When it came time to source the ingredients for the five-course feast at his Cannon Beach dining room this past Thanksgiving, Chef Aaron Bedard did not have to look far.
Free-range turkeys? Two thousand pounds raised just for him at a farm outside of Astoria. Fresh cranberries? One hundred pounds purchased at a family farm in Gearhart, just down the street from his home, where he lives on two acres with his wife, 2-year-old son and backyard chickens.
He wouldn’t trade the small-town life for anything. “The feel and the restaurant scene here is way different than the city,” whether it be Portland or elsewhere, says Bedard, who has worked as executive chef at The Stephanie Inn since 2010, five years after starting his career there.
“We’re a little bit more rustic in style,” he says. “We’re still able to do the same kinds of things (Portland) chefs are doing with their sourcing, hyper-locally.”
Born and raised in La Grande, in Eastern Oregon, Bedard settled on the Coast after culinary school in Portland. He’s forged tight-knit relationships within the growing collective of coastal community of chefs, farmers and artisans. “I can call almost any chef in town and borrow something, and vice versa,” he says. “We all help each other with equipment, food, whatever we need.”
Some of his favorite local ingredients: The briny oysters from Nevør Shellfish Farm; the Netarts Bay-harvested sea salt from Jacobsen Salt Company (which he uses exclusively at The Stephanie Inn and nearby Wayfarer Restaurant & Lounge, its sister restaurant); raw honey from Bee Local Honey; wasabi from Frog Eyes Wasabi in Cloverdale, just inland from Pacific City; and rare and heirloom vegetables from Kingfisher Farm in Nehalem, where Bedard recently flipped over a batch of hard-to-find Mexican chile de agua peppers.
When he’s not cooking, Bedard is playing outside: foraging, fishing, crabbing and agate hunting. There’s another benefit to living life more simply on the Coast, especially during the winter, when it’s less crowded. “In the chef world, it’s so stress-driven and intense at times, it’s so nice to be laid back and have fresh air and hear the birds,” he says. “It’s so nice to be able to get away and have peace and quiet.”
Chef Aaron Bedard’s Buttermilk Fried Oyster Tartine
- 12 fresh-shucked Netarts Bay oysters
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Dash of Tabasco sauce
- 1 cup flour
- 1 quart canola oil for frying
- 4 slices of baguette, 3 inches long on the bias
- 2 T butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large sauce pot, bring canola oil to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine oysters, buttermilk and Tabasco. Dredge oysters in flour and fry in canola oil until golden brown and crispy (about 4 minutes). Drain oysters on paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Butter the sliced baguette and toast in heated nonstick skillet until crunchy and golden brown. Pool 1 ounce of caper remoulade (recipe below) on a plate and arrange toasted baguette slices — each topped with three fried oysters and pickled red onion (recipe below).
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 T dijon mustard
- 2 cloves sliced garlic
- 2 lemons, use zest and juice
- 2 cups canola oil
- 1/4 cup chives
- 1/4 cup parsley
- 2 T chopped caper
- 1/4 cup seeded diced tomato
- 1 pinch salt and pepper
- water if needed
Add egg yolks, dijon mustard, sliced garlic and lemon zest and juice to a food processor bowl. While food processor is running, slowly add the canola oil to emulsify with the egg yolk mixture. Adjust thickness of the aioli with water if needed. Add in fresh chives, parsley, capers, tomatoes and salt and pepper. Process for 20 seconds until ingredients are well mixed.
Pickled Red Onion
- 2 red onions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
- 1/4 cup water, boiling
- 1 lemon, use zest and juice
- 1 teaspoon tarragon, in a sachet
Dissolve sugar in boiling water with vinegar, lemon zest and juice, and tarragon sachet. Add onions and refrigerate at least two hours.