Q & A with Executive Chef Matt Christianson
What fall produce are you most excited about?
Chestnuts, quince and canning the 300 pounds of peaches from Baird Family Orchards in Dayton, Oregon we picked up at the Portland Farmer’s Market this week
Favorite dish on the fall menu?
My favorite west coast fish, Alaskan halibut and as the short season ends in October get it while you can! Also our perfectly caramelized grilled cheese sandwich.
Favorite drink on the fall menu?
The addition of Dry Fly Gin to our extensive spirit selection has been long awaited. Dry Fly + a quality tonic water = a happy chef.
What was your best Halloween costume?
The stuffed monkey I wore on my back during service labeled Bradley Ogden, my longtime mentor and Chef/Owner of Lark Creek Inn in Lakespur, CA.
Bitters date back to the 1700s originally touted as natural, cure all health tonics derived from roots and barks.
A ‘cocktail’ was historically defined as spirit + sugar + bitters + water (prior to the luxury of ice). The modern day fashion in which a barman integrates bitters into a cocktail is not unlike a chef integrating seasoning into a dish. Bitters allow for incorporation of flavor into a cocktail without altering the balance.
At Urban Farmer Portland our innovative and DIY minded team has created a library of individual tinctures (single ingredient infusions) such as cacao, coffee, cinnamon, chinchona bark, citrus peel, green tea and sarsaparilla just to name a few. After a 3 month infusion in our Barrel Room, the finely tuned palates of our culinary and bar teams collaborate on custom blends of bitters created to highlight the season and compliment the cuisine for a truly hand crafted cocktail.
If the chefs seem are a bit too giddy on Wednesdays & Fridays, our farmer partners are to blame. Wednesdays mean a weekly trip to the Shemanski Farmer’s Market our red wagon in tow, but Fridays now have whole new meaning thanks to our friends at Zenger Farm, an urban farm that models, promotes and educates about sustainable food systems, environmental stewardship, community development and access to good food for all. Urban Farmer Portland is proud to be the first restaurant participating in Zenger Farm’s weekly CSA (community supported agriculture). Eacd Friday a farmer’s selection of what is seasonal and at its peak arrives for chefs Matt, Chris, Adam, Erick & Alec to articulate the season a on a plate. The bounty of our inaugural CSA became a stunning honey roasted breakfast radish salad with charred mustard greens, green garlic-radish top pesto. Cheers to summer and the farmers who tend our land year round!
Urban Farmer, Portland’s Steakhouse, Portland, OR
Temperatures are rising in Portland, however it may be our house made hot sauce and not the summer heat responsible for that sweat on your brow.
We take hot sauce seriously and ours is not for the faint of heart. What sets it apart from the rest? All of the peppers are grown in our rooftop garden; a menacing mélange of Trinidad scorpion, yellow Thai, piri piri & Mexican lemon drop peppers. Unlike the commercial hot sauces that integrate tomato and other components to their sauce which attribute to that familiar red hue, Urban Farmer hot sauce is comprised solely of peppers + vinegar. The mix is puréed, steeps for 30 days before mellowing out in one of our oak barrels before going into bottle. Next time you need a kick for that Benedict or your feeling like spicing up that Farm Burger ask for some Urban Farmer hot sauce, but proceed with caution…
Yamazaki 2016 Edition Single Malt Sherry Cask Japanese Whiskey made their way from Japan to the state of Oregon. Not to fret though, one of those elusive bottles sits on our bar reunited with its’ 12 yr. & 18 yr. single malt siblings.
Although whiskey is steeped in millenniums of history, Japan has risen to a well justified place of prominence in the last few decades. The Yamazaki distillery was erected in 1923 with Japan’s first whiskey introduced in 1929. Yamazaki releases its first single malt in 1984 and fast forward to 2013, the Yamazaki 12 yr. single malt becomes the first Japanese whisky to be decorated with the gold medal in the whisky category of the International Spirits Challenge 2003 the most authoritative spirits competition in the world. More accolades and ‘best of’ designations followed to institute Yamazaki whiskeys as highly sought after, cult classic.
Enjoying a Japanese Single Malt Whiskey in a modern American steakhouse in Portland, OR may seem counterintuitive, but trust us it feels so right!
Urban Farmer, Portland’s Steakhouse, Portland, OR
Next Level Urban Farming in PDX
The Urban Farmer family is always on the search for more efficient and eco-responsible urban farming practices. As we consider ourselves early adopters, it was a natural progression for us to integrate an indoor hydroponic growing system.
Hydro- what?!? All us to explain; our basic hydroponic system requires no soil. The ‘hydro tower’ pumps both water and plant food to the top of the system literally raining down across root system to deliver the necessary nutrients. Mimicking nature in a controlled environment thus maximizing efficiency by reducing cost of labor and use of land simply be embracing and incorporating the ever evolving technologies pushed forward by likeminded innovators
Dining Room DIY
It’s common at Urban Farmer Portland to see a chef sneak through the dining room into the Pantry to grab a jar of pickled vegetables for the charcuterie board or snag some salsify for the pacific wild salmon. But when was the last time you saw a chef harvesting mushrooms from the dining room? With a little help from our buddy Bob at Misty Mountain Mushrooms in Yamhill, OR the Urban Farmer dining room is now home to cultivation of shitake and maitake mushrooms. Bob created us a mushroom friendly environment for 4 blocks of each variety to thrive in a climate controlled setting aided by a timed mister. Harvest, sauté and finish & crisp shallot. Now that’s what we call hyperlocal!
Here we go spring! True to our Urban Farmer roots, it’s one of our most eagerly anticipated seasons as resident apiarist and garden whisperer Chef Chris Starkus thoughtfully curates our rooftop garden.
Urban Farmer Portland’s 4 rooftop hives are home to 12,000 Hungarian honey bees which will yield 12-15 gallons of micro batch honey. An ideal complement for the Rogue River bleu on the artisanal cheese plate curated specifically to your tastes tableside, but don’t be surprised if it finds its way into your Bees Knees cocktail.
What’s in the seed bank for this season you ask? English thyme, Trinidad scorpion peppers, bloody duck sorrel, yellow Thai chilies, golden purslane, miner’s lettuce, Spanish red garlic, Mt. Hood strawberries, borage, Cascade hops, Mexican gherkin watermelon cucumbers, purple dwarf snap peas, ice box watermelons…just to name a few.
We hereby promise to offer a seasonally inspired, responsibly sourced 3 Course Lunch thoughtfully curated by Chefs Matt, Mike, Erick, Chris, Adam & Hillary served to you in under an hour Monday – Friday.
On the menu today? Start with Chilled Shrimp, cucumber, fennel & arugula; then comes the Wagyu Pot Roast, carrot, foraged mushroom, Romanesco, potato; just a little something sweet to send you back to the office, Eggnog Cheesecake, rum caramel, brown sugar crumble.
Did we mention this trilogy of culinary delight and efficiency is priced at $25?
Urban Farmer, Portland’s Steakhouse, Portland, OR:
It’s a great time to step into the Urban Farmer Portland kitchen a buzz with holiday preparations. Butchers breaking down New York steaks destined for dry aging, prep cooks roasting beets and pastry chefs wafting freshly baked gingerbread through the air. This year brings a different kind of preparation as we send a team of Urban Farmer Portland trained culinarians off to open the newest addition to the family – Urban Farmer, Philadelphia. Under the mentorship of Executive Chef Matt, Executive Sous Chef Chris & Pastry Chef Hillary we send our beloved butcher, line cooks and pastry chefs off to embark on the next chapter of their careers. Our chefs take great pride not only in the steaks on your Staubs, but the future stars of the kitchen we are cultivating.
Next time you’re in Portland don’t forget to ask about that kitchen tour…
Against a background of autumn hues and misty mountains, the last of those precious little Pinot Noir berries have been picked off the vines in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Looks like the 2015 harvest will yield richly fruited wines and you can be sure that Urban Farmer will be among the first to showcase the vintage. With a world class wine growing region a mere 45 minutes away from our front door, we couldn’t help ourselves; we had to curate a Wine List boasting over 50 Oregon Pinot Noirs. Forgive us by getting a little geeky and even categorizing these gems by the 5 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) in our beloved Valley.
Next time you sit down for Chef’s Matt’s NY Tasting, don’t be so quick to order that Cabernet. Let one of our Certified Specialists of Wine guide you towards an Oregon Pinot Noir. We think you may be pleasantly surprised by how ideal a counterpoint the elegance and verve of an Oregon Pinot Noir is to a perfectly prepared steak.
We’re proud to announce that our Chef de Cuisine, Chris Starkus, will be representing us in Tokyo later this fall. He joins one time competitor and frequent collaborator, The Side Yard Farm’s Stacey Givens, and local artisans on a trip to showcase Portland’s DIY mentality. They’ll be cooking at a new farmer’s market and exploring the bourgeoning urban farm scene. Chef Starkus will bring his culinary expertise along with the gardening and beekeeping skills he’s developed on our roof and in his own homestead. We can’t wait for him to share his travels!
Urban Farmer is getting in on the fun in a couple of ways at this year’s Feast, the Pacific Northwest’s largest food festival. We’ll be featured at their newest marquee event, Smoked! Where open fire and smoke are used in creative ways. Chefs Matt and Chris are keeping tight-lipped as to what they’re making but knowing them it’s sure to be equally whacky and tasty! Chef Matt has also teamed up with Whole Foods to make an “Urbanh Mi” for the Sandwich Invitational. Although he won’t be competing, the sandwich will be available in all Portland Whole Foods for the weeks surrounding Feast. We can’t wait to taste it
Chef Chris Brings Back Dinner Under The Antlers
Chef Chris Starkus is revitalizing his “Under the Antlers” dinner series by bringing in Top Chef talent from our upstairs neighbors, Departure. Chef Gregory is teaming up with Starkus on a “Gone Fishin” menu that utilizes albacore that the duo will go forty miles out on the Pacific and catch themselves. And that’s not all! While they’re on the coast they will forage for a majority of the herbs and vegetables that they can’t harvest from our rooftop garden. Obviously they have some great ideas but the final menu will be dependent on what they’re able to catch, grow and forage. We can’t wait to see (and taste!) what they come up with!
Our rooftop garden is expanding! We doubled our number of beehives earlier in the year and now Chef Chris Starkus has ten new garden boxes to work with! Located on the west side of the Nines, the new Urban Farmer rooftop garden is visible from Departure’s West Deck. Chef now has the ability to grow much of the greens and herbs, as well is a few surprises, only a few floors away. Follow his gardening adventures on Twitter and Facebook!
Help us #86AIDS with (RED)
For the month of June we are partnering with Mario Batali and (RED) to help #86AIDS. During the month we will be offering special cocktails whose proceeds will go towards the United Nations global fund that fights against AIDS. By choosing where to eat lunch or have a cocktail you can help end the suffering caused by AIDS. For more information on participating restaurants or to donate to the UN Fund directly, click here.
We recently collaborated with an amazingly talented local club of 3D printing enthusiasts to begin an art project that is whimsically educational. The 3D Printing Meetup Group came together to design a full scale cow and have it printed on 14 different printers in the community. Kids as young as 11 participated in the project that took over 700 hours to complete. In the end, the 99 pieces were brought back to the restaurant to be assembled and the full cow, dubbed “Veronin”, was unveiled. Look for another collaboration with a local startup to bring visual effects and interactivity to the piece, which will be on display in the street level window of the hotel very soon.
Newly appointed Executive Sous Chef of The Nines Hotel, Chris Starkus, is not one to rest on his laurels. After starting our rooftop garden and beekeeping operation last year, he is ready this year to expand its output and effect on the hotel. We’re doubling the number of hives and, with a year of study under his belt, Chef Chris is ready for the title of fulltime beekeeper. (As if he doesn’t already do enough!) We’re also expanding the garden under his direction and should be able to incorporate more delicate herbs and vegetables into the dishes here at Urban Farmer. The new bee colony and expanded garden boxes will be unveiled on April, 22nd, Earth Day so stay tuned for more!
Spring Menu Changes
Chefs Matt and Chris are ready to share a few of their latest menu changes with the world! They’ve worked hard to maintain our commitment to sustainable practices by continuing to work closely Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch and sourcing fun springtime vegetables from local farms. One of our favorite new menu items is the wild Pacific salmon. The chefs delicately place the seared fish on a bed of broccolini, charred grape, olive and salsify puree
We proudly feature some of Oregon and Washington’s best farmers and ranchers on our menu because of the quality of their product. Sometimes this means working with a farm seasonally, to get the region’s best tomatoes, for example, while other times it means working on breeding and feeding methods of cattle, as Chef Matt has done with Scott Laney of Eat Oregon First. One of our most fun relationships has been working with Bob La De Route and his 100% Wagyu. Bob raises only eight animals at a time to ensure each one is nurtured properly. He processes and sells only four every year! That means once a year we get a whole cow in to butcher and work our magic. This Valentine’s Day we’ll offer a special ribeye for two and you’ll see some choice cuts offered on our special’s card for the next couple of weeks! If you want a one-of-a-kind experience come in soon!