Monday, March 21, 2016

Portland Pop-up: Mae

What: Mae
When: Monday and Wednesday Nights
Where: Old Salt Marketplace

If there's one "foodie" thing I just don't really get, it's fried chicken. I feel terrible about it, but it's true. Poor Doug. He never got to go to Son of a Biscuit, I had trouble properly sympathizing when Muscadine was out of fried chicken during our one and only visit, and, even though you know I love me some Dougie PDX, his fried chicken at Imperial was not my favorite dish on the table.

But, I think I might be starting to see the appeal, and that's all thanks to Mae.

Mae is a southern Appalachian-focused pop-up run by Maya Lovelace, an alumna of Beast and Husk. Maya's cooking is inspired by her grandmother Mae, for whom the pop-up is named.

Mae's family-style feasts are served out of the back room of Old Salt Marketplace and you have two options for dinners (so far): Monday Meat & Three ($35 per person) or a 10-course Southern Bacchanalia on Wednesdays ($65 per person).

Kelly, Adam, Doug, and I opted for the Monday Meat & Three option, mostly because it was more cost efficient and we still got to try Mae's fried chicken.

Monday Meat & Threes are BYOB so before Doug and I headed to Old Salt, we grabbed some German-style beers since Doug read that they go well with fried food (who knew?).

We were the first to arrive, and after a friendly greeting, Maya directed us to our assigned seats at Mae's communal tables.

Before each course, Maya stopped by each table and explained the dishes as well as her emotional connection to them. Elements like that are something I just love about pop-ups. The meal already feels special but it's made that much more so by the personal interactions you get to have with the chef.

Our meal started with Sassafras Sweet Tea and Cornbread with sorghum butter and pimento cheese with ham.

Up next was Buttermilk Salad with iceberg lettuce, buttermilk dressing, and bacon. Adam LOVED this, and for good reason. It was very simple, but very good. Too bad our tablemates got a little greedy and didn't leave enough for our half of the table to have seconds too...

And then it was time for the big show: Mae's Fried Chicken, which is brined in buttermilk and fried in lard, bacon fat, AND chicken fat. The chicken was juicy with a perfectly crispy crust and not greasy at all. Plus, Maya doesn't skimp- our table's large patter included two pieces for each of us plus Maya offered a second round, which we were quick to take her up on.

Along with the fried chicken came Collard Greens (tasty) and Pimento Mac & Cheese topped with potato chips (OMG so good).

For dessert, Maya served a cheery Lemon Pound Cake with whipped cream. Since we were fairly stuffed at that point, its lightness was the ideal end to our meal.

Before we left, Kel and I stopped by the prep station to thank Maya and to ask her if she had any recommendations for our upcoming trip to Nashville. She gamely wrote down more than a few options for us- so sweet!

So, how do you partake in one of Mae's feasts? Join Mae's mailing list here. You'll get email updates about upcoming dinners including information about how to register. Cheers!