“I get to spend my summer days outside. I’m cooking right there among everyone, talking to the other chefs and to the attendees. And everyone is learning about their food and each other.”
I am at the Allium Bistro sipping coffee across from Chef Pascal Chureau and asking him questions about the growing legend of the Field and Vine summer event series. Seats at a Field and Vine Event often sell out in advance. Each event is hosted at a unique venue near Portland such as a vineyard, a barn, or a patio overlooking a farm. Multiple courses are served and matched with select wine pairings. This year Field and Vine is producing more than 25 dinners, up from 14 last summer.
What’s interesting though, is that even as his event becomes more and more popular, the elements that he holds value in become more simple and pure. Local ingredients. Knowing the stories of who made your food and how. His face lights up when he tells of connecting with a local winemaker or when he describes a conversation between a farmer and an attendee. His words, spoken with a faint French accent, take on a richer tone as he anticipates the warmer season. He seems like a kid in school, dreaming of the long summer when he can go play outside in the lingering sun.
“One of the most telling signals that we had a quality offering was the number of people who wanted to sign up for multiple events in the future,” Pascal says. “And it wasn’t just the attendees who wanted to come back. The winemakers, producers and growers all want to stay involved too.” A unique feature of Field and Vine is that those who were involved in the making of the meal are able to tell their story. Part of organizing a well-crafted meal is that it’s an opportunity to learn. Guests can see for themselves that the salad came from this guy’s farm, and sometimes even the wine was made by that family. At each dinner there are elements unique to that particular event, like at 19th St. Farm where guests were able to enjoy homemade lemonade made with freshly picked lavender from the farm as they took their walking tour.
Another component that adds variety is when Pascal cooks beside other well known Portland chefs. Michael Stanton, Executive Chef at the Heathman Hotel, and Paul Christie of Willem’s on Main often join forces with Pascal. “We laugh a lot and talk about ingredients,”Pascal says. “I get to learn too. It’s different than the sort of dynamics you might see between chefs on reality TV or something. That’s not how it has to be.”
Even as the newest trend of ‘Pop-Ups” try to duplicate the unique multi-course menu concept, I feel that Pascals will continue to stand apart. He has created a more educational and collaborative dinner with plenty to eat and drink, as well as outstanding quality at a lower price point. This will always be popular as long as people like to eat well. Field and Vine feeds the mind, body and spirit with fresh ideas, quality food and nourishment for the soul.