When it comes to a niche market, Jennifer Bloeser and Markus Mead of Frog Eyes Wasabi have this one cornered. As Oregon’s only commercial wasabi farm, Frog Eyes provides a unique opportunity for local sourcing by Oregon eateries.
David Padberg, Chef de Cuisine of Park Kitchen, has long had deep interest in Japanese food. Last summer, he headed just south of Tillamook on the Oregon coast to visit the farm.
“After the tour, Markus asked me to prepare a tasting menu featuring wasabi as a surprise anniversary gift for Jennifer,” says Padberg. “We kept the partnership going because it was fun and we were learning from each other.”
For Frog Eyes, Padberg’s experience in the restaurant world has been invaluable. “He has helped us understand the traditional and not-so-traditional uses for wasabi, and then describe those uses to our customers,” says Bloeser. “It’s been so helpful because growing the plant and selling it require really different information.”
For Padberg, learning from Bloeser and Mead about growing wasabi has helped him come up with creative dishes. (The star item of his tasting menu was a grilled rib eye with sautéed chanterelles, wasabi root butter and pureed wasabi leaves.)
When asked what makes a local food partnership sturdy, Bloeser responds, “It’s all about people and relationship.”
Padberg concurs: “The strongest food partnerships are ones in which the producer and the buyer are working together to deliver something to the community.”
By Liz Stuart
Photos courtesy of Steamy Kitchen
Interested in more farm-to-table partnerships? Check out the restaurants listed in the EAT HERE guide.