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Simply Oregon

Portland chef Cory Schreiber lets beloved local ingredients speak for themselves

Harvey Steiman
Posted: April 26, 2001

  Oysters With Crème Fraîche, Lemon and Tarragon  
  Wilted Young Spinach Salad With Hazelnuts, Smoked Trout and Oregon Blue Cheese  
  Pinot Noir Glazed Squab With Roasted Summer Vegetables  
  Blackberry Cobbler With Cornmeal-Biscuit Topping  
  Wine Suggestions  
  More of Harvey Steiman's Food and Wine Recipes  
Simply Oregon

Portland chef Cory Schreiber lets beloved local ingredients speak for themselves

By Harvey Steiman

Cooking in the Pacific Northwest has always been about ingredients -- and not too fancy, please. James Beard, who grew up in Portland, wrote extensively about craving Oregon's razor clams, crabs, vegetables and berries even when he was traveling in France. Throughout his life, the food guru returned to Oregon regularly, eventually setting up a summer cooking school on the coast, the better to revel in the state's bounty.

Cory Schreiber taps into the same sensibilities with the food he serves at Wildwood, his 7-year-old Portland restaurant. And he has something Beard did not: a thriving local wine industry to complete the picture at the table.

Schreiber makes sure his wine list features bottlings from all of Oregon's winegrowing appellations (not just the best-known, Willamette Valley). Most of these regions stretch along Interstate 5, which runs north/south in the western part of the state. "A big goal of mine," says Schreiber, "is to give people an Interstate-5 tour of Oregon wine, so they can learn all the appellations and how they are different."

He takes a similar approach with food, incorporating as many items grown in Oregon as he can. "If you ask somebody what Pacific Northwest cuisine is, they'll say, oh, salmon, mushrooms," he sighs. "I'm interested in what's not so obvious -- abalone, razor clams and first-rate matsutake mushrooms, along with the berries, pears, apples and animals that live in Willamette Valley or are farmed there.

Schreiber's family has been in the restaurant business in Oregon for 125 years, but he earned his toque cooking in Boston, Chicago and ultimately as chef of the Cypress Club in San Francisco. There he served complex dishes that fit with the restaurant's outré style. But when he returned to Portland, he discovered that he had to scale back and make the food simpler.

The main dish of this menu provides a perfect example. Squab marinated in Pinot Noir and olive oil roasts in a wood-fired oven, then comes to the table over similarly roasted vegetables. "If I were at Cypress Club, I probably would feel as though I had to dress it up with parsnip chips," Schreiber says. But the dish is marvelous as it stands, emphasizing the natural flavors of the ingredients. And its lack of pretension makes it more accessible for home cooks.

In his new cookbook, Wildwood: Cooking From the Source in the Pacific Northwest (Ten Speed Press, 2000), Schreiber offers recipes from his family's other restaurants (The Oregon Oyster Company, Dan & Louis' Oyster Bar) as well as those for some of the more creative dishes he is doing now, including the ones in this menu. One chapter is devoted to recipes using Oregon wines. Many, but not all, contain wine matching suggestions as well.

Our menu begins with a different approach to cooked oysters. Rather than topping a raw, open-faced oyster with a sauce and running it under a broiler, as in oysters Rockefeller, Schreiber simply broils the unopened oysters until they relax and open a little in the heat. This makes the oysters easy to open, and it heats them without overcooking them.

This dish is perfect with sparkling wine. Argyle Brut Willamette Valley 1996 (90, $22), crisp of texture and balanced with roundness and nice peach and lemon flavors, livens up with the oysters to match seamlessly. An off-dry Riesling also performed well, becoming richer with the food.

The next course, a salad, includes several Oregon specialties -- smoked trout, hazelnuts and blue cheese. The salad plays on the traditional spinach salad, and the presence of the smoked trout suggests that Riesling would be an ideal match. Without the blue cheese, it would match a Riesling nicely, but the salty cheese makes the wine fade. Chardonnay gets less fleshy with the salad, but picks up nice fruit character. Ponzi Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 1999 (88, $15), with its lovely melon and citrus flavors and round, open texture, is a lot more fun with this dish. It loses nothing in the transaction and deals with the trout and the cheese equally well.

The recipe for the main-course squab calls for reducing a whole bottle of Pinot Noir and blackberries, to add their flavor to the marinade and, eventually, the final glaze. "It's really more like a honey glaze," Schreiber says. Don't use an expensive wine for this process, just a decent one you would be willing to drink. Schreiber seasons the meat with salt to cure it a little bit prior to cooking. "Adding a little salt to the mixture is a good way to set the meat up," he explains. "It begins the cooking process [by drawing out moisture], so when you roast it, it's done really fast."

The rich fruit and supple tannins in King Estate Pinot Noir Oregon Reserve 1998 (91, $35) really rock with the squab. The wine's elements dance with the food's flavors and meaty textures. A Pinot Noir with firmer tannins, by contrast, got very tight when tasted with the squab. White wines got lost in the shuffle.

In a state famous for its blackberries, Schreiber uses them to best effect in a blackberry cobbler. It's the restaurant's most popular dessert, and it's easy to see why. Half the blackberries are cooked with brown sugar and vanilla, then the cooked berries are mixed with an equal portion of fresh ones. A cornmeal crust contributes wonderful texture and flavor.

To go happily with this dish, a wine needs to be sweet enough. Andrew Rich Gewürztraminer Oregon Willamette Valley Les Vigneaux 1999 (not rated), made from frozen grapes (in the same style as Bonny Doon's Vin de Glacière), does the trick nicely. But feel free to substitute any late-harvest wine of about 10 percent or more residual sugar.

Oysters With Crème Fraîche, Lemon and Tarragon

  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons Pernod, simmered to reduce in volume to 1 teaspoon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons undiluted orange juice concentrate
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • Kosher or rock salt (for layering)
  • 16 large oysters

Preheat the broiler. In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the crème fraîche or sour cream until soft peaks form. Stir in the tarragon, lemon zest, orange juice concentrate, Pernod, salt and cayenne. Set aside.

In a shallow baking pan, layer the kosher or rock salt 1/4 inch thick. Gently press the oyster shells into the salt to hold them in place. Broil the oysters 6 inches from the heat source for 4 to 5 minutes, or just until they begin to release their juices and the shells pop open slightly. Remove from the broiler and remove the top oyster shells by inserting a butter knife and popping the shells off. Top each oyster with a spoonful of crème fraîche mixture and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Wilted Young Spinach Salad With Hazelnuts, Smoked Trout and Oregon Blue Cheese

In a large salad bowl, combine the greens, onion rings and trout; cover and refrigerate.

In a small saucepan, boil the wine until it reduces in volume to 2 tablespoons. Whisk in the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add the nuts and warm the mixture over medium heat. Pour this over the greens and trout.

Toss the salad. Divide it evenly among four plates. Top each serving with the crumbled cheese. Serves 4.

Pinot Noir Glazed Squab With Roasted Summer Vegetables

Gently boil the wine with the berries in a nonreactive pan until reduced in volume all the way down to 1/4 cup. Strain out the berries and return the wine to the pan again to reduce by half. Let it cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, honey and 1 cup of the oil. Gradually whisk the reduced wine into the oil mixture. Using two self-sealing plastic bags, pour one-fourth of the marinade into each one, reserving the remaining mixture. Put two squabs in each bag, turning to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Remove the birds from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking to allow them to reach room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 425º F. In a large bowl, toss the squash, zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms, onion, sage and rosemary with the remaining olive oil and let stand for 15 minutes. Pour into a jelly roll pan or the bottom of a broiler pan and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring twice. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 375º F. Spray a shallow baking pan with vegetable-oil cooking spray. Remove the squabs from the marinade and discard the marinade. Place the squabs, skin-side up, in the pan. Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the thighs are pierced with a knife. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Return the vegetables to the oven to roast for an additional 5 minutes.

Portion the vegetables onto plates and place the squab halves on top. Drizzle the reserved marinade mixture (not the portion that was used with the raw poultry) around the squab and vegetables. Serves 4.

Blackberry Cobbler With Cornmeal-Biscuit Topping

Preheat the oven to 325º F. Spray a 9-inch square baking dish with vegetable-oil cooking spray.

To make the filling, blend the brown sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in the water and 3 cups of the blackberries. Cook over medium heat, stirring until thick, about 3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and let cool slightly. Pour the cooked mixture and the remaining 3 cups fresh berries into the bottom of the baking dish, and set aside.

For the topping, combine the flour, cornmeal, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Add the cream and mix until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a floured board and knead eight to 12 times, or until smooth. Cut the dough into 9 portions and roll each into a ball.

Combine the brown sugar and the 3 tablespoons granulated sugar. Dip each ball in the butter, then the sugar. Place the balls on top of the fruit. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbling and the topping spreads, browns lightly and cooks through. Let it cool in the pan for a few minutes to a half hour, and serve warm. Serves 9.


For this menu, editor at large Harvey Steiman has matched the dishes with wines that Wine Spectator has recommended or with other wines that have aged well. Other wines may be suitable, but try those listed here if you can. Alternate choices are given in case the first choice is unavailable.

Oysters With Crème Fraîche, Lemon and Tarragon

First choice: Argyle Brut Willamette Valley 1996 (90, $22)

Alternate choices: Discovery Brut Oregon Cuvée 1998 (86, $14), St. Innocent Blanc de Noir Willamette Valley 1996 (83, $15)

Wilted Young Spinach Salad With Hazelnuts, Smoked Trout and Oregon Blue Cheese

First choice: Ponzi Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 1999 (88, $15)

Alternate choices: Elk Cove Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 1999 (89, $15), King Estate Pinot Gris Oregon 1999 (87, $15), WillaKenzie Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 1999 (87, $16)

Pinot Noir Glazed Squab With Roasted Summer Vegetables

First choice: King Estate Pinot Noir Oregon Reserve 1998 (91, $35)

Alternate choices: Rex Hill Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 1999 (90, $24), Erath Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Vintage Select 1998 (89, $24), Montinore Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Winemaker's Reserve 1998 (88, $18)

Blackberry Cobbler With Cornmeal-Biscuit Topping

First choice: Andrew Rich Gewürztraminer Willamette Valley Les Vigneaux 1999 (not rated)

Alternate choices: Eola Hills Gewürztraminer Oregon Late Harvest Vin d'Epice 1998 (90, $16), Erath Gewürztraminer Willamette Valley Late Harvest 1998 (88, $10), Silvan Ridge Gewürztraminer Oregon Ice Wine Bing Vineyard 1999 (85, $20)

For the complete article, please see the May 15, 2001, issue of Wine Spectator magazine, page 125. (Subscribe today)

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