this Friday, revelers can meander through the Ponzi vineyard's cellar sipping the Beaverton-based winery's 2002 Arneis and slurping oysters on the half shell. Or they can sit outside and listen to jazzy songstress Shannon Day with a chocolate truffle melting in one hand and a glass of 2000 Pinot Noir Reserve in the other. (For a full menu of aphrodisiacs, contact the winery at 628-1227.)
, Portland Farmers Market, South Park Blocks between Montgomery and Harrison streets on Saturday, between Salmon and Main streets on Wednesday, 233-1934 or www.nwculinaryforum.org. 8:30 am every Wednesday and Saturday. $125. Reservations required.
Seduce Your Palate, Ponzi Vineyards, 14665 SW Winery Lane, Beaverton, 628-1227. 5 pm Friday, May 28. $75. Reservations required.