Ben Bettinger preps the food

Ben Bettinger – Kevin Ludwig – Patrick McKee – New Laurelhurst Market Team Dinner

The new team at Laurelhurst Market delivered a great Portland Food Adventure dinner on February 5, 2015. Executive Chef Ben Bettinger cut his teeth in the Portland culinary scene at Paley’s Place, then joined cocktail master Kevin Ludwig’s Beaker & Flask in 2009. Together they quickly earned the honor of Willamette Week’s Restaurant of the Year for their innovative cuisine and cocktails. It was there that I learned what a craft cocktail could be, and found myself eating pickled octopus and pork cheeks and loving it.

Ben Bettinger and Kevin Ludwig of Laurelhurst Market
Ben Bettinger and Kevin Ludwig of Laurelhurst Market

Alas, that partnership came to an end when Bettinger was lured away by Vitaly Paley to open Imperial. Meanwhile, Patrick McKee also honed his craft at Paley’s Place and served as Executive Chef there since 2012. Both Bettinger and McKee were Paley’s sous chefs during his Iron Chef America victory in Battle Radish in 2011.

But now all three are back together at Laurelhurst Market. Our Portland Food Adventure meal featured some classics from Beaker & Flask plus a tour de force of beef prepared multiple ways to showcase what Laurelhurst Market can provide.

Portland Food Adventures is a type of pop-up that invites chefs to design an exciting menu paired with beverages and booked at an all-inclusive price. I’ve been attending them faithfully for the past four years and I’m never disappointed. The next dinner will be at Paley’s Place with their new Chef de Cuisine Luis Cabanas and a new French/Russian focused menu.

We assembled at Simpatica dining hall, which is owned by Laurelhurst Market. The starter was a “Grounded for Life” cocktail poured by Kevin Ludwig. It was a refreshing and complex mix of pepper vodka, cointreau, fresh celery juice, lime and a salted rim. A smoked salmon rillette with fennel on crostini was the passed appetizer.

Kevin Ludwig crafts the cocktails
Kevin Ludwig crafts the cocktails

We sat down for a pleasant evening with our individually printed menus. The first course of coffee rubbed beef carpaccio, Oregon truffles, grana padano and pickled onions was superb. The 2013 Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner went well. It was followed by a classic Beaker and Flask dish of pan-seared veal sweetbreads, creamed kale, pickled yellow foot chanterelles and sweet onion agrodolce. I knew my friend Krista would be green with envy as she loved their sweetbreads. This was paired with a Norwegian Negroni cocktail with Krogstad aquavit, cynar, sweet vermouth and orange oil.

The third dish was the classic grilled pork cheeks, pickled octopus, braised peppers and onions on grilled bread with aioli. Weird and wonderful as usual!

Now for the beef. Smoked ribeye, grilled spinella, braised rib tip marmalade and roasted bone marrow. How’s that for different preps? We also passed around grilled romaine with salsa verde and feta. Everything was great, served with a Rioja.

The dessert was also too delicious to pass up, an olive oil pound cake with orange marmalade, creme fraiche and toasted almonds.

Bravo for Ben, Kevin and Patrick! I stopped in at Laurelhurst Market on Sunday for a Meetup historic walking tour. All three were deep into dinner prep. I enjoyed a sandwich (great bahn mi!) and hope to return soon for dinner.