At first glance, the notion of fine dining seems to clash with Portland culture. White tablecloths, tuxedo clad maitre d’s, Michelin stars… none of that fussiness exists here even though PDX is frequently hailed as one of the great food cities of the country. But refined, fancy pants dining experiences do exist here, and at Farm Spirit, it just happens to be 100% plant-based. I came here for my birthday dinner, and not only was it the most refined and creative meal I’ve had in PDX so far, it’s one of the most memorable meals I’ve had all year.
To dine at Farm Spirit, you buy a ticket to one of two dinner seatings. We opted for the 5:30pm seating, which set us back $70 each, including gratuity. I won’t be dining here on a regular basis, but the price tag wasn’t bad at all for a vegan, 10-course tasting menu. If you’re afraid that you won’t feel full after eating a bunch of vegetables, don’t be. We left the restaurant delighted and pleasantly full. (If you insist on having more courses, opt for the later seating.)
At Farm Spirit, every seat is at the chef’s table. The gorgeous L-shaped bar only seats twelve people, and it makes sense that you have to buy a ticket as it is an experience, not just a meal. Think of it as story time with Chef Aaron Adams with punk music in the background. You’ll learn about where the food comes from as you’re eating it off your plate, and chances are, you’ll probably hear a story or two about where the plates came from too. I guarantee you’ll eat some vegetables that you’ve never heard of before. Oh, and the entire menu is a surprise. Just come prepared to feast on veggies.
Here’s what we had that evening:
When we arrived, the table was set with seeded rye bread and smoked butter made of aquafaba (chickpea water). There are wine pairings and kombucha pairings available, but we decided on glasses of Cab Franc Rose. A birthday dinner calls for some bubbly, right?
The amuse bouche was a delicate seed cracker topped with creamed kale, pickled strawberry, and winter cress. Tasty small bite to kick things off.
Okay, so this is clearly the least photogenic course of the night. While it may not look pretty, this chewy carrot jerky tastes pretty darn fabulous.
Next up was a caramelized onion and summer savory fritter topped with sunflower yogurt. Think vegan bar snack served hot in a cute little skillet.
This is where things really start to get interesting. Smoky beetroot with fermented mushroom filbert yogurt, huckleberry, herbs and pecans (?). Beautifully plated. Tastes rich and earthy, but refreshing. I was ready to lick the plate clean.
The carrot rose is basically one long carrot strip that has been unwound, then rewound to form what is easily the most stunning dish of the night. Topped with apricot, rosemary, meyer lemon leaf oil, frilly mustcard, and brassica flowers. Delicious. This one will have you feeling like a happy little bunny hopping through the forest.
I’ve only had sunchokes in salads, where they’re sliced paper thin and tossed in dressing, so this sunchoke and watercress soup was a welcome change of pace. Creamy without feeling heavy, while the chrysanthemum adds lovely floral notes.
Forgot ants on the log, I’ll take flowers on a celery stick instead. Braised celery, celeriac puree, meyer lemon, and borage. Unfortunately, one of my flowers fell off before I snapped the photo, and I wasn’t going to attempt putting it back in place with my clumsy fingers.
As our empty celery plates were whisked away, I picked up a rich, delicious scent in the air. Mushroom time! I knew that we would not be leaving Farm Spirit without a ‘shroom dish. (Sorry, John!) The abalone mushroom with smoked potato puree, amara mustards, red pepper, and alliums was the “meatiest” dish of the night. The texture and flavor of the mushroom was just incredible, and the accompaniments were great too.
Next, we went down the rabbit hole with the raspberry kefir palate cleanser. I’m sure these adorable “Drink Me!” bottles are heavily Instagrammed. Don’t worry, we didn’t disappear off to Wonderland after this one.
I love vegetables for dessert, and Farm Spirit totally gets me. Roasted parsnip, butternut squash caramel, hazelnut crumble, pineapple sage, and sheep sorrel. Balanced flavors and textures, not too sweet. Plus, it’s made of veggies so you can feel good about eating it.