Holdfast J Bridger Dinner at KitchenCru

In my recent interview for About Face Magazine, Chef Scott Dolich had told me that Will Preisch was one of the most talented chefs in Portland. Will had recently left The Bent Brick to travel, and was now doing pop-up dinners around town. A friend of mine posted a link to an upcoming dinner collaboration with J Bridger, featuring Will cooking with Garret Eagleton, the original sous at Clyde Common, along with Le Pigeon’s founding GM and beverage director, Leif Sundstrom. They are both in NY now. That’s where you’ll find J Bridger, although they are touring the country now doing pop ups. I thought it would be a fun dinner, especially since my friend Gary the Foodie had expressed high praise for Preisch as well. As it turns out, Gary had been to all of Will’s pop up dinners under the name of Holdfast, so after I bought a ticket for Saturday night, I found out Gary had a seat on Sunday, and switched.

It was a nice small dinner — more intimate than I had imagined… about a dozen people in the kitchen at the KitchenCru space (I had expected to be in their dining room).

I only got to know the folks next to me, although Michael and Lynn Madigan–who own Kitchen Cru (and Bowery Bagels and now Remedy Wine Bar) were on hand, and it was nice to see them. Great people doing some fantastic food things.

The first thing I saw was the menu (which I had already previewed online). The parings looked great, and I wasn’t wrong about that. I am not one to describe the interplay of the flavors in pairings. I think it sounds pretentious. Suffice it to say that each and every pairing that Leif programmed was spot on. I can’t rave about one over another. But the Beaujolais was particulary stunning (There is my obligatory wine remark!). Given that this wasn’t my event, I was able to really enjoy the beverages to their fullest, and I was also happy that it wasn’t red-heavy, because tannin overdose gives me a major headache. And the Honey Orchid oolong was a nice way to take the edge off.

The fact that I didn’t take many pictures of the beverages doesn’t mean I didn’t thoroughly enjoy them. The food was so picturesque, it was hard not to focus on these dishes.

Garrett and Will prepping.

Will serving the second course: squid, avocado, tomato, epazote.

I have had charred squid, but never charred avocado before. In this case, it was interesting to taste something new. The squid was tender and flavorful.

The next course may have been my favorite: Escolar (done perfectly) pickled chili, cranberry bean, tepeche.

This was a small bite of pig ear chip with pig heart and mustard. Very nice, although as I said to Gary, when I like something, I always want a second bite to get another perspective. It was better than I had envisioned. Someone should be packaging pig ear chips. I doubt it will be Lays.

The eggplant, porcini, maitake and seaweed. As tasty as it was beautiful. (I am starting to think that Justin Wills and Will Preisch would be great collaborators.)

Beets are not my favorite, but I am always happy to expand my food horizons and even happier when the result is satisfying. The grapes were really nice complement.

The duck breast was delicious. Interesting apple sauce… not what I expect from applesauce, having grown on up Mott’s. Loved this dish. My second favorite of savories.

We had a little intermezzo.

And dessert was fantastic. I’d have this Miso ice cream anytime. And I do love plums.

There was some actual plate-licking going on. This sums up the night.

These guys were great, and so was the meai they prepared and presented. If I could do it all over again, I’d just want a little more of that escolar. A lot more, actually.

I think I’ll skip shaving for a few days.






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