THE ENGLISH CHANNEL
(number 71. february.)
Our inclinations for this winter dinner were both French and English. We debated between the two countries for a minute, and then realized why not honor the shared space of these famously disdainful-of-one-another cultures. The English Channel, and particularly the passage between Dover and Calais. Though we have no proof, we like to imagine there are small towns along these coastlines with French influence on the English side and English influence on the French side. Whether they exist or not, this dinner took place at their tables.
Location played a very key role in this one. Lucas bought a house this fall, which is located in a janky back lot near Deep Southeast 82nd avenue. Here’s a snippet from the ticket page:
Technically the home of our cofounder Lucas Winiarski, this venue adds a whole new thrilling chapter to the Secret Restaurant Portland story, and this will be opening night. The venue not only contains a large open kitchen fireside dining room, but also The Wobbly Stool– Felony Flats’ premier speakeasy basement bar and lounge (also fireside). You will be e-mailed the location of the dinner a day before. For your planning purposes and the hilariously on-the-nose “secret”ness of it all, the house is in semi-deep Southeast Portland, accessible off of 82nd avenue, is truly hidden from the street (down a weird gravel path), and impossible to find without the use of GPS.
This is a classic briny French tart. I’d been attracted to it in the pages of cookbooks for years– served as an aperitif with rosé in the pages of ‘Lulu’s Provençal Table’ by Richard Olney, featured heavily in David Lebovitz’s ‘My Paris Kitchen.’ I was reminded of it recently with the publication of ‘Diner Journal n.33, 20 years of Diner.’ I made that version for Adam’s birthday a month or so before this dinner, and liked it so much I decided to try one that has a bit taken from all three recipes.
Essentially it is slowly caramelized onions (with thyme and cloves) spread on an olive-oil heavy crust that falls somewhere between pizza dough and flaky pastry. Oil cured black olives and thin strips of anchovy are laid across the surface.
Oysters, Meyer lemon + black pepper
Fresh oysters from Netarts Bay, Oregon, purchased through our friends at the Portland Fish Market. Shucked by Andrew and Adam, served with Meyer lemon spiked with a little bergamot orange and freshly cracked pepper.
Mussels with fennel and cider
Fennel still hanging on in the fields at The Whiskey Farm, sweetened by the winter’s cold. Slow braised with butter, mussels added to the pot, then cooked with dry French cider. A dollop of traditional garlic-heavy aioli in each bowl. Mussels from Oregon, also coming from the Portland Fish Market.
Rabbit from The Whiskey Farm, braised with garlic and shallots. The meat was then torn and mixed with beef tallow rendered by Lucas, chopped dried Oregon bing cherries, seasoned with grated nutmeg and salt, topped with duck fat.
Calais whole wheat bread
Probably the finest bread I’ve made. A simple whole wheat, using the whole wheat recipe from Tartine Bread with the technique-shifts presented in Tartine Book n. 3. The starter was in a really good zone, and the cold winter house made me be extra patient with the slow rise.
Dover winter salad
Radicchio, curly endive. Purple top turnips, both dry grilled and thinly sliced and bathed in lemon juice. Grilled Jerusalem artichokes. Blood oranges. Pistachios. Meyer lemon and shallot vinaigrette.
Rabbit and chickpea stew with walnut pesto + watercress sauce
Rabbit from The Whiskey Farm, braised with garlic and shallots. The meat pulled from the bones. A new stock made from the bones. Oregon chickpeas soaked with kombu Lucas and Will harvested last year, cooked to al dente. Half the chickpeas cooked overnight in a slow cooker with the rabbit stock, then pureed. Oregon flageolet beans cooked separately. A mirepoix cooked in olive oil with thyme, sage, and rosemary. The cooking liquid from the rabbit (wine, shallots, garlic, bay) added to the pot, along with the al dente chickpeas and flageolet beans, followed by the torn rabbit meat and the pureed beans. Simmered slowly for the whole afternoon. Walnuts lightly toasted and smashed with garlic and a mortar. Loosened with the rabbit braise liquid. Watercress and parsley pureed with garlic and a touch of white wine vinegar.
Ginger and plum pudding
A take on classic English Christmas pudding. Using dried and fresh ginger, brandy soaked prunes, and the brandy soaked raisins from the cocktail at the beginning of the night. Torn challah made with honey, eggs, butter. Steamed. Served downstairs in the bar, after flaming both of them, with dollops of brandy butter.
Domaine de Bellevue
Muscadet, Sevre & Maine
winemaker: Jérôme Bretaudeau
This delicious wine was selected by Victor at Ardor Natural Wines when I asked for “one special slam-dunk of a white” to go with this menu.
100% Melon de Bourgogne
Jérôme blends parcels of different ages for his Sèvre et Maine, from Melon de Bourgogne which he hand-harvests from his sloping, sandy, loam vineyards on Gabbro bedrock. Grapes are only harvested in the morning to aid in the prevention of oxidation, and the grapes are then transferred by gravity to a press where they are lightly pressed. The must is allowed to settle slowly under controlled, cool temperatures before it is moved to ferment in a tank. During fermentation, Jérôme uses only indigenous yeasts, and keeps the temperature between 16˚ and 20˚C. Fermentation lasts about four weeks, after which the wine is allowed to age with regular bâtonnage and is bottled without filtration.
Barley Brown’s Pallet Jack IPA
This has been one of my favorite beers for years. If asked what my favorite Oregon beer is, I would always say this one. It’s one of the simple and perfect creations. It has won the gold medal for IPAs at the Great American Beer Festival many times. One year, they didn’t win. They slightly tweaked the recipe the next year, and won again.
Because Barley Brown’s does not and has never bottled their beer, and is located way out in Eastern Oregon, their beers are to be noticed and enjoyed when on tap lists in town. A few solid places who have been with them since the early days (Barley Brown’s goes back to 1995, which is ancient in craft beer) always have it– Horse Brass and The Moon & Sixpence are the most reliable. BB is an English style brewery using Oregon ingredients, so they are truly the most at home at English style pubs. We are lucky to live near Otto’s Sausage Kitchen, which also carries it regularly. Otto’s fills growlers, so we got a few.
Cocktails by The Wobbly Stool
The Wobbly Soda
Raisin infused brandy, amaro Cio Cairo, bitters, bubbly water
The Witch Doctor
Spiced coffee, coffee infused sugar cubes, Liquore Strega, and soft-whipped cream)
At the end of the night
Amari: Montenegro, Cio Claro, Meletti
Various house infusions and extracts
A special shoutout to Lucas and his housemates for hosting, to Joe and Zoe for doing such a knockout job with the bar, to Claire for tending the fires all night, to Adam for joining the kitchen crew for the last stretch of the afternoon, and to Holly for documenting with such fun photos!