You mentioned once that the first dish on the menu at Bullard was a grilled scallop tostada inspired by the flavors you ate as a child. Would you tell us a little more about the significance of this dish?
DA: I love a focal point to dishes; I love a sense of nostalgia and we love simple food that we elevate. So, instead of rethinking an entire dish to make it ours, we try to build things up. I have so many fond memories of guacamole and the Tex-Mex stuff that I grew up with and we love elevating it with a beautiful grilled scallop in a downtown setting, instead of rethinking things and making it too “chef-y,” we really just try to build it up from the ground.
Overall, what influences have your family and childhood had on your cooking?
DA: I love one pot cooking; I love simple braises. Right now on the menu, we’re doing a braised elk dish with black truffles on top of mashed potatoes. I just love those homey vibes. That’s what we go for but we want everybody walking away thinking it’s the best that they’ve ever have. So, instead of reimagining mashed potatoes, we come into work every day and try to make the best mashed potatoes that [anybody has] ever had so those really simple, nostalgic vibes are what we’re going for.
What’s the biggest difference in between the food scenes in Texas and Portland? Similarities?
DA: There’s a shared sense of community between both. I think Portland is such a great city to cook in because of our community of wine makers, farmers, chefs, and restaurateurs— it’s a very close-knit scene and that pushes us to be better. And it does kind of remind me of a small town – everyone knows everybody, my purveyors and going from restaurant to restaurant, we all know each other so there’s a sense of community and friendly competition. And the diners here in Portland expect a high, high standard so it definitely keeps us on our toes.
What are a few of your favorite places to eat in Portland?
DA: My favorite places are, you know I like a mix of super “chef-y” stuff, I love what Earl does at Hat Yai, I’m a big fan of Karl Holl over here at Park Avenue Fine Wines. He’s growing and raising his own pigs, curing it into the best charcuterie you can get in the country and then matching that with these beautiful interesting veggie dishes which I think are all stunners. Across the river, I eat a lot of Asian food – I eat a lot of dumplings at Han Oak from Peter Cho and then for a beer, my favorite spot in the world is Lombard house on Lombard St. in St. Johns. There are so many options in Portland, I could talk for hours and hours.
Beyond Bullard, what’s your inspiration behind the menu at Abigail Hall?
DA: Abigail Hall is the vision of my business partner, Jennifer Quist, and we really wanted to create a really fun but historical and cozy vibe. There’s a sense of old nostalgia and really fun bar stuff. The menu ranges from old school steak house side vibes in San Francisco to great fun light bar stuff with a California feel. We have a dry aged beef “In N Out” burger that been a huge hit, we make the bun in-house, shrimp cocktail is flying into there, a Dungeness crab roll that’s a play on a lobster roll – so really old school, fun stuff.
Bonus Question: What would your final meal be?
DA: My final meal would be a meat n 3 plate from Arnold’s Country Kitchen in Nashville, Tennessee. I would get roast beef, fried chicken, and fried catfish, I would get five sides instead of three— fried okra, cream corn, mashed potatoes, green beans with bacon, and cornbread, and I would eat my choc mint pie as I was going through the line before I checked out and I would get a 32-oz sweet tea. Very specific, I thought about this a lot.
Stop by and experience downhome Texan cooking for yourself at Bullard.