“Do you remember that dairy cow we had?” Kei Ohdera says, sitting down for lunch with John Schaible in 2018. The two were reflecting on their shared culinary history: They had both worked in farm-to-table restaurants before taking jobs at Farm Spirit, and while working in a New York kitchen, Ohdera and Schaible encountered their first retired dairy cow. When Schaible tasted it, the fat had almost a buttery quality, almost like a sweet potato biscuit; it complemented the minerality of the meat. “The marbling on the fat was so yellow, and the meat was magenta,” Schaible says.
Generally, retired dairy cows in the United States are slaughtered for ground beef, regardless of how the cattle was raised; in other parts of the world, like Spain, older cows are considered higher quality, with a deeper, more pronounced flavor. Saving these older cows for whole-animal butchery is a more sustainable way to use them; it eliminates waste (and often mileage), and farmers make more money off the sale. For Schaible and Ohdera, this memory of one hunk of beef reflected something that they both missed: true, deep-rooted connections to farmers, not just as chefs looking for specific ingredients, but as collaborators in a mutual effort to create a more sustainable, ethical agricultural industry.
That became the impetus for Pasture, a pop-up originally zeroed-in on retired dairy cows: they would buy cows directly from dairy farmers, pay them dollars on the pound (as opposed to the ground beef industry’s pennies), butcher them, and then transform them into dishes like beef shoulder with kohlrabi puree or a burger on Japanese milk bread. To round out the menu, the two chefs began building dishes with Oregon produce, like cabbage with toasted mushrooms, or fritters made with Kiyokawa apples. The goal was to open a permanent butcher shop and restaurant, but the pandemic delayed their plans. Finally, after more than a year of searching for a space, Pasture has signed a lease on an Alberta street market, where Ohdera and Schaible can sell house-made terrines, rare cuts and offal sourced from Oregon producers, and pastrami made with beef raised by regenerative farmers.
The new restaurant and butcher counter, which will open in late 2021 or early 2022, will be a long, narrow space, starting with a bar counter and tables. There, customers will eat dishes like roasted carrots in Ohdera’s house chili oil with garlic cultured cream, or salads topped with braised shank. The lunch menu will also include a burger, as well as cured meat and pastrami sandwiches, a nod to Pasture’s current weekend pop-up at Tails & Trotters; the two know they’ll keep the pop-up’s rotating farmer collaboration sandwich, in which one of Pasture’s suppliers designs a pastrami sandwich for a month. “We love stuff like that; it’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to showcase these farmers,” Schaible says.
As customers walk deeper into the space, they’ll approach a butcher counter, filled with meats from local regenerative farmers like Hannah and James Woods, who own Deer Island’s Wandering Woods Farm. The cases will be filled not only with cuts of shank, sausages, offal, hams, and pastrami, but Pasture’s charcuterie, head cheese, terrines, meat pies, and pate en croute. The hope is, by offering hard-to-find cuts and offal both raw and prepared, Portlanders can develop a better familiarity with cuts that may feel new to them; that way, they can support the whole-animal butchery industry in Portland. “We’re coming at it from an educational perspective: You’re only going to have so much rib-eye you can sell, there’s only so much filet you can sell. So there will be those other products people can learn about,” Schaible says. “It’s a way to have this great product, but also have this financial support for everyone who’s a part of this process.”
Toward the back, Pasture will house a marketplace, with both dry goods and refrigerated produce from Oregon farms like Sauvie Island’s Vibrant Valley or Junction City’s Groundwork Organics. “We want to lift up the entire community of producers and growers,” Ohdera says. “We’ll have marinated meats and marinated carrots. ... We want people to eat the right meat, and not as much as they used to.”
Once Pasture settles into the new space, Schaible and Ohdera will start offering weekly tasting menus, followed by dinner service. “When we’re able to move into the tastings or a dinner service, it’ll be focused on the things people don’t cook at home as much,” Shaible says. “Lesser-known cuts on the animal, things that are even better than a tenderloin or a New York strip, that ties back into this whole fun, creative, playful way of educating and feeding people.”
Schaible and Ohdera have lofty goals, and not in terms of expansion or investment: They want to usher in a renaissance of farm-to-table cooking that not only relies on Oregon farmers, but on producers who are interested in regenerative farming — methods that try to repair some of the damage caused by industrial agriculture. Ultimately, they want to a part of shaping the next era of Portland’s restaurant industry in a way that supports the larger food community and environment. “We’re one of the most fruitful lands in all the world, we have so much to offer, but we don’t have our own food culture, really,” Schaible says. “We want Portland to become the food city it really wants to be; keeping it close to home and from the ground up is how to do it.”
Pasture’s restaurant and butcher shop will be located at 1413 NE Alberta Street; the pop-up currently runs at Tails & Trotters on Sundays.
• Pasture [Official]
• Pasture [Instagram]
• Portland’s Sustainable Steak Pop-Up Pasture Wants to Open a Restaurant [EPDX]