Ken Forkish bakes the best bread in Portland. And we are honored to announce that you can now get it at Wellspent Market – with baguettes and batards available daily. While there’s no shortage of good bread in town, the loaves from Ken’s Artisan Bakery stand apart.
Ken, a self-described computer nerd who designed network systems during the early days of the tech boom, took his silicon valley earnings to Paris and learned about bread from Lionel Poilane, the best baker in France. He brought Poilane’s passion for heritage grains and slow fermentation back to Portland and fired up the oven.
Back in 2003 Jim wrote about Ken’s baking obsession, and the Willamette Week story was a semifinalist for a James Beard Foundation award. Here’s how Jim described the bread:
“The crust is a caramel brown, not the tawny gold of most other rustic breads. “The contrast between crust and crumb,” says Ken, “is the difference between good bread and great bread.” Slicing into a loaf, you feel the crust crackle, but it’s not tough or too chewy. The crumb is soft, moist, and riddled with the holes created by expanding fermentation gasses. It has that yeasty, nut-like wheat taste typical of good rustic bread, but there’s another, deeper level of complex flavor that’s hard to pin down. It makes you want to keep eating.”
While it’s delicious plain, Ken’s breads are even better with good butter, cheese, or cured meat. Here are a few of our favorite things to put on a slice.
Hailing from ancestral valleys in the Basque region of France, this sheep’s milk cheese has been made in the same way by the shepherds there since ancient times. Smooth, creamy, and firm with a long lasting rich floral finish.
Famed eater, Vogue food writer, and Iron Chef judge Jeffrey Steingarten says La Quercia is the best American or imported prosciutto he’s ever tasted. We’re not gonna argue. Herb and Kathy Eckhouse uphold the highest standards of sustainability and responsible animal husbandry. For the heritage breed Berkshire pork that becomes this silky and sweet prosciutto. It rivals Parma’s best.
Also known as Tvorog, farmer cheese is a more nutritious and versatile alternative to cream cheese.Made with just cultured milk, cream and salt, farmer cheese trades some sweetness and fat of cream cheese for a light, airy tang with no sacrifice to depth of flavor. While it’s great on its own, we like to mix in a can of sardines for a quick and tasty spread.
Scott Bridi made charcuterie for New York’s best restaurants before starting Brooklyn Cured more than 10 years ago. His cured meats regularly win awards, and the bresaola, Italian-style air cured beef flavored with herbs, can be used just like prosciutto.
Famed cheesemaker Rodolphe Le Meunier uses milk from the Loire Valley to make this tangy, creamy butter. Meunier, awarded the Meilleurs Ouvriers as one of France’s best craftsmen, cultures the milk and uses wooden churns instead of powered centrifuges. The late, great Jonathan Gold said that “Beurre de Baratte shaved onto a slice of grilled bread adds far more flavor than a full tablespoon of Land O’ Lakes.”
Sam Suchoff got into the ham business because of hot dogs. A whole hog advocate, he’d been making hot dogs for his restaurant in Chapel Hill using pork from a coop of small family farms. He had a surplus of legs, and that led to ham. This classic country ham is cured in salt and sugar, dry-cured, and aged for up to 22 months. Country ham isn’t smoked, and a tangy, tasty funk defines the best hams.
Big news! We’re partnering with our long-time friends Tournant to offer the Wellspent community a chance to grab tickets to their upcoming (and otherwise sold out!) cooking class. We’ve only got 2 more tickets to sell, so act quickly. If you’ve been eating or cooking in Portland for the last couple of years, you’ve no doubt encountered Tournant, a literal moveable feast of sorts conceptualized and operated by Jaret Foster and Mona Johnson. Specializing in “open-fire cooking,” they produce farm-to-fire events that celebrate time, place and purpose using our favorite local PNW ingredients, typically served outdoors under tree canopies or at water’s edge.
For their next class, Jaret and Mona will be demonstrating their signature cooking techniques in a hands-on workshop around a series of open fires at Star Mooring Farm, a third generation farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. This workshop is open to cooks of all levels who are curious about cooking with the seasons and surroundings and mastering open-fire cooking techniques such as ash-roasting, grilling, cedar-planking and dutch oven cooking, and the omnivore menu will be prepared with olive oils, vinegars, and other pantry staples from yours truly.