The seasonal change is directly reflected in the NOBLE ROT offerings. From daily specials, wine flights and pours, NOBLE ROT will harmonize your experience in food and drink with the surroundings of the season. When our Rooftop Garden is flourishing, we grow the freshest ingredients and then carefully harvest, prepare and serve them with ingenuity. Nothing could be fresher.
Spring means cleaning, weeding, planning and RAIN. Marc Boucher-Colbert is our intrepid gardener and he begins bringing starts up in late February. He looks less like a gardener and more like a fisherman as he battles the weather on the bow of the Rocket building in his yellow rain suit. Still, it’s hard not to get excited as the garlic and shallots planted in the fall begin to awaken from their hibernation. Ditto the rhubarb, sending up hot pink stalks with tightly clenched, green leaves eager to unfurl. We’ve had it up to our ears with roots, I can’t even look at parsnips. Mache is the first of the tender spring greens to show up. It’s got a terrific verdant, green, alive flavor and a silky texture. It’s elegant on its own with tender herbs like chives, tarragon and chervil with a simple dressing of mustard, vinegar, shallots and hazelnut oil. Asparagus is all over the menu, it’s the perfect symbol of spring: a bright green stalk with a tight green head, poised to explode. One of my favorite ways to prepare it is to peel fat stalks, boil them quickly and eat them by hand dipped in a hollandaise sauce pinked up with the juice of blood oranges.
Seafood preparations get lighter, like soul stuffed with leeks in a green herb sauce. Morel mushrooms are stuffed with more mushrooms and breadcrumbs then braised in port and cream. The plump and creamy fungi get a fresh counterpoint from our first crop- the mustard trio of tiny mizuna, arugula and a frilly, burgundy leaf called ruby streaks.
Summer is the Rot at its finest. Our garden is in full swing, pumping out greens, rhubarb, strawberries, peas, beans, cukes, radishes, carrots, turnips… all of which show up on the plate. Our “roof” salad is a vivid barometer of what’s happening upstairs. It’s an evolving mix of greens, herbs and vegetables tossed in a dressing made of all the herbs we grow. Our tomatoes are served with mozzarella we make and five kinds of basil from upstairs. Or the mozzarella gets mixed with garlic, chili and oregano then stuffed into squash blossoms which are flash fried. Our strawberries and little frais de bois (a wild strawberry that grows like a weed) get tossed with a little sugar and vinegar to complement an almond cake with whipped cream. Most of our proteins are served with fresh sides rather than long cooked braises or heavy grains and starches. My perfect summer meal starts with a grilled peach that has our ricotta in the cavity and roof arugula underneath followed by Steak Frites: a beefy steak (hanger or flat-iron) with fries, a salad from the roof and a compound butter made from roof herbs. It doesn’t get any more locavore. The nights are long and warm, the patio is wide open and the restaurant is rocking. We’ve got the best view of the city in the city and people cant help but be happy in our bright and airy tree house.
In the early fall we bring down the bulk of our Mediterranean vegetables: peppers, tomatoes & eggplant. Ripe tomatoes get sliced and devoured or dried or processed into a basic sauce to freeze. We pickle about half the eggplant and make a delicious sweet and sour out of the rest. The peppers turn into soup, pepper powder, pickled peppers & roof hot sauce. This year we had loads of green tomatoes and green peppers… hello chutney. You could probably talk your waiter into bringing out something pickled or preserved. We love to show off. As for the menu, one of my all-time favorite early fall salads is roasted peppers, manchego cheese, green beans & almonds in a sherry vinaigrette. All the ingredients are diced and the effect is a sort of Spanish explosion in your mouth- crunchy, squeaky, slippery, salty, cheesey, ole. We also show squash in other places besides the dreaded veg panino. Butternut wedges get deeply caramelized in the oven then served warm with ricotta cheese that we make, fried sage and sage oil from the roof, roof hot sauce and pumpkin seeds. Of course it’s mushroom time. Chanterelles are all over the menu, because the cooks are all over the woods. Porcini and the elusive cauliflower mushroom (sparassis crispa) make appearances on the special board. A clever and delicious combination is cauliflower mushroom, sautéed crisp, over a silky puree of cauliflower and cream. As for entrees, it’s the beginning of the braising season: tougher cuts, like lamb shoulder or duck leg get simmered into fork tender submission.
The garden’s been napping since late November, but we can still pop up for parsley or chervil, a little arugula or sturdy herbs like thyme, savory and rosemary. The bone deep chill of Oregon winter makes me crave richer, heavier, fattier stuff. The sweetness and starch of roots and tubers is perfect winter padding food. Beef short ribs, braised at 140.8 degrees for 48 hours “sous vide” (vacuum sealed bags in a temperature controlled waterbath), are glazed with a red wine reduction, sprinkled with crispy shallots and perched on top of a rich potato puree. Often our fish preparations will mimic classic recipes. A halibut steak is braised in an herby tomato sauce and served with saffron risotto in the style of veal osso buco. But, not everything is stew and roots in January. I love to serve a pretty and sharp salad of mixed citrus segments, Dungeness crab and iceberg lettuce. Also we trot out our “Apples Carl Sagan”, a celestial presentation of apple pie a la mode featuring half an apple poached in apple syrup on a sweet pastry next to a “planet” of almond praline ice cream sporting a Saturn ring of crisp cookie.