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Pazzo (and cookies)

This week we are going to do something new. With the holidays just around the corner, we’re branching out, so we figure this is the best time to tell you about… wait for it… warm, delicious, handmade gingerbread cookies.

Okay, so you’re probably wondering if there is a restaurant review in here somewhere. Don’t worry, there is, but we’re going to showcase it a little differently. This week we want to give some love to one who we oft neglect: The pastry chef. Oh, and did we mention free cookies?

Free Cookies, Folks

FREE - Reindeer Cookies

FREE – Reindeer Cookies

We’ll just cut right to the chase. On Friday, December 4th at 11:30am, Pazzo Ristorante, located in downtown Portland, will be handing out 200 hundred delicious gingerbread cookies handcrafted by none other than their talented pastry chef, Alisha Falkenstein.

“Our general manager heard that it was national cookie day and got super excited,” Falkenstein explains, “so we all had a meeting about it and came up with a cookie giveaway.”

Although these may sound like normal, pedestrian gingerbread cookies, fear not. Falkenstein has made sure these are no ordinary cookies.

“They have all the traditional spices, plus some orange zest,” she says. After composing them, Falkenstein will cut them into reindeer and bear shapes and outline them with traditional handcrafted icing. When all is said and done, she will be looking at “a couple hours” of love put into the cookies.

Pastry Chef Alisha Falkenstein

Pastry Chef Alisha Falkenstein

From Bread to Brittle

Putting love into her desserts is nothing new to Falkenstein. As a native Portlander, she began her career working at Lovejoy Bakery on the bread line. But secretly she knew that her career would stretch far beyond a life with the bread crew (nothing against bread crews).

After a short time, she was promoted to Lovejoy’s pastry department, where she worked for two years. It was during this time that Falkenstein honed a skill that would land her at the prestigious Pazzo. “That time really inspired me to want to do more and create my own recipes and menus,” she says.

Now that she has landed on a bigger stage, she digs deep into her bag to come up with delicious new treats for Pazzo’s patrons. She describes one such treasure as she explains her technique for coming up with new creations.

“A lot of my dessert ideas come from building desserts I’ve made before,” she begins. “Such as right now, on our current menu – which changes tomorrow – we have the Oregon hazelnut meringue. It’s a take on a baked Alaska, but I just change up the flavors.”

For those who might not know, a baked Alaska is typically composed of ice cream and cake topped with a browned meringue. Falkenstein creates a mouth-watering variation with a chocolate olive-oil cake topped with hazelnut gelato, then crowned with an Oregon hazelnut meringue. Yum.

With such a masterful pastry chef helming the dessert menu, one must wonder what’s happening on the other side of the kitchen.

At the helm is executive chef Kenny Giambalvo, who – after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America – has helmed three-star restaurants in Singapore and worked in well-known kitchens in New York and Los Angeles.

We will be profiling chef Giambalvo and the delicious Italian treasures at Pazzo in the coming weeks. Better to let talented pastry chef Falkenstein have today’s stage.

Pazzo Ristorante

Pazzo Ristorante

An Ethical Business

Pazzo has been in downtown Portland for almost twenty years, and prides itself on being a conscientious partner in the Portland business community. Through their partnership with the Kimpton EarthCare program, they have adopted industry-leading environmental practices that include things both small and large; from using nontoxic cleaning supplies to minimizing water consumption and recycling.

As a whole, the Kimpton Hotel Group seems to have committed itself to social and environmental causes – both attributes that serve it well in Portland’s socially demanding business environment. Fortunately, this commitment translates through to the restaurants that are operated under Kimpton’s umbrella.

But above all, let’s not forget they are handing out handmade, warm and delicious gingerbread cookies to a lucky 200 people on Friday. Be at 627 SW Washington Street, Portland, OR 97205 at 11:30am sharp to get yours before they are gone, because once they are gone, that’s it.

Otherwise, if you’re looking for some delectable pastries to accompany your Italian meal, check out Pazzo in downtown Portland. And don’t forget to join us back here when we bring you an exclusive interview with Executive Chef Giambalvo and showcase some of Pazzo’s excellent meals.

For Pazzo hours and menu information, visit their website at www.pazzo.com.

William Bessette – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor 

William BessetteWilliam Bessette is an author, journalist and blogger who’s been writing professionally for over eleven years. When he isn’t writing or eating, then writing about eating, expect him to be outside enjoying the natural splendors of his home in the great Pacific Northwest.

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