On a gray spring afternoon in Portland, Oregon, Ian Wilson, the chef and co-owner of Fenrir stood in the curtain clad doorway to his restaurant kitchen and explained the protein composition of blood.
“It’s the exact same as eggs,” he told me with a half smile while pouring a cup of it into a bowl of flour. “You can substitute them for one another in just about anything.” This is just one example of the sustainability-driven food philosophy that inspires Fenrir, a Portland-based Scandinavian influenced restaurant perched in the second story of an old Southeast Portland house: Source local ingredients. Celebrate every part of the plant and animal.
Wilson, the twenty five-year-old chef whose signature look includes shoulder-length shaggy blond hair with a color-varying bandana wrapped around his forehead, was making blood aebleskiver that afternoon, a Danish pancake that he pairs with lamb neck and fermented applesauce. I looked on as he pulled various containers from the shelves and countertop as he worked. He offered me a pinch from one filled with a bright green powder. It had delicate earthy notes to it—onions, garlic, like springtime—dehydrated green onions.
As Ian and I discussed the inherent beauty of cooking with bright colors and deep red bodily fluid and tasted the products of his dehydration experiments in the tiny one hundred twenty-square foot kitchen, his two fellow co-owners were busily setting up for that Friday evening’s dinner service. John James Dudek, who manages the restaurant’s operations and front-of-house, set the rich wooden tables with mismatched vintage silverware and locally made ceramic dishes. Tyler Hauptman, the aquavit-loving master of Negroni who mans Fenrir’s bar program, strutted in carrying a large tub of locally-sourced honey for that evening’s service and began mixing his signature drink, a reinvented Scandinavian-leaning version of the classic Negroni in which he exchanges campari and gin for aperol and aquavit. He passed me a small coupe of the bright red liquid to try. The bitter fruitiness of the drink was smooth and balanced. I could have easily put my camera away and settled in at one of the six spots surrounding the deep wood bar and ordered several more, but was on the job, so I, reluctantly, stopped at just one.
As I watched the trio move throughout the restaurant, snapping photos as they buzzed around, I couldn’t help but feel inspired by the pack-like behavior they seemed to embody with such ease and aplomb. Each member fulfilling his role while serving up Scandinavian-inspired small plates and Nordic-noted cocktails to eager Portland patrons. It seemed all too fitting given the namesake of their restaurant, which comes from the Norse wolf god. The image of wolf-pack cohesiveness; the perfect picture of camaraderie.
To learn more about Fenrir’s cocktail program, read our story on our sibling publication, In Good Spirits.
2005 SE 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214