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2 0 | t h e c l e v e r r o o t 2 0 | t h e c l e v e r r o o t F NICKY FORK "WE MADE UP A LAND CALLED CASCADIA," explains Chef Aaron Adams, owner of Farm Spirit in Portland, Oregon. "It's an alternative universe where no one ever thought to eat meat in the first place. Whenever we are thinking of new dishes, we travel to Cascadia first and create a modernist interpretation of this imaginary land." This approach leads to a very unique outlook on plant-based cuisine. Adams isn't looking to follow in the steps of carnivore chefs, but rather seeking to blaze his own trail. His path has taken him across the country more than once. He grew up in the East Bay of San Francisco, where he was obsessed with television cooking shows and became a vegetarian in sixth grade; he moved to Seattle and started as a dishwasher in a steakhouse; he attended culinary school at Johnson & Wales Univer- sity in Miami; he went to New York City to work and then back to Florida to open his first restaurant in 2001; and finally, he landed in Portland, where he got back into animal rights activism, cooked at an anarchist col- lective and developed Farm Spirit from a shared space to a larger restaurant and concept. It's enough to make your head spin, but everything he has picked up along the way has led Adams to create not just "a good vegan restaurant, but a good restaurant." He backs up this claim with an anecdote about a customer who had been there twice and emailed to ask for no eggs in their meal; after all, the true test of any plant-based restaurant is whether you can make the guest forget about the plant-based part. Racking up accolades, Farm Spirit, where his vision becomes reality, features two dinner services at a 14- seat chef's counter, making it a rather intimate experience. "It's like a theater," notes Adams. "Everyone comes in very serious, but my whole goal is to make fine dining more accessible, so I start off with a joke—a bunch of cornball jokes, in fact—to lighten the mood. Then we give thanks for the meal and to everyone who made the meal possible, including the suppliers, and everyone gets in the vibe." Everything they make is based on what grows in the area. Adams's suppliers (except the producers of sugar and some spices) all come from within 105 miles of the restaurant, and his staff utilizes every part of the plant. Remaining as local as possible becomes a difficult task in the Pacific Northwest: "We don't even use almonds because they are grown too far away. We find ways to emulate flavors, like if you sous vide a parsnip it has a banana flavor, or you can make a caramel/butterscotch sauce from butternut squash and whiskey. When we found a farmer selling lemons at our farmer's market, I started to cry because it's something we never find or get to use at the restaurant." Due to the restraints and the climate of the surrounding area, Farm Spirit may remind guests of Nordic cuisine, but with a contemporary flair. No matter the interpretation, the customers leave happy and end the service with applause. And for those who don't want the meal to end, feel free to lick the plate. Adams encourages it. AARON ADAMS OF PORTLAND'S FARM SPIRIT CREATES A MEAT-FREE LAND by Emily Coleman / photos by Nikki Unger-Fink ■cr An Alternative FOOD-IVERSE Chef Aaron Adams, owner of Farm Spirit, a plant-based restaurant in Portland. All of Farm Spirit's suppliers (except the producers of sugar and some spices) come from within 105 miles of the restaurant, and the staff utilizes every part of the plant.

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