Do you know who this kid is?
How about NOW? A few fun facts about Chef Lightner:
Born: Norfolk, Nebraska; 1980.
Experience: The Heathman Restaurant & Bar, Portland, Oregon; L’Auberge Del Mar, Del Mar, California; Mugaritz, Errenteria, Spain; Noma, Copenhagen.
How he got to Mugaritz: “I wanted to go to Spain, and I applied and applied to restaurants there. I must have applied to El Bulli 18 times. But I did get a phone call from Andoni Luis Aduriz [Mugaritz’s chef/owner] himself. My Spanish is really bad, but I could understand that he said, ‘I have a program: You take a month of Spanish, you travel all around Spain eating at restaurants, then you cook here for a year.'”
Favorite guilty pleasure: Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies.
Favorite cookbook: On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.
He cooks at this little joint in Portland, Oregon.
I took a quick jaunt up to Portland a few days after my birthday to see my friend’s band play and to have a little belated birthday fun with my BFF. After reading about Castagna, I knew I had to go there.
I think the new trend in fine dining is special butters and salt. Or else it always was and I just now noticed. At Castagna, you only got one choice. It was a nice choice though, high butterfat and red lava salt.
A word of warning: The lighting was VERY DIM and I don’t use flash in restaurants. So these pictures are pretty sucky.
This is of K’s first course. “Pickles”. Yes, that is what it was called and no, it did not resemble a pickle plate at Kenny and Zukes one bit. The complete title was “Pickles of today’s harvest , cured scallops, brown butter infusion and herbs”. You know it all tasted fabulous but the names are almost more than I can take.
My first course: “Parsnips in parsnip milk, slow cooked dungeness crab and sour grape”. Bold inserted by them, not me. The crab was exquistite and so sweet! Maybe enhanced by the parsnip milk.
My second: “Matsutake on the plancha, shavings of pickled marrow and oxtail braising juice”. I couldn’t really taste any marrow, but the mushrooms were good and meaty and the braising liquid was divine.
This was K’s 2nd: “Pine curd and roasted chanterelles, crisp pork and bouillon”. I kid you not, there was a dish called ‘PINE’ on the menu.
My 3rd, which I proclaim the winner of the evening. “Lamb collar, apples, roots, potato crumbs and wheat grass“. I don’t know what exactly the wheat grass brought to this game, but I do know that the lamb collar was fall-apart meaty, a bit fatty and just downright unctuous. And I despise that word unctuous.
We drank 2 bottles of wine between the 3 of us too!
If you care, we got the Boulay Sancerre 2008 for the first couple of courses, and the Eyrie Pinot Noir (from Oregon!) 2007 for the ending. Both lovely. The pinot was amazingly light-bodied yet had enough balls to stand up to the stronger dishes. Is that the first time you’ve heard the term ‘balls’ used with wine? It is certainly the first time I’ve gone there but I seem to be on a ‘balls’ kick lately.
For my birthday, I celebrated with a carrot. I shit you not, people.
“Carrots slow cooked in spices, frozen ricotta, oats, whey sorbet”. It tasted about how it sounds.
I should’ve gone with the ‘Apple’.
All in all, a terrific night, interesting food–though not always totally successful (CARROTS?). For just $65, a steal for this caliber of craftsmanship. Awesome service, thoughtful wine pairings.
1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR 97214