Woodsman Tavern art courtesy Facebook, quickie Photoshop job/Eater PDX
Ever since rumors started floating about Stumptown founder Duane Sorenson opening a restaurant and bar near his SE Division flagship coffee shop, all involved parties — including chef (and Olympic Provisions alum) Jason Barwikowski and bartender Even Zimmerman — have kept details on the DL. But with the installation of a shiny new toy (in the guise of a Wood Stone "Josper" oven, only the 11th of its kind in the States), Barwikowski opens up about the Woodsman Tavern vibe and (somewhat unexpected) menu plans, which will highlight Southern artisan ham, Pacific Northwest fresh catch, the whole sausage kitchen, and of course, the Josper oven.
"It's a unique product," Barwikowski — who spent time in the kitchens of Tastebud and Ned Ludd to gather some fire-cooking experience — says of the oven. "You don't get the same flavor, even over live wood, because the smoke goes up. And it's the raddest thing I've ever cooked with in my life. It's nuts."
To start at the beginning: How did you hook up with Duane for this project?
I've known Duane for almost as long as I've lived here. When I helped open at Clyde Common, it was Clyde, the Ace Hotel, and Stumptown, and we got to know him really good through that. ... That's when he got to know me cooking-wise. When Frankies Sputino [was originally going to occupy the Woodsman Taven spot], he brought those guys in for dinner at OP, and we had a great time. I crushed them with food, we sat down, and the Franks said some of the nicest stuff that anyone's ever said to me about my cooking. So when OP happened — or didn't happen — I called Duane. And that's what started it.
Let's talk about food. What are you serving?
The menu's going to be in three main parts. We're going to focus and showcase domestic country ham producers, not unlike the Publican in Chicago. Duane and I are going to go on a Southeastern trip this week — South Carolina, Tennessee — to meet come of these guys. We'll probably do some stuff with [Iowa ham producer] La Quercia — I've known those guys for years, I really like their product. They're going to release a very small batch of three-month finished acorn, whole bone-in legs, and we're going to get one of those and have a ham stand.
Why the main focus on ham?
Ham is kind of a cornerstone of a lot of cookery, whether you realize it or not. The curing process and the aging process is really no different than bacon, although more refined. We're going to showcase artisan food, and artisan ham is as real as it gets. It's a lot of patience, a lot of time — kind of like the way I cook... A lot of my cooking is really long, slow cooking [that] pulls out flavors — and that's basically what ham is doing... So we're going to do a platter of ham, maybe with a really simple accompaniment of sweet-cream butter and bread. We might make pickles for it. But we're probably going to have three or four hams at a time by different producers; you can obviously buy one ham platter or you can buy a sampler platter.
And the other facet is a raw bar.
The raw bar will be the first thing you see when you walk in the bar. There's going to be a shucking station — Pacific oysters, Pacific clams, raw on the half shell, fluke crudo, chilled seafood. We were talking — when we were up at Wood Stone, we tried grilling some oysters in the oven, and they're so fickle and so time-sensitive that I don't think we're going to do that. But then I started to think, What if we were to wrap a half-dozen oysters in a bunch of seaweed and put that in the oven and steam it? But [expect] Dungeness crab legs, chilled octopus, marinated seafood salad, Bay shrimp, utilizing Oregon bounty of shellfish. Who knows, maybe there will be sea urchin. But the impetus for that was there aren't many places where you can get seafood like that here... the inspiration is [NYC's] Balthazar, the Dutch.
So how will the oven get into the action... what does the kitchen menu look like?
The menu's going to be pretty tight, pretty streamlined — there's six or seven appetizer, salad-type things. A couple salads, a couple vegetable dishes, and a couple protein-based smaller plates. I'm going to do the world-famous chicken-fried chicken liver, a take on that. I want to do a kabocha squash I'm going to cook and deep-fry, serve with a harissa as a warm vegetable dish. As far as entrees, I'm going to have octopus on the menu; guinea hen with a really savory bread pudding. Comfort food, but the way I would like to see it done. We're going to do a cote de boeuf — a one rib, big piece of ribeye with watercress; we're going to have French fries. I wanna put crazy water on the menu with the whole grilled fish — the Sicilian or Spanish or Moroccan technique of cooking a broth with tons of flavor.
And the other thing is, for the very first time, I'm going to have a circulator, a Cryovac machine, a dehydrator, pressure cooker — I'm going to do some different techniques than I've ever done, but my food's really not going to change that much. I'm really interested in pressure marinating, making pickles in the Cryovac machine. One thing I'm excited about doing with the dehydrator is a riff on Vietnamese shrimp crackers — but I'm going to do them with chorizo. Chorizo broth, minced chorizo so there will be little bits of chorizo. A pressure cooker's going to be fun to do certain sauces, cook beans with octopus and chorizo. Just slightly refine my technique.
What about a tavern burger?
There will maybe be a burger — we're going to do brunch, and if we do a burger it'll be during brunch. I'll make a six-ounce griddle burger with carmelized onions, piece of cheese, and that's it. No bacon. That's the way I want to eat a burger.
This being the "original Stumptown" that started it all — is there a big tourist presence here? What's the foot traffic like?
This is probably the most soulful Stumptown. This neighborhood — we've been involved with this for months now, and hanging out, talking to Duane sitting outside, six, seven people will walk by that know him, and he knows them on a first-name basis because they're regulars. I know this will be, to a certain extent, a destination restaurant. This will be the hot new thing that people from West Linn and foodies will want to come and eat, and that's great, that's what helps the whole restaurant scene. But this is a neighborhood spot — I'm hoping we're going to see people in a couple days a week, even if it's just to have a beer and hang out for a half hour. That's going to make me so happy, that people have that. It's going to feel like an extension of your house, that lived-in, casual, comfortable vibe to it.
Comfortable how so?
Duane Sorenson has been working on this project for years; has been buying things to put away for years. So there are some incredible pieces of furniture from the '30s and '40s that he's found and packed away. The legs on the furniture — they're all old, industrial warehouse tables, what would have maybe been a production sewing table, with these cast-iron legs. For the booths, we've had them machined locally to match the same cut. It's beautiful — 1930s sconces from the New York City subway for the booths, each booth is going to have ambient light. Theme-y without being kitschy.