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Grazing at Gastronomy Northwest

By Randall S. Barton on June 04, 2012 01:43 PM

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Photo by Leah Nash

By Angie Jabine '79

Vegetarian banh mi, ice-brewed coffee, salted watermelon, and a luscious Imperial Black Saison beer were just a few of the delicacies that drew throngs of alumni to Gastronomy Northwest at Reedfayre '12. For two hours, the student union was packed solid with Reedies vying for sips and samples, while taking care not to tread on various toddlers underfoot.

For wine lovers, the logical starting point was the Westrey Wine Company table, where vintner David Autrey '89 was pouring his 2010 Pinot Gris and 2009 Pinot Noir. Partner Amy Wesselman '91 (Wesselman + Autrey = Westrey) was seen keeping an eye out on their two young sons. Amy has spent many years running the International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville, Oregon, while David makes the wine and oversees their Oracle Vineyard in the nearby Dundee Hills.

Beer drinkers made a beeline for the Widmer Citra Blonde Summer Brew and Shaddock IPA supplied by Sebastian Pastore '90, who is the vice president for brewing operations and technology for the Craft Brewers Alliance—the umbrella company that owns Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland.

From yeast-based beverages it was a natural step to the fragrant, hearty breads of Diane Vireday '89. Diane studied anthropology at Reed and herbal medicine later on. She and husband Bob McCormick run Sweetrock Farm Swiss Bakery & Herbary in Portland, where she turns out braided zopf, Valais rye, sourdough Burebrot, and other traditional breads for sale at local farmers markets.

Handily adjacent to Sweetrock's breads was an array of craft vinegars courtesy of Emily Johnson '02 and her family's Nebraska-based company, George Paul Vinegar. Emily, who earned her degree in physics, divides her time between running her EMPrint letterpress company in Portland and South Dakota and working in her father's strawbale vinegary, where they produce fruit and wine vinegars from fruits grown in the Nebraska Sandhills.

Just across the aisle, Mark Bitterman '95 of The Meadow salt and chocolate boutique in north Portland was nowhere to be seen, but a lively assistant was cutting up cucumbers and watermelon and enhancing their flavors with sprinklings of The Meadow's finishing salts: minimally processed salt crystals from all over the world. Mark has made a splash in the culinary world; he has opened a second store in New York's West Village, and his 2010 book Salted won an award for food scholarship from the James Beard Foundation (yet another Reed connection—Beard attended Reed in the 1920s).

(We were shocked to learn that Bitterman's Portland store was held up the same evening as this event by a man in his 20s and a boy who appeared to be about 10 years old. The man reportedly restrained the employee while the boy plundered the till. The employee was not seriously injured.)

With appetites whetted, our next stop was pulled pork sliders with cabbage slaw, courtesy of the Meatsmoke Crew's Andy McLain '92, Bear Wilner-Nugent '95, and Jeff "Moose" Price '03. The crew has been fueling famished Reedies at Renn Fayre for an impressive 30 years. Were the sliders good? Well, I wolfed down two of them just before a tray full of little vegetarian banh mi sandwiches was waved under my nose.

The tray-waver was, I believe, Becca Traber '12 of /uncommons/, a student group that somehow finds the time to create lavish feasts for other students several times a semester. They are much given to experimentation. Presiding over the /uncommons/ table, Stephanie Bastek '13 was doling out samples of rye-bread ice cream on caramelized rye slices with a dollop of fudge as fast as she could assemble them.

The sliders, banh mi, and rye-bread ice cream all harmonized remarkably well with a big, beautifully creamy, espresso-like Imperial Black Saison beer on tap from Gigantic Brewing, a small company with a tasting room just blocks from Reed. Proprietor Van Havig '92 had scampered across campus for his class photo, leaving Reed staffers Mike Teskey and Ginger Moshofsky to pour Havig's two offerings, the Black Saison and an IPA.

No Reed culinary event would be complete without the small-batch spirits of Clear Creek Distillery and master distiller Steve McCarthy '66. Assisted by his wife, artist Lucinda Parker McCarthy '66, and Lynn Bauer '92, Steve poured generous sips of his internationally renowned pear brandy, eau de vie de pomme (a Calvados-like apple brandy), and liqueurs ranging from loganberry to cranberry, all from Oregon fruit.

Finally, to fortify flagging alumni for events yet to come, Christine Herman '02 of Case Study Coffee was on hand with her ice-brewed coffee, which is exactly what it sounds like—coffee made by running ice water through coarsely ground, lightly roasted coffee, for a flavor that retains the coffee's bright acids. Christine's Portland coffee shop is doing sufficiently well that she's opening a second location downtown across from the Central Library.