My St. Johns Design Build Dream Kitchen Remodel

February 26th, 2015

Before the remodel...

After!

This past summer/fall I got my kitchen remodeled by my good friends at St. Johns Design Build and I still haven’t recovered from the excitement of having my very own dream kitchen. It was such a long time coming considering I bought my house in 2006 and cooked on the shitty original electric stove, walked on the mustard and baby diarrhea colored linoleum and diced and sliced under the ugly fluorescents in it until 2014. That’s a long time for someone to cook in a crap space with a bum stove who cares so deeply about food, who works as a food writer for fuck’s sake.

My excuse for that long delay in remodeling whenever anyone asks — well, money primarily, you big dummie — and I never wanted to half-ass it. I could’ve done this, that and the other to improve it along the way but I figured why be piecemeal when I had a vision? I’d just wait until that vision could be fully realized. And now, it has! I’m lucky enough to call St. Johns Design Build owner/contractor Brian McVay a dear friend, along with his partners in crime Clarence Jacobs and Rude Graves, so rather than write any more about this here I’m going to give it to you straight from the source.

Below is McVay’s Crain Kitchen Recipe — his words interspersed with my photos. I can’t recommend St. Johns Design Build highly enough for any home or business remodel project — these folks are the best and the brightest. (I also can’t recommend the fellows as SJDB highly enough for draaaanks and great conversation on my front porch, OR at the Red Fox, OR anywhere else in North Portland that’s up all night. That’s just the way we roll.)

CRAIN KITCHEN RECIPE
by Brian McVay (as crafted in my HAUS by Brian, Clarence Jacobs, Rude Graves ++)

Objectives — Create a kitchen for a food genius (these are definitely not my words) food lover, affordable, bring a group of artisans together to work on this project, respect the age of the home, use local/reused/recycled content materials.

After our initial meeting/walk-thru with the group it was obvious you had a great space, an open mind, and a pretty decent existing kitchen layout. Seeing that the cabinet boxes were reusable we set out to simply resurface the room. I personally love this era of home (built in 1907) and this is an easy part of the country to source materials that are historically appropriate. One of my favorites is Douglas Fir — clear vertical grain (CVG) Douglas Fir. This material has such a history in this part of the world, and it also tells a story of its age by the density of the lines or grains i.e. if there are more than 10 vertical grains per inch that piece came from an old growth tree in an ancient forest.

I had been shopping at a local lumber reuse outfit called Green Star International and they had recently received a shipment of bleacher seats so I had my inspiration. Clarence hand made everything in our cabinet shop in SE portland.

The cabinets were to be new CVG drawers and door faces, naturally finished in shellac. We reused the cabinet boxes and the shelves. The shelves were covered with a vinyl tile in deep red.

Clarence Jacobs installing the cabinets he made from the CVG Doug Fir bleachers.

The counter, installed by our magic man Rude, (Rude also did all of the tile-work in the kitchen) comes from a company called PaperStone and their little known “bargain panel division”. When you pick up the material your self it means big savings, thrift stores, and really good Chinese food (I scored a pair of rad green pants! Someone else might have really wanted to score something else green).

Paperstone is one of the few architectural solid surface materials certified to FSC standards by the Smartwood program of the Rainforest Alliance. It’s made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper that has been saturated with their proprietary Petro-free phenolic resins and selected natural pigments on our treater lines. After trimming to length, resin-saturated sheets are stacked and moved into a press where they are fused together under heat and pressure. Paper sheet count determines the thickness of the finished panels.

Paperstone pick-up in Hoquiam with these fine fellows -- John Wenderoth (left), Brian McVay and Rude Graves's tiny head in the back of the Sprinter.

Rude, John and Brian checking out the goods.

My future paperstone counter!

Your kitchen sink came from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in Tillamook.

Thank you John W!

Stove and hood, obviously The ReBuilding Center.

My dream Dynasty/Jade range and Viking hood! Heart of the kitchen. Aaaaand they scored it for a quarter of the price.

The floor was removed by Minority Abatement Contractors out of Vancouver. I feel it important and try to hire sub-contractors that are either women, minority, or emerging small businesses.

So happy once that baby diarrhea linoleum was pulled up there was beautiful, original Doug Fir flooring!

Brought back to life!

Electrical panel was replaced by Coho Electric. Track lights fro you know who (John Gorham! He gave them to me when he was building out Mediterranean Exploration Company. So lucky/grateful). The lighting scheme needed to go from mood lighting to kitchen lab at the flick of a dimmer.

Electrical panel surgery.

Thank you John G! Let there be light.

Custom metal work was designed by me, welded by Clarence. The table top material came from a local favorite — Salvage Works.

Beauty.

Custom blacksmith work came from our shop mate Scott Rash.

I've always loved the J&M Cafe's mug tree and this is our understated version of that. Love it!

My very own custom built and blacksmithed pot rack!

More photos from the pre/post-remodel that I love…

All of my Ice-O-Matics in one place!

Clarence built me a drawer for my secret spice stash!

Yep.

Another one of my favorite features -- the kitchen table storage benches. The one on the right was the original refaced and Clarence mimicked it on the left.

Yes! Keeping a lot of my canning supplies and canned foods in there.

So beautiful.

Me and the White Wolf soaking it all up. Happy.

Chunky maple chopping block!

And while my kitchen was out of service I did things like…

Make pickles in my...bathroom!

Use the hell out of my rice cooker.

Make Bloody Mary mix on plywood.

And once it was a wrap I had a big birthday/kitchen warming party. I’m so happy to have my dream kitchen and honestly a little sad that all the boys are gone. I guess I need to dream up another remodel project…

Cheers! Eat, drink and be hairy!

St. Johns Design Build
www.stjohnsdesignbuild.com
brian AT stjohnsdesignbuild DOT COM
971.678.3619
Who you gonna call? St. Johns Design Build!
You ain’t afraid of no ghost.

Northwest Fresh Seafood, Lentil Underground, Cuvee Weekend

February 25th, 2015

Still tickets left!

There are three tasty events coming up — two of which I’m directly involved in — that I want to tell you about. I also want to acknowledge that I do realize that I haven’t done a Yard Fresh installment in far too long. One excuse, over the summer and early fall I got my kitchen remodeled by my amazingly talented friends at St. Johns Design Build (see some photos of my kitchen remodel here!), beyond that life has been full. Anyway, I haven’t forgotten about that series and I’ll add to it again soon enough. For now, here are some upcoming food/drink events I’m hoping that you might come to and if not that you will help spread the word about. Thanks!

Saturday, March 7 @ 2-6pm at Northwest Fresh Seafood
Newberg, Oregon
BUBBLES & BOOKS

A month ago Zach Elliott of the Newberg seafood market Northwest Fresh Seafood asked John Gorham and me if we’d come out to the market for a spring food/drink/books event and we agreed right away. John and I are both seafood lovers and always up for a fun excuse to get out to Oregon wine country. The result is an afternoon and evening event hosted by these great folks with oysters, bubbles, signed copies of Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. AND Food Lover’s Guide to Portland, live music by Kent Smith and a Q&A with John and I ALL for $65. I hope you’ll come out for it and even if you can’t I hope that you might help spread the word. It’s going to be great. Tickets are available here.

Monday, March 9 @ 7pm at Powell’s
Portland, Oregon
Liz Carlisle, author of Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America READING

Working as a book publicist at Hawthorne Books, and having covered food and food books since 2003, review copies often come my way. They’re usually from Chelsea Green, which is one of my favorite publishing houses, but sometimes they’re from other publishers — in this case Gotham Books. Liz Carlisle is coming to Portland mid-March for a reading for her book Lentil Underground and if you care about food as much as I do I think you’re going to want to go to this Powell’s City of Books reading. I’ve only begun reading it and I’m inspired by the depth of Carlisle’s research into renegade farmers and sustainable agriculture as well as the tenacity of her subjects and their dedication to new ag. business and cropping systems and a sustainable ag. future. GENTLE PORTLAND LENTILS, please pick up a copy of the book and come out for Carlisle’s Powell’s reading and become a part of the Lentil Underground! If my endorsement isn’t enough…

“What does it take to farm sustainably–and make a living? Liz Carlisle tells the engrossing story of the ‘audacity rich, but capital poor’ Montana farmers who thought lentils were the answer and stuck with them until proved right. Anyone who dreams of starting a farm or wants to know how organic farmers can overcome the obstacles they face will be inspired by this book.” –Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics and professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.

Look at that fuzzy gentle lentil behind the book! Rubin is my favorite photo bomber.

Saturday, March 21st @ Noon at The Allison Inn & Spa
Newberg, Oregon
Cuvee Weekend PANEL

In celebration of Women’s History Month The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg is hosting an inaugural Cuvee Weekend on the weekend of March 21st. Couples are invited to purchase weekend packages and attend everything from a cooking demo. by Kristen Murray of Portland’s Maurice and a 4-course winemakers’ dinner with Tamara Murphy of Seattle’s Terra Plata to a guided vineyard tour and a panel discussion on women in food on Saturday, the 21st with me, Kristen Murray, Tamara Murphy and Veronica Vaga of Deschutes Brewery. Please help spread the word!

The Allison Inn & Spa rated #1 Hotel Spa in the Continental US by Travel + Leisure.

Cooking the Toro Bravo Book Party Pt. 4

January 12th, 2015

Loly with one of the crunchy delicious Toro fried anchovies.

I finally got to host our Toro Bravo cook the book party last night (check out the first, second and third here) and it was really nice to do it in my newly remodeled kitchen. My kitchen has been pretty much done since early November but there were a couple final details and now it’s complete! It’s a beauty and I’m going to post about it here soon. I couldn’t be happier with it. My friends Brian McVay, Clarence Jacobs and Rude Graves of St. Johns Design Build are so incredibly talented. And you’ll know they’re good people when I tell you this — I was genuinely sad to see them go when my kitchen was complete. I truly enjoyed the entire remodel process and having those awesome fellows in my home. I miss having them see me in my pajamas. Wink.

It was really, really fun to have a whole bunch of friends packed into my kitchen last night for our fourth eat, drink and be merry cook from book party for Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. We’ve now passed the halfway point having cooked 60-plus recipes from the book. I’m guessing we’ll complete the book after three more dinners. Quite the feat. We’ve even started talking about which book we’ll cook through next. Potentials discussed: Yottam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, Jerusalem and the Pok Pok cookbook. I mentioned that I’d love to cook through a comprehensive Southeast Asian cookbook. Unfortunately I think Pok Pok requires a bit more pantry building than our group is up for.

Another sweet thing — Shane Welch founder of Brooklyn’s Six Point Brewery recently moved to Portland and he gifted us (he’s friends with my friend and contractor mentioned above — Brian McVay) some of his Bengali IPA for the party which is super tasty. Really sweet of him. We also poured a lot of cava, various Spanish wines and we drank some of my early plum wine that I pulled off over the weekend while racking it. So crisp and tasty.

Anyway, I’ll let the photos tell the tale as usual. Happy 2015! I hope you’ve been cooking and eating well. I bet you have.

Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. dinner party menu

Toro Martini and Fried Anchovies, Fennel and Lemon with Romesco
Gazpacho
Charred Bread with Chanterelles in Sherry Cream
Chard and Eggs
Chicken and Clams Cataplana
Lamb Ragu with Eggplant
French Kisses and Pickled Beets and cheeses
Sherry Chicken Liver Mousse
Apple and Pear Clafoutis

NO ONE in Portland is carrying fresh anchovies at the moment so the super sweet John Gorham gave me a pound from Toro for the Fried Anchovies, Fennel and Lemon dish from the book.

They were deeeeelcious with Toro's romesco.

We started the night off right with my piping hot anchovies and chilled Toro Martinis. Not too shabby.

Next up was Nancy's super yummy Toro gazpacho.

Really nice to have so many friends around the kitchen table.

Alec charring the bread for...

Toro's Charred Bread with Chanterelles in Sherry Cream.

Dana cooking up Toro's...

Chard and Eggs.

Sara and I in our animal shirt finery -- giraffes and stags.

Loly and Faulkner cooking up Toro's Chicken and Clams Cataplana.

Soooooo good! With Olympic Provisions cured meats.

Left to right: Loly, Nancy, Faulkner and Jim. The best.

Super Tasty Six Point Bengali IPA. YUM!

Tom and Heather's (just engaged!!) deeeelicious Lamb Ragu with Eggplant.

Chris assembling Toro's French Kisses -- foei gras torchon stuffed brandy-soaked prunes. Perfect.

Tom overseeing. He approves.

Dana and Oliver's apple and pear clafoutis. Mmmmm.

Aaaand the final dessert plate -- Sara's sherry chicken liver mousse, Chris's French Kisses and Spanish cheeses. We are so lucky.

Cheers to 2015! I hope you are in good company and having a fine time of it.

Cooking the Toro Bravo Book Party

January 16th, 2014

Toro Bravo Salt Cod Fritters window a la Sara and Zo!

I have the best friends. So grateful. Several weeks ago my friend Chris Damcke said we should have a potluck dinner party and invite everyone to cook and bring something from Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. I said that was a great idea and then pretty much left it at that because I felt too busy to organize it.

A couple weeks ago I got a call from my friend Loly inviting me to it at her place! She and Chris made it happen. Sooooo last weekend thirteen of us gathered at Loly’s with all sorts of tasty treats cooked from the book. We filled her kitchen, dinner table and our bellies with all sorts of deliciousness from Toro Bravo. It was so great that we decided to do it again next month — this time at Tom’s house. We’ve also decided to have these parties until we cook through the entire book.

I’ve never done this with any cookbook before but I hope to do more in the future. So fun! And I’m very proud to say that no one had any problems with any of the recipes — not a one. It was all so good and so fun.

Here’s the menu from our first Toro Bravo cookbook party followed by photos from it. I can’t recommend this sort of dinner party enough. Leave any questions about it in the comments below and please, please let me know if you’ve done something similar yourself. I’d love to hear about it. Eat, drink and be merry!

Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. dinner party menu

Radicchio Salad
Potato Salad
Salt Cod Fritters
Chili Shrimp a la Plancha
Boquerones with Toasted Bread and Piperade
Seared Cauliflower with Salsa Verde
Coppa Steak with Salbitxada
Harissa-Stewed Butternut Squash
Pepino cocktail
Red Sangria
Panna Cotta with wine poached pears and Campari blood orange topping

Table FILLED with Toro Bravo cookbook food and drink!

So much goodness...

Ryan and Nancy on Toro's Chili Shrimp detail. Photo by Faulkner Short.

Chris checking Toro's cold-smoked Coppa. Photo by Faulkner Short.

Dana and Oliver putting the finishing touches on Toro's Harissa-Stewed Butternut Squash. Photo by Faulkner Short.

Me plating Toro's Boquerones with Toasted Bread and Piperade. Photo by Faulkner Short.

Sara and Zo frying up Toro's Salt Cod Fritters on Loly's front porch. Photo by Faulkner Short.

Loly and Faulkner post-Radicchio Salad prep. Photo by Chris Damcke.

Ryan and Nancy taking on the feat of trying all the Toro book foods.

The Chili Shrimp a la Plancha that they made. Mmmmm.

Tom's Toro Potato Salad with chorizo.

Ryan and Nancy's Seared Cauliflower with Salsa Verde from the book.

My Toro Boquerones with Toasted Bread and Piperade.

Toro's Panna Cotta by Chris for dessert -- some with wine-poached pears and others with Campari blood orange syrup.

Wine cork Olympics post-dinner with Tom and Oliver.

If you decide to host a dinner party like this please, please let me know and send me photos! I’ll post them here. So fun. Eat, drink and be merry AND hairy!

Toro Bravo Cookbook Media

December 19th, 2013

John and I in the green room after his Live Wire Radio interview for the Toro book. A little bit happy.

Wow. It’s been two months since pub. date and we could not be happier with how well received Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. has been! Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who is reading it, cooking from it, talking about it and enjoying it. After spending two and a half years putting it together we’re so happy to have and hold it ourselves. In fact, I cooked from it twice last week — some friends and I cooked the Harissa-Stewed Butternut Squash and over the weekend I zested up a batch of Toro’s Limoncello. It’s pretty crazy grabbing my very own cookbook from the kitchen shelf and cooking from it. I’ll never get over the magic of that.

In the past several weeks we’ve had all sorts of great media and coverage for the book so I thought I’d include a round-up here of some of our favorites. Media is wonderful but so is good old word of mouth. So thank you to the writers, editors and producers etc. of these media outlets as well as to all of you who have helped spread the word to friends and family about our book. It means a lot to us.

Largehearted Boy playlist from the book and review:

“Toro Bravo is as much memoir as cookbook, even though it contains 95 recipes from the famed Portland restaurant. This is the story of chef John Gorham, and how his passion for food shaped his life. Gorgeously produced, well-written, and filled with stunning photographs, this is one of the year’s finest food books.”

The Daily Beast with John and my cookbook picks:

“Here are some cookbooks that John and I won’t lend you. We love them too much. Get your own damn copies.”

Food52 Genius Recipe of the week:

“After this salad has served you through the holidays, as the foil to all your rich celebratory indiscretions, these are tricks you can keep at hand year-round. Try it with buttery new lettuces and lighter vinegars in spring, in summertime slaws and fall disbursements of kale. This can be your January cleanse, or your Valentine’s splurge — depending on how heavy-handed you are with the Manchego. But resist the impulse to add noise. Everything you need is right here. You just need to know how to find it.”

Eater’s 21 Essential Cookbooks 2013:

“The first thing you’ll notice about Toro Bravo — besides its bright yellow cover — is that the recipes don’t start for a good 90 pages. What you have first is pages and pages of back story, both of chef John Gorham and his Portland tapas restaurant Toro Bravo, as well as food philosophizing and general cooking intel. In addition to that first section and the recipes for tapas large and small, the layout and art direction here is a major draw. When was the last time a cookbook looked so modern and refreshing? The influence of former-Lucky Peach publisher McSweeney’s is strongly felt on these pages and I hope cookbooks in general veer toward more color, more photos, and more user-friendliness. Perhaps a follow-up Tasty n Sons book is in order?”

Late Night Library review:

“One of the highlights of the book is its consistently authentic tone. The first person narratives and headnotes are actually written in a voice that sounds like a real chef, not a cheerful writer paraphrasing one. The sentences are curt, clipped, and brutally honest: ‘I’m not gonna lie, this recipe is a pain in the ass.’ And yet, hilarious and touching all at once…Gorham and Crain manage to braid together their work so it is impossible to distinguish between writers. Their voices meld together seamlessly; it’s almost as if their conversations have been directly transcribed from long dinners with plenty of drinks and food flowing between them…John Gorham and his crew manage to inject soul into every single dish at Toro Bravo, and the book demonstrates how much detail, history and thought go behind every plate you’re passed. While the recipes are inspirational on their own, you also can’t help but ignite a craving to visit the restaurant, too.”

Late Night Conversation podcast:

“This week, Paul meets up with John Gorham and Liz Crain at Toro Bravo, a Spanish inspired tapas restaurant in Portland, Oregon. Liz and John are the co-creators of the recently released cookbook, Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull (McSweeney’s, 2013). Conversation topics include: the beauty of open book people and tight knit collaborations, John and Liz’s culinary trip to Spain, the benefits and consequences of throwing a party every night, and the potential need for an “art guard” at the Toro Bravo restaurant in Northeast Portland.”

Live Wire Radio interview:

Live Wire Radio host Luke Burbank interviewing John about the Toro Bravo cookbook.

Live Wire Radio season-wrap brunch with Stephen Tobolowsky, Dana Gould ++:

Stephen Tobolowosky (!!!) with John and I at Live Wire Radio's season-wrap brunch with Toro food and drinks.

OPB Think Out Loud interview:

John talks about all things Toro Bravo and the cookbook on OPB's Think Our Loud.

KGW book launch party coverage:

Such a fun party.

The Oregonian
Portland Monthly
Willamette Week
Portland Mercury
Culinate
Oregon Humanities
Shelf Awareness
Powell’s Books
McSweeney’s
Vermont Public Radio