Nomad's Mushroom custard, with mushroom, olive  and uni sauce
Image: Alli Matteis
Nomad's Mushroom custard, with mushroom, olive and uni sauce

Ryan Fox is an untested Portland talent and the latest cook to launch an ambitious local pop-up series. The 27-year-old cut his teeth on the fish station at Las Vegas’ luxe-y Joel Robuchon at the Mansion, where only the technically precise need apply. Fox survived an impressive two years. But can he create his own memorable dishes? Or, as he hopes, climb another step in Portland’s food scene with progressive menus, artist collaborations, some far-out edibles, and a changing cast of guest cooks? Let’s find out. 

Fox’s Nomad.PDX will launch on Sunday, April 27, at Castagna, Portland’s reigning modernist think-tank, where he worked recently as sous chef. He says he’s taking a break from restaurant work to focus on Nomad, which he calls an underground dinner series showcasing the beauty of Portland's bounty on a thoughtful and well-executed canvas. The first dinner features 10 courses plus “a few surprises throughout the meal.” The $100 price of admission includes wine and spirits. Fox says the evening should run 2½ to 3 hours. 

To show he’s going the distance, even the plates will be custom-made. Ceramic artist Mikayla Bateman has tailored tableware to match the food created by Fox and Nomad sous chef Ali Matteis, who interned with former Castagna chef turned New York Michelin Man Matt Lightner (in a text message, Lightner calls her “very good.”)

At least one course sounds straight from the Lightner playbook: “spring lamb with fermented barley, sprouted wheat berries, and wheatgrass, inspired by the animal’s diet and the farm that raises it.” Also on the menu: a meditation on the almond in every state, from husk to butter, and a seasonal take on fava beans, served charred with burnt onion jus. 

For dessert, Fox recruited Trifecta Tavern pastry chef Eve Kuttemann, whose sweet résumé stretches from top Parisian kitchens to —where else?— Castagna. Meanwhile, Castagna current “garden chef” Danielle Signore has signed on as Fox’s herb finder and wild edible scout.

Like its name, Nomad plans to wander Portland’s food scene with monthly dinners at changing locations. Let’s hope it finds kindred spirits in local diners.

Nomad.PDX at Castagna
1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd
6:30 pm, April 27
Tickets at nomadpdx.com

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