(early september. number 21.)
At the end of the entry for Dinner #20, I mentioned Nigel Slater's Tender as a major source of inspiration. Due our awfully rainy spring, most August veggies and fruits were late. We missed out on doing SR in August because I was gone for 2 weeks in the middle of it (see previous entry). This was serendipitous, as this early September Secret Restaurant was scheduled for a hot-as-Hades weekend, with peaches and figs and tomatoes in full force. To plan the menu we basically spent time reading what Mr. Slater had to say about the ingredients we hoped to work with, and chose some exciting recipes as the jump off point. Once again, major inspiration credit is due to Nigel. As a disclaimer, however, we did make a point to do something unique with each dish. We ate outside on the porch, knowing it was probably our last chance.
With course 1– Germaicha Soju
Exactly what that sounds like. Germaicha green tea, chilled and mixed with Soju, a Japanese barley-based booze. Delightful.
With course 2– Portland Style Hefeweizen
Lucas home-brewed this stuff! We poured it on the first day that this bottle-fermented summery beer was ready.
With course 3– Gingery Vino Verde
Some simple vino verde bottles, served with both Reeds and Fentemens ginger beer to top off the glasses, giving the refreshing wine a nice bite.
Chilled Watermelon Rind Soup
We made a classic cold cucumber soup recipe, but instead (gimmick of all gimmicks...) used watermelon rind! The result was successful. This was due in large part to the shallots in the broth, and our obsessive straining of the fibrous watermelon interior.
Peaches, Lemon Thyme, Lime Leaves, and Mint
White donut peaches, poached with a bundle of lemon thyme sprigs and cracked lime leaves. Simmered until the peach skins split a little and let out the smallest amount of peach juice. It was then chilled thoroughly, and served in bowls, with the water (or peach herb tea, perhaps) for drinking after each bite.
Sea Scallop, Frisée, Honey Mustard
Local jumbo sea scallops from Flying Fish Co (now enjoying their permanent location attached to Kruger's Farm Stand at 23rd & Hawthorne), dressed in olive oil, seared in an argyle pattern on cast iron, then rolled in lemon pepper. Served on top of delicate frisée with an extremely floral honey mustard.
Whitefish, New Potatoes, Peach/Mint Tabouleh
Potatoes, red and pink, from my backyard garden (see photo documentation!), browned in a cast iron combo cooker. Hot white garlic set in, with veggie broth and a big bushel of oregano sprigs. Catfish-esque Swai was placed on top, then backed with the lid pan on top. The result was really garlicy and moist, with the herb taste really permeating everything and a toss of himalayan pink finishing salt.Topped with local red grapes at serving time. Nigel does poo-poo nearly all pairings of fish and fruit; though I've frequently found grapes in particular to be compelling.
Tabbouleh made by sprouting bulgar wheat with cold peppermint tea, and setting it over night with mint, parsley, and lemon juice. The day of serving we tossed it with a flight of my garden tomatoes, a green and a pink heirloom from market, a mild gorgeous yellow pepper, a little sweet walla walla onion, and tons of perfectly ripe peaches.
Whitecurrant Ice Cream, A Wedge Of Cheese, A Ripe Fig
Authentic style french vanilla custard-base ice cream, made with a fresh vanilla bean. Smashed, tangy whitecurrants (gathered from the bushes hanging through a fence outside of an apartment building in SE Portland) folded in halfway through turning. Topped with a watermelon syrup, made by boiling down a massive bowl of carefully strained watermelon juice, as per the instructions from the amazing 70s publication, the Whole Earth Catalog. The finished product tastes like buckwheat raw honey or something. Amazing.
A sizable wedge of authentic french camembert cheese. Just stinky enough.
Black mission fig, split in half.
At the end of the meal, Courtney, a dear guest who was present at the very first Secret Restaurant, busted out a beautiful surprise– a fresh blackberry pie she had made! The meal was actually light enough that we all had room for a bit. Nick (the handsome fellow in the dark grey t-shirt) had brought a bottle of red wine, so we popped that open and had a nightcap.