Last month, Think Tasty readers had the opportunity to choose the best restaurant in the Pacific Alaska region. With ten fabulous restaurants from which to choose, it was a difficult decision. Until the last moment, diners provided their votes and left comments praising their restaurants. When voting ended, the restaurant that earned the most votes was Terrace Kitchen in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
I was able to speak with Marlene Divina, who is co-owner of Terrace Kitchen with her husband Fernando, about this amazing restaurant.
TT: I noticed that this is your second full year at Terrace Kitchen. Is this a new restaurant or a new location?
TK: TK is a new restaurant in an historical building – the Koehler House. Once a town hall and used for dances and other events, the current restaurant space has provided a community gathering spot since 1907. The interior is warm and homey, which fits us being family owned and operated, plus we have a gorgeous outdoor covered terrace reminiscent of old homes in the South. Something for everyone. We have separate rooms that folks like to hold their family reunions, baby showers, wedding receptions, Thanksgiving family dinners, birthday parties, bridge groups, book groups, and bar mitsvahs in – you name it!
TT: Your menu is diverse and covers many different world regions. How did you choose the items for it?
TK: We draw on our Old World, New World and Asian ancestry to present new, as well as tried and true, dishes that reflect the season. We like to present menus and some new dishes each season that motivate us and may inspire others seeking new flavors or techniques to enhance the growing list of locally available foods. In celebration of the local indigenous foods and those from our own organic nearby garden, we present seasonal dishes that taste great and make us happy. Moving from early springtime foods, like grilled rockfish on nettle and celery root puree, through tender and succulent steamed cattail cobbs, grilled morel mushroom salad with Oregon blue cheese, ver jus and camelina oil to steamed fiddleheads with mustard and radish flowers, then on to quickly cooked tiny new turnips, carrots and beets in wildflower honey with a twist of cardamom. Late spring moves through summer providing a riot of available foods. Our work with the Smithsonian, designing the concept and the original menus for The Mitsitam Cafe within the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C., was to ‘summarize’ the culinary styles of the peoples of the Western Hemisphere, thus allowing us to expand on our principle of serving food from nearby first. We then draw from afar (Europe, Africa, and Asia, as examples). We recognize that to present a year round table here in the Pacific Northwest, one must draw from elsewhere.
TT: You offer a wide variety of events and classes. What is the most popular regular event/class at TK?
TK: Our “Communal Table”, which currently we feature one Thursday each month (we plan to expand on this soon). So far we have featured Regional Cuisine of Spain, Farmstead to Shoreline, The Foods of Brazil, and in July we will have a Barbeque Communal Table, and then we will have a dinner in celebration of Julia Child’s birthday – different themes each month. The Communal Table dinners are well attended and recognized for the great value at $25 per person.
Also very popular are our “Pie Classes” which we hold during the summer, and our “Dinner with the Artist Series” which change with each new artist and their art. These dinners are always sell-outs. We show different artists original works and sell it for them. (We have a waitlist of artists wanting to show their work at Terrace Kitchen.) We are also planning a “Foraging In our Forest” day trip or two this summer that many customers have asked us to provide. We are long-time foragers and there are people that would like to have someone that “knows the ropes” take them along. That’s us!
TT: What are your goals for Terrace Kitchen? Are there expansions, new classes, etc. that will be part of your growth?
TK: We hope to continue our growth so we can initiate, facilitate, and support our local farm-to-table programs, school garden and school lunch programs. Ultimately, should we have the good fortune for continued growth, we aspire to provide an experience that exceeds expectations by continuing facilities improvement, mastering our craft, and honing service.
We also participate in a myriad of local and not so local activities, such as the upcoming International Pinot Noir Festival in McMinniville in July, the Dinner Celebrating Sustainability in honor of Lake Oswego’s Centennial, and book signings for the re-release of our James Beard Award-winning cookbook, “Foods Of The Americas”, the first of which will take place at Bookwalter Winery in Washington State.
We also offer great live jazz every Friday and Saturday evenings for our diners. And this is becoming a wonderful addition to our customers having a great time while dining at TK.
TT: You have a loyal base of patrons. What is it about your restaurant that you believe makes that so?
TK: We are intimate with each guest that joins us at a table. We make every guest aware of our sincere appreciation for their patronage. It is our intent to provide a convivial atmosphere, a table that is inviting, service that is genuinely engaged, food that is honest and reflects our region – all at a recognizable value. Seems to work best for all.