King Estate Executive Chef Benjamin Nadolny moved to Oregon eager to forage in the state’s lush forests. With it’s moist and mild climate, the Willamette Valley provides the perfect environment for fungus to fruit. The mycelium works as mycorrhizal, creating a symbiotic relationship with the roots of trees. Chef Nadolny started out hunting morels and chanterelles, then once he met local fungi expert Joe Spivack, he began to look for white truffles. Spivack has been providing The Restaurant at King Estate with locally foraged fungi since its inception. “Joe’s commitment to providing the best mushrooms from the woods plays a great role in the quality of our food at King Estate,” Nadolny said. “Joe helps me enrich the lives of my cooks by taking them on truffle forays and expanding their knowledge on the subject of mycology. This is important to us because most of our staff are culinary students and continuing their education is a part of our job.” Last year’s long, dry summer was perfect for the development of the grapes at King Estate, but not so great for fungi growth. It was an especially bad year for chanterelles, but that didn’t stop Nadolny and Spivack from looking for them.
Recently, the two went on a truffle foray at a top secret location near the winery. It’s on private land that Spivack has acquired permission to hunt on. “White truffles have a relationship with the trees,” Spivack said. “They really like to associate with young Douglas Fir trees, which is the most common tree in the Willamette Valley.” A good place to look for white truffles would be in a young Douglas Fir forest (10-30 year old trees) that was planted on land previously used as pasture, because it doesn’t have existing fungi that would compete with truffles. “It’s best to hunt with someone who has some experience, who can tell the difference between truffles and other underground fungi that are not edible,” Spivack said. It’s also important to be careful not to wander onto private property without permission. Gently rake a thin layer of pine needles and soil in a prime spot, and keep a look out for the delicate white truffles.
At King Estate, we celebrate Oregon food culture. Oregon white truffles are something Oregonian’s are proud of as Italians and French people have their own species of truffles. Locally foraged mushrooms and truffles are especially tasty when paired with Oregon wine. “The earthy, pine aromas of the chanterelles and porcini are nicely accented by the fruit and spice nuances of our pinot noir,” said Nadolny. “Shavings of raw porcini and white matsutake have a lighter, woodsy flavor that brings out the crisp apple and pear flavors of our pinot gris. A mushroom tastes best when the purity of the texture and flavor are preserved, which also makes it better to pair with our wines. Sometimes that might include just a light sauté and a splash of reisling, or a slow braise into a rich ragout to serve with a cabernet. Porcini, White Matsutake, and truffles we usually serve raw, shaved fresh, or coated with a touch of olive oil. Our morels we cooks with a little bit of butter fat, a rich olive oil, or cream to bring forward the nutty richness of this delicious spring mushroom.”
Currently, the restaurant is shaving white truffles fresh over the frisee salad with duck confit. Next week, the culinary team will be shaving them over confit asparagus with a quail egg. During the peak season they were offered complimentary over every dinner entrée.
There’s a feeling at King Estate that’s undeniable. It’s a passion for excellence that is apparent with each person you meet, and is especially evident concerning the most recent promotion of Ben Nadolny to Executive Chef at King Estate.
Executive Chef Ben Nadolny began his King Estate career as Sous Chef in 2007, shortly after the restaurant opened its doors, and was promoted to Executive Chef in 2012. His enthusiasm for seasonal, local, wild, and sustainably managed ingredients perfectly complements King Estate’s philosophy of pairing Northwest wines with regional food products. “I believe Ben is the hardest working, most inspired chef in the Northwest, and a very creative culinary thinker as well,” noted Ed King, CEO at King Estate.
Over the past few years we were in touch with the organizers of the International Wine Bloggers’ Conference and the North America Wine Bloggers’ Conference, trying to persuade them to bring the latter to Oregon for the first time. When they announced that Portland had been selected as the host city for the 2012 conference, we were ecstatic. We knew that it would likely be quite some time before the conference returned to Oregon, so we made a decision to go all out, take a major contingent from our team up North to Portland and show those bloggers what we do. On the day of the event, we loaded up the vans with lots of people, wine, and all of the ingredients for a 5 course epicurean experience King Estate style. The evening was a runaway success; the hashtag #WBC12 even turned out to be the #1 trending topic worldwide on twitter for the entire duration of the dinner!
The meal we produced was the results of months of planning. We realized that it would be a challenge for many of the bloggers to make it the 2+ hours down to our estate (though some did), so we wanted to do our best to bring the estate experience to Portland. We produced a really cool video presentation to play before dinner that introduced the bloggers to the estate, to our chef, and to the proprietors of the local sustainable farms and ranches that provided many of the ingredients for the evening. We also produced video demonstrations of each and every course, and provided all the video and written recipes the microsite wbc.kingestate.com. The project was virtually a winery wide effort with creativity and work contributed from all corners.
Here’s the video we played to great response:
The meal was 5 courses each with an exquisitely matched wine pairing compliments of Executive Chef Michael Landsberg, Sous Chef Benjamin Nadolny, and the King Estate culinary team. Here are shots of the dishes we served:
As the influence of blogs and social media grow, wine bloggers play an increasingly important role in the wine industry. King Estate was not the only Oregon winery to take advantage of the chance to get to know bloggers and show off our Oregon wines. It would be safe to say that the visiting bloggers are now much more familiar with Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris across the board. There were so many great wines from so many great Oregon wineries and beyond included at the conference.
The 2012 Chef’s Night Out brought together Lane County’s finest restaurants, wineries, and microbreweries to benefit Food for Lane County at the Hult Center in Eugene, OR. Chefs’ Night Out has become one of, if not the premiere Lane County food and wine event, and King Estate is proud to have once again been the title sponsor for the event for the fourth year in a row.
The people behind Mutineer Magazine are a lot of fun to
hang out drink with, and we also like the product they put together. Their magazine has interesting stories and beautiful editorial photography by their extremely talented Director of Photography, Portland’s own, Ian Vincent Andreae. A few weeks ago, King Estate hosted Mutineer Magazine’s first winter retreat, where the Mutineers bonded and brainstormed article topics and art for the upcoming year.
Here’s a video detailing their retreat at the winery:
We have a number of popular dishes and condiments at our estate restaurant for which we constantly receive recipe requests. One of those recipes is the King Estate Tomato Jam which is featured on our charcuterie plate and a few other dishes. By popular demand, here is the recipe for King Estate Tomato Jam, presented by Sous Chef Benjamin Nadolny.