The Pacific Northwest, particularly North West Oregon, is unmatched anywhere in the world for its majestic beauty and awe-inspiring natural features. There really is no place that provides such grandeur with its unique blend of vineyards and ancient forests of hemlocks and firs looming like foreboding giants within deep green forests, sheer rock walls that tower high above the Columbia River Gorge, and the Columbia River itself, which, as a primary avenue for the country’s salmon supply, spills out along a coastline where massive boulders lie like sleeping stone creatures along a string of rocky beaches while overall, the snowcapped Peak of Mount Hood holds sway.
To go to Oregon is to fall in love with the integration of the coast with the mainland, but to take on the journey is to endure a far and costly trip. Luckily for Pittsburghers, a more than reasonable facsimile of the Pacific Northwest and the Oregon Coastline can be found in Monroeville, adjacent to the mall, in the form of a restaurant called Coast & Main, where the experience of coastal cuisine is brought to you in bold, unique flavors that are far more than worthy of their inspiration.
Coast & Main is owned and operated by Chef Ricky Kirsop and his wife Michelle. The Kirsop’s, longtime veterans of the upscale McCormick and Schmick Seafood and Steak House chain which is based in Portland, decided recently to strike out on their own in order to bring the tastes and aromas of the Western coast, where Ricky had spent his formative years, to the Steel Town, where resides the Chef’s lifelong favorite football team, in a version of West, meets East that has had taste buds dancing in appreciation since they opened their doors.
Ricky’s long journey to Pittsburgh began in Korea, before entering his life in the USA as part of a military family stationed at Fort Lewis. Call it Kismet, or call it fate, but Chef Ricky’s father, an air force colonel, had been born and raised in Shreveport Louisiana, home of Terry Bradshaw, and had grown up a Steeler fan. During his own years of maturation, Chef Ricky would spend his time fishing for Wild Salmon and Dungeness Crabs in a small skiff along the Washington Coast when he wasn’t cheering for the Black & Gold.
Years later, while working as an Executive Chef in Philadelphia, the opportunity presented itself to take over the kitchen of the Southside version of McCormick & Schmick, and so he came to the city that would become his permanent home, the place that he would meet the love of his life, and the place where they would raise a family.
Now, Chef Ricky and Michelle share a home with three wonderful children Cassie, Zach, and Riley, while Michelle manages the front end of the restaurant, while Chef works his magic in the kitchen. Home life, coupled with the seventeen to eighteen hours a day that he puts into the running of the business leaves time for little else, but somehow he finds the time for charity, as is evidenced in his founding and managing of Savor Pittsburgh, a unique competitive experience that for twelve years, has been bringing together the area’s best chefs in a culinary throw down that has benefits in most recent years, the McGee Women’s Research Institute in Oakland.
Coast & Main, as one would surmise, is a seafood lover’s paradise and is a tribute to the bounty of Pescatarian delights found only in the cold waters of the North Pacific. The restaurant itself provokes the mood of a stormy ocean integrated with the elegant, laid back nature of the Oregon lifestyle. The result is an opportunity for patrons to reflect on the subtle tastes of each dish while taking an adventurous journey they likely had never before experienced.
Chef Ricky also has a passion for helping other deserving chefs-in-training to achieve their dreams, and although his exacting standards and demand for excellence have him at the moment without a sous chef, the other members of his team are to a one, all passionate about not just the practice. but the soul of cooking.
Chef’s recipe for success in the kitchen is simple. Before investing his time in the development of a young chef he asks them about their end goals, their dreams, and their aspirations. If the answers are not aimed at a passion for food, he moves on. The end result is a harmonious team effort aimed at executing an unforgettable dining experience.
It’s not just presentation that has visitors to Coast & Main craving more, but also Chef Ricky’s uncompromising boldness in going against the grain of mediocrity by preparing dishes in creative, way out of the box thinking ways.
An example is Chef’s Shrimp Cocktail with a mango pineapple cocktail sauce, which matches with the texture of gargantuan filed shrimp in ways that are both unexpected and exhilarating. Then there is the Ahi Tuna Napoleon with Arugula Pesto and Red Pepper Coulis, and Manila Clams with Lemon Thyme Wine Broth, Penn Cove Mussels, and the Petrale Sole. For the Chop House lovers amongst you, I recommend the 14 oz. Bone-In Filet or the 24 oz. 38-day dry aged Rib Eye.
So, if your aspirations have always been to experience the wild and uncontained tastes of the Pacific North West then a journey to Monroeville to visit Coast & Main is always a good idea, but if the above is your destination, but you are looking for a special occasion to inspire your way there, then look no further than the Champagne Brunch that the Kirsop’s have planned for May 7th.
In that case prepare yourself for Truffle Parm Popcorn, and Brut Noir Vintage, Smoked Salmon crouton with poached dippy eggs, grilled peach soup with chilled butter, poached shrimp and goat cheese, and much more, all topped off with Baked Brie with berry compote. The tastings include Veuve Clicquot Brut, La Grande Dame, and many others.
In all, you will experience an incredible presentation of gastronomic sensations and delicacies that will have you yearning to follow in the footsteps of Lewis & Clark to the mouth of the Columbia River, but take my advice and plan a return trip to Coast & Main instead, after all Steeler season is just around the corner, and Chef Ricky needs you around to help him and his family wave a towel.
For more information on Savor Pittsburgh and McGee’s Women’s Research Institute, check out the following: