Team Mago relies on Ken’s Artisan Bakery for our daily bread and Monday night pizza fix, but until we wandered into Pine Street Market and sampled the wares at Trifecta Annex, we had somehow managed to miss out on three quarters of Ken Forkish’s niche in the Portland gastrosphere. As culinary punters, we felt that a flutter at Ken’s Trifecta Tavern and Bakery was clearly the next bet in our Forkish accumulator.
Trifecta Tavern and Bakery
Telephone: (503) 841-6675
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Rostra rating: 4
Trifecta’s layout is fairly standard Pacific North West industrial, sporting wooden ceiling beams alternating with large pipage. The space does have some unique flair provided by suspended lights made out of Granny Clampet’s rumitiz medicine bottles, and a black and white mirrored accent wall that offsets the otherwise glossy red walls and booths. There is even a half cord of wood stacked against one wall, adding a nice dose of utilitarian verisimilitude. The dining area and bar will seat or otherwise accommodate a lot of people, so Trifecta tends to get very noisy when it fills up, a universal artifact of the semi-universal Portland restaurant cookie cutter layout.
All the food Team Mago sampled at Trifecta was good, and most of it even better. Deviled eggs are everywhere these days, but Executive Chef Rich Meyer’s versions were touted by our server and she was right on the money. Ours came topped with either a smoky and lush cod salad or subtly asian bespoke pickled onions. They paired quite well together, which was probably the point.
The flatbread topped with mozzarella, ricotta, grilled radicchio, spring cipolini, and turnip green pesto won going away. My only problem with this dish is its name. It might well be flatbread by definition, but in reality it is Roman-style pizza, a thin cracker-like charred and blistered crust sporting just enough of the above toppings for a complex flavor profile without undermining the bread’s inherent crispiness. Damn Ken, team Mago has not had una pizza Romana vera since we were last in the Eternal City (see our post Panis Focacius Regit).
I asked one of the amazingly friendly and attentive wait staff why this amazing ‘za was given the humble title of flatbread and was informed that it was a naming convention adopted to deconflict this particular dish from the Neapolitan version of pizza served at Ken’s Artisan Pizza. Huh.
Wood oven roasted rapini with caesar dressing, bread crumbs, and grana padano was a blanket finish with the flatbread. The dish was a bitter, robust, gutsy prep that definitely needed the accompanying steak knife. You can quibble about Ken’s bread versus Philippe’s or give the nod to Apizza Shoals in terms of comparing (non-flatbread) pizza, but Ken’s breadcrumbs are the best in town. This dish was so good that I was driven to replicate it with some amazing rapini from the PSU farmers market a few days later (with excellent results I might add).
The fries were the only also-ran. They reached us still quite warm and they were correctly seasoned with just the right amount of sea salt, but they could have used a bit more time in the fryolater. Since we were there within a few minutes of opening time, the oil may simply not have come up to heat. Still, given that the fries are described as dark brown in other reviews, this seems to have been a rare slip in the kitchen.
They know their booze at Trifacta as well. We contented ourselves with selections from the bar’s eight rotating taps, but there is some seriously creative mixology going on, in addition to a well-chosen and affordable wine list. We drank Georgetown Brewing’s Bodizafa IPA, possessed of a floral nose, forward hops, and a slightly bitter finish. The Rosenstadt German pale ale had nice citrus notes and a long minty finish. But the best by far was Heretic Brewing’s petite rouge, a Belgian-style blonde spiked with hibiscus. It was an amazing food beer that looks like a Lambic but tastes like a blonde with just a hint of sweetness.
Ken’s Forkish’s evolution from IT knowledge worker, to baker, to pizzaiolo, to restaurateur gives lie to the ubiquitous Portland bias against carpet baggers from California. If there are any more like him in Silicon Valley, MagoGuide herewith offers to sponsor their Portlandia green cards. And while we are waiting for the applications to roll in, we’ll be heading back to Trifecta Tavern and Bakery.