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Ken Forkish, Ken's Artisan Pizza

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 12:02 PM


Ken Forkish opened Ken's Artisan Bakery in November, 2001 following a career in high tech. Ken trained at the San Francisco Baking Institute, the National Baking Center, CIA Greystone, Toscana Saporita in Tuscany, and the Paul Bocuse Institute in France.

His bakery is known for organic rustic breads, classic Parisian baguettes, croissants, brioche and pastry reminiscent of Paris' best boulangeries and patisseries. The bakery's croissants are frequently referred to by well-traveled foodies as the best in the U.S. and as good as any in Paris. Ken buys produce directly from Northwest growers and features local, in-season produce. Ken's Artisan Bakery has introduced Portland to many regional French pastries not commonly found elsewhere such as their popular Canneles. Ken's bakery is also a café, serving coffee, Mariage Freres teas, savory tarts, quiche, soups, sandwiches, and Northwest beer and wines.

Visiting chefs have included Andre Soltner, Jacques Pepin and Alice Waters.

Many of Portland's finest restaurants serve Ken's bread: including Paley's Place, Higgins, clarklewis, Fenouil, VQ, Tabla, Gotham Tavern, Carafe, Navarre, Fife, Serratto, Park Kitchen, Lucy's Table, and Tuscany Grill.
Ken's Artisan Bakery has been featured in Gourmet Magazine's Best Restaurants in America (October, 2003), Bon Appetit Magazine (July, 2003 & Sept 2005), The Oregonian, Northwest Palate (Ken's Tart Normande was pictured on the cover of the January 2003 issue), and Willamette Week. Ken was one of ten chefs featured in a special feature in The Oregonian titled "The Next Wave, Portland Chefs Who Are Changing the Local Dining Scene." Ken was also featured on The Food Network's program Recipe for Success!
Monday Night Pizza began at the bakery in April, 2005, featuring Italian styled pizzas baked in the bakery's 18,000 lb bread oven. The popular success of Monday Night Pizza has led to a new venture, Ken's Artisan Pizza, opening in Summer, 2006 at 304 SE 28th Ave.

Ken's Artisan Pizza

Ken's Artisan Pizza, at 304 SE 28th Ave (corner of SE 28th & Pine) will open in Summer 2006. Target is near the end of June. The pizzeria will feature a wood-fired oven, a bar with good beers on tap, a quality wine list with lots of good value wines, house-made ice cream and rustic desserts baked in the wood oven. Expect about 6 composed pizzas on the menu, a Caesar salad, and a seasonal salad. The menu offerings won't be much different from the menu we have at Monday Night Pizza. The biggest change to the menu will be a greater selection of beverages. We will be open Tuesday - Saturday at 5pm.

We will have seating for about 40 plus bar and outside tables. The building's open ceiling has massive old growth timber beams, and for the bar and tables we were fantastically lucky to get recovered wood from the old Big Dipper roller coaster (Jantzen Beach), one of the great wooden roller coasters of the west coast in its day. This wood is from trees that were a few hundred years old. You just can't buy that. As the bar and tables are being finished, The Big Dipper is looking very cool.

The pizzas will bake differently in the wood-fired oven than they do in the bread oven. The maximum temperature I can take the bread oven to without doing damage, is about 530F. The pizza oven will probably have a floor and dome temperature in the low to mid 700s. We will get used to it, and adjust over time. The pizzas will bake faster and will have greater oven spring than they do in the bread oven, resulting in a higher rim with lighter texture. As far as taste goes there should be a hint of wood smoke in the flavor of the crust. So, I like the pizzas we are baking on NW 21st Ave very much, but I think it will be a superior pie at the pizzeria.

Even though we are now experienced pizza bakers, there will be a progression that will go on for several months at the new place, as we learn the characteristics of the oven, ideal temperatures and bake times, how to manage several pies baking very quickly at once, etc. So I think it's fair to expect to see an evolution in our pies over time. Since we will be open 5 nights a week, we will have the same staff every night, so there should not be much fluctuation in the pizzas from one night to the next.

Ideal Pizza

My ideal pizza offers a perfect balance between the crust, sauce and cheese, with no one component overwhelming the others. And when the bottom is perfectly baked, so is the top at the exact same point in time. It's about as simple as that. I want a thin, crisp crust and rim about as big around as my thumb. Important to point out that we are not trying to replicate some ideal pie we had in Italy or New York. We're just trying to make a good pizza that we really like and that pleases our customers.

I also want it known that Alan Maniscalco will be running the pizza kitchen and will be a partner in the business. Alan is my head baker, and I wouldn't be able to do this project without him. Alan and I have collaborated on the pizza, and it's as much his pie as it is mine.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's