Q&A: Javier Canteras of Urdaneta

Urdaneta offers traditional and modern tapas on NE Alberta Street. Chef Javier combines family inspired recipes with modern creativity, using local ingredients of the Pacific Northwest. Of all of the microgreens in Portland, we’re glad Urdaneta chooses to work with us!

You have created your own little Spain here in Portland. What is your connection to the Basque country and Madrid?

My mother is from the Basque country and my father is from Madrid. I was born in Bilbao, and grew up with a mix of both old Spain, (central Castilian Spain) and the northern Basque region of Spain. I still have family in both areas, and ultimately its the fundamental background and inspiration for everything I do at Urdaneta. The name Urdaneta itself is my grandfather’s surname, on my Basque side of the family.

Any challenges in creating food from the homeland here in Portland with local ingredients?

This falls somewhere in the mentality of “Cook like the Spaniards cook.” Not being too concerned about recreating Spanish dishes with exact Spanish ingredients, but using what’s available to you and cooking them in the style of Spain. My memories growing up, you got your milk from the guy and his cow down the street, produce came from the local markets, fish was caught that day and bought from the local fishmonger. As a chef I’m lucky enough to live in a part of the country where we have the ability to use that ideology. Yes, we import Spanish cheeses, chorizo, and some specialty ingredients, but we get to highlight our great local fish, meats, and produce, and prepare them in the style of Spain. Using what’s around you, using garlic, pimenton, parsley, good Spanish olive oil, to me that embodies the style of Spanish cooking.

Tell us a bit about the Basque Supper Club.

“I’m Basque and I do a supper club.” BSC started as a pop-up, about four years ago to recreate the experience of being in a Basque txoko. (A members only, gastronomic society.) It stems back to my childhood, when my grandfather would take me to his txoko in the small fishing town of Bermeo. At that point, I experienced some of the best food I had ever had, from a small group of old men who were passionate about cooking and sharing good food. Even though Basque Supper Club has taken on a more modern interpretation of that idea, the roots have always been based on classic Basque ingredients and the concept of sharing good food with good people. Its a ticketed prix fixe menu of good Basque food, with long communal tables, wine pairings, and passwords. Its a really great experience.

If you had to create one pinxto, and eat only that for the rest of your life, would would it be?

My brain goes immediately to a tortilla pintxo with a Spanish tortilla (egg, potato, and onion “omelette”), a little aioli, and fried padron peppers. It seems really simple, but to me there’s a magical combination to those simple flavors and anytime I’m in Spain, I can’t get enough of them.

Images via Urdaneta Facebook

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *