Chef Focus: Michael Uhnak of Besaw’s

Besaw's Restaurant and Bar

Through the years, Portland restaurants have been committed to using Oregon berries in their cuisine.

In NW Portland, Besaw’s is using berries creatively at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Besaw's Restaurant and BarOriginally a beer parlor and gambling hall catering to loggers and longshoremen, Besaw’s opened its doors in 1903 under owners George Besaw and Medric Liberty with the generous help of Henry Weinhard, one of the best known brewery owners in the nation. Since then, there have been many manifestations of Besaw’s, from fry house to diner to brunch sensation. We spoke recently at FEAST Portland with current Besaw’s Chef Michael Uhnak while devouring one of the delicious Savory Marionberry Biscuits with Black Pepper Ricotta and Smoked Marionberry Jam he prepared for the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting event. Download the recipe card.

Besaw's Chef Uhnak makes biscuits at Feast Oregon

Tell us a little bit about your experiences at Besaw’s.

As you know, it’s one of the oldest restaurants in Portland. I would call it American bistro style cuisine, and we have evolved to have a real farm to table focus. I have my own garden – we grow our own veggies on 18 raised beds. No berries though – we leave that to the farmers.

How do you use Oregon berries in your different menus?

Besaw’s is a big breakfast place. We’re super well known for breakfast and we often serve berry compotes with waffles or Marionberry pancakes. On our lunch and dinner menus we often use berries in tapenades and in the various chutneys on our antipasti board, for example.

Besaw's Chef Uhnak's biscuitsFor your recipe today, the Savory Marionberry Biscuits with Black Pepper Ricotta and Smoked Marionberry Jam, you used frozen Oregon Marionberries.

Tell us a little bit about using the frozen berries vs. fresh picked.

Actually they were the same as working with fresh berries. I had no issues whatsoever. It was awesome. They were easy to use. We thawed them out and made sure we drained off any excess juice so it wouldn’t make our biscuits soggy. It was just like working with fresh berries when they thawed.

What do you think makes Oregon berries more special for your cuisine than berries from other places?

The climate in Oregon just awesome for growing berries. We have one growing season and the berries ripen slowly on the vine. The cold, rainy springs makes the berries plump and delicious.

Do you have any tips for working with Oregon berries, fresh or frozen?

In the summer, get ‘em while you can. The rest of the time, don’t be afraid to use frozen. They’re awesome.

Tell us one thing about yourself that maybe other people wouldn’t know.

Let’s see…being in the great Northwest, sadly I don’t like salmon.

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