by Kathleen Bauer
“What’s a pop-up?”
It’s the question that Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans gets asked the most about her recent venture. A seasoned chef who early in her career trained with the likes of Lidia Bastianich and Diana Kennedy, Yeomans worked in restaurants in her home state of New York and in her adopted home in Portland, Oregon.
At a certain point, though, she needed to break free of the constraints of restaurant kitchens to pursue her dream of teaching people to cook using market-fresh, seasonal ingredients. With the birth of her own company, The Farmer’s Feast, she started doing cooking classes at area farmers’ markets, as well as for Roger Konka’s Springwater Farm, demonstrating how to cook with his foraged greens and mushrooms.
It was Konka who first suggested selling food as well as doing demonstrations, and it wasn’t long before there was talk of holding dinners for their growing throng of fans. They’d been renting space in a local restaurant for their commissary kitchen, and the owner was enthusiastic about having them use the place for dinners on nights when the restaurant was closed.
About the same time the idea of pop-up restaurants was gaining popularity, where a chef takes over a restaurant kitchen, offering a set menu to those who’d reserved a seat in advance. Using social media and flyers passed out at the markets to get the word out, Yeomans and Konka started featuring menus ranging from Mexican to Italian to one showcasing local truffles in everything from appetizers to dessert.
The dinners attracted customers by the dozens. One of those was Alan Richman, a food writer for GQ magazine, who was passing through town and happened to pick up a flyer for Yeomans’ first pop-up brunch happening the next day.
“It wasn’t just Portland food,” he said of Yeomans’ menu. “This was idealized Portland food, the kind I thought I would find in every restaurant but did not. This was a glorification of farm, field, woods, and wild.”
Most chefs could open a restaurant on that kind of rave from a nationally renowned critic, but Yeomans isn’t sure that’s what she wants for her next venture.
“There is no grand plan—it’s just happening” she said, though she admitted she does have a goal in mind. “I want my own kitchen and a space where I could teach, a teaching kitchen where we have dinners.”
As Robert Frost said in his poem of the road not taken, “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Kathleen Bauer is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon, focusing on agriculture and field-to-plate issues. Her blog, Good Stuff NW, is about her journey to connect the dots between what happening in the field and what she’s putting on her table, including stories about people who are making a difference in our local food system, about eating sustainably and locally, and about the political issues affecting the food we find at our markets and stores.
This is the menu that was served at the event:
The Holiday Feast Menu
- Passed Hors d’Oeuvres: Shiitake Tempura with Mushroom Catsup,
Tamworth Pork Rillettes with Plum Mostarda & Pickled Fiddleheads,
Grilled Lamb Liver-Matsutake Mushroom Spiedino
Baguette & Nasturtium Butter
- 1st Course: Puff Pastry Vol au Vent with Prawns, Bay Shrimp,
& Sweet Cicely Root
- 2nd Course: Wild Winter Salad
Preserved Meyer Lemon, Wildflower Honey Vinaigrette,
& Rosemary Potato Croutons
- 3rd Course: Chestnut & Maitake Mushroom Soup
Leeks, Thyme, Cream
- 4th Course: Roast Lamb
(Springwater Farm Heritage Jacob Sheep)
Wild Mushroom Risotto & Demi-glace
- 5th Course: Douglas Fir Snow Cone Intermezzo
- 6th Course: English & Black Walnut Tart
with Salted-Butter Dark Caramel Ice Cream
& Smoked Old World Apples
- 7th Course: Elder Flower Jellies
Our Farm Dinner events feature products that are grown & foraged by Roger Konka & his family at Springwater Farm. Chef Kathryn Yeomans complements the farm wares with local farmers’ products to create menus rich in seasonal bounty. Everything is hand-made from scratch.