Daniel Huffman stokes the oven. Photo by Todd Cooper.

Fermenting Friends

Community Fermentation Union brings the deliciousness of fermentation to — and for — the community

Since Community Fermentation Union took over the former La Perla Pizzeria space at the beginning of 2021, it’s well on its way to fully fleshing out the co-owners’ vision for an environmentally conscious, fermented-food-and-beverage-focused pub and business, selling products including sauerkraut, pickled onions, cheese, cured meats, cider and beer. 

When they signed the deal for the space, Gabriel Yospin and Nicole Nishimura also purchased the former restaurant’s furniture and equipment, and brought on all the staff that wanted to stay, Yospin says. The staff helped the duo by training them in “how everything works,” from sales to keeping in contact with all of La Perla’s prior vendors. 

When they decided to name the pub Community Fermentation Union, there were several ties behind using each word in the name. These include their fermentation efforts, their staffing, the eatery’s production loop and even the active cultures they use for their foods. 

Since the chefs stayed the same, the pizza also remained mostly the same. But instead of traditional Neapolitan pizzas, the eatery makes woodfire pizza using a pizza dough with an overnight cold rise. By using a cold rise, the microbes in the dough have more time to ferment, processing the carbs and changing the flavor of the dough.

The lion’s mane mushroom pizza has locally harvested lion’s mane mushroom on an oil base. The pizza’s lightness is immediately apparent in picking up a slice, but doesn’t feel soggy or overly oily. There’s an obvious crispness when you take a bite, but the dough itself is softer and goes down easier. The overall pizza was filling without weighing you down or leaving you bloated like other pizzas can. Leftovers the next day were still delicious cold and warmed up. 

The ingredients, like the tomatoes and other produce, are selected primarily by Nishimura at the Lane County Farmers Market, once again tying back to its community emphasis, Nishimura says. During the planning stages of the business, she says they made it a goal to be a community gathering place as much as it would be participating in future events, like the Pearl District Block Party.

“What I learned in the pandemic is how easily isolated we are, and intentionally building community is a really valuable thing,” Nisimura says. “It’s been lost a lot in the way the world is modernized, and a business that does it with deliberate thought is our ‘union’ part.” 

The other unique aspect of the “union” between the community and CFU’s fermentation efforts is how the duo connected their loop of production with other systems in the community. By using leftover products from other foods to distribute to other organizations who may repurpose it for other uses, the restaurant is trying to keep its environmental impact as low as possible, Nishimura says.

Through his love of biology, Yospin learned to homebrew beer and began competing with it, winning first place for three styles at the Cascade Fermentation Association Rocktoberfest in 2018 and third place in the KLCC Brewfest Homebrewing Competition in 2019. He makes small batches of beer that he serves on tap while he and Nishimura are continuing to expand the pub’s offerings as they are currently reconstructing a section of the location to accommodate a brewery.

And the acronym CFU is a biology Easter egg. It’s an abbreviation for “colony forming units,” which is the way microbial communities are counted.

“Food, beverages, beer — by their nature they’re ephemeral products: You eat it, enjoy it and I hope that people are going to remember it for a long time,” Yospin says. “It’s nice to be in a process where I can see people enjoy the products of my labor.”

Community Fermentation Union is at 1313 Pearl Street. Hours are 11 am to 8:30 pm Sunday through Thursday and 11 am to 9:30 pm Friday and Saturday. Find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as (@)eatdrinkCFU. 

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