So there’s a rule that I think no writer should ever violate, and that’s comparing something that someone does to alchemy.
That said, I know that I’ve made this same unpardonable sin myself—more times that I’d like to admit, probably. And I’m almost certain that, when I did, I very likely sat back, laced my fingers behind my very self-satisfied head, and sat still, smiling and secure in the knowledge that I was, no doubt, the inventor of this very clever metaphor. A connector of dots. Like some kinda wizard.
So with that apologia in mind—and forgive me here for putting on it such a fine hyperbolic point—if Colin Stafford's hollandaise ain't gold, not much is. Not even gold, if you ask me.
In 2011, when Stafford first signed on as an Olympic Provisions’s sous (he’s now OP’s Executive Chef at their NW spot), he was promptly charged with comprising a brunch menu. His hollandaise wasn’t really born right then—he’d been preparing it for years to make Benes for his wife—but it did mark the first time that we Portlanders got our very own good first taste.
Now, the trick to Stafford’s sauce isn't necessarily about the ingredients—it is—but it’s also about the process. In other words, a primary part of the recipe involves abstracts like timing and patience, and knowing when to do what.
And what Stafford ends up with (as do we) is a hollandaise so light and fluffy, that it almost looks and feels like a well-made cake icing.
To get there, he skips what many consider to be hollandaise's golden rule: clarifying its butter.
Instead, he slowly emulsifies whole butter with egg yolks, lemon juice and a super-concentrated reduction made from a white wine-Champagne vinegar blend that he seasons with thyme, bay leaves, black peppercorns, parsley stems, garlic and raw shallots.
From there, he builds each Bene atop a peerless pair of English muffins (authored by OP’s former pastry chef Amelia Lane) with that same hollandaise and OP’s Sweetheart Ham—griddled so that its fat caramelizes just so.
Pair all that with OP's signature Lazer Potatoes—“the potatoes of tomorrow, today” (which deserve a small biography of their own)—and you have what very well could be Portland’s most perfect Benedict, and probably its best.
Olympic Provisions, 1632 NW Thurman St., 503.894.8136, 107 SW Washington St., 503.954.3663