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For Cathy Whims, executive chef at Nostrana restaurant in Portland, good food results from the quality of its parts. &quotI cook Italian food to let the ingredients shine on their own,&quot she says. Cathy relies on the seasonal bounty from nearby farms like Kookoolan to inform her menu from week to week.
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At Kookoolan Farms, Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor and her husband, Koorosh, raise chickens and Jersey cows. They also grow vegetables, herbs and tree fruit. The couple bought the homestead just five years ago and have since learned how to build fences, slaughter poultry and midwife cows. For city-dwellers, the hour-long drive to the farm from Portland can be transformative. &quotI feel so far away from the city here,&quot says Cathy.
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Cathy coaxes a reluctant Jersey cow to the barn for milking. Eventually Chrissie woos the animal with fresh-picked mint and lettuces from the garden.
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&quotLean into her body with your whole side and chest,&quot Chrissie tells Cathy, who's milking a cow for the first time. &quotThink of it like working with a pastry bag.&quot
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In the farm's kitchen, Chrissie and Cathy heat the fresh milk to 86 degrees before adding the culture for fromage blanc.
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After the cheese sits for 12 hours, the curds are ready to be drained and dressed. &quotIt smells like yogurt, only it's much more fragrant and grassy,&quot says Cathy. &quotIt's the essence of the Willamette Valley.&quot
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To dress the fromage blanc, the women head out to the garden to harvest Alpine strawberries (just two days into sweet ripeness) and edible flowers for a dessert cheese. For a savory version, they clip an array of herbs, including Doone Valley lemon thyme and parsley.
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Chrissie serves the simple dessert — coeur àla crème, made by folding the fromage blanc with egg whites, sugar and cream — on her grandmother's wedding dishes from the 1930s.&quotIt's light and rich at the same time,&quot says Cathy after her first bite. &quotThe milk has a sweet quality that makes you not want to stop eating.&quot
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Back at Nostrana in Portland, Cathy works to connect patrons to farms like Kookoolan by allowing the flavors from local ingredients to shine.
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Cathy pulls a freshly baked pie from the Italian wood-burning oven.
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Patrons at Nostrana enjoy the results of Cathy's farm-to-table focus.

In Oregon, chefs and farmers collaborate to put the freshest ingredients on the table. Take Cathy Whims, the James Beard–nominated chef from Portland’s Nostrana restaurant, who thrives on using high-quality local foods in her regional Italian cuisine. That’s why she works closely with Willamette Valley farmers like Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor, a former Intel engineer who now runs Kookoolan Farms, a tiny but diverse organic farm in Yamhill. Cathy became Kookoolan’s first restaurant customer when the chef discovered the unparalleled taste of the farm’s chickens. On this warm summer day, Cathy’s visiting Kookoolan not for the chickens but for the cattle: She’s making fromage blanc using milk she personally squeezed from one of the farm’s happy but stubborn Jersey cows.

Inspire your own culinary creativity during Oregon’s Bounty season. Pay a visit to Nostrana or one of Portland’s many fine farm-to-table restaurants. Indulge in a hands-on adventure at a local farm or take an Oregon Food Trip!

Explore wine country: Plan to spend a few days in the Willamette Valley and book a room at The Allison Inn & Spa, the Black Walnut Inn & Vineyard or Yamhill Vineyards Bed & Breakfast. Check out our guide to the Perfect Wine Country Weekend.

about author Lucy Burningham

Lucy Burningham is a Portland-based writer who covers food, drink and travel for a variety of publications. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Saveur, Bicycling and Lonely Planet guidebooks, and she frequently writes about craft beer. In 2012, she co-authored “Hop in the Saddle: A Guide to Portland’s Craft Beer Scene by Bike.”

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