Season four was the first Top Chef season I ever watched. Introduced to a dozen great chefs from around the country, it was the first time I learned who Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons were, and the first time I was introduced to chef Stephanie Izard.
With fans across the country, I cheered for Izard, and her many now-familiar competitors, throughout the season and watched the final episode as she secured the Top Chef win from competitor Richard Blais. I almost immediately scoured the web for contact information for the winning chef, stumbling upon her restaurant website, and scribbling a quick email to request an interview – my first here on Daily Blender. By the next morning, she had responded with a resounding yes…and I’ve been follower of her career ever since.
Though I have yet to make it to her Girl & The Goat in Chicago, I’ve read the reviews, caught the many accolades, and chatted with the bubbly chef on a number of occasions about her culinary inspirations. I caught her post-Top Chef showcase at the 2009 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, enjoyed her Snowshoe Luncheon at the 2011 Beaver Creek Master Chef Classic, and clapped wildly when she received one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chef awards in New York City this past spring.
And last week, I finagled my way into her Goat Tour dinner stop here in Portland.
Supporting Share Our Strength, Izard’s Goat Tour is making its way around the country this fall, offering guests the opportunity to not only support SOS and enjoy her stellar kitchen talents, but also to snag a copy of her first cookbook, Girl in the Kitchen. During her visit to Portland, the Chicago chef joined with one of the city’s favorites, Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker, for a five-course, wholly memorable meal for the masses. The dishes, like all that I’ve had from both Ricker and Izard, were outstandingly satisfying, successfully pairing a handful of beautifully matched ingredients with perfectly complementary beverages.
The first course included a kitfo with pickled watermelon and a Tahitian-style ceviche with a taste of Ricker’s signature Som drinking vinegar; the second course, a Kalbi style beef ribs with a smattering of grilled skewers and an iced sweet potato shochu; the third, and by far my favorite, a bowl of cilantro steamed mussels with goat sausage croutons and a plate of prawn and squid Singaporian stir fried noodles, paired with hot sake; the fourth course, roasted beef necks and Nonya style green beans with a Beez Knees; and the fifth, for dessert, the super spectacular Thai chili chocolate gelato and a Macanese Serradura “sawdust” pudding.
The word you’re looking for is ‘awesomesauce’.
I took my post at the front bar of Ricker’s Ping with the rest of of my press posse for Monday’s food adventure, and enjoyed every minute (despite the squirm-in-your-seat discomfort of Ping’s bar chairs). Though deep in the kitchen trenches for most of the dinner, Stephanie stepped up to the front line for a bit, and emerged post-dinner to greet fans, pose for pictures, and scribble her autograph on the new book.
The Girl & the Goat “Goat Tour” will continue to travel through early next year, with upcoming stops in Washington DC, New York, and San Francisco. Though Izard generally plans her menus prior to arrival, assistant Jen Eisen noted that this week’s visit to Boston will be a little more fun and on the fly. Learn more about the tour and buy your tickets here. Proceeds benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry program.
Many thanks to Stephanie, Jen, and Christina.
*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender