Montavilla Market Annual Harvest Dinner : Who’s Who!

August 18, 2011 |  by  |  Blog

You can read all about the fast-approaching Sept 17th Montavilla Market Harvet Dinner here, and look at some GREAT shots of last years roaringly successful feast here, but we thought it would be nice to give a little web-space to the people behind the dinner – the chefs who will be cooking it! The dinner menu reads like a who’s who of Southeast Portland’s food scene! The night will kick off with drinks from Vintage and passed appetizers from Bar Avignon, which will be (have you been there? YUM) delicious, but don’t fill up! You’ll need the room! We’ve got a First and Third Course from Adam Sappington of that great Montavilla beacon of great, belly-filling food the Country Cat, a second course from the much loved market dinner veterans at the Observatory just down the block from the Cat, dessert from PastryGirl, a cheese course from Steve and Tim of the Cheese Bar, coffee from Bipartisan, wine from Small Vineyards, and and entire Vegan multi-course menu from Kitchen Dances! There will even be music from the Halcyon String quartet to keep you nice and relaxed while you digest all that good food. Now, without further ado, let’s meet these awesome people!

Adam Sappington – The Country Cat

In a town where good food equals cool, there can be no question that the arrival of Adam and Jackie Sappinton’s Country Cat put Montavilla on the map as a cool neighborhood. Home to young families and other people hungry for great, fresh, real, affordable food, the restaurant and the neighborhood are really a marriage made in dining heaven. In Adams own words; “We decided to start the restaurant in Montavilla for the family neighborhood component that is so warm. The market is like the perfect neighborhood market in my opinion. It’s not too huge and not too small. I love seeing folks walk by on Sundays with their kids and wagons ready to stock up on the market fare.” Adam and Jackie have been involved with the Montavilla Farmers Market since day one, and have been headlining the Market Harvest dinner since it’s inception 4 years ago, drawing their fans from around town to the dinner and lending a little food-scene cache to the goings on. And what do they love most about doing the dinner, what keeps them coming back?  “We want to get the message out to the community that this market is something special, really grassroots. It’s kind of that great “Stone Soup” mentality. The market is so terrific for the neighborhood and it’s important to support that.” Adam is the chef, owner and butcher (and everything else from the sound of it!) at Country Cat, and is one of the biggest supporters of the Market! Thanks Adam & Jackie! If you haven’t been to the Country Cat, get on with it and have a meal already!

 Piper Dixon – Kitchen Dances

If you’re a member of the vegan community here in Portland, or just a food cart junkie, you’ve probably heard of Piper Dixon and his fabulous vegan food cart, Kitchen Dances. Dixon serves up his creative, market-driven and rib-sticking vegan fare to the many hungry food cart pod goers over at Good Food Here on 43rd and Belmont. He is a long-time vegan himself, and has quite a history of getting his hands dirty both in the kitchen and on the farm. Growing up in Southern Indiana with a mother that prepared scratch meals every single day, prepared whenever possibly with the fruits of their labor in the family garden, Dixon’s fondness for food and earth is deeply rooted.

After going vegetarian at age 18 and then vegan at 25, he went on to study Horticulture and Vegetable Production in college. Like so many do, he found that he got especially interested in cooking after going vegan, which lead to a several year stint at Nearly Normals in Corvallis where he was given a lot of freedom to be creative with food, to experiement and grow as a chef. After chefing for a while, it was time to get back to the land and get dirty for a while with the Deep Roots Farm, mostly selling at local Portland farmers markets. His time with the Deep Roots family solidified for him the importance of local, clean foods.

In 2006, he became the founding chef of the ever popular Proper Eats Cafe in St. Johns and spent three years making St. John’s diners swoon. Not long after, Piper finally struck out on his own, opening Kitchen Dances with his partner Mandi.
The Montavilla Market is meaningful to Chef Dixon for a myriad of reasons, one of them being the simple fact that it’s his local farmers market. Beyond that though, a veteran of many markets around the state, he tends to wax particularly poetic about the MFM; “the Montavilla Market represents what I believe a market should be: diverse vendors, diverse and supportive residents, passionate management and volunteers and great support from the local businesses. I believe wholeheartedly in the meaningfulness of local farmers markets for communities, families and individuals. We are donating our time to this event because we feel honored to have been asked and because as chefs we can’t do what we do without the hard work of the farmers. This market is unique because of the location, the diversity of people that make up this community. That should be cherished, nourished and preserved.” Powerful, true words. And if he talks that passionately about food, just imagine how passionately he cooks his food! Come to the market and enjoy his mulit-course vegan feast – for the SAME price as the conventional meal – and taste the passion yourself!

Steve Jones and Tim Daly – Cheese Bar

Ooooooh cheese. It is said that many people eat dinner purely for the cheese course. Ok, so no one actually said that. Except for me.  About myself. Steve Jones, of southeast Portland’s drool-worthy Cheese Bar, and Tim Daly will be participating in the Montavilla Harvest dinner for the first time this year! Welcome them by coming and eating some cheese! Steve will be there in spirit, via his carefully selected, perfectly ripe-and-in-season cheese selections, and Tim will be there in person serving up the dairy-licious goods.
Although the shop isn’t technically in Montavilla- in fact Steve describes the shop as a ‘business without a neighborhood’ – the market is actually the closest farmers market to the shop and to where Steve and his family live, so in many ways they’re honorary Montavillans (?). They estimate about a third of their shoppers are from Montavilla, were honored by the invite to contribute to the dinner and wanted to give back to the community.

Steve himself has 15 years of Cheese Cred (not to be confused with cheese curd) and Tim, who was one of the opening chefs at Wildwood, is a veteran of the Portland food scene and has been working with Steve since day one. At Cheese Bar, the focus is small, local farms, ripe, seasonal cheeses, as well as great craft beers and small wine producers. Small, local, seasonal. It’s a mantra we as market-lovers are lucky to know well. When we spoke, Steve didn’t know yet what cheese would be featured on the big day because it will depend so much on what is perfect and ready at that very moment, but he did agree to tell us his favorite cheese at the moment (it changes constantly!) ; Mt. Zion Aged Goats’ Cheese from Fern’s Edge Dairy in Lowell, OR . Snack on that while you wait for Sept 17th!

Laura Widener – PastryGirl

Ok, so if you haven’t heard of PastryGirl yet you’re probably living under a rock. Or outside of Portland. With 1,000 + Facebook followers and a seriously loyal fanbase on yelp, PastryGirl Laura Widener has quickly become one of the Montavilla neighborhood’s most loved food superstars. And deservedly so! Widener baked her first cake at just 8 years old, so I’d argue that there is little doubt that owning and operating a gorgeous shop like the one she has now was her ultimate destiny from very early on. Baking was initially a hobby for her, a way to cheer herself up on a gloomy day. As she says “You can’t help but smile with a cupcake in your hand!”. Eventually she found her way to the Culinary Arts Program at the Art Institute of Seattle, where she was drawn because of the emphasis on the idea of food as art form.
Following graduation, she came to Portland to work under local hero Greg Higgins, who was a tremendously influential mentor. PastryGirl is the ultimate realization of her passions – working with her hands, the joys of baking and sugary confection, whimsy, celebration and fun.  A knack for fun and an artists touch give Ms. Wideners’ creations a whimsy and spark that draws people to her adorable Stark St. shop from all over the city!

No special day goes un-celebrated at PastryGirl, be it Butterbeer fairy cakes and Chocolate Frogs with peppermint cream for the Harry Potter premiere weekend, tea and scones with lemon curd, mascarpone and pear butter for the Royal Wedding or rose panna cotta with Beelzebub Bee honeyed strawberry salad in honor of the Rose Festival, Laura makes things just so for each and every little occasion. For OUR particular occasion last year, that is the Market Dinner bien sr, she made not one fantastic dessert but TWO! One for the regular omnivorous folks, and a delicious vegan treat for those inclined in that direction. This year will surely hold more sugary, dreamy delights from Ms. Widener!

Jeremy Eckel – Bar Avignon

Passed appetizers will come to us this year from the talented hands of Chef Jeremy Eckel of southeast division’s fantastic wine bar/ small plates haven Bar Avignon. Eckel has been cooking his way around the country for the past 10 years, from Vermont to Colorado to Chicago to finally an extended and formative stint at the restaurant Foreign Cinema in San Fransisco. Finally in 2008, he was drawn to Portland by the farm-to-table obsessives that dominate our food scene, and in 2009 he became the chef at Bar Avignon where he has the pleasure of overseeing their very own vegetable garden, from which he gathers much of the produce you’ll find on their menu. They were thrilled to be invited to join the Harvest Dinner, and we’re lucky to put our appetites in his trusty hands!


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