"I knew I wanted to focus on local, and I needed to find out how to do it," owner Aaron Adams tells Eater, outlining his new approach to modernist plant-based cooking at Farm Spirit. Farm Spirit is an ambitious chef's counter restaurant located at SE Morrison and 14th, and beginning April 6, it will offer seatings at 5:15, 5:30, 7:15, 7:30, and 8 p.m., instead of just one seating at 7 p.m. At the time of publication, there are reservations available as early as next week.
Adams is going to what some would call extreme measures to create a true Cascadian cuisine, and the new approach involves everything from banning almonds and citrus, to science fiction. Farm Spirit follows a model set forth by restaurants like The Willows Inn and Noma in eliminating all ingredients grown outside of the local area. Yep, this includes coffee and citrus. Adams says he's been able to find local alternatives.
Farm Spirit is now making its own herbal teas and creating fermented sunflower milk, which "tastes like parmesan broth." It's using fermented turnip greens for stuffing dumplings and buns, and fermenting its own black garlic and shallots—a process that involves keeping the garlic at 150 degrees for seven weeks.
"The question we always ask is, 'Does this product say something about Cascadia?'" says Adams. The creative process is two-fold and begins by imagining a traditional vegetarian Cascadian cuisine, which, as Adams points out, is something that has "never existed." He and the Farm Spirit cooks then develop a modern interpretation of that traditional dish and serve it at the restaurant.
"This alternate universe of Cascadia we are creating," says Adams, "re-imagines a place where it simply never occurred to anyone to eat animals or their products. It's definitely sci-fi."
At Farm Spirit, the results are 9 to 12-course prix fixe menus, which begin with modernist snacks reminiscent of the snacks served at Castagna and never involve analogs: vegan versions of cheeses or meats. Adams says its also a chance to meet your neighbors, your neighborhood cooks (the team at Farm Spirt), and your local farmers and natural ingredients. "I want people to be considerate about food choices: To know the people who serve the food, cook the food, and grew the food. You don't need to make sacrifices to do this."