Market Mixology : Lauren Fitzgerald

August 29, 2011 |  by  |  Chef Demos

As a young girl growing up in Texas, Lauren Fitzgerald was surrounded by the lovely smells of her mother’s kitchen but wasn’t allowed to help out much. Like her daughter does today behind the bar at Portobello Vegan Trattoria, Fitzgerald’s mother ran a tight ship. It wasn’t until Lauren was 16 when her mother became sick and, knowing that she was on her way out, took the time to write all her special recipes on notes cards in her delicate, ladylike cursive for her two daughters. Today, Lauren realizes that she started cooking not just out of necessity, but as a way to keep her mother in her life. Even now she uses those notecards, making veganized versions of these homey recipes like Dinosaur Poop Cookies (a.k.a. No-bake drop cookies) with almond butter.

As a girl who became a vegetarian at age 12, Fitzgerald was ready to get out of Texas as soon as the opportunity presented itself, so after high school she made her way westward, landing at the California Culinary Academy. Here, she learned classical French technique. Although the classical French canon is rather non-vegan – “butter, butter, cream, cheese cheese, more butter” as Lauren puts it – the skill set that she gained during her time there has been incredibly useful. “It’s good to learn the rules so you know exactly how to break them” she says.

After graduation, she knew exactly where she wanted to go put those newly aquired skills to work – Eric Tuckers’ famous temple of vegan, hyper-seasonal food, Millenium in San Fransisco. She went to Tucker and asked only to work with him at the restaurant – any job would do. It was there that the idea of seasonality really became real to Fitzgerald. As a Texan, no nectarines in the middle of winter was truly a new concept. It was there that she discovered a love of the art of cocktailing, and came to the realization that the bar is really just an extension of the kitchen, that drinks can be seasonal as much as food can be. She found herself making strawberry syrups for the bar, and passing the leftovers off to the pastry chef, loving the fluidity of it all.

Food Not Bombs is very special to Fitzgerald, and one day a week was always spent cooking there, where she would carry the seasonal ideas of the restaurant over to the food she cooked for the hungry people that came for a warm dinner. Cooking largely with donations from local farmers markets, she made sure the food wasn’t just stick-to-the-ribs, but that it tasted great too.

As if all that isn’t enough, in she also began hosting vegan underground dinners with fellow food lovers and restaurant people from around the city, giving her the chance to cook truly from the heart, to play around, even to get a little silly with menus. They helped her “regain what I love about food service. The sharing of food, the sense of being together and sharing this convivial moment”. Rumor has it she’s carrying on the tradition here in Portland, but we can’t say for certain. These are clandestine events, after all….

Finally in January of 2010, Fitzgerald made the move up to Portland, a city she’d fallen in love with. She landed at Portobello Vegan Trattoria as the beverage director and bar manager, where you can find her to this day! Saddle up to the bar on any given day and she’ll happily create an absolutely seasonal cocktail just for you, based on the flavors you love and the mood you’re in!

Lauren will be shaking up delicious market-driven mocktails this weekend at the Farmers Market, and in the meantime has been generous enough to provide us with not one but TWO deliciously drinkable recipes. Enjoy!

Coral Reef

(pictured above in Lauren’s hand!)

1 oz. Lime infused silver tequila
1 oz. Aperol
3 oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice

shake with ice
strain over fresh ice into a sea salt&sugar rimmed rocks glass
garnish with an orange slice

Refreshmint

crush 8 mint leaves with a little bit of ice in a pint glass
add 2 oz shredded cucumber and crush a bit more

add:
1 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
5 oz. Herbucha kombucha
ice to fill
shake gently (or the kombucha will explode at you!)
garnish with a slice of cucumber and a sprig of mint


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