The new chef at Fullerton’s Northwest Portland tasting room arrived in Portland after leaving a different West Coast wine destination. Rob Grisham, a Wisconsin native, started his career cooking around the Madison area before eventually moving to California, specifically to cook at a restaurant he’d wanted to visit for most of his life: the lauded, Michelin-starred French Laundry, in Napa Valley. After living and working onsite for nine months, however, Grisham found himself missing the opportunity to create his own menus. “I gained a little clarity there, and I got to re-establish my vision. Everyone is brimming with creativity,” he says. “I just missed having a team, doing my own kind of food.”
So now, Grisham is bringing his culinary perspective — informed by his most recent stint in Yountville — to Northwest Portland. Fullerton Wines, the Willamette Valley winery known for its exploration of the region’s American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), has subsequently amped up its culinary program, and will start serving a new daily menu, with weekly prix fixe pairing dinners.
Since his quiet arrival in November, Grisham has started to add a few snacks to Fullerton’s daily food menu at the NW Pettygrove tasting room: celery root croquettes with whipped roasted garlic, for instance, or a radicchio-and-apple salad with burrata and fennel. On December 9, however, Grisham will start serving his Thursday night tasting menu dinners — $95, five-course prix-fixe meals with optional wine pairings from Fullerton. His first menu includes dishes like cauliflower panna cotta and beef tartare, though the menus will change weekly. “It’s just going to come from scoping out the market, seeing what’s around,” he says. “The next week, it could be a similar menu, but some things will be switched up a little bit.”
At the French Laundry, one of Grisham’s duties involved making the restaurant’s hand-made pastas: methodically rolled English pea agnolotti in a shade of electric green, sunny egg-and-truffle ricotta raviolo. At Fullerton, Grisham will bring some of his pasta prowess to the dinner menus, from the a-la-carte winter squash ravioli with delicata and pistachios to duck-and-chevre ravioli on the initial tasting menu.
However, the overarching daily menu is meant to feel both casual and special, with an emphasis on what works with Fullerton’s pinots. For him, that means dishes like caramelized mushroom soup with sherry gastrique, or smoked trout rillettes with rye crackers. And, being a Portland bar, Fullerton will have a burger on the menu — one, admittedly, topped with shaved prosciutto and Délice de Bourgogne. “I’m not looking to bring a slice of the French Laundry to Portland,” Grisham says. “I want to bring approachable food here that’s done well. If it looks pretty, that’s great, but I hope the customers here get food that’s exciting, tasty, and pairs with wine.”
Visitors can eat Grisham’s food as soon as today, with reservations for Thursday tasting menus available online. Fullerton’s Portland wine bar is located at 1966 NW Pettygrove Street.
• Fullerton Wines [Official]