Minced pig trotters served on seaweed with a pepper aioli, offered a provocative mix of sweet and spicy. Photo by Leah Nash
Fresh bread, sweet honey, and a crisp wine to wash to all down. It’s not heaven, but it may be the next best thing: Gastronomy Northwest, the annual festival of food and drink produced by and for alumni, was held on Saturday afternoon of Reunions ’13: Reedfayre.
Making a piquant comeback from last year were David Autrey ’89 and his partner Amy Wesselman ’91 of the Westrey Wine Company, who served a delicate 2012 pinot gris and a refreshing 2010 pinot noir (you may have heard of their rising-star sons?). Also returning was the Clear Creek Distillery, operated by master distiller Steve McCarthy ’66 and his wife, artist Lucinda Parker McCarthy ’66. The Portland distillery employs mostly Reedies and specializes in brandies and liqueurs created from the fruit grown in the family’s orchards at the foot of Mount Hood. Their summery loganberry liqueur accented the natural tartness of the berry while perfectly satisfying the sweet tooth.
Reed’s underground restaurant, /uncommons/, made a distinctive impression by serving minced pig trotters with gochujang, a spicy alioli made from egg yolks and chili and peppered with sesame seeds. Handling the /uncommons/ table this year were Stephanie Bastek ’13 and Dieter Mackenback ’14, who both love to experiment with Korean food, which inspired the savory, fermented alioli.
A hop and a table away was Emily Johnson ’02, who came all the way from her family orchard in Nebraska to give Reedies a taste of artisanal fruit and wine vinegars from her family owned company, George Paul Vinegar. Flavors included prairie white, red, and raspberry. The Emilia balsamic made in the traditional balsamic style and named after Emily herself, was the most popular among tasters—the sample ran out in no time.
Alumni eager to to try something new made a beeline for the honeycomb table of Robert Combs ’90. Bob, who runs an apiary of about 30 hives in North Bend, Washington, prides himself on selling the most natural, unfiltered, and unprocessed form of honey he can find—I'm still dreaming about the luscious goodness of his knotweed lavender and blackberry.
The honey made for a mouthwatering combination with the fresh dense bread of Diane Vireday ’89 of Sweetrock Farm Swiss Bakery and Herbary. Her table was, unsurprisingly, one of the most popular, as people of all sizes and ages thronged to grab a slice of the array of crafted Swiss bread. The crowd pleaser—and my favourite as well—was the braided zopf, a rich, golden bread that tasted divine with Bob’s luscious honey.
Eager to cleanse my palate, I made a pilgrimage to the Woodland Empire Ale Craft, which provided a unique mix of imagination and flavour with handcrafted, Idahoan beer. Started by Keely and Rob Landerman and brought to Gastronomy by Robert Brewer ’92, the names of the beers are inspired by lyrics from songs and passages from books, among other things. Their “In the Morning” ale, made from fair trade coffee, boasted a rich, dark scent and an aromatic aftertaste of coffee and burnt sugar that lingered long after it was all gone.
I wound down the afternoon in the best possible way—with the fresh, hand-pressed tortillas of Daniel Thomas ’89. Daniel is the maestro of the sophisticated Portland restaurant Xico, praised by Portland Monthly for its “fresh and seasonal take on regional Mexican cuisine.” Daniel grinds organic corn to make the masa (Spanish for dough), which is the primary ingredient of the golden tortillas. Add a dollop of sour cream and two types of salsa, and you get an explosion of tropical flavor and texture that will leave you hungry for more.