Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dining Under the Antlers

I remember reading last year about Chef Chris Starkus' dinner series Under the Antlers. So when I saw that not only was he bringing it back but also starting off with a seafood centric meal along with having Chef Gregory Gourdet pair up in cooking duties, I knew it would be a great dinner.

The dinner series gets it's name from the antlers chandelier hanging in The Library Room at Urban Farmer in Portland, Oregon. Which true to it's name has shelves of books along all four walls.

Normally there is a pool table in the room but for these dinners they cover it with nice wood panels. At each place setting there was a drink menu along with our dinner menu. Cocktails included Pepino Fresco from Urban Farmer and Crazy 88 from Departure, which is located on the top floor of the same building as Urban Farmer, the Nines Hotel. I had a taste of the Crazy 88 and it was spicy! I made the choice of just having a glass of William Hill Chardonnay from Napa Valley. Lovely wine with a nice full flavor.

As we waited for the dinner to begin, Lyf Gildersleeve, owner of Flying Fish Company which was providing the excellent seafood for the dinner, made the rounds to talk about his company. Flying Fish not only sells sustainable seafood and more to many of the restaurants around Portland but also to the public in their small store on Hawthorne and their truck at Multnomah Village. They need more room not just with their retail but also with warehouse space. I learned so much from Lyf and Karen McRae (also works with Flying Fish Company) about the fishing and distribution industry in the area. Very interesting and I'm going to post a link to Flying Fish Company's Kickstarter since not only is this a good thing they do but they have nice offerings with the campaign not just for people in the Portland Metro area but also elsewhere in the US. I have bought different smoked fish from them and a good number of the seafood and fish dinners I've eaten since moving here had fish from Flying Fish Company. In case you want to take a look, the link is here.

Just have to note that Flying Fish Company reached their Kickstarter goal!

Back to dinner which was being served by Departure Executive Chef Gregory Gourdet

and Urban Farmer Chef de Cuisine Chris Starkus.

We started off with "Snacks".

Dungeness Crab Cake with kimchee remoulade,

Uni Gunkan with fermented chili and yuzu jam,

Alaskan King Crab with citrus gel and sorrel,

and a Sweet Onion Tart with salmon roe topped with a sorrel sprig. Which were all amazingly good. The Crab Cake was another reminder of how Chef Gourdet can make a dish with a very spicy element yet it doesn't overwhelm everything. The Uni Gunken was also very good. I really liked the zestiness of the yuzu flavor with the umami of the uni.

Next up was this sublime Oyster Trio. Beautiful local oysters from Flying Fish Company. I could smell the sea, they were that fresh.

We had a raw "Everlasting Oyster" phytoplankton and scotch. Phytoplankton is the basis of the food chain in the oceans and sustains life there. Combined with the oyster it's a small representation of the circle of life in a way.

The second was Poached Oyster with smoked duck fat, crispy duck skin and dried lime. So much flavor on that small shell.

The Crispy Oyster with piment d'esplette vinegar and lemon chia seed caviar was the third oyster and also amazingly delicious. The acid of the vinegar mixed so well with this.

Following this was Albacore Two Ways.

On the left was Chef Starkus' Albacore Ceviche with lobster, halibut and snapper along with watermelon and tomato. Vegetables, tomatoes and the flowers and herbs came from the Urban Farmer rooftop garden on top of the Nines Hotel. Really delicious and I liked that there was decent sized pieces of lobster. I would have happily eaten more of this if offered.

Chef Gourdet's Albacore Tataki with dried peach, miso and tomato ice was also amazing. So much went into this I couldn't follow everything he explained about it but I do remember he said it was hot cold hot and cold again as relating to the ingredients and how they were each prepared. It's funny this course of two dishes reminded me of cooking competitions where the contestants are told what the main ingredient is and have to come up with a unique dish. I'm glad we didn't have to pick a winner because both were equally good.

However the next course was my favorite. We were served bowls with a lovely Hawaiian spot prawn along with mussel, clam, scallop, summer vegetables and herbs and flowers from the roof top garden.

Then the chefs poured a fragrant broth into each bowl.

This act really made the service special for us diners.

My prawn swimming in the aromatic soup. A few sips of this and I was exclaiming how it was like we were drinking flowers. I've never tasted anything like this and I would love to have this again. Even if it was just the broth. This was Chef Starkus' dish and to me was an expression of the depth of his culinary knowledge and technique. Definitely was an amazing experience to eat this.

Chef Gourdet followed that with his Albacore poached in Tomato Oil with roasted pork belly in a watermelon curry. Topped with herbs like cilantro and I'm guessing Thai basil. The flavor of the meat was brilliant and was not overwhelmed by the intense heat of the curry. Chef Gourdet could make amazing ramen based on the soups and this dish that I have had. If he ever wanted to. Even without that I can finally say I've had curry made by Chef Gourdet. And ate a good portion of it.

Dessert arrived and it was a Rooftop Chamomile Financier Tart with ginger-peach marmalade and peach ice cream.

Created by Urban Farmer's Pastry Chef Hilly Lynn who explained the dish to us including that the chamomile was grown in the rooftop garden.

Lovely dessert and that tart was so delicious! I definitely want to visit Urban Farmer in the near future for not just more of Chef Starkus's cooking but also Chef Lynn's desserts.

The evening went over really well with the diners. It was a really nice group and I don't think anyone was disappointed. I know I loved the meal.

So the particulars. The Under the Antlers dinners are held at Urban Farmer which is on the 8th floor of the Nines Hotel at 525 SW Morrison St, Portland, OR 97204. Chef Chris Starkus not only will be hosting those but also will be at OMSI today, August 13th at 6 pm for a Better Bites:Serving Local talk and small plates meal. Information for that is here. Chef Gregory Gourdet is cooking up a lot of food at Departure which is on the 14th floor of the Nines Hotel. He also does a lot of work for the Portland food scene along with events around the world plus opening a new Departure in Denver, Colorado. You can see my blog reviews of a few of his dinners here.

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