the way the wind blew
A MASSIVELY DETAILED MISSIVE, WRITTEN IN THE THIRD PERSON, ABOUT WHAT WE DID IN 2016/EARLY 2017 BEFORE SECRET RESTAURANT PORTLAND RESUMES REGULARLY HOLDING EVENTS:
In 2016, we only did 2 "regular" Secret Restaurant Portland events– but we did a lot of cooking for large groups of people, nearly up-keeping the monthly schedule we once proclaimed.
It was a year of big events and transitions. Myrtlewood, the cookbook from Andrew, Peter, and Kate– came out in the last weeks of 2015, and the first many months of 2016 were spent distributing the remaining copies. In April, they did two dinners in the style of Secret Restaurant for backers of the project on Kickstarter. You can view the documentation of those dinners, in the style you're accustomed to, here and here.
By summer, the book had sold out and they signed with Sasquatch Books for a second edition. Production on the second edition began immediately and has continued through to the point of writing the text for this post (about 9 months), and the finished product is set to be released on October 3rd, 2017. This is what it will look like and where there are preorder options.
In may, we did the first "regular" SR of the year, a huge sigh of relief and fun after all the cookbook business! We did a Spanish and Italian influenced, fun/casual drinking-food dinner, with lots of wine in a cans.
Sofie and Andrew were booked to cook for two weddings this summer, one in June and the other in August. In June, a rehearsal dinner for Danielle Sullivan and Kyle Morton. Sofie has known the couple since 2008, when they were all babies! The dinner was on the roof of Revolution Hall, in the Washington High School building of inner southeast Portland. Luckily, Andrew was house sitting nearer to the venue than his apartment was, for a dear family of some former students. They had said an SR could happen while he was there, and he said "well, no thanks, but we WILL cook that much food at your house, and then take it away."
Here's Andrew on this experience. "The highlight of the cooking time, from what I can remember, is when we got 'lunch box's from Swagaat Indian restaurant after picking up the giant order of trout from Newman's Fish in Northwest. We ate on the back stairs, with Chips and Ziggie, the cats of the house, snuggling at our ankles."
The dinner for Danielle and Kyle was a French, Spanish, and English inspired thing, with lots of edible flowers and home grown greens / fresh pickles of green beans, carrots, and plums / grilled early summer vegetables, delicious sauces / grilled trout with parsley sauce / and raspberry fool. Magnums of rosé lined the tables.
Here's the few surviving photos from Andrew's phone. The card containing the nice-camera shots was tragically lost. Oh, technology!
Here's a sweet photo gallery from Danielle's stepmom, Janet Ebreit. Thanks Janet!
In August, we cooked for a wedding party of 100, for Nolan Calisch and Nina Montenegro. They are our friends who live on Wealth Underground Farm, where SR has done Harvest Celebration events many, many autumns. The cooking of the meal was long and arduous, mostly done at the grange hall down the road. Sofie and I worked alone with Frank Ocean's Blonde and surely some other music, but I can't remember what, blasting. The garage door flung open to let in the occasional breeze. We drank about 200 La Croix, Pamplemousse flavor. The amount of slicing and dicing for a multi course meal for 100, at the height of summer, using farm grown produce, is unfathomable– I promise you, dear reader, you have no idea how much it was.
We made tacos and salads with their farm grown produce. There were innumerable fresh salsas, lots of chips, watermelon with chili and lime juice, grilled corn on the cob with chili and cheese / enormous salads / tortillas we ordered especially from Three Sisters Nixtamale / carnitas made with pork from Campfire Farms (Zack and Christina, friends of Sofie's and past guests of a few SRs!) / grilled summer squash, enormous peach and blueberry slab pies, and the best damn gluten free cake anyone has ever made. During the toasts, shortly before the square dance, we passed around wooden bowls of ground cherries. Under the twinkle lights, the square dance, called by our friend Marta King, raged into the night.
Needless to say, the weddings took up SR's energy for the summer. To make matters wilder, August was the month we took possession of the house Sofie bought. The bigger wedding cooking week was hot on the heels of an intense stretch of 7 am to 6 pm demolition work days. We returned to working on the house for the remainder of the summer, and then the fall! By then, more of the work was being done by Sherman Family Properties (Sofie's family) and their friends.
In mid-September, Andrew cooked a benefit dinner for Abernethy Elementary school, where some dear former students now go. The dinner was organized as an auction item by the mother of these dear former students (there are 3 of them!), and as a tie-in to Myrtlewood, included copies of the book. The dinner was held at the family's house in Ladd's Addition. Andrew cooked all the food solo style in their kitchen, with a very capable helper (a friend of their family's) showing up for the last hour to help finish and serve! There was a spread of vegetables and paprika cheese dip when the guests arrived. The meal started with a German style wild mushroom soup. a salad with ______ followed by double duck breast, roasted potatoes, and ??? Finished with apple and quince rye-crust pie, with Cada Dia aged cheddar on the side.
In late September, Sofie and Andrew flew to Georgia to cook for The Real Food Challenge, a non profit organization Sofie spent much of 2013/14 working for, remotely. In 2015, we had cooked for the Northwest regional retreat in Seattle, and knocked it out of the park. We were sort of miffed when they didn't ask us back for the same retreat in '16. Then it became clear this was because they were gearing up to invite us to cook for the National summit. We flew into Atlanta and shuttled to Athens, where we spent a wild week making EVERY MEAL, every day. The smallest crowd we cooked for was 15. The majority of the meals were for 120. We worked with food donated and bulk ordered to accommodate the brilliant menus composed by Sofie. Mac and cheese (even vegan! Andrew is from Eugene, OR and really knows how to make nutritional yeast sauce; ha!)! Pizza! "Dank Ass Grain Bowls"!
In October, we decided to do one last regular Secret Restaurant in Andrew's apartment. A farewell event to the space where the very first dinners were held, and where the majority of them happened over the 3/4 decade we've been doing this project. We invited an intentionally small crowd, made up of long time supporters and guests, as well as a few significant new friends who hadn't had a chance to attend SR yet. The night was a golden-light poignant end to an era. At the end of the night, finished up the dishes around 2 a.m. (per usual), Andrew and Lucas stood in the long room and shared a long hug, remembering all the dinners in one swooping memory reel.
From August-January, during the renovations of the house, Sofie was living in the corner of her mom's partner Vern's office, and Andrew had one foot out the door of his apartment.
We moved in a few days after New Year's Eve, with the stove still stashed in the garage and Ramboard paper covering all the floors, sawdust of freshly made trim covering everything. Needless to say, we didn't do New Year's Eve, for the first time in 7 years. We got Chinese food takeout in the suburbs and had a fun time playing board games with Sofie's mom's neighbors.
Over the first half of 2017, we settled into the new house, with improvements every week. In the middle of this time, Andrew and Peter and Kate cooked a Myrtlewood supporter-prize dinner for the Sherman family at Mary and Vern's house. Sofie attended as a guest! You can see pictures of that event here.
In February. the kitchen and the rest of the inside of the house came together. In the spring we began work on our new garden, this time called The Whiskey Farm, named after our precious cat.
Okay, that's all folks, see you again soon.