Finding the best pizza I’ve had in Oregon isn’t a journey that led me into Portland. While there are quite a few good pizza joints in the city, you’ll need to head south to an unassuming place that looks like a house with an “Open” sign in the window. It’s in Newberg and it’s called Forage.
I met chef Kris when I was trying to sell a nice table from my grandparent’s collection as they were moving to a retirement home. He never ended up getting the table but he mentioned it was for his new restaurant in Newberg called Forage.
I worked in the food industry for 10 years, thoroughly enjoy cooking, love finding new restaurants, and enjoy meeting chefs. So, I checked out the website, saw the words “local ingredients” alongside pictures of pizza, and knew I wanted to check it out.
I had no idea that I was about to find some of the best pizza of my life.
My daughter and I hopped in the car one afternoon and headed south on I-5 towards Newberg. It’s a serene and peaceful drive through the country that reminds you of heading towards the coast. Wide open spaces with farms covering everything in sight are a preview to the quality of food you’re about to experience.
When we got to the western end of Newberg and found some parking, we came around the corner from the back of the restaurant. The first thing letting me know we were in the right place was a huge stack of hardwood.
Once we got around to the front and up the stairs, entering the restaurant got me even more excited. It was simple, elegant, and everything had a place. If interior design had a category called “mise en place” this would be it.
I found Kris, introduced myself as the guy with the table, and said my daughter and I were there to try some pizza. When the waiter came to take our order, I ordered my usual which is along the lines of: “Whatever the chef would like to make.” I requested a cheese pizza for the little one.
I talked to chef Kris a bit about what he was doing with Forage, where it came from and what we could expect to get.
He explained to me that he had opened a few restaurants before. He was a graduate of culinary school in Portland, and that he was a multi-generational Oregonian like myself. Forage had opened in 2020 but was only takeout due to COVID restrictions. He had only recently opened the in-person dining and you could see that he was excited to have the opportunity to do so.
With Forage, he was on a constant mission to source local ingredients from farmers and bring them to the plate in simple, elegant, and delicious combinations; nothing fussy or overblown. His previous restaurant was on a winery, and he did food that would suitable for that type of clientele. With this project, he was looking for something different.
He lives a few blocks from Forage and gets to walk to work every day. Once there, he preps and gets the oven started and up to temperature before starting a day of providing exceptionally delicious food to his guests.
The menu was small, without very many items and options. This allowed for a simple kitchen where a chef could just get their work done. There weren’t pots and pans everywhere on a bunch of stoves firing. There wasn’t 4 sauces and a couple of fryers bubbling away in the background. No huge fridges behind the line for storing dozens of ingredients.
Each pizza started completely from scratch right then and there. You won’t find anything from Sysco here. There’s no premade frozen crusts ready to roll and get into an oven. Each pizza starts from the hands of a chef, gets created with love, and it shows with every iteration.
When the pizzas arrived at our table I was floored. They looked like something straight out of an Italian cafe. I had been to Italy a couple of years prior and the sight of these pies brought me right back.
These pizzas were crafted with precision and ingredients that were meant to shine on their own.
The brightness of the fresh vegetables paired excellently with the richness of the sausage and fattiness from the cheeses. The fire from the chilis and the oil they saturated added a perfect amount of heat to each bite. The minimalistic tomato sauce, and a smattering of ingredients around the pizza without being aggressive, brought a different flavor and mouthfeel experience to each bite.
But let’s talk about the crust for a second.
There’s some magic that occurs when you cook a pizza in an oven that’s sitting around 950º. The texture that comes out, a delightful balance of crispy and chewy, marries with the charred flavors and brings together a dynamic that can only be found with the wood fired oven. Couple that with a mastery of how long it should bake, where in the oven it should be placed, and a freshly created dough for each pizza, and you’ve got an experience that is worth coming back for.
So I did come back, a couple of weeks later with my partner. Her and I ordered some more pizza. I was imagining that maybe I just got lucky the first time. But I was totally wrong. Again I was incredibly impressed by chef Kris’ ability to bring together a minimal amount of fresh ingredients and flavors into an amazing combination of heavenly pizza goodness.
I was greeted with a delight of local spinach, cheese, and a ham selection that was prepared to mimic a prosciutto; thinly sliced. Served with no sauce, and concocted upon the amazing construction of dough proving once again a mastery of the wood fired oven.
It’s dishes like this that are a true work of culinary experience and mastery. Edited down from a slew of ingredients that could have been chosen, instead selecting a few harmonious ones. Putting them together, and serving them on top of a delightful combination of technique and fire.
It’s a representation of the farms surrounding Newberg that you get to witness on the way towards the restaurant. There’s no need to add anything to the work that the farmers did, and that Mother Nature gave, to make them excellent things to eat. You simply add in the work of the chef, which is the expert craftsmanship of the dough combined with the mastery of extremely high temperatures, and put it on a plate.
We decided to treat ourselves to some dessert this time and they too were an superb display of culinary delight. Simple, yet elegant, with just enough ingredients to please every part of the palette they were aiming for.
For·age — verb — search widely for food or provisions
Ultimately chef Kris does the name of his restaurant proud. He sources local ingredients, attaches his skills to them without adjusting them too much from whence they came, and provides them to his guests.
I’ve seen so many professional chefs on cooking shows either get feedback that they need to edit their dishes down, or they reflect upon their own work saying that they wish they would have edited themselves.
That’s already happening here. Oregon farms provide the ingredients. Chef Kris edits down to what’s required. And he lets his dough and his wood fired oven sing a beautiful melody alongside them.
It’s so delicious.
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
210 W. 1st Street
Newberg, OR 97132
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