The second annual Feast Portland kicked off on September 19, 2013. My first stop was the Chef Floyd Cardoz and Chef Sarah Schafer dinner at Schafer's Irving St. Kitchen in Portland, Oregon. It promised to be an interesting pairing between the Boston-raised chef who serves up southern-influenced cuisine in Portland and the classically-trained winner of 2012 Top Chef Masters whose Tabla restaurant defines New Indian cuisine in NYC. As a fan of all of those culinary genres, I was eager to eat. It helped that two of my go-to local wineries were providing the wine pairings: Sokol Blosser and Willamette Valley Vineyards.
The dinner was served in Irving St. Kitchen's private dining room. We began first out on the porch in good Southern style, although without any moonshine. Instead, we had sparkling Sokol Blosser Evolution, the latest in their easy-drinking Evolution line. Servers passed a couple of wonderful appetizers. First came a melon gazpacho with roasted fig foam. This had nice spice and was refreshing on our last warm evening of summer, 2013. Then came a pakora topped with roasted tomato, perfectly spiced.
Once we settled into our tables, the next round was 2012 Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling and a salmon crudo with arugula, radish, wasabi and ginger. As an off-dry riesling fan, I like the WVV version, although I prefer something straight from the Mosel Valley in Germany. The salmon was excellent, and Chef Cardoz was the chief influence for this dish.
At my table were two local couples and a quartet of food and wine writers. I enjoyed talking throughout the evening with Allen Salkin, whose history/expose of Food Network, "From Scratch: Inside the Tumultuous Billion-Dollar World of the Food Network" comes out on October 1, 2013. I've pre-ordered it. After hearing some of his best stories that aren't in the book, I'm drooling to devour the book. I've ordered the audiobook, which he reads.
My favorite course came next, designed by Chef Shafer. It is a baby beet tartare (rather than beef), with truffle creme and crispy horseradish. She admitted that she didn't like beets. I think anybody would love beets after this dish. There was a little snap of hot spice in the beets, and the crispy horseradish was something none of us foodies had seen before. The truffle creme added another earthy element. It was paired with 2012 Sokol Blosser Pinot Gris. I like that wine, but it didn't play well with some of the bitterness of the horseradish.
Next, Chef Cardoz fired up a perfectly roasted and seasoned grilled shrimp on fire roasted tomato risotto and pickled okra. One of the diners (who works at Intel) noted that on a Venn diagram, okra is where Southern food and Indian food intersect. The risotto needed the flavor burst of the pickled okra. It was paired with a nice 2011 Willamette Valley Founders' Reserve Pinot Blanc.
The fourth course was black cod brandade ravioli with shaved botarga, little gem, and uni butter. I am not a fish fan in general, so when I say this was delicious, that is high praise. It was paired with the 2011 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir. It's nice to see that Sokol Blosser has taken that difficult, low-fruit year and created a full-bodied wine with good fruit and balance. I look forward to enjoying this from my cellar!
The fifth course of pork loin with heirloom beans, apples and chanterelles was lovely and tasted great. But we all agreed that it seemed pedestrian and we would have liked a wow factor with it. It was paired with a 2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Elton Pinot Noir that also was a very good wine from a difficult year.
Dessert was a frozen corn parfait with blackberry, pecan praline and smokey caramel. I loved the praline and caramel elements. The sweet dessert wine was the Sokol Blosser White Riesling. I have a few of those in my cellar, and it has a very good balance of sweet and acid and intense fruit.
Dinner ended four hours after it started. I give the private dining room good ratings for noise, I was able to enjoy conversations without shouting. I am now very intrigued by Chef Shafer's talents and plan to return with friends.