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Coquine: New American in Oregon

In 2016, The Oregonian gave Coquine, a smallish cafe / restaurant in Mount Tabor restaurant of the year.

In fact, after tasting the cookie they are known for, I would think they are in the running just on their cookie’s textural strength alone. Chewy with a caramel overtone as well as a satisfying level of chocolate – worth the trip for this alone. Named “2015’s Cookie of the Year” by Portland Monthly, it’s made with “smoked almonds, salted caramel, and really good chocolate.”

I have qualms about calling this style of cuisine New American, as not much about it can truly be called new. The exceptions would be notable evolution in use of things like fermentation. A more appropriate title would be old fashioned haute cuisine, less weight on the palate, and a focus on expressing ingredient quality. Shake Shack & Chipotle are New American, Coquine is Pacific Northwest local cuisine done extremely well.

coquine

New American is a term thrown around much more often in description of a culinary style or chef. In my view what New American actually means, is more European. More sauces, more butter (often cultured), and less on the plate. More share plates, more carbohydrates, and more protein diversity at the expense of quantity. More simplicity, a connection with purveyors, and more focus on individual ingredients.

I’m in favor of this trend, as there was a lot of soul searching to do following the rise of the gastro-pub, featuring sparrow tatted chef’s hawking bacon slathered everything.

Coquine for me felt a great deal like the Zuni Cafe, but just in Oregon. Everyone wearing flannel, weather being chilly and damp, and lots of mustaches and beards abound. The food we had was cooked in a larger format as I was in the region to tour some vineyards with a small group.

A large Roast Chicken, a simple soup, and a kale salad were all exceptional in their simplicity and honesty. The potatoes in particular were cooked to perfection. Chef Katy Millard has a mostly female staff, and she herself learned to cook from Michelin-starred chefs.

The finale of this meal was one of the most carefully composed and presented cheese plates I’ve witnessed in some time. Delicious.

The food is satisfying and comforting, I can’t wait to return.