Feast is only a few days away now! One of the events I am most excited about is Dessert for Dinner. I know I have talked about it a lot but seriously, how great of an idea is this event?
One of the featured chefs for Dessert for Dinner is Carrie Merrill, the head pastry chef at Urban Farmer.
Growing up Carrie always loved baking and after an early not-so-fulfilling career in Accounting, Carrie decided to switch paths and attend the pastry program at the Art Institute of Las Vegas (she is now my role model). She spent time honing her skills at the Wolfgang Puck’s CUT, L’Auberge de Sedona, The Greenbrier and Postrio Restaurant. November will make it two years in the Rose City and at Urban Farmer, where she is in charge of an 11-person team, that operates 24 hours a day for Urban Farmer, Departure and the hotel’s room service.
I met Carrie once briefly before during the outrageously fun Little Green Pickle Blogger Food Crawl last winter. Not only was she incredibly sweet but she also created some insane desserts like this Crème Caramel with Candied Candy Cap Mushrooms. It was clever, unique and absurdly good.
So I was super excited when she agreed to an interview so I could learn more about her baking inspirations, travels and of course about Feast.
What brought you to Portland?
My boyfriend and I were living in Vegas and were both working at Wolfgang Puck’s. We decided we wanted to leave Vegas, and we took off for 6 months with a truck and trailer and traveled up to Alaska. His aunt and grandmother lived in Portland so we came down for a visit. It was actually the weekend of the first Feast and we went to the Grand Tasting downtown and that sold us.
What is your favorite of Portland?
I think it is the whole culture in general […] Being able to go to the market every Wednesday and know our farmers. It is so welcoming, even in the kitchen. It is the best kitchen I’ve ever worked in. I just started cycling 2-3 months ago and it’s a great culture for that. Plus, what is it, 2 hours to the coast and 2 hours to the mountain? You can’t get that everywhere.
How much interaction do you have with the savory side of the house?
A lot. Chef Chris [Chef de Cuisine at Urban Farmer], Chef Matt [Executive Chef of Urban Farmer] and Chef Greg [Executive Chef of Departure] all have huge sweet tooths, so they are always involved one way or another. I’ve never had that in other kitchens I’ve been in. They are so fantastic. I bounce things off of them and they bounce things off me. They are great taste testers!
How do you plan your menu?
Usually whatever I’m craving. I love fried things, I love donuts, fritters, anything you can stick in the fryer. So usually I have a fried item. Whatever is in season is huge at Urban Farmer. We are also super excited about the new bees [of Bee Local] on the roof and getting our first harvest from that.
Ok, as an Instagram creeper, I noticed that you had a #TBT post recently of a fitness competition you did. How do you do that and work as a Pastry Chef?
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. This was the 3rd show had done – the first two were when I was still in Accounting/Finance so that was a lot easier. The last four weeks, I couldn’t taste any of my product. I was in West Virginia at the time working at the Greenbrier and I would have the Executive Pastry Chef taste the product. And I love sweets and ice cream. It was so hard. I could not wait until it was done.
It also looks like you love to travel. Where have you loved and where else is on your bucket list?
I do love to travel. I love Flagstaff, Arizona. It is like a smaller Portland, it is woodsy, the people are amazing, the scenery is amazing. There is just no food there, otherwise I would live there.
My sister lives in a small town outside of Amsterdam, so I would love to go visit her again soon. We are also big mountaineers. We are doing St Helens on Sunday. Summiting Mt Hood is on our list for next year. We love to go do things, like hiking, summiting something or adventuring out somewhere.
If you could only eat or drink one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Vanilla ice cream. You can add anything to it, like brownies or potato chips. It is delicious as it is, on its own. If it melts, it’s just like a milkshake. Some people might think it’s boring, but I just love it.
Any sneak peeks for Feast’s Dessert for Dinner event?
I am going to do a Chocolate Whiskey Cake. I am smoking the chocolate so it has a more rounded flavor. I’m really excited about the combination. For Dessert for Dinner, I’m using the Loma Sotavento chocolate from Valrhona. It is from the plantation that I went to visit in the Dominican Republic and is exclusive to those who went to visit. I chop up the chocolate and then put it in the smoker. I have heat for a little bit of time, and then cold smoke for about an hour. And then the chocolate just soaks it all up. It just rounds out the chocolate and tastes really great, especially with the whiskey.
I was already excited about this event, and now even more so. Tickets are still available, so go buy your ticket also!