Kristen Murray has serious chops.
She cooked her way through big time New York kitchens like Gramercy Tavern and Aquavit, alongside the legendary Alsatian pastry chef, Christine Ferber, and locally at Paley’s Place. When she finally quit fast-paced restaurant kitchens in pursuit of her dream spot nearly two years ago, Portland’s sweet tooth let out a resounding “huzzah.”
Two weeks in to Maurice, Murray is just beginning to stock her larder. We sampled some of her early creations, from butter-laden pastries and playful lunch snacks in the morning to composed, elegant desserts and sweet, bubbly wine pairings at night.
On a triangular block caddy corner to Powell’s Books, the petit Maurice sits with whitewashed walls, a line of shoulder-high booths, and a long white marble bar running down the middle. The details meet somewhere between French countryside (white tiling, chalk menus) and Wonderland: mounted rabbit head coat hangers, mis-matched pint-sized shaker furniture. Morning pastries go quick, with yeasty, orange citrus-baked rolls studded with prunes (good) and long, herbaceous sugarcoated rosemary currant scones (even better) leading the charge.
During lunch, Maurice gets carnivorous. Expect lefse wraps (thick, speckled flatbread) holding modest slices of tarragon and grapefruit-cured gravlax or globes of gamey lamb meatball in apple chutney. Smoked-duck quiche comes as springy and light as custard, and Poulet Au Pain arrives as a sort of rustic pheasant pot pie, served bones and all.
The real show kicks off after four, when Murray throws on her chef’s whites, stashes the morning pastries and cooks up a handful of structural, precious desserts. A base of minced pineapple supports the cloudlike Black Pepper Cheesecake, flecked with occasional grinds of lingering heat and topped with a tiny football of mouth-puckering, pithy lime sorbet.
Some plates, like the “Kissing Cousins” are downright ornamental: petals of white meringue fold over tart cubes of slow-cooked rhubarb—an elegant crown for a 2-inch thick wheel of frozen custard infused with celery leaf and crème fraiche with flecks of green chervil. The whole thing sits on a pedestal of almond cake soaking in a pool of rhubarb juice. Tread lightly.
Maurice fills a very specific and uncharted niche: the dessert bar. Sweets come with a tightly curated list of sparkling wines and dessert-friendly aperitifs, intimate candlelight, and a crooning Carla Bruni over the speaker.
However things shake out in the coming months, Maurice is a one of a kind experience for Portlanders, and an exciting new stage for Kristen Murray’s whimsical sweet-craft. Check out our slide show above for the full, sugar-dusted experience.
921 SW Oak Street
Open Mon-Wed: 10 am-4 pm (lunch) 4-6 pm (Fika/Postres)
Thurs-Sat: 10 am-4 pm (lunch) 4-10 pm (Fika/Postres)