Chris DiMinno is head chef at Clyde Common, the celebrated restaurant at Ace Hotel Portland. Chris has innovated local, seasonal cuisine by working closely with regional farms and his brilliant staff to create an experience that woos newcomers and the Portland foodie old guard alike.
Food & Wine has nominated Chris for Best New Chef in the Northwest (which surprises no one). Go express your love by voting for him — the race to the finish ends tomorrow.
He shard some words with us about nerdy breakfasts, keeping dollars streaming back to local farms, and junk food.
Food at the Clyde riffs on the adventurous, regionally loyal spirit of the Northwest, with particular high notes in favor of Portland. When you’re creating the menu, are you thinking of locals or of Ace guests and other travelers coming through and experiencing this local fare for the first time?
When we’re creating the dishes, we think of everyone. There are certain dishes on the menu that everyone can enjoy, and then there are some dishes for the more adventuous eater. I like that I can work in a restaurant where two people can sit at a table; one person can order the burger and the other can order the crispy fried calves’ brains.
What’s your guiding inspiration for Clyde cuisine? The menu changes frequently but always has a recognizable personality.
My inspiration for the food at the Clyde comes from many places. It was somewhat of a coincidence that my style of food was in-line with Clyde before I even got to Portland. Now I base the food mostly on the pristine produce, meat and fish that comes from the Pacific Northwest, as well as my past experiences in other restaurants. I am also very fortunate to have a staff that contributes many ideas to the menu, and we all work together to make sure the dish is appropriate for the restaurant.
What are some of your most prized relationships with local farmers, fishers and ranchers?
I am very fortunate to work with many local farmers, and when possible we get as much of our product as possible from them. I love to give local farmers money. It really makes a difference. Our lamb comes from Cattail Creek Farm, and our pigs come from Square Peg Farm. Our produce comes from a variety of different sources in the area, and when the farmers’ markets are open, we are there three times a week.
Tell me about a typical breakfast you make at home on a busy morning.
When it comes to breakfast, I’m a bit of a nerd. I sort of have the breakfast on the back of the Honey Nut Cheerios box. A bowl of cereal, a glass of orange juice, a cup of yogurt, a banana and usually about 5 cups of coffee.
And favorite junk food in Portland?
Portland is amazing for junk food. I’m addicted to anything that comes out of the kitchen at Bunk Sandwiches, I’m a sucker for the enormous plate of Nachos at the Matador, and the burritos at Los gorditos are amazing.
Mindy Seegal Abovitz is the creator and editor of Tom Tom Magazine, and she is a force to be reckoned with. A drummer who noticed a glaring lack of representation for female beatmakers and drummers, she rose to the challenge and has, in very little time, taken her efforts from a side-project blog to a full color, beautifully-designed, totally engrossing and inspiring quarterly with booming circulation and a packed touring schedule — it seems every week they’re having a release party on a new continent.
Tom Tom holds its Issue 5 NYC release party, co-hosted by Kim Thompson (of KTMUSIC, and, until recently, a drummer for Beyoncé), in Liberty Hall at Ace Hotel New York on Saturday night.
I read that Tom Tom started as a blog, and I was wondering both what inspired you to start it and then how it transitioned into a magazine?
Well, I’m a female drummer, and I’ve been drumming for a really long time and involved in a lot of different groups that empower women to play music, like the Rock Camp For Girls and Vibe SongMakers, and I’ve also had my own personal allegiance to play with women my whole life. I don’t consume any drummer magazines because they don’t speak to me and never have. I was sort of sitting around wondering if there was a magazine for female drummers, and thought that if there wasn’t I wanted to start one.
So, initially the blog was a test to see if anything like this existed. I started the blog with that in mind — “here, I’ll just start approaching drummers I respect and interviewing them and posting it on this blog and seeing what happens.” And with that little experiment I discovered that there was no magazine like it and that we were, indeed, in dire need of something like that. The blog turned into a website and then some benefit shows gave me enough money to put out the first issue. And then it just happened after that. I decided it was a quarterly print magazine and it’s just been growing since then.
And how do you feel about special categories for women making music — is it limiting or liberating or both?
I believe it’s both, but because we’ve been living in a draught — we female drummers and female musicians in lots of specialty fields or whatever…or not specialty fields — we pretty much go unrecognized in the media. So, essentially, while it could potentially be holding us down, initially, it’s not — I believe that it’s really empowering and necessary. I feel like we’re asserting ourselves in the media. I do believe we’ll live in a climate where that’s unnecessary. Until it’s unnecessary, I do believe we need to have these places where we can go to communicate and share and promote each other.
In an ideal world, we would be represented in these current magazines and it wouldn’t be necessary. I would open a drummer magazine and see myself or someone like me and I could relate and I wouldn’t feel the need to have this magazine. But, right now that’s not the case. So, you know, it may appear to be a limiting sort of resource, but for me and a lot of other women and men that I know it’s totally necessary and encouraging and a move in the right direction.
Skooby Laposky is a Brooklyn-based DJ and producer who has held down a residency in the lobby of Ace Hotel New York every Wednesday night in February as Pocketknife. He just released a tribute mix of one of the last centuries greatest undiscovered artists, Arthur Russell — a cellist, vocalist, composer and disco artist who died of AIDS-related illness in 1992, leaving an overbrimming gem cave of unreleased material (many of them obsessive remixes of his own work) in addition to the four albums he released during his lifetime. Six more would be released (to date), compiled and produced by those devoted to his work.
Many of us are — there is an inexplicable spin cycle of revelation and effervescent melancholy that accompanies every phrase of Arthur’s cello, every flared-leg, platform-shoed beat galloping alongside his rich, vulnerable voice. Skooby is one such devotee — not only has he befriended a group of Arthur’s friends playing both well-loved and previously unreleased songs in their band, Arthur’s Landing, but he’s helped produce a couple of the tracks. He’s now working with some of Arthur’s old equipment (a few drum machines and an effects pedal) to create an EP, coming out this fall.
This resurrection of equipment used to create something held as sacred reminds us of Cornelia Parker's work — chopping up playing cards and lady's gloves with the guillotine that beheaded Marie Antoinette — and speaks to the importance of Arthur's work. Skooby, who's been DJing for the last 18 years or so, has played with a chamber music group and worked with the likes of Temper Trap, Lykke Li, Adele and other artists. He spoke to us about Mr. Russell, and the impact of who he was and what he made.
What drew you to Arthur Russell, or did you have a moment of discovery?
I’m trying to think of the first time I heard him… The thing about Arthur’s music is that he did so much stuff that I really heard it all at different stages. I don’t think it was like I got the compilations that Soul Jazz put out or something. I think I heard the disco stuff first, just from being in that community — the Loose Joints stuff, the Dinosaur L stuff — and then much later on, I heard the more avant pop stuff that he was doing. When I found that he was from Iowa which is my home state as well, you know, I guess his music kind of started resonating more with me. He came to New York from Iowa, I think he was in California first. But there’s this kind of Iowan — I guess he wasn’t a farm boy — but he was this Iowan guy that had some larger ideas that he wanted to seek out wherever the cultural center was, and I guess it was New York at that time.
Yeah, I didn’t really hear everything together. Of course, I did end up getting all of his releases, all of the compilation. Then, I started listening to every little song or piece I could hear that he had done.
He was so all over the place, and he moved between all these worlds. He was a cellist and a vocalist, totally into disco, and kind of revolutionized what that could be. He made dance music into something you could think about and have feelings about. Arthur was also really obsessive and prolific, and left over a 1,000 tapes of stuff that he recorded — this isn’t even his releases — and 40 of the tapes are actually just remixes of one song. He seemed more concerned with process and exploration that he did with finishing a product — he wasn’t concerned with having intelligible lyrics, or even sexuality or musical genre. He was just so in his own experience. I wonder how you, as a producer and a DJ, see that has having affected the world of electronic music, or disco, or just music in general.
Well, in terms of version and variations, and listening to people’s remixes — it seems like in the past maybe 5 years, every band, it doesn’t matter if they even have any anything to do with remix culture, there’s a remix of their song. Which I find interesting, you know, that you have these stems, these tracks that have this continued potential to become something else. And now, pretty much everyone has access to the same equipment because it’s so cheap and available. It’s great that there are people getting these ideas out there. Some of them may never happen or be fully realized like a lot of Arthur’s stuff, but the great thing about him was that he was doing this before — you know, it was pre-digital. It’s so easy to makes tons of variations of one thing when it exists digitally, and he was doing it all laying it to tape.
I’ve never really stuck with one genre. It’s funny, when I get booked for tours, for promoters to describe my style is hard because I don’t really stick to a genre. Even the Arthur mix is a perfect mix for me because I can go through a lot of different styles I like. That’s something that he did, so I was kind of trying to, in some way, trace his life. That’s the nature of how I DJ and how I produce. If you were to listen to, like, five of my remixes they would all sound like…some Spanish gypsy remix, and the next one is like a pretty straight-forward club track, and the next one could be a combination of the two. It’s never been my thing to be a purist. I know some people stick to their genre or their style, but the stuff I usually gravitate toward is stuff I can’t really pinpoint, or stuff that’s so purely its genre that I can see the brilliance in that, but a lot of times I am drawn to stuff that sort of falls between everything.
I don’t think you need to be loyal to one genre to be authentic as a DJ, you just have to have the courage to work with what moves you and inspires you, regardless of what’s cool or what’s expected of you. Arthur’s music is so much about emotion and vulnerability and being really present in that way. How has his music affected you personally — what kind of emotional imprint does it leave it on you?
His music has so much emotionality. The music and the lyrics have so much feeling. The song of Arthur’s that I listen to most is “This is How We Walk on the Moon” — just listening to it can inspire you so much. If I’m having a bad day, listening to this will totally bring me up. “It’s a talk in the dark, it’s a walk in the morning…” Which one is that? Wild Combination. Such an incredible song — if you’ve ever had that moment, experiencing that with someone you love. He really tells these moments in his music.
We like The Dill Pickle Club. They care about place and history and the creative and self-motivated people who make culture, independently and without promise of financial return or great acclaim. Through tours and public presentations in Portland, one of our favorite cities, they create non-traditional avenues for learning “where all forms of knowledge are valued.”
Tonight at The Cleaners at Ace Hotel Portland, they’re holding a fundraiser by challenging several local chefs to create the perfect pickle. The benefit marks the beginning of an exciting year wherein The DPC works with Publication Studio to re-release four out-of-print books about Portland — art, oral history, architecture, and local culture — that will accompany a year-long, roving lecture series at symbolic locations around the city.
The books — low-budget, immeasurably important documents of local eras — reflect the fabric of Portland’s weird, rebellious, vibrant and radically earnest culture. Here are some selected pages from Twenty Seven Installations and Rubbings From the Rose City. Keep an eye out on their site for more about the books, the lectures, and other ways you can pick up what they’re throwing down.