One of the things I'm realizing about Portland as a food town is that the world of chefs here is quite intermingled; some would say it can be slightly incestuous, as you run into a lot of people who know people you know, because they've worked with them elsewhere. Just last night I was at a bar where two people who worked there knew two of my current coworkers from previous restaurants at which they worked. It makes for an interesting, kind of familial feeling.
As a positive result of the weird intermingling, I've been lucky enough to run into some great opportunities, one of them being the Plate and Pitchfork dinner I just returned from tonight.
The view from the "kitchen"
Plate and Pitchfork, for those not in the know, is a series of dinners catered by local chefs in partnership with local farms, and which usually take place at local wineries. Tonight's event was at the Jacob-Hart Vineyard in Newberg, about 45 minutes outside of Portland. I love that you can drive a mere 45 minutes out of town and be deep in Oregon wine country.
The chefs for tonight's event were Gabe Rucker of Le Pigeon, one of my favorite places in town, and Eric Moore from Victory Bar, an awesome spot in SE Portland. One of my coworkers knows Gabe quite well, and asked me to volunteer my time for this event. Help cater a dinner out in a sunny, gorgeous vineyard and playing with some incredible food? No arm-twisting necessary.
We literally drove through the grapevines to get to the spot where tables for 120 guests were set amongst the vines. I saw dogs running about, horses in a nearby barn, two grills set for roasting prime rib... I felt the sun on my back and the breeze blowing through my hair and I knew it would be a good day.
On the menu were beautiful Viridian Farms greens and veggies, in the form of some simple but beautiful salads, sides and desserts concocted by the chefs. Gabe makeshift-smoked and grilled six huge slabs of fat, juicy prime rib for the main course, and meanwhile I cut up a giant bunch of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes for a marinated tomato-cuke salad, fried up some lamb tongue "nuggets" for appetizers, plated many family-style bowls of beautiful greens and veg, fried buttermilk-soaked onions to top off a for classic green bean casserole with a horseradish aioli, and just did whatever work needed to be done.
I was surprised at how mellow the atmosphere was, maybe because I'm so used to having the tickets pour in and busting my ass to get things out on time. It also helped that the chefs were ultra-prepared, and as a lovely result, we were able to partake in some of the food and wine as well, albeit standing up. Now that I think about it, I haven't eaten sitting down in days. Last time I ate sitting down... take out from Kenny and Zuke's, sitting on my couch, four days ago? This is why I need dinner dates, people.
I had a lot of fun being out there in a field under the sun, especially because I feel like I haven't been outside enough this summer. It's August already, and the days are just flying by. It's nice to just take your time, do a fun event for the hell of it, and be surrounded by lush farmland while you're at it.
Highly recommended, folks.