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Jake Martin's Inaugural Daphne Pop-up Dinner Delights

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Jake Martin, chef at Portland's Genoa outpost of fine dining, launched an 11-course Daphne pop-up dinner on April 7, 2014. He teamed with Levant sommelier Christopher Sky to offer "casual dining on fine food" in the Langbaan room at Paadee.

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I was one of the 24 foodies to jump at the chance to try this experience. I sidled up to the four-seat chefs bar to be inches away from the tweezer-and-squeeze-bottle action. I enjoyed the insights of Gary the Foodie on my left. However - word to the wise - the barstools in Langbaan get very uncomfortable after about an hour, and we were in for a dinner of over four hours.

The menu was laid out on the chalkboard, the minimal description not doing justice to the details of each dish. The chefs were precise with the artistic arrangement of each plate. Service was excellent, with new wine glasses for each of the 10 wines and fresh silverware for each course.

Amuse: radish, ogo, housemade butter and Jacobsen's Sea Salt, with Ampelidae Brut.

Sea urchin mousse with citrus in a nasturtium soup and sepia, with Minimus no. 3 Viognier '12 from the Umpqua Valley. The uni mousse was luscious, and I love the silky viognier.

Veal tartar with a mushroom cracker, herbs and miso, with local Teutonic Wine Pinot Noir Rose '13. I enjoyed every bite of the tartar.

By this point it was taking over 20 minutes per course, so I knew the three-hour window for the dinner was going to get blown away and I contacted my ride home to reset expectations.

The fourth course was compressed cucumber with cucumber curls on yogurt with dried olive crumbs and shiso. It was served with Kesselstatt Riesling Sekt Brut '09 sparkling wine. It was a nice, refreshing course.

Now for potato soup served in a potato, with charred leek and trout roe. A need to reheat the potatoes caused a little delay. The Valdespino Manzanilla sherry served with it was not my favorite.

The star course was mackerel with beets, suedoise and horseradish. I am not a fan of fatty fish, but this made me a convert. Each bite had a dance of flavor that made me eager for more. Gary declared it was as good or better than any fish he had at the great places in Tokyo. The Beaujolais Nouveau Dupeuble '13 paired well.

I also loved the soup that followed, pea pureed with macadamia nuts and topped with a white chocolate foam. The sweetness of the peas with the nuts and chocolate was super.

Now we were back to meat, with capon seared to finish and served with a garlic soup and roasted elephant garlic. The Holden Pinot Noir '11 is from a new local winemaker. His style is low alcohol, acid-driven for food pairing. It served well to be matched with the capon, but it was a very light pinot.

I enjoyed the next course, braised lamb with chickpea panissa and za'taar spice and carrots. I loved the spice and the nicely braised lamb. It was paired with a Valdespino Palo Cortado sherry.

Alas, I had to depart as it was a weeknight, so I missed out on the two desserts. One was a blood orange sorbet with vanilla and meringue, served with Moscato d'asti, Saracco '13. The final dessert was rice and cream with Kukicha.

Looking back, I found several of the courses memorable, especially the mackerel and the pea soup and the sea urchin. The bar was great for watching the chefs at work, but the barstools get a "fail" rating.

Jake said he didn't have future dates yet set for Daphne, so keep watch on his Facebook page.

Daphne Restaurant Pop Up Dinners

Past: Genoa for Portland Dining Month

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