As part of Bite of Bend's Bite Week, three different chefs will present special dinners. But really, these are more than simply a dinner; each meal is a mini-seminar on exotic and local foods, a journey (for one of the dinners, literally, out past Smith Rock!) and a you-had-to-be-there meal. Wild Rose's executive chef and owner Paul Itti and his daughter, Rosie, give insights to the meal they are presenting—and to food from Northern Thailand in general.
Source Weekly: Do people tend to oversimplify Thai food? What are the trademarks for Northern Thai food?
Rosie: As with any type of cuisine, American included, recipes and methods of cooking change when it comes to geographic region. Northern Thailand is still very rural and mountainous, therefore making its cuisine a bit more rustic. The most prominent trademark in Northern Thai food is the use of a mortar and pestle to make fresh chili pastes, called nam prik. The nam prik, similar in texture to a sort of tapenade, is then accompanied with a "crudités-like" assortment usually consisting of cucumber, cabbage, and sometimes steamed vegetables. Sticky jasmine rice is enjoyed using your hands as a utensil and dipped into the chili pastes.
SW: The meal says it will showcase traditional and exotic. Can you provide an example of each?
Rosie: All of our dishes are a reflection of family recipes from my father's childhood. For example, a commonly known dish in Thailand is Tom Kha soup: a lemongrass, galanga, and coconut milk soup. The version that we are serving is my grandfather's recipe, which uses less coconut milk and leans just a touch more on the sweet side. Most diners first remark that the color is more intense than the typical creamy white of other tom kha soups. In addition to the traditional tom kha soup as a starter, we ' ll be serving a tart pomelo salad called yum som oh in a tri-flavor dressing of lime, chili, and fish sauce.
SW: Who taught you how to cook?
Paul: I started cooking professionally when I first moved to the Seattle area in my twenties after working in multiple Thai restaurants before opening our first place in Port Townsend, Washington. The menu at the Wild Rose is a mix of my own childhood meals and the dishes my wife and I would cook at home for our own family.
SW: Have you seen tastes in Bend evolve over the past few years? Become more bold?
Paul: Even though we're new to Bend, there's a reason we chose to bring Northern Thai food here. After multiple visits over the past five years, we were excited to move to a town adventurous enough to try the dishes that I grew up on. Our Facebook fans and regulars frequently ask what I've got cooking back in the kitchen for myself.
SW: There are some "off menu" dishes for this special dinner, correct? Can you explain one—and where you found the recipe?
Paul: I'm most excited for diners to try one of my family's favorite chili pastes called nam prik plah. It's a blend of grilled white fish and roasted green chilis. This nam prik will be served with deep fried bamboo shoots split and stuffed with ground pork. Along with crispy pork cracklings and vegetables for dipping, this meal is one that I've grown up eating and in turn, Rosie has grown up eating also.
A Chiang Mai Family Feast
6:15 pm, Monday, June 22.
Wild Rose Thai, 150 NW Oregon Ave.
Other chef dinners:
Magical Mystery Tour Dinner: Presented by Dogwood Cocktail Cabin at Ranch at the Canyon.
Truly magical, this dinner starts at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin, with one of its exquisite drinks, designed by Phoebe Pedersen. From there, the road trip heads north (on a luxury bus), past Smith Rock into the Ranch at the Canyon, where a meal is presented by Chef Nick Ragazzo. With a heavy Italian influence, Ragazzo's dishes will present pasta, charcuterie, pickles, and ice cream.
The dinner will be presented at the Old Winery Clubhouse on the Ranch at the Canyon, which sits on a natural rock outcropping with panoramic view of nearby Smith Rock. Yeah, stunning!
5 pm, Tuesday, June 23. Starts at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin, 147 NW Minnesota. $85.
Humanitas: A Night of Culture, Kindness and Refined Cuisine at The Workhouse
Hosted by Anna Witham, co-founder of Lone Pine Coffee Roasters, and Cari Dolyniuk, director of The Workhouse, this meal is as much about performance art and sensory exploration as it is about food. A four-course menu of small plates matched with custom cocktails, and enlivened by performances by Latin Dance Academy of Bend and Chiringa.
6 pm, Thursday, June 25. The Workhouse 50 SE Scott St. $60.