David Nichols grew up on a fruit orchard in Wenatchee, Washington, where he and his brother would pass the time during the summer searching the trees for cherries — specifically the eight row cherry.

The largest cherry size found on a standard cherry gauge, Nichols named his latest restaurant after the somewhat elusive fruit, swinging open the doors to Eight Row in Seattle’s Greenlake neighborhood last August.

The former chef of Downtown Seattle’s Rider, Nichols’ menu reflects his agricultural upbringing, showcasing regional and seasonal ingredients on an ever-changing bill of fare. Growing up in Central Washington where many farms employ immigrant workers from Mexico and Central America, Nichols continues to find inspiration from those cultures and traditions that he brings to life at Eight Row.

For Nichols, taking care in his work and getting “all the little things right” is of utmost important. “Everybody who works in our kitchen should think of themselves as hosts in their own home,” he says. “This is about family, friends, guests, place and the reaping of honest, careful toiling. We only use the best ingredients because we partner with small, family-owned producers who share in our vision… Why? To honor family. Always cook with a reason on the mind.”

In the popular grilled pork chop dish, Nichols features a smoked apple mole, a nod to the caretakers of his family farm that emigrated from the Mexican state of Michoacán.

“Mole is a huge deal to them and they are a major reason these flavors taste like home to us,” he adds. “This is a PNW orchard spin on a sacred Michoacán recipe. It’s worth mentioning that pigs raised on small farms in the apple capital of the world [Wenatchee] actually eat a lot of apples. It feels like there’s something romantic there. Old apple fruit is transformed into pork, and we ultimately serve it with apples.”

Nichols also uses the Spark! heirloom cider from fellow family-run operation, Alpenfire Cider in Port Townsend, Washington, in the dish’s cider gastrique. Keeping it easy, he suggests drinking the same cider as the pairing.

“Cider is the obvious answer here,” he says. “Our rotating cider from Alpenfire is always crisp, dry, complex and gorgeous. A light, refreshing counterpoint to the spicy, dense reduction of apple mole.”

Grilled Pork Chop with Smoked Honeycrisp Apple Mole, Cardamom Braised Cabbage and Cider Gastrique

Serves 4

4 Honeycrisp apples
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ white onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
3 pieces chili de arbol
2 pieces Morita chili
½ cup molasses
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin seeds
1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups chicken stock
½ head green cabbage
8 cups chicken stock
2 sprigs thyme
4 green cardamom pods
1 orange
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups Alpenfire Cider Spark!
4 8-ounce boneless pork chops
Garnish: parsley, apple chips

For the honeycrisp mole, quarter the apples and take out the core, place in smoker for 30 minutes. (Alternatively, if you do not have a smoker, you can use a perforated pan that fits into a deeper pan that is lined with foil.)

While apples are smoking, heat a large saute pan to medium heat and add the onion, garlic and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Cook until the vegetables are soft then season with the ground spices, chilies and molasses.

Cover with 3 cups chicken stock. Add the smoked apples and cook for 2 hours over low heat. Once cooked and most of the liquid has been reduced, place in blender and puree.

For the braised cabbage, slice the cabbage, leaving part of the core attached. Season with salt and pepper then grill over high heat. Place the cabbage in an oven-proof pan and cover with 8 cups chicken stock, thyme, cardamom and theorange that has been cut in half and juice squeezed. Cook in the oven at 350°F for 30 minutes.

Take out the cabbage and strain the braising liquid into a pot. Add the brown sugar and cider, reducing by half to make the gastrique. Pull off stove and keep warm.

For the grilled pork chops, season the pork with salt and pepper and place on medium heat grill, cooking on each side for about 8-10 minutes until the pork chop is at medium (about 145° F). Take off the grill and allow the pork to rest.

Heat up the braised cabbage by adding it to the cider gastrique and having the sauce coat the cabbage. Warm up the apple mole and place in the middle on the plate.

Slice the pork chops in half and place on top of the mole, with the braised cabbage topping each chop. Garnish with parsley leaves and apple chips.