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Portland Restaurants go Green At the Northwest's Big Show

By: Valerie Brockbank  If you have never been to a restaurant industry conference and trade show, make friends with a chef or your barista and get them to take you along as an “employee for a day.” You’ll get a ring-side seat at an event that is part education, part food tasting and part entertainment.

The Northwest Foodservice Show was in Portland this year. The focus was on helping the restaurant trade to “Go Green” and find ways to streamline their businesses in a tough economy.

The entire event was green, with separate recycle bins everywhere. Boyds Coffee partnered with a local company to produce compostable cups and lids; The Hilton in Vancouver, WA was there to look for the next sustainability breakthrough; and Duck Delivery, a Northwest fruit and vegetable purveyor, is the first distributor in the USA to be Food Alliance-Certified. “We’re doing everything we can to look at the carbon footprint and trying to use as much local product when it’s available. We think we’re ahead of the curve,” said Ernie Spada Jr., V.P. of Duck Delivery Produce. “In the certification context, sustainability encompasses water and soil conservation, human resource practices, and recycling. It’s definitely not a rubber stamp!”

The primary reason the food trade attends a show like this is to see what’s new in products and what the trends are. “You get ideas,” said Jan Wollett of Burton’s Catering. “We’re looking for everything from soup to nuts.”

I’ve been a recent convert to molecular gastronomy—where science meets cooking. I have eating dishes combined with algin, calcic, eines, xantana— yum! I sat in on a cooking demonstration by Chef Woojay Poynter, who has worked at Alinea in Chicago, and now teaches in Portland and Coos Bay, Ore. He produced a sou vide salmon, spherification for “dill caviar”, herb foams and CO 2 grapes. “Molecular gastronomy shouldn’t represent a type of cuisine that only certain chefs can do,” Poynter said. “Understanding what the cooking process does to your food, hopefully, can make everyone a better cook.” Well, I’m planning on experimenting with Merlot Caviar, CO2 muscat grapes, and powderized brie. I bought a texturizing kit at the show that has twelve little containers of gastronomy magic.

On the beverage front, Hood River Distillery was tasting their locally-made vodka, which is America’s first potato vodka. Spudka is smooth, lychee scented, 80 proof vodka made with Idaho potatoes and the famous glacier-fed Mt. Hood spring water. Their Pendelton Whisky has the best of both worlds for me; fine blended Canadian Whisky and the same spring water from Mt. Hood; rich, creamy with caramel overtones reminiscent of barrel-aged bourbon. The Rogue Ale Company, famous in Oregon for its microbrews, has ventured into making spirits. They showcased their dark and white rums, Dead Guy Whiskey, hazelnut spice rum, pink and spruce gin. Rogue started making spirits in 2003 using small copper pot stills, artisan practices, and no chemicals or additives.

With restaurants, hotels and food service people competing for our dollars, the food service industry has to entice us to buy and then develop our loyalty. I was impressed by the chefs, food purveyors and suppliers goals to provide the best products at the lowest prices, produced with sustainability.

Woojay Poynter’s Dill Caviar

5 grams Sodium Alginate

4 grams Calcium Lactate

4 oz fresh dill

1 tbs sugar

1/4 tsp salt

In a blender, blend Sodium Alginate and 500 grams of water until solution has thickened. Allow to sit for a few hours.

Blanch dill in boiling water for 5 seconds, and place in ice water. Drain well and chop coarsely.

In a blender, blend chopped dill, 100 grams water and remaining ingredients until dill is liquified. Check seasonings and strain.

Using a dropper or pipette, drop the dill liquid into the Sodium Alginate bath to form dill caviar of desired size. Leave in bath from 30 seconds to 1 min, skin will get thicker the longer you leave the caviar spheres in the bath. Rise carefully under cold water and serve. For larger spheres freeze dill liquid in ball-shaped ice cube tray, then put frozen balls into Sodium Alginate bath, until liquid defrosts. Rinse and serve.


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