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Portland's Fermented "Culture"

like the tiny microbe kind

Portland’s culinary culture is, in fact, enriched by actual microbiological cultures. Follow the fermentation around every corner of the city for a bubbling, leavening, and frothing take on the city’s most exciting gourmand goings-on.

The new vegan restaurant Fermenter cuts right to the chase with its name. In its Buckman neighborhood location, Chef and Owner Aaron Adams slings house-made tempeh, koji, kombucha and tangy vegan cheeses. In addition to ferment-focused meals, visitors can purchase locally-made fermented pantry goods or even purchase DIY fermentation tools to give it a go at home. In short, and in their own words, Fermenter aims to be “your friendly neighborhood beneficial bacteria emporium.”

Again with the name putting fermentation front and center, Cultured Kindness Vegan Cheese Shop is at the forefront of “faux fromage.” In September 2021, owner and cheesemaker Justin Miller and his husband and co-owner Mike Mendiola opened the vegan cheese shop after years of farmers market fanfare. Organic and fair-trade cashews and coconut oil undergo a warm fermentation process free of additives and is naturally aged for up to 30 days. For something sweet, the seasonal cheesecakes made from carefully cultured cheeses are an obvious choice.

Another farmers market to brick-and-mortar story is Obon Shokudo. The expanded restaurant space that opened in July 2021 allows more room for fermentation projects to percolate, including house-made miso-fermented tofu and koji. The restaurant is so dedicated to fermentation, that it created a sub-brand, Obon Kojo in order to create even more fermented goods in compliance with the county’s regulations. Nearly every dish infuses some sort of fermented goodness; so, just order whatever sounds best from the menu of vegan Japanese comfort food.

Adding to Portland’s powerhouse pizza scene, Pizzeria Stellina in the Sellwood neighborhood landed in November 2021 with slow-fermented pizza dough. Owner Gina Rollo pairs her Queens upbringing with dough made from Walla Walla-grown hard red spring wheat flour over two-to-three days. The end result? These slowly-leavened beauties are tangy and lightly charred, airy yet crispy.

A speakeasy for pickles? Swap moonshine for MoonBrine. The Portland pickle purveyor ferments in the historic Ford Building in Southeast Portland. And while MoonBrine products are used and sold at restaurants and stores all over town, pickle lovers in-the-know arrange curbside pick-up from the shop for small batch pickled turnips, sour mash relish, and pickled radishes. Quarts of just the pickle juice can be purchased for briny cocktails, recipes, or straight sippin’. Hey, there’s a reason the city’s minor league baseball team is the Portland Pickles.

Of course, Portland’s wine, beer, and kombucha just further cement the city’s dedication to the art of the ferment.