top of page

Backyard Dinner Parties

When I was growing up, one of my favorite ways to cook for people was by holding dinner parties in my parents’ backyard. That is where I first started to craft the dishes I wanted, and to lay out the progression of a whole evening of food. This carried on even after I was working in restaurants full-time. At least a couple of times a year, I’d line up a dinner on one of my days off. It was a chance to cook exactly what I wanted, rather than what happened to be on the menu of whichever restaurant I was working at. More importantly, the atmosphere of a more intimate dinner party led to such a greater feeling of satisfaction, where everyone was in on the party. This format is partially what inspired how we held services at Holdfast.

In the earliest days, dinners were mainly a family affair. My parents provided the space and invited their friends. My sister acted as my server, table decorator, and photographer. Later they started to grow bigger, partnering with fellow chefs, using closed restaurant spaces or wineries. They went from 8 people and 7 courses, to 24 people and up to 22 courses.

When Holdfast closed, I knew I wanted to get back to my roots and the type of dinners that I was so excited to plan and execute as just a kid. We had to wait out a pandemic and the development of a vaccine first, but now that things are finally starting to clear up, we are ready to begin.

JEM is the “restaurant” Emily and I dreamed of as soon as we moved into our house in Northeast Portland. In our backyard is a detached garage and from day one we saw the potential to turn it into a special place to host people. We kept trying to find the time to work on it, but with busy restaurant and photography schedules to keep up with, it stayed a dream for the future. This past year, with restaurants closed and the world on standstill, we finally had the time to work.

We’d like to invite you into our home, or more precisely our backyard, for an evening of food, wine, and festivity. Emily will greet you in our front yard with something to drink before leading the way back to the dining space. From there a dinner will unfold of around 9 courses with beverage pairings from our long time friend and collaborator Jeff Vejr. The menu will be ever changing and vary from intricate dishes to finger foods and snacks. At the end we’ll probably wind up around the fire pit with a digestif to share.

Dinner is $200 which is all inclusive of pairings and gratuity. Seating is very limited at only 8 diners a night. At this time we are only accepting guests who are fully vaccinated, so if you’ve been waiting here’s another reason to do it!

We will be releasing dinner dates over the next few months, however if you are interested in booking out a full seating please reach out to us at

We can’t wait to share with you what we’ve been working on, and to enjoy the perfect dinner party we’ve been craving to host.


Joel and Emily


bottom of page