THE Magic mountain
“Is not the pastness of the past the more profound, the more legendary, the more immediately it falls before the present?”
- Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain (1924)
(number 67. february.)
When approaching our impending return-from-hiatus, I thought a lot about a band I love: The Clientele. They took a 7 year hiatus, and returned with an album that doesn’t even employ their signature sound (a tremelo/reverb laden electric guitar). They introduce a new instrument, some kind of obscure hammer dulcimer. Yet the same gorgeous atmosphere, at once familiar to anyone who has listened before, washes over the songs like tasteful watercolor, or filters the images the music conjures like a super-8 film reel. When I saw them play in November, they played the new songs with the tremolo-reverb electric guitar. It was the perfect push and pull, a dynamic presentation of a band of friends making art for arts sake, and also showing the world they are in it for life.
I chose the title of Thomas Mann's alps-set 1924 novel to serve as the title for this dinner/entry. There was no true hard and fast theme in planning the menu, but a sense of what might be served in deep winter in an alpine hotel of a long-lost-Europe found its way into every course.
I made these letterpress "golden tickets" using some wooden type at The Independent Publishing Resource Center and an image which I believe came from an old wine bottle, or wine advertisement. I found it through Alexander Von Halem, a wine maker and gardener in Bavaria who is a friend of a friend. The tickets are shown in the gallery above, and were collectable only in person at the bookstore leading up to the dinner.
A simple cocktail featuring House Spirits Distillery’s exquisite Krogstad Aquavit. Just the anise-tinged Scandinavian spirit, some douglas fir and elderflower syrup I made, shaken with egg whites.
Zumm Martin Sepp:
Grüner Veltliner 2016
Perfect with-this-food natural wines from this wonderful Austrian winemaker.
After getting a cocktail or glass of wine (or both!), the guests were greeted with a basket of bread, a little jar of smoked fish spread, and some compound butter, to nibble with their first cocktail or glass of wine. Here is what that looked like...
Barley porridge & sprouted rye pumpernickel
Whole wheat seedy loaf with poppy, sunflower, flax, and caraway
Danish-style spelt & rye
All inspired by breads in Tartine Book n.3, with some Andrew-variants, made fresh that morning. Incredible local flours to work with from Greenwillow Grains, Camas County Mills, and Tabor Bread.
Smoked Fish Spread
Whole smoked whitefish from Lake Superior, Idaho smoked trout, farmstead cream cheese, sour cream, and this delicious “fish salt” (sea salt + herbs and seaweeds) Kate and Peter brought back for me from Norway.
Cultured, salted butter from France, beaten with chopped chives, arugula, and parsley. Black pepper.
Celeriac and parsnip cream soup
Parsnips and celeriac slow roasted in butter, with a touch of cream. Clean and simple. Guests were encouraged to make this less clean and simple by dunking slices of the rye bread topped with slabs of the chive butter into the soup, taking a melty-butter bite, then a spoonful of soup, and repeating.
Kohlrabi and rutabaga
1. Thinly sliced kohlrabi lightly dressed with our own champagne tarragon vinegar, olive oil, and a few leaves of tarragon.
2. Rutabaga and kohlrabi, blanched, then cooked with leeks and collard green confetti, topped with labne and cracked black pepper.
3. Thinly sliced rutabaga cooked gently with leeks melted into butter, lifted with lemon zest and lemon juice.
Ling and true cod stew
This stew was a deeply layered dish of roasted vegetable stock, a simmered vegetable stock, a lot of mirepoix, a blond roux, a dark roux, some gently cooked cabbage/leeks/peas, ling cod, and bite-sized hunks of true cod gently poached at the end.
Mashed potatoes, green sauce, scallop
Simple as can be: light as a feather (we used a ricer), with whole milk, butter, and sour cream.
Green sauce made with tons of parsley, macerated shallot, anchovy, salt packed capers, olive oil, lemon juice.
Jumbo fresh scallops cooked seconds before the plates came out, in butter and olive oil, topped with the Norwegian fish salt.
Almond spelt cake with white and pink currants
Port soaked prunes and black mission figs
Ruby port, good dried fruit, and time.
Alpine cheeses– Alpha Tolman (VT– in the style of many Alpine cheeses of note), an expensive and difficult to find Swiss one, a good comté (there are French Alps, too!), and a very very aged Gouda.
Candied walnuts, made with Hastings Honey, raised/harvested in Nebraska last year by our own Will Boal. This + butter + pomegranate molasses= boom!
Scandinavian Swimmers (yes, the Trader Joe’s knockoff of Swedish Fish. To keep it real).
El Limonar from Roseline Coffee
Roseline is our new coffee partner. I had the pleasure of teaching Isabella (age 4) last year, who is the owner, Paul Benchoter's daughter. I wrote a piece on Roseline for the spring issue of People's Food Co-Op quarterly publication, Grass Roots. To research the piece I got to spend a couple of afternoons at the roastery. I learned about all aspects of their operation, tasted a lot of coffees participating in their weekly cupping, and left knowing they are the perfect fit for Secret Restaurant to work with.
Here are my notes about this coffee, excerpted from the article:
El Limonar, from Huehuetenango, Guatemala. A bright, citrus-forward coffee with a delightfully rich hazelnut note, and a syrup-like smoothness.
Lucas Winiarski and Andrew Barton were joined in the kitchen by Will Boal, who had done a previous tenure as the Secret Restaurant Portland 3rd-cook in 2010/2011. To give perspective: it was a sourdough starter Will gifted to me that I've kept alive for 8 years and used to make the bread for this dinner. Will moved away, first to Olympia (where he hosted a wonderful SR lunch), and then to Nebraska, where he farmed and built houses. He has returned to Portland to go back to school and we are so happy he is working with us again!
Adam Monkaba lent a hand in the back with prep and serving the guests. Adam is a woodworker and architect by trade, as this night marked the debut of the beautiful new front desk/bar he built for the shop.
Craig, the owner of Mother Foucault's Bookshop, where this dinner too place, tended the bar! What a treat!
If you are a faithful reader and are wondering where Sofie Sherman-Burton is, she is taking her own indefinite hiatus from SR, focusing on our home projects and the incredible work she does at People's Food Co-Op. Read a great article in Grass Roots lately? Attended a fun and informative event? It is likely Sofie who you have to thank.
As always, a special shout-out to Peter and Kate Schweitzer, our photographer/styling team, for setting the scenes, helping every which way, and capturing the event with impeccable style.