Portland Garagistes Pt. 1

September 3rd, 2012

There are many ways to use a garage...

When I was a full-time freelance food writer I got used to rejection. If you can’t accept the lack of a timely response too often eventually followed by rejection then you shouldn’t freelance because that’s unfortunately the nature of the beast most of the time. I learned how to spin very different pitches for the same story as well as restructure stories for numerous local and national publications. Now that I’ve published a book, am working on another book due out fall 2013 and am editor and publicity director at a publishing house I have less patience for that process so I mostly just write stories that I’m asked to write or put things that I’m interested in up here on my blog.

A while back though I met one too many people in Portland crafting delicious foods and drinks in their garages and decided I should write a story about it. I set up interviews and spent a good amount of time in garages throughout Portland talking with folks about the delicious foods and drinks that they craft in them — a dessert maker, a cider maker, a winemaker, a beer brewer and a Persian pickle maker. I learned a lot and had a great time.

When it came to pitching the story the process took much longer than I remembered. I know that editors are very busy and receive an never ending, steady supply of pitches — some good, many bad — so I understand their often delayed responses to a certain degree. This is all a long way of saying that I tried and failed a few times to get this story published nationally and locally and I don’t want to try to spin it any more. I’m doling it out to you in five installments here over the next several weeks because I love these people and think what they’re doing is inspiring and important and, of course, delicious. I should have put this up here in the first place because it would have been a longer, more developed story if I hadn’t tailored it so much. Stop complaining. Without further ado…

Portland Garagistes

In the Bordeaux region of France the term “garagiste” was coined in the mid 1990s when a group of winemakers began a movement of small batch wines, often made in their garages, that bucked the Bordeaux standard. I like the name “garagiste” and think it fits in spirit with what the five Portlanders featured here are doing — making tasty stuff in their garages.

Sure, a kitchen is for cooking but they can get cramped and sticky hot — especially when you’ve got a five-gallon homebrew pot simmering on the stove top for hours. I don’t cook anything in my garage but in the past several years I’ve moved a lot of my food and drink ferments into the utility room at the back of the house. That’s where I make and store crocks of miso, carboys of homemade fruit wines and hard ciders and buckets of kraut and sour pickles. More and more Portlanders are taking that kitchen extension one step further and into their garages.

I spent time with five such folks checking out their set-ups (all of their garages are average-sized at 250-350 square feet) and tasting what they make. Some are crafting commercial products and see their garage as an affordable space to work with while others just enjoy the larger square footage and freedom to be a little dirtier, a little scrappier, and a more isolated and less distracted by the outside world. Portland is fairly temperate so the home garage never gets too hot or cold. Nothing a couple space heaters or fans can’t fix.

Stay tuned for Portland’s “Garagistes” to be featured in five upcoming installments:

Pickler Charles Attarzadeh
Sweetmaker Cheryl Wakerhauser
Cidermaker Nat West
Homebrewer Aaron Cohen
Winemaker Jan-Marc Baker