by Sarah West
You never know how shopping at your neighborhood farmers’ market may influence your life’s path. Since their son, Max, began volunteering at Hillsdale Market back in its formative years, Chris and Gary Douglas have found themselves intertwined in the weekly ritual of farmers’ markets. After a few seasons as a HFM volunteer herself, Chris and fellow volunteer Joan Quinn hatched a plan to start a business selling crepes at the market. Though Joan has since bowed out of the project, Savory et Sweet remains a market fixture, serving their crepes to a loyal following of market vendors and customers alike. Now with many years of crepe-slinging under their belts, Chris and Gary are embarking on the project of opening their own restaurant, a café they’ve named Arugularium.
Any Hillsdale vendor would confess to fantasizing of walls and a roof on days when the wind kicks up or the rain comes down steadily. Chris began looking for a permanent space a few years ago, choosing instead to purchase a portable food trailer that makes the task of preparing and serving hot food at their three year-round markets more manageable. The idea of a restaurant never left her, however, and when a lease became available at the perfect café space in the Sellwood neighborhood, Chris jumped at the chance.
She signed the lease in July, and has been working tirelessly to prepare for opening day (which was October 3rd) ever since. Located at 8337 SE 17th Ave, three blocks south of Tacoma St, the Arugularium space is cozy and bright with sun-drenched windows and butter-colored walls. Chris’s previous career as an interior designer shows in the meticulous attention she put into creating a space that embodies functional elegance while resisting the Francophile impulses usually associated with creperies.
Chris’s recipes trend toward the non-traditional as well. She boldly translates flavor combinations from various cuisines into the crepe format and has created her own gluten-free batters, one utilizing buckwheat flour and another polenta. Chris continues to experiment with new ingredients and combinations, inspired by the bounty of products she sees at her markets.
“I have always liked uncommon things in décor, style and food,” Chris told me, and at market she is “especially inspired by miniature vegetables.”
Over the years, she has amassed a collection of 200 crepe combinations and designed a popular grab-and-go meal she sells at the lunch-focused Lloyd Market that she’s dubbed the Menagerie Snack Plate, which features, among other items, an artistic assortment of those beloved mini vegetables.
“Even though my new brick and mortar kitchen is large enough to support a full restaurant menu, I've opted to keep it true to my roots of crepes, soup and salads. I will be developing new items within this genre. I'm also hoping to do more baking in the new space, something I wasn't able to do in a tent or a concessions trailer.”
Arugularium, as the name implies, is an ode to arugula, one of Chris’s favorite ingredients. Arugula holds a prominent place on her menus, showing up in soups and salads, crepes, her signature arugula pesto and a super-food drink she calls Green Therapy. Along with arugula, Chris has always incorporated seasonal ingredients in her menu, often shopping the market for fruits, vegetables and fresh inspiration just before starting service.
Most recently, Chris brought her farmers into the kitchen as well, hiring a fellow vendor from Oregon City Farmer’s Market to cook at the café (a first-year farmer named Brett Caldwell) as well as two folks from Hillsdale, Haley Lusby (employee of Pesto Outside the Box) and myself. In the spirit of full disclosure, should you visit Arugularium on an upcoming Friday or Saturday, I would likely (and happily) be your server. Chris was delighted to source her employees from the same markets where she buys her ingredients and from which her “little food hobby,” as she calls it, grew into a life-changing business.
Follow Chris and Gary’s progress at Arugularium on their Facebook page, including hours, menu updates and more!