12 days: on the first day of christmas… (ricker)



At yesterday’s Twelve Days of Christmas at the Restaurant at Meadowood’s panel discussion at the CIA Greystone campus with chef Andy Ricker, Ricker referred to himself as a “food hack.” (I will be moderating three more panel discussion with this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas guest chefs. They’re free and I encourage you to attend.)

Ricker, who is chef and owner of seven Thai cuisine-inspired restaurants (four in Portland: pok pok, pok pok noi, Whiskey Soda Lounge, and Sen Yai Noodles; and three in New York : pok pok, pok pok phat thai, and Sen Yai Noodles) avoids using the term “authenticity,” especially when it comes to the food that he cooks.

Instead, he tries to recreate the feel and flavors of the cookery he has experienced in Thailand – hacking into a different culture, and extracting its essence.  As an illustration: at yesterday’s panel discussion, Ricker explained to the audience that some Thai ingredients aren’t available in the United States, including a special fermented shrimp paste. Using Korean fermented shrimp, which is available in the United States, he was able to reproduce, with what he believes to be a high degree of likeness, the flavor and semblance of the Thai shrimp paste.  (The recipe is in his new cookbook “Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand,” which just hit the New York Times Bestseller list this week.)


Andy Ricker and Christohper Kostow


Andy Ricker, the first of eleven guest chefs to cook at this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas dinner series (if you are unfamiliar with this event, or want to see the roster of of guest chefs this year, this earlier post provides a good overview), has been traveling, with increased frequency, to Thailand since the 1980s.  In the decades since, he has become conversant in the Thai language (and, judging by the few words that he and I exchanged in Mandarin, he has a talent for intonation), and has gained a fairly good understanding of the country’s regional cuisines.

To the contrary, I am, admittedly, embarrassingly uneducated about Thai cuisine.

But, one thing I do know is that Thai food is very aromatic.

When I walked into the kitchen at 09:00 yesterday, it was already musky with the smell of spices, thinned with the bright, cheery fragrance of herbs and other aromatics – lemongrass, ginger, glangal, lime.  It smelled wonderful.

And what came out of the kitchen last night was just as delicious.


1st Course:


In keeping with the collaborative spirit of the Twelve Days of Christmas dinner series, the hosting chef Christopher Kostow and his team create three or four dishes every night that complement the guest chef’s food.  

Among the dishes that Kostow presented was a waxed paper sack filled with fried “street snacks” – tempura-fried broccoli, breaded nuggets of sweetbreads, dried shrimp, and spices – served with a skewer.  His “Miang Thawt” was evocative of the street food that Kostow had in Thailand, much of which was eaten with sticks out of a bag, or some other vessel. 

Kostow also presented a beautifully fried catfish (from Passamore Ranch), which he served with sprouting grains bound with a viscous egg yolk sauce.

My favorite dishes last night included a wonderful laap (perhaps more familiar to Americans as “larb), a mixture of minced meat (Ricker used wild boar, and its organs), thick with spices and fresh herbs, with bits of chopped banana blossoms throughout.

I also loved Ricker’s “Phat Fak Thawng,” a stir-fry of thinly sliced squash (Ricker used both butternut and delicate).  The squash was cooked until slightly tender, butt retaining its firmness.  The sweetness of the squash was contrasted by a splash of salty, tangy fish sauce.

And I really liked the lamb “satay” that Kostow served at the very end.  The skewered batons of rosy lamb meat (both leg and loin were used) had been painted with a paste made from tamarind and fish sauce and grilled over hot coals.  The muskiness of the meat, and the heartiness of the glaze paired wonderfully with the Grgich Hills Estate “Yountville Selection” Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 poured alongside of it.




In keeping with the Thai aesthetic and way of eating, all of the dishes, both Ricker’s and Kostow’s, were presented family style; a marked departure from The Restaurant at Meadowood’s typical style of service.  Also, with the exception of the last course (a thick baton of lamb satay), diners were not marked with knives.  Ricker explained that in Thai culture, chopsticks are only used when eating noodles.  Otherwise, the Thai eat with a fork and spoon, using the fork to push food onto the spoon.

The entire menu, with wine pairings by the guest vintner Grgich Hills Estate, is below, along with a slideshow from the first day of Christmas at The Restaurant at Meadowood.  If you would like to see the photos in a larger size, click through the slideshow to the Flickr album.



Som Tom Fritter
(Spot prawn soup fritter)
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Miang Kham
(Tatsoi with black lime powder, peanut, shrimp, galangal)
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

With naam jiim.
(Andy Ricker)

Khang Phong
Shan-style fried green papaya.
(Andy Ricker)

1st Course
Miang Thawt
“Stick Food”
Tempura-fried broccoli, fried sweetbreads, dried shrimp, pickled lime purée)
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Grgich Hills Estate “Essence” Sauvignon Blanc
Napa Valley, 2012

2nd Course
Het Paa Naam Tok
Mushroom Salad Over Coals
(Andy Ricker)

Grgrich Hills Estate “Paris Tasting” Chardonnay
Napa Valley, 2010

3rd Course
Laap Som Muu Paa
Wild Boar Larb
With organ meats, skin, and spices.
(Andy Ricker)
Laap Som
Wild boar soup of bitter herbs.
(Andy Ricker)

Grgich Hills Estate “Miljenko’s Old Vines” Zinfandel
Napa Valley, 2008

4th Course
Plaa Duuk Thawt Krob
Whole fried catfish sprouting grains yolks.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

5th Course
Phat Fak Thawng
Squash shallot chili paste.
(Andy Ricker)

6th Course
Sae Sateh
Whole grilled lamb glazed with chili
Tamarind and banana leaf
(the Restaurant at Meadowood & Andy Ricker)

Grgich Hills Estate “Yountville Selection” Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley, 2002

7th Course
Khanom Kati
Coconut pudding with young coconut,
coconut tuple and white chocolate.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Grgich Hills Estate “Violetta” Late Harvest
Napa Valley, 2000


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~ by ulterior epicure on December 7, 2013.

One Response to “12 days: on the first day of christmas… (ricker)”

  1. Your list of Ricker’s restaurants is off. The third NY spot should be Whiskey Soda Lounge.

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