— It’s not at all crazy for the marriage of Pazzo Ristorante and Hotel Vintage Portland to work so well.
The synergy between the two properties seems rather seamless because of the passion on both sides of the hallway that allows guests to pass easily between the artful hotel and the acclaimed Italian restaurant that has showcased several of the Rose City’s top culinary talents.
“We are one,” said Pazzo executive chef Kenny Giambalvo. “We are all here for the same purpose — to give the guest the best possible experience and the warmest hospitality.”
It’s friendly, welcoming and warm with a level of sophistication one would expect from Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, which manages both businesses inside this historic building on the bustling corner of Broadway and Washington.
“There’s also a sense of playfulness,” Giambalvo said. “Pazzo means crazy in Italian. We take our craft very seriously, but we like to laugh and have fun - and we’re humble about it.”
For Giambalvo, a New York native and 1983 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, Pazzo represents a homecoming of sorts.
“I moved to Portland to be the executive chef at Pazzo in 1998,” Giambalvo said. “I had to open up an atlas and find out where Portland was in Oregon. It was an interesting transition coming from L.A., coming from palm trees to incessant rain, but it’s been great.”
For wine director Kendra Crosby, it’s been a way to create a profession out of her passion. Considering that each room at Hotel Vintage Portland is named for an Oregon winery, she’s found a comfortable spot for the past five years.
“I like to remind people they shouldn’t be intimidated by wine,” said Crosby, a Northwest sports fan who grew up on Spokane’s South Hill and spends her vacations wine touring. “At the end of the day, it’s just a fermented beverage that you enjoy. I try to the make the list so that it’s approachable for people who are interested in learning more. Getting people excited about wine is what’s important.”
At 5 p.m. each weekday, guests can explore Oregon wine through Hotel Vintage Portland’s Wine Hour, a hosted pouring that features a winery representative. The program mirrors the Washington wine concept at sister property Hotel Vintage Seattle.
As for general manager Sandy Burkett, she’s the engaging type of innkeeper you want to have a drink with — if you can get her to sit still. Better yet, ask her for a tour of the historic Wells Building (circa 1892) and the $16 million renovation that closed Hotel Vintage Portland for nine weeks in 2015. It deepened the relationship between owner Pebblebrook Hotel Trust and Kimpton, which manages the 117-room property.
“If someone only had 24 hours in the city, they could experience a lot of Portland right here in one element or another,” Burkett said. “We give them a taste of the wine country that they won’t have really at any other property in the same way by just getting a chance to meet a winemaker or somebody from the winery at our wine hour. And they can extend that experience in the guest room by enjoying wine from the wineries on our list.”
Her team at Hotel Vintage Portland also leaves in your room a voucher for a free morning cup of coffee in Pazzo. Giambalvo said that invitation represents a level of trust. “Come down and try us out. We’re going to take care of you,” he said.
The native of Long Island grew up in a home where an uncle would sneak him little tastes of wine — an easy thing to do with a family of 10 around the dining table.
“You had to help in the kitchen,” Giambalvo said. “My mom couldn’t produce food for 10 by herself, so it started with cleaning beans and it grew from there. I don’t know that I was good at it back then, but I knew it was fun to be in the kitchen. It took an uncle to tell me that I was good, and he sent me the information about the CIA when I was 17. I’ve never looked back.”
Giambalvo’s professional career started with cleaning squid at Lenny’s Clam Bar in Queens — “My mom would make me change my clothes outside,” he chuckled — which led to a life in kitchens on both coasts and in Singapore.
He made headlines upon his arrival in Portland as Pazzo’s original chef, and his talents showcased there quickly earned him a trip in 1999 back to New York for a performance at the iconic James Beard House. Four years later, he got called back to the James Beard House, this time as founding chef at Bluehour in Portland’s Pearl District, where he spent a decade working for acclaimed restaurateur Bruce Carey.
“The explosion of chef-owned restaurants is unprecedented in a city of this size,” Giambalvo said. “It’s had this ripple effect and caused us all to up our game. The competition is intense, and the customers are better educated because of it.
“When I was first here at Pazzo, you could surprise people with what you put on the plate. Now, they’ve seen everything. There are so many talented chefs in the city.”
His career path kept him in Portland, and Giambalvo was at McMenamin’s Black Rabbit in Edgefield last year when Kimpton recruited him back to Pazzo.
“They have great loyalty with the staff here,” Giambalvo said. “I have employees now who worked with me in ’98. That’s unheard of in the restaurant industry, so I’m very, very lucky. There’s a real family spirit. The only reason I left was to open my own restaurant (with Carey), and I was in that partnership for 11 years before I had to reinvent myself.”
The legacy in the kitchen at Pazzo includes a remarkable list of chefs — Greg Higgins, Vitaly Paley, David Machado and John Eisenhart, who last year took his fascinating wine salt program to Nel Centro in Hotel Modera, where he works for Machado.
“It’s an incestuous city,” Giambalvo quipped. “There’s alumni from Pazzo who have gone on to make their own name, so it was a unique opportunity for me to come and complete the work I started. How rare is that?”
When Giambalvo is not focusing his time on his young family, he supports the farmers market and causes such as Portland Center Stage, the Cascade Aids Project and the Humane Society.
“It’s exhausting to operate your own restaurant, and it was a sacrifice on my family, so I decided I needed to regain my balance,” he said. “Pazzo has really provided that balance, and I’m having a great time. I’m creative again, and I’m not a slave to the stove.”
While he maintains an interest in regional wines, he leaves the wine list to Crosby, whose duties include the Portlandia-hip Bacchus Bar just off the hotel’s wine-themed lobby.
“It’s more of a cocktail-focused bar, but we just installed a keg system, so we’re excited to be able to pour wines on tap,” said Crosby, who supports King Estate’s Acrobat brand as well as Coopers Hall, headed up by Willamette Valley winemaker Phil Kramer of Alexeli Vineyard. “And we’re big fans of Adelsheim — a very iconic and responsible producer — and Stoller.”
The focus of her wine list is West Coast and Italian, “which is what it should be,” Crosby said. “I look for local wines of good value that you don’t find at the local grocery store to offer something different.”
The Match Maker assignment kept Giambalvo in the Willamette Valley for Pinot Gris by Lady Hill near Champoeg State Park and the fun Gamay Noir from Brick House on Ribbon Ridge.
“I really had fun with this,” Giambalvo said. “Wine is not meant to be kept on a shelf. I love how wine completes a meal.”
The pairing of the Pinot Gris with his Cured Salmon Belly and Leek Salad played upon the wine’s citrus, lemongrass and minerality.
“Do you go opposite or focus on a distinct flavor? That’s always the question,” he said. “With me, that’s more of an issue with white wine rather than red.”
His approach to the Brick House wine came more readily — Grilled Stuffed Quail with Duck Liver, Wild Mushrooms, Braised Fennel and Cherry Black Pepper Gastrique.
“On the Gamay, I got cherry, other red fruits and a little black pepper, so I wanted to bring that out with the reduction,” Giambalvo said. “The richness of the duck liver and the fennel worked well with the structure of the wine.”
The Match Maker project allowed him to refine the dish in advance of its spot on Pazzo’s seasonally driven offerings.
“I’ve done quail only as a special, but we are getting quail on the spring menu,” Giambalvo said. “Because of the USDA, the birds are a farm-raised, but I remember in the ‘80s getting squab and picking out buckshot with tweezers.”
That’s just crazy.
Brick House Vineyard 2014 Gamay Noir, Ribbon Ridge, $29
200 cases, 13% alc.
It makes sense that the base for Beaujolais shines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and Brick House Vineyards continues to promote this Burgundian variety that’s been overlooked and underappreciated by too many for too long.
Research indicates its parentage stems from Pinot Noir and the white grape Gouais Blanc, and according to famed British author Jancis Robinson, history can trace its lineage to the 14th century. Iconoclastic winemaker Myron Redford is credited with releasing the first Gamay Noir in Oregon in 1988.
Doug Tunnell’s history with wines from Burgundy began in the 1980s when the Oregonian was working as a correspondent for CBS News and headquartered in France’s Rhone Valley. As he learned about the wine industry there, his interest in making wine in Oregon became heightened after reports of the investment by famed French producer Robert Drouhin buying land in the Willamette Valley.
Few have been as inspired as Tunnell, who soon moved back to home, spotted a derelict filbert orchard on Ribbon Ridge and established a 40-acre vineyard. And he went all the way, becoming an immediate leader in the organic grape growing movement, earning certification in 1990.
He planted Gamay Noir in separate blocks near the iconic brick house. In time, he took his farming practices to the next level, going biodynamic, which he proudly and prominently uses on the label of his wines, including his Gamay Noir. He’s produced a Gamay Noir since 1995.
Few winemakers in Oregon devote much attention to Gamay Noir, in part because consumers are more familiar with Pinot Noir. And winery owners and their accounts would rather see such acreage invested in higher-priced Pinot Noir.
At Brick House, Gamay Noir is presented with a fruity profile of raspberries, backed by cassis with notes of lilac, horehound and a touch of earthiness. Its brightness and juicy focus on acidity makes it ideal alongside turkey and other birds.
Brick House, 18200 Lewis Rogers Lane Newberg, OR 97132, 503-538-5136, brickhousewines.com.
Grilled Stuffed Quail and Duck Liver with Wild Mushrooms, Braised Fennel, Cherry and Black Pepper Gastrique
8 quail, semi-boneless
1 pound of fresh duck livers, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 pound of thinly sliced assorted mushrooms — crimini, oyster, chanterelles, shiitake
1 bunch of fresh thyme leaves, picked and chopped fine
1 yellow onion, sliced thin
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
3 bulbs of fennel, quartered, core removed and sliced thin
1 cup vegetable broth
1 quart beef stock
2 shallots finely minced
1/2 cup dried sour cherries
1/4 cup black peppercorns
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups red wine for cooking
3 ounces salted butter
Liver mixture preparation for stuffing
1. In a heavy bottom large braising pot, heat ¼ cup of cooking oil. Add the half the garlic and all of the yellow onion. Cook just until the onions are transparent.
2. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, then continue cooking until the onions are just tender.
3. Remove the cooked mushrooms from the pot and place onto a cookie sheet pan. Spread out to cool.
4. Heat some more oil in the braising pan while seasoning the liver evenly with salt and pepper and add to the pot.
5. Cook the liver just until firm. Do not overcook.
6. Transfer the livers to the sheet pan with the mushrooms, onion, garlic mixture and allow to cool.
7. Once cool to the touch, transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the chopped thyme. Set aside.
Stuffing the quail
1. Take a tablespoon of the liver mixture and spoon it into the cavity of each bird, utilizing all of the stuffing mixture evenly distributed between the eight birds.
2. Using a paring knife, make a small incision in one leg of each bird. Take the other leg and insert the end of the leg into the incision. This will help to keep the stuffing inside the bird while cooking.
3. Place the quail on a sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to cook.
1. In a large braising pot, heat some cooking oil. Add the remaining garlic and cook just until slightly browned. Add all of the fennel and continue cooking a medium flame until the fennel is just tender.
2. A little vegetable stock can be added during the cooking to help keep the fennel from browning.
3. Adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper.
4. Remove from the heat and hold until ready to serve.
1. In a heavy bottom sauce pot, cook the sugar (use a little water to help dissolve the sugar) until a nut brown caramel color.
2. Add all of the vinegar to stop the sugar from continuing to brown. Keep arms and face away from the pot when adding the vinegar as it will splatter initially from the heat of the sugar.
3. Simmer until almost all of the vinegar has evaporated. Add the shallots, cherries, black peppercorns and red wine.
4. Continue to simmer until reduced by half the volume of red wine. Add the beef stock and simmer until reduced to about 1 pint.
5. Pass the sauce through a fine strainer into another sauce pot. Put back on the stove and bring to a simmer.
6. While whisking constantly, add the butter a little at a time while keeping the sauce at a simmer. Adjust the seasoning and keep the sauce warm until ready to serve.
Cooking the quail
1. In a large sauté pan, heat some cooking oil to almost smoking. Season the quail with salt and pepper. Carefully place each quail in the sauté pan breast side down a few quail at a time as to not overcrowd the pan.
2. Cook until each bird is golden brown on the breast side.
3. Flip the bird and sear the back side of each bird. Transfer the quail to a sheet pan, leaving about 1 inch of space between each bird.
4. Place the pan into an oven pre-heated to 400 Fahrenheit
5. Finish cooking the birds in the oven for about 8-10 minutes or until the breast feels firm or if the internal temperature of the quail reach 140 Fahrenheit when using a probe thermometer.
6. Remove from the oven and allow the quail to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
Plating the dish
1. Spoon the fennel into the center of each dinner plate.
2. Arrange two pieces of quail per plate on top of the fennel.
3. Ladle approximately 2 ounces of sauce around the fennel.
4. Serve immediately.
Lady Hill Winery 2014 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $16
439 cases, 13.5% alc.
Longtime Oregon vintner Jerry Owen created this brand as a tribute to his 1,500-acre family farm a stone’s throw from Champoeg State Park, and Lady Hill serves as a remarkable next step for the co-creator of one of the Pacific Northwest’s most well-known brands: Owen Roe.
Many of those wines have been made using grapes from Washington’s Columbia Valley, but Owen also established St. Columban Vineyard across Lady Hill Farm in 1995, land that’s been in Owen’s family for five generations since the 1850s. A reason for the continued success under the young 10,000-case brand can be explained in the relationship with winemaker Erik Brasher, the Michigan State University grad who played a key role in Owen Roe.
Another connection to the heritage of the property can be seen in the label, created by Owen’s wife, Elaine, using historic images of Zorn House — built in 1862 and an iconic home for the family in 160 years since. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and named for Jerry Owen’s grandfather.
A fascinating layer to the story is Lady Hill’s historical approach to sourcing, which harkens back to the days before statehood for Oregon and Washington, a time when the region was known as joint-occupied Oregon Country and stretched into what is now Idaho and British Columbia. Oregon achieved statehood in 1859, but Zorn House was built three years earlier. And there’s a historic link to the time prior to statehood as Champoeg served as the seat of power for the provisional government, created in 1843 via a transfer of control from the Hudson’s Bay Co. Among the Owen family heirlooms is a desk from the Hudson’s Bay Co.
It’s obvious that history and the nurturing of relationships remains important to Owen, whose longtime fruit sources include the Sauer family’s Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. And the opportunity to taste Lady Hill comes at the estate, across from the Champoeg State Heritage Area in a space shared with Sineann Winery. That brand is owned by the acclaimed Peter Rosback — who co-founded Owen Roe with David O’Reilly and Jerry Owen.
At Lady Hill, Owen promotes a concept he refers to as “True Northwest,” developing a regional constellation of five labels. Ad Lucem is focused on Rhône-style wines, while Procedo carries an Italian theme. Radicle Vines represent an introductory tier, and the cult Fons Amoris wines are vintage-driven, small-lot projects.
The Lady Hill brand is the most recognizable, working both sides of the Columbia River — including Washington’s Red Mountain — to produce wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy grapes. That’s where the Pinot Gris fits in with its fruit-forward approach. Brasher blends this wine, billed as a tribute to the late David Lett, using grapes from St. Columban and beyond. It’s a crisp expression leading with Asian pear, starfruit and white peach, backed by flecks of minerality and citrusy acidity to serve with seafood and salad.
Lady Hill Winery, 8400 Champoeg Road, St. Paul, OR, 97137, 503-678-1204, ladyhill.net.
Cured Salmon Belly and Leek Salad with Avocado and Tarragon Aioli on Bruschetta
Cured salmon belly ingredients
1 Salmon belly with 2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon curing salt
1 avocado, ripened
1 medium-sized leek
4 ounces tarragon aioli
4 ounces wild baby arugula
1 loaf of quality Italian bread
1 lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic
Fresh ground black pepper
1. Mix 2 ounces of kosher salt, 1 ounce of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper, 1 teaspoon cracked coriander seeds and 1 teaspoon juniper berries and hold in a covered container.
2. Prepare the salmon for curing by laying the salmon skin-side down on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper.
3. Sprinkle the curing salt evenly over the salmon. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top of the salmon.
4. Place another sheet tray on top of the salmon and put about 2 pounds of weight on it — a quart of milk, for example.
5. Place the salmon in the refrigerator and cure the salmon belly for 48 hours.
6. Remove the salmon from the fridge and rinse the curing salt off the outside of the salmon. Pat dry with paper towel and wrap tight in plastic wrap.
7. Keep refrigerated until ready to use (up to 5 days). Place the salmon on a cutting board the length running left to right close to the edge of the board in front of you.
8. Using a very sharp slicing knife, slice the salmon into thin slices about ⅛-inch thick, making sure to curve the knife away before cutting through the skin.
9. Lay each salmon slice on lightly oiled parchment paper, one next to the other. Once the sheet of parchment is filled, lightly oil the top of the salmon slices and place another sheet of parchment paper on top. Continue slicing the remaining salmon fillet.
10. This can be held in the refrigerator tightly wrapped until needed.
1. Cut the leek lengthwise down the middle in two. Cut the halves across into 2-inch pieces.
2. Separate the layers and spread flat on the cutting board.
3. Slice the leeks into very fine strips about 1/16-inch thick. Place the sliced leek into a bowl of cold water and move the leeks around to sure all of the sand and dirt has been washed away.
4. Let stand in the cold water to allow for the dirt to settle. Remove the leeks without disturbing the dirt on the bottom.
5. Allow the leek julienne to drain and keep refrigerated and covered tight until needed.
Juice of 1 lemon
3 ounces grape seed oil
1 shallot, minced fine
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced fine
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped
1 egg yolk
1. Place the lemon juice, shallots, garlic, tarragon and egg yolk in a food processor bowl.
2. While the motor is running, slowly add the grape seed and olive oil to create an emulsion.
3. Adjust the seasoning, transfer to a tightly sealed container and keep refrigerated until needed.
1 ripe avocado
Juice of one lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Split the avocado by running a knife around the pit. Twist the avocado to separate the two halves. Gently cut into the pit with a chef’s knife and twist to remove the pit in one piece.
2. Using a paring knife, cut away the skin from the avocado.
3. Slice each half of avocado into 1/8 inch slices and fan out onto a plate.
4. Sprinkle with lemon juice, kosher salt and black pepper and let sit until ready to use. This can also be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to an hour prior to serving.
1. Cut a clove of garlic in half and rub the cut side along the outside of a loaf of good crusty Italian bread.
2. Slice the bread into ½ inch thick slices. Drizzle each side with a little olive oil and salt.
3. On a hot grill, toast the outside slightly and get a little char. If a grill is not available, toasting the slices under a hot broiler will suffice.
4. Set aside on a cooling rack until ready to serve. This step should be done as close to the moment of serving the dish as is possible.
Assemble the salad
1. In a very large mixing bowl, place the sliced cured salmon, arugula, avocado, leeks, a drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil, and lightly season with salt and black pepper.
2. Gently toss the salad together to evenly distribute the ingredients. Spoon about 1 ounce of aioli into the center of each of four plates.
3. Using the back of the spoon, spread the aioli out into a thin circle. Arrange the salad evenly onto the four plates directly on top of the aioli.
4. Cut each bruschetta slice into halves and arrange the bruschetta at the top of the plate alongside the salad.
5. Serve immediately.
This story was originally published May 24, 2016 12:00 PM.