Farm Spirit front entrance
When we plan a trip, I love to research places to eat. First, I make a spreadsheet in Google Docs and map out an eating itinerary, basically. Then I plot multiple options for every meal, depending on how we might feel once we’re at our destination. Sometimes there’s just not enough time (or meals) in a trip to go to every place I’m interested in. That gives me an excuse to go back!
Ross and I went to Portland, Oregon back in April for a long weekend. This blog post is several months overdue, as we ate at several delicious places and the thought of writing one huge entry was daunting. I kept procrastinating. Finally, I decided to break it up into smaller posts for each place.
Portland is one of my favorite cities to visit, as it’s basically heaven for vegetarians. I thought Los Angeles was vegetarian-friendly, but LA has nothing on Portland. There were several “must eat” restaurants for this particular trip, one of them being Farm Spirit.
Farm Spirit is a vegan restaurant in Southeast Portland with a seasonal prix fixe menu. The emphasis is hyper-local, with all the ingredients sourced within 100 miles of Portland. Everything in the restaurant is rooted in this local mentality, even the decor, furniture and serving ware. I had read that this was a destination, that every vegetarian or vegan had to go try the food.
Decorative plant with ceramic plates in background
One of the more frustrating things about vegetarian (or vegan) dining is that the higher-end you go, the fewer options there are for truly elevated, thoughtful, interesting food. I love my fast-casual vegetarian restaurants but I don’t really want to go to Veggie Grill for special occasions. (I do really love Veggie Grill though.) What about when you want to splurge and be absolutely delighted by what a chef has created without the requirement of using animal protein? There are a few places I’ve eaten at that offer a more “fine dining” experience, one of which is Crossroads in LA and the other was Millennium in San Francisco (which is closed now, sadly).
There were 11 courses, including dessert. I’ve included photos of each and a brief little description of the dish.
Farm Spirit prix fixe menu photos:
Yogurt bread, smoked hazelnut, chamomile nectar
Soft, doughy crumb for the interior, nice crunchy outer crust. The taste was reminiscent of sourdough bread.
Carrot jerky, fennel shrub, chervil / Kale raab, brussels raab, fermented abalone, garlic / Abalone, Fermented chili sauce, nasturtium
The carrot jerky was dehydrated so it had the same texture as meat jerky (well, from what I remember long ago). I could eat a whole bag of this. It had a lot of seasoning and concentrated flavor. The small pieces of abalone mushroom were fried and it was lot like eating popcorn chicken. I wanted more!
Sunchoke chip, mushroom marmalade, sweet cicely
This dehydrated sunchoke chip had a satisfying crunch, and the mushroom marmalade had a savory, earthy taste. The mushroom marmalade would make a good dip for chips.
Celery, celeriac, lovage stem, tarragon, preserved lemon, sunflower crumble
The chef called this dish “an ode to celery.” You might think “oh celery, how boring” but this tasted like a deconstructed cream of celery soup. Loved the celery “noodle” spiral; what a clever presentation. The sunflower crumble was like a fancy version of the crackers you put in your soup.
Little Gem, Asian pear, charred onion crisp, green tomato, sorrel
Here there were multiple textures and flavors to savor. This mini salad had a contrast in flavors between sweet and savory from the diced Asian pear and onion crisp, and differing textures from the crunch of the pears to the softness of the lettuce.
Potato, smoked yogurt, pickled onions, wild watercress
I think I saw these potatoes cooking in a sous vide machine but I can’t remember- it was fascinating hearing the chef talk about all the different techniques he used to cook the dishes. These were perfectly creamy potatoes that still retained their chunky shape when I picked them up with my fork; the yogurt and onions added a little bit of tang similar to what you might get from salted butter. Except there was no butter in this because it’s vegan!
Black Trumpet little ears, green garlic, shaved cremini, black trumpet puree
This was one of my favorite courses of the meal. I’m one of those rare vegetarians who dislikes most mushrooms and I hate when mushrooms used as a meat substitute. However, this dish made me dislike mushrooms a little less. The mushrooms were made into little ear-shaped pasta and drizzled with a concentrated black trumpet puree mixed with the green garlic that had a really nice kick to it. The thickness of the pasta contrasted nicely with the thinly shaved cremini slices that adorned the pasta.
Purple sprouting broccolini, rye crisp, filbert yogurt, bay butter, whey foam
This was also incredibly delicious. It was like eating a savory cannoli. The lighting is a little weird in the photo, but the tops of the broccolini were indeed a beautiful purple color.
Abalone, onion, herbs, spruce
I have to admit this was not my favorite course. As I said above, I’m not a big fan of mushrooms. The chopped herb seasoning on it was very flavorful (I would love to put it on other vegetables) but I’m still a little squeamish about the texture of mushrooms in general.
This is a fermented, carbonated probiotic drink, so imagine it’s like a “healthy” soda. This was so good! Lightly sweet, a little tangy and the presentation was cute.
Nettle cake, elderberry, hazelnuts, mint, red sorrel
The dessert reminded me a lot of some matcha cakes I’ve had; it had a similar earthy, herbal flavor like matcha does. The little dollops of “frosting” were a good way to inject small amounts of sweetness without overwhelming. The fluffy “frosting” contrasted with the crunchiness of the sprinkled nuts and the moist, dense cake.
I didn’t get a picture of it, but at the end of the meal, they gave every guest a bag with a slice sweet quick bread (I believe it was parsley bread?) that I gobbled up the next morning. It was very similar in taste to zucchini bread.
Farm Spirit is on mythe list of highly recommended vegetarian/vegan restaurants. The chef and staff put so much care and thought into the creation of each dish. The chef, Aaron Adams, was warm and gregarious, telling us about the ingredients and inspiration for each course. He answered people’s questions without any hint of haughtiness that you might expect from a chef at a restaurant of this caliber. They plated the food beautifully, with little swashes of sauce, or neat little piles of bright green herbs. The soundtrack (80s New Wave mixed with indie rock) was unobtrusive (meaning not too loud, a pet peeve of mine in restaurants) and set the mood well.
This was one of the best dining experiences I’ve had, for sure. I would love to come back at a different time of year and try a different seasonal menu.
The restaurant is small; it seats 14 people at a communal counter. There are no walk-ins, you have to buy a ticket to a seating in advance. The prix fixe price does not include beverages; you can pay additional for non-alcoholic or alcoholic beverage pairing. Gratuity is not necessary.
Price: $65 per person for Saturday Late Night Menu tasting, $85 per person for Cascadia Tasting Menu (Wednesday through Sunday).
1414 SE Morrison Street
Portland OR 97202