At the heart of Leftbank is Leftbank Café. Every Leftbank visitor, no matter what brings them here, walks into the café first. Even on days when I pack a lunch, the smell of the kitchen in the morning warms the building, wakes me up and draws me in. Whether we eat there regularly or not, all of us are fed by the café in one way or another.
Adam, café chef for the last year, first caught my attention with his crazy-good soups. I blogged about them here last November. I learned last week that Adam’s talents have not gone unnoticed by Leftbank’s café partner Bon Appetit, and that he’ll spend his last day at Leftbank tomorrow. He’ll step up to run the law school kitchen at Lewis and Clark College. NO! WAIT! MY SOUPS… Don’t panic. Leah’s still here. And Jacey is stepping in, clearly up to the task. The change in the lineup prompted me to sit down with the lovely people working at Leftbank’s center. Thought you might also like to get to know them as Adam’s on his way out, Jacey’s on her way in, and Leah holds the line. Below is some of what I learned.
Jacey comes to us after a year spent cooking for 800 students at Lewis and Clark College. She described soup pots there big enough to climb inside, which generated creepy images of fairy tale giants and also gave me hope that she’ll continue the trend of wicked good soups at Leftbank. In 2005, Jacey completed a 3 month internship cooking in Barcelona. When I asked what kind of cooking she loves, she talked about how Barcelona finds its way into everything, how she loves rustic foods, and how fresh, seasonal foods are always an inspiration. Jacey’s looking forward to settling in at Leftbank and getting in some good reading this summer. What’s on her list? “I like classical stuff, biographies… Last summer was the summer of Virginia Woolf.” Jacey’s husband also cooks for a living, so I had to ask: do 2 chefs get home from work sometimes and share a frozen dinner? “Yes.” Yes! I feel so much better about myself now. Thanks for that, and welcome, Jacey!
Adam’s cooking got the Leftbank Café off the ground. Before coming here Adam spent time cooking at Blue Hour, The Black Rabbit, and Higgins, among others. Though Adam has always wanted to be a chef, he first spent time driving big rigs and a City bus for San Diego. How’s that for multi-facted? Onions are the single ingredient he would choose never to be without, saying that he uses them in every savory thing he prepares. And I couldn’t resist asking him the same question about cooking at home that I posed to Jacey. Turns out, not only does Adam cook “most of the time” at home, but he says he shops every single day. Farewell and thank you for the year, Adam!
Everyone who frequents Leftbank Café probably knows Leah already. Leah probably knows them. If Leftbank Café were a band, Leah would be the front man. And that’s maybe in keeping with her nature as a performer. Before joining us 3 months ago, Leah worked at Multnomah Arts Center teaching dance, and she’s still dancing. June 25th-27th you can catch Leah with 2 collaborators in the original piece, “Tinnitus.” (Check bulletin boards around the building and the café counter for details.) When I asked further about her background, Leah gave it up that her degree is in Art History with minors in French and Holistic Health. Her primary interest is in the convergence of creativity and holistic health, and she plans to go back for a Masters degree in Nutrition when the time is right. These days she loves the mix of Leftbank regulars and new people coming in. She says Leftbank people feel like her co-workers, and that Leftbank’s mix of creative people is a support system that you wouldn’t find in other places. She says the space at Leftbank feeds her, which is great since we count on her to feed us.
Stop by on Tuesday to bid Adam farewell. And the next time you belly up to the bar for lunch or coffee, you might ask Jacey what she’s reading. Oh, and ask Leah how her parents chose her name. Good story there.
I’ve been a brown bag girl for more than a decade. Lucky enough to have a partner with mad skills in the kitchen, for years I’ve had gourmet leftovers every day at lunch. And for years coworkers have jealously eyed my lunch while sitting across the table – peanut butter sandwiches in hand.
The lunch tables have turned. more
Add one more line to the list of benefits to biking…. 50 cent coffee.
In honor of the BTA’s bike commute challenge, the cafe is offering deliriously fresh stumptown coffee for only 50cents to bike commuters all month! Leftbank has super-ample bike parking and if you’ve yet to see it, the Leftbank cafe is a fine, fine place to take a pause before rolling down the road… If you already come by regularly, consider this a little pat on the back for living well and treading lightly!
Special thanks to Stumptown for partnering up on this one. Also, if you’re new to biking in the area, we’ve put together a map (extra thanks to Carl and Greg) to show you the most simple ways to roll in. If you’re just getting into the commuter thing, the BTA is offering free bike commuter workshops, too. So think about it – cheap coffee, free workshops, fresh air and bike fun? Recipe for a fine September, no doubt.
…and in closing, here are a few shots of my coffee getting down with my bike.
see you out there~
a few weeks back, Leftbank had a big day. It was May 28th, 2009 – and the end of all major construction operations was upon us. Of course, there were no protests or great controversy in the face of these operations, and thankfully no real suffering, but there was often struggle and often pain. …ok, that might be overstating it a bit. But it was the culmination of an enormous amount of work, and countless long, long days. –and more importantly, cause for celebration.
We celebrated in the newly minted lobby, had drinks from the still-drying cafe bar (no worries, just mineral oil!), and ate delicious food from leftbank friend and partner, Bon Appétit. One thing that struck me so was the sheer number of people that joined us.. and more than that, in fact, was that I only knew a small portion of them. I’ve been involved since the ramshackle beginnings of this endeavor, a hand (or finger) in what seems like just about every aspect of the project, and come to know a great many good people in the process… But seeing so many new faces was straight astounding. And mixed in were great tenants seeming already at home, like folks from Portland Farmers Market and the gang from Upstream (not to mention Alex and his Upright brews, too), plus an equally exceptional crop of new tenants, too. That eve, we officially welcomed Bill, Gary, Holly and co. (who together make up SOLIDCORE, JHL design, ORANGEWALLstudios and intelligent design), The GreenVille Project, and Old Town Computers into the fold.
All told, once again, a fine, fine time. Thanks to all who made it so. Onward we go.
At long last, we’re proud to announce the construction of the Leftbank cafe is underway. Kitchen to Leftbank’s living room, you’ll soon find it in the lobby chock full of good stuff. Looking back, It was clear from the start that within the building we needed nourishing food, satisfying drinks and delicious coffee. This was not only to keep everyone sated, spirited and loose, but also to weave a few more of the greatest threads of Portland’s culture together. What we didn’t know then was that the best way to do it right was to find a good partner and do it ourselves.
We’ve done just that, and in collaboration with Bon Appetit Food Management Company, we’ve developed what promises to be a great spot to meet, chow, swing by, unwind, power up or… well, whatever. Guided by Bon Appetit’s progressive ethic, the cafe will be filled with tasty things organic, local and seasonal. It will also offer up damn good regional beers backed up by a full bar, and pour some of the best coffee on the planet (that’s Stumptown, if you’re curious). Much of the daily menu and specific offerings are still in development, so look for updates on that soon. But rest assured, before we get too deep into this budding springtime, we’ll have a new place to gather at Leftbank.
check out the rendering below – an earlier conceptual one, but pretty telling of what’s to come. The design was made by Portland’s Litmus Design + Architecture, designers of some of our town’s most memorable food spots.