BW's Treefort 2019 Playlist: Check Out Our Slideshow From Chef Bonnie Morales' 'A Night at Kachka' at Foodfort 

click to enlarge kachka_magnum.jpg

Lex Nelson

People should eat more rabbit. At least, that seemed to be the general consensus at Table 8 after a few bites of Chef Bonnie Morales' signature Belarusian dish, "Rabbit in a Clay Pot," the third course of her Foodfort kickoff dinner on March 20. The braised rabbit was tender enough to shave from the bone with a spoon, served in a pool of smetana (sour cream sauce), with sour cherries, porcini mushrooms, cubed potatoes and whole cloves of butter-soft garlic.

click to enlarge The potato vereniki dumplings were one of the best bites of the night. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • The potato vereniki dumplings were one of the best bites of the night.
"We culture our own sour cream at Kachka [Morales' Portland, Oregon, restaurant], gallons and gallons of it, and we put it on everything. It's my mother sauce," Morales told the 100-strong crowd at The Basque Center between courses. To be fair, in its final iteration her rich, savory sauce bore almost no resemblance to the thick white goop Americans are used to scooping from plastic supermarket containers.

The event was dubbed "A Night at Kachka," and featured not only the rabbit but khe (a light, smokey salad of marinated carrots, leafy herbs and seafood, which Morales said was inspired by Russia's Korean population), sturgeon caviar-topped potato vareniki dumplings based on a Ukrainian recipe (a standout dish, with a one-note smooth texture but a transcendent flavor combining buttery potatoes, smetana and dill) and zapekanka, a Russian dessert that looked a lot like cheesecake. 

click to enlarge Chef Bonnie Morales (right) spoke at the dinner with her husband, Israel. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Chef Bonnie Morales (right) spoke at the dinner with her husband, Israel.
"I hate calling it a cheesecake, because it's not—it's a cake made out of cheese," Morales said of the dish, which she bakes in a casserole dish from farmer's cheese. The cake was infused with chamomile, garnished with rhubarb-lime compote and served with a dab of white chocolate chamomile mousse and an upright lacing of honey. While the chamomile in the cake itself got lost, it was certainly present in the mousse, and along with the hint of lime it offered up a sharp contrast to the cake's sweet, slightly grainy centerpiece.

The dessert was unexpected, what seemed to be a last-minute change from what Morales had told BW in advance of the dinner would be debesmanna, a fruit- and cream-based Latvian breakfast confection. The drink pairings were a surprise, too: Instead of cocktails from Buffalo Trace, each course was served with a glass of wine from Split Rail Winery. With the exception of the fruity 2016 Horned Beast GSM served with the rabbit, it wasn't a perfect match-up: The first two wines came off as too sweet, and the last, a 2018 White Noise Pet-Nat, overpowered the zapekana. Still, the evening wasn't totally devoid of vodka: Morales and her husband, Israel, joined the crowd for a shot from the stage between courses two and three.

Check out some snapshots from the evening, including the transformational decorations provided by Decorfort volunteers. 
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