Q&A: Chef Andrew Smith on the food at Salt & Pine
Andrew Smith wants to nourish and entertain diners at Salt & Pine, the new Downtown restaurant from the owners of Harvest Pizzeria and The Sycamore. As executive chef, Smith is out to prove good food isn't synonymous with gluttony. "I want dining at our restaurant to be more of an experience, rather than just sustenance," says the former longtime chef of The Rossi.
Smith envisions a tight menu that changes frequently and uses produce, sourced as locally as possible, at its peak. We caught up with Smith while he was testing dishes before the restaurant's planned October opening. The Portland native shares insight into the coming menu and his approach to cooking.saltandpine250.com
How do you describe the food at Salt & Pine? It's refined, simple, interesting and approachable. [Owner] Chris [Crader] and I have very similar ideas. We both have the same passion for food. One thing he told me is he wants us to create food that's not bad for somebody, but still delivers an awesome experience. It's easy to make something super rich and gluttonous. Don't get me wrong-I enjoy those things from time to time. But what we're trying to achieve is food that is good for you because of the quality of ingredients.
That's been one of the biggest inspirations for me-I don't have to limit the quality of ingredients that we use. It's huge. I think it's going to allow us to create food people will appreciate more for flavor rather than quantity.
What does the food you want to cook look like? One of the things I pride myself in is utilization-using everything. We're going to try and not throw anything away, to try and be creative as possible with what we have leftover, as well as with what we have in front of us. [That extends] all the way down to the mirepoix we use to braise beef cheek in. That can be used as the base for a soup or to add depth to a ragu.
The idea of using everything isn't a new fad. But, for you, from where does that mindset come? I think growing up in the Northwest, a lot of the mindset in the culinary industry there is exactly that. It's utilization. And my grandmother, I mean, you don't waste anything. That was instilled in me.
Is there anything you're testing now that you're excited about? I am really excited about finding [and using] different types of grains and promoting their flavor. For example, we're doing a porridge of farro. It'll have a soft egg, Parmesan, chive, hazelnut. It's really simple, but we're trying to take things that people take for granted and promote the flavor of them in a very simple way.
(He pulls out his phone to share a picture.) This is a risotto of multiple types of grains and legumes. They're all toasted and treated like risotto. They're sweated with shallots, then toasted, then wine and vegetable stock [are added]. But they are all cooked separately and combined together at the end.
How do you come up with an idea like that? I was standing at Whole Foods, looking at the bulk section, and it was completely overwhelming. I saw all these different beautiful grains and legumes, and I just thought: What if they were all mixed together because they all have different flavors and textures? And it was really good.
I think that's a good example of the approach we're trying to take. You would be absolutely surprised at how healthy that is for you. But when you taste it, you would not know that at all. We're not trying to be a health restaurant, but you are going to find things you find yourself feeling good about eating.
At a Glance
At 130 seats and 7,000 square feet, Salt & Pine is owner Chris Crader's biggest restaurant yet. Located at 250 S. High St., it will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as brunch on weekends, plus offer a retail area for coffee and grab-and-go dishes.