Meriwether’s Restaurant is one of those restaurants I like to recommend for showcasing northwest farm to table cuisine. This is taken quite literally here at Meriwether’s- the owners have 5 acres of farm aka Skyline Farm that they use as a source. The fact that Meriwether’s also has its own parking lot makes it convenient for out of town visitors, and during nice weather their outdoor garden patio with stone paths and a gazebo with firepit are a nice alfresco dining escape. The restaurant is within a historic building on the entrance location of the World’s Fair 1905, and the exterior of the building is pretty much the same as from that time- check out the photos inside and see for yourself!
I’ve only been to Meriwether’s for brunch so far, but, they are open for lunch, dinner, and happy hour of course as well, and this would be my first dinner. But… it’s a special dinner. Meriwether’s has Sunday Supper, which is a farm to table dining series they have had for a few month to highlight their local purveyors. This past Sunday, they featured a 4 course menu for $38 inspired from Portland Creamery artisan goat cheese while also utilizing produce harvested from their own Skyline Farm and products from other Oregon artisans. Liz Alvis, Owner and Cheesemaker of Portland Creamery, also attended and discussed and answered questions about how they produce their handcrafted goat cheese.
The first 30 minutes was people arriving and being seated at the communal tables, where the meal would be served family style. Most people took this opportunity to order cocktails or bottle(s) of wine. I stuck with something simple to refresh me from my fast paced walk from my house to Morrison and from 23rd St and Thurman to the restaurant (exercise! So I can eat all this cheese!). I also wanted to keep my palate relatively clean for the cheese to come. So I opted for the Lewis Lemonade with Indio Marionberry vodka, housemade marionberry puree, and hand squeezed lemonade. Unfortunately it didn’t have much flavor: perhaps all the better lemons and the bulk of the puree already got used up at the earlier brunch.
They did offer wine pairing suggestions for every course, but since they were full glasses it was more than I could hope to handle, and at the same prices as buying wine by the glass, it made sense for groups to just opt for a bottle(s) instead.
Executive Chefs Peter Kuhlman and Joshua Steiner started out the meal by describing how they incorporated cheese into all of the dishes. Later, as dessert was being served, Liz Alvis stood up and told us a few tales from the farm about her “girls” (the goats). Liz comes from a family that loves cheese- her mother and brother are running Mackenzie Creamery and source their goats milk from the Amish country in Ohio. So, even though Portland Creamery only started in fall of 2011, she has a great background of experience to reference.
Liz is fortunate to have her goat herd source be that of a long fine lineage (30+ year I think?), and in particular told us about how the genetics of the goats are critical in producing superior milk to then make superior cheese. One of the goats in the herd, Tetra (apparently short for Tetrazzini), is an award winning goat, in fact best in the nation, per the American Dairy Goat Association. They use some specific list of 95 points I think Liz said, and yes, there is a time just like with dog shows where the goat walks around in a ring to get shown and inspected!
You could definitely tell the care and affection she has for the goats as she explained how those ladies get the best quality grains, and just that morning as she was ladling curds she would just look out the window and smile and giggle as she watched them butt heads and be silly.
And then, it was time to see and eat the proof. Serve the cheese! We started with an appetizer of Oregon Chevre Crostini with red wine poached pear, honey, and Skyline Farm greens. There was a thick generous smear of the chevre, which is exactly the right amount.
The salad of Early Spring Greens from Skyline Farms of delicata squash, hazelnut crusted chevre, balsamico came so green and vibrant, and with a big hazelnut crusted chevre ball for each person at the table. The salad was delicious in that it let the flavors from the freshness of the robust mixed greens and of that squash speak for itself.
Each of these communal dishes was for half the table, so plenty for 4 people! I didn’t know that the big individual plate they just gave me was going to be taken away and replaced with an even bigger plate for the main course, so I had stacked my helping all nice to try to keep a cleaner plate: believe me it was a nice portion. That salad plate is the size of my normal dinner plates at home!
The main course was Anderson Ranch roasted leg of lamb with farm leeks and mustard cream (with Portland Creamery contributing to the mustard cream). This was served along with an almond and cranberry couscous (I didn’t take a photo of that serving dish, but you can see it on my plate). This was again prepared so that we could taste and appreciate the original wholesome ingredients. Although I was shocked at the size of the lamb cuts when they first arrived on the table, I had no problem eating that whoooole thing. My plate was clean.
The dessert course was Apple Tart Tatin with Portland Creamery cajeta and apple mousse. The cajeta, which is a traditional Mexican goat’s milk caramel that thanks to the low slow process with milk and not just using sugar to caramelize, has an extra gooey richness to it.
Liz also hopes to start producing aged cheeses this year, and opening an urban location with a few ambassador goats, in addition to continuing creating fresh cheeses. And, similar to her, it’s hard for me to believe that all this delicious cheese which we had today was just 6 days ago, fresh milk from her goats. Overall, it was an amazing meal showcasing just how delicious local Northwest cuisine is.