I was recently invited to a dinner at Castagna by Irene at Watershed Communications. For those who haven’t heard of Castagna, it’s certainly on the higher end of the Portland dining scene. There are two dinner menus – one a more traditional four course menu, with two choices for each course, and the other a chef’s tasting menu, with around 12 courses.
Speaking of the chef, Justin Woodward is crazy talented. He has many skills, having worked as both a butcher and a cheesemonger in addition to chef. He seems to have a very analytical brain. When we asked him about how he came up with a certain flavor combination for a dish (shiso and sheep cheese wrapped in cranberry leather), he stated very matter of factly that cranberries were coming into season, so it simply made sense.
Castagna seems to be about using incredible ingredients in interesting ways that showcase the flavors. A lot of restaurants in Portland are all about using local, seasonal, fresh ingredients, but you can really tell when someone does that because they want to rather than because that is now the industry standard. Castagna has a garden on the grounds, as well as some additional beds at a business a couple doors down, which gives them the opportunity to grow whatever they want, and to have it freshly picked every day. Every plate Chef Woodward put in front of us was packed with flavor, with interesting techniques, and was visually stunning. If you’re looking for a truly special meal, perfect for an occasion or celebration, I certainly recommend dining at Castagna. Here’s what we ate (descriptions of each dish are in the caption to the right of the photo).
Note: Please forgive grainy cell phone pictures and low lighting. The food was beautiful and delicious, no matter if it appears to be otherwise in these photos.