It was an unusual gathering – farmers, winemakers, food writers, and public relations people sharing tables and market-fresh foods cooked by four top Northwest chefs.
In a celebration of summer and the people who bring us products from farms and vineyards, chefs Philippe Boulot, Michael Stanton, Brian Scheehser, and John Gayer teamed up to shop a local farmers’ market in the morning and create a five-course meal from their finds in the evening.
Journalists were invited to tag along with the chefs as they shopped for dinner at the Portland Farmers’ Market just steps outside the restaurant’s back door. Most of the products the chefs selected were organic and all were fresh-from-the-farm.
Winemakers from Springs Vineyard, Bishop Creek Vineyard, Evening Land Vineyards, and Seven Springs Vineyard paired the courses with wines from their wineries, many of them small batch labels.
The evening began with a simple salad of fresh greens from Trellis Farms with turnips and banyuls vinaigrette prepared by Brian Scheehser of the Heathman’s Kirkland restaurant. Phillip Boulot, Culinary Director at the Portland Heathman Restaurant & Bar, followed with a first course of fresh razor clam with risotto and chimi churri vinaigrette. Boulot actually went to the coast and dug these razor clams himself!
Kirkland’s Scheeser brought on the next course of pan seared wild spring Chinook salmon (pictured at top) that he served with fresh rhubarb, arugula, and shaved radishes with a drizzle of good olive oil.
Michael Stanton offered roasted leg of lamb, cooked rare-medium rare, with ratatouille made with fresh spring vegetables. And John Gayer finished out the meal with a delectably flaky rustic strawberry rhubarb tart with fresh berries.
During the meal, realfoodtraveler.com editors Bobbie Hasselbring and Anne Weaver had the privilege of sitting next to two organic farmers. Both regularly supply the Heathman and other area restaurants with fresh, organic vegetables and fruits. “Chefs wait for my produce,” one of the farmers said. The former international flight attendant farms nearly 200 acres in the Willamette Valley with his brother. “Last year, with the rains and cool weather, my organic onions were late. I had to keep saying, sorry it’ll be a week or two more.”
Like many small area farmers, this farmer delivers produce directly to chefs. Once a week, he makes a circuit of his chef-customers. The other farmer, who’s been farming for two decades, delivers to his restaurants several times a week.
According to the farmers, organically farmed foods cost more because it’s labor intensive. And, as the saying goes, time is money. “We do everything by hand,” the farmer-cum-flight attendant said. “I spend my summer weeding by hand. We pick by hand, package our products by hand. In fact, my vegetables are handled six to eight times before they get to the chef. I probably have the most expensive vegetables in Portland.”
The Heathman farm-to-table dinner was nothing if not impeccably fresh. Everything from beginning to end had the intense flavors and textures of food that’s been carefully produced and brought to consumers at the peak of its freshness.
Pairing this excellent food with the people who grow or raise it made for an evening of interesting conversation and certainly increased the understanding of RFT editors about what it takes to bring fresh organic food to the table.
These kinds of farm-to-table events are beginning to happen all over the country and it’s a great thing for people interested in good food and especially foods raised without harmful chemicals. We encourage you to look for dinners, wine pairings, classes, and other opportunities to explore fresh local products in your own backyard. —BH