(middle april. number 38.)
Kate and Peter Schweitzer are two of the most supportive, enthusiastic, and loyal guests to Secret Restaurant Portland.
Peter's photographs of every dinner since #32 have been a tremendous gift to the project. When they asked us if we would do a special Secret Restaurant catering job for their housewarming party, we agreed immediately and enthusiastically.
They bought their house about a year and a half ago, and have tirelessly worked on completely remodeling it by themselves. This was the first unveiling for many friends and family members. See the before and after pictures in a separate gallery, after the menu write-up, to get a further idea of how drastic and impressive the change is!
If asked what my favorite dinners we've made are, I'd likely find myself referring to #29 or #17, or #1– all of which fell around the middle of April. Oregon spring is a time for gorgeous, wild and wonderful purple and green food.
We intentionally timed this job with this time of the year. The aesthetics of the food were to compliment the aesthetics of the house, and also, we knew it was the perfect opportunity to create new challenges for ourselves within a now familiar only-once-a-year flavor palate.
This was not a sit down formal dinner, yet we plated and coursed each piece on a large table and guests helped themselves from there. There were closer to 30 guests rather than our usual 12.
Lemon/Oregon Truffle Salt Focaccia with Kate's Cheese Board
Lemons grown in the front yard of my dear family friend Sheila Ryskamp (an important figure in my life since childhood and also an inspiration for my pescetarian diet and my discerning taste in food) in California.
Jacobsen hand-harvested Oregon sea salt, long-infused by Oregon white truffles. Lucas bought this salt from Ben Jacobsen himself, in the first months of his product being available, when he just had a little table set up at City Market one weekend afternoon. He saved some of it to make this truffle salt.
Focaccia recipe taken from Canal House #5.
When preparing our grocery list, I got Kate to tell me of her favorite cheeses. under the guise that I might pick one or two. We got all of them/served all of them. A blue, a sharp cheddar, a sheep's milk feta, a chèvre, and something else. Served out with the focaccia.
Apparently, a traditional soup in New England in the spring is 'cream of fiddlehead' prepared almost identically to traditional cream of asparagus soups. I had the idea to create a soup with both, and practiced it a few weeks before, when visiting my folks down in Eugene.
We reduced the cooking liquid from processing all the stinging nettles for the nettle pasta (featured later in the meal), to a deep tea-broth. The asparagus and fiddleheads were blanched in this liquid, then processed in the Vitamix to a smooth puree.
Worked back into the remaining liquid, with lemon juice for emulsification and brightening of flavor, the soup was then settled at room temperature and a small quantity of cream added to smooth out its finish.
Served with butter/garlic sautéed fiddleheads, somewhat reminiscent of the experience I had as a 3rd grader eating escargot served by my francophile teacher Mrs. Bowers.
Spring Curiosities Salad
Tender pea shoots/tendrils, deep all-purple carrots, french breakfast radishes, and flowering wild arugula tops. Dressed lightly with lime juice/oil/salt/pepper.
One of the many dishes that started with a mildly ludicrous idea from tipsy Lucas, months ago, then executed by me in a state of nerves! Yet the results made it an entirely worthwhile endeavor.
Wildcrafted stinging nettles, gathered by all us the previous weekend and de-stemmed with gloves on at intervals throughout the week. Blanched, then processed in the Vitamix and worked into Alice Waters's green pasta recipe, rolled out long and thin.
Nettle/garlic béchamel sauce layered with Secret Restaurant Portland's first foray into cheese making (all credit due to Sofie) with a homemade nettle ricotta cheese.
Sparse crumbles of sheep's milk feta throughout, topped with mozzarella and pecorino romano.
Freshly made rhubarb syrup soaked ladyfingers, topped with two scoops of french vanilla custardy ice cream– one with roasted strawberries (w/maple syrup & olive oil), one with rhubarb compote– all packaged in squat little mason jars.
Merrylegs Gin from Oregon Spirit Distillers in Bend. Super juniper-y, Kate's favorite, a gin all should know about!
Schwepps. All we can say is: practical, classic.
Sparkling, made by us with fresh lime juice, sugar, and the Sodastream.
Lemon syrup made with the extra rinds of Sheila's lemons leftover from the focaccia– sparkled by us with the Sodastream and bottled up.
Here are those before/after photos: