“The Northwest is the nation’s breadbasket.” A claim made by Chef Jason French of Portland’s Ned Ludd Restaurant. And from what I’ve witnessed since moving to the area several years ago, I’d be hard-pressed to disagree with him. The combination of weather, geology, and a few prehistoric landscape-altering events have blessed the area with a bounty that’s hard to match.
The owner/Chef of Ned Ludd is inspired by and dedicated to this bounty. By utilizing the freshest, in-season ingredients from an ever growing list of local purveyors; the restaurant provides a “Snapshot of Oregon today,” according to Chef French.
Having the best ingredients available is a fantastic start, but it’s how you curate them to the plate that sets you apart in the reputable landscape of Portland cuisine. The wood fired oven that is responsible for all the cooking done in the kitchen is a key component – as is the care and skill brought to each dish by Chef French and his staff. The quality of product and artisanal nuance is how you develop a reputation in these parts.
On a recent visit I sampled a prime example of Ned Ludd’s prowess; a charred eggplant soup, with red pepper coulis. The convergence of seasons was represented exquisitely by the smokiness of the eggplant, countered with the bright flavor and color of the red pepper.
This was the snapshot that Chef French had referenced during our conversation. That day, a late summer transition into early fall was evident in the air as well as in the bowl. And that bowl of soup is a prime example of why Chef French does what he does. Would this perfectly balanced bowl of flavor and texture have tasted good in January or July? Sure it would. But it wouldn’t have matched the sun in the sky, the dry crispness in the air, the falling leaves, or early autumn’s harvest. It’s that understanding, along with a deft culinary hand, that makes the cuisine of Ned Ludd worthy of a visit in any season.