It had been quite a while since I had been to Portland and I had never been to the much talked about culinary event, Feast presented by Bon Appetit, so off I went, meeting up with a food friend who was also ready for some Pacific Northwest fun.
Now in its third year, Feast offers 35 events over 4 days. I don't suggest going to all of them and if you did or can, I need to know your secret to sampling.
I hit several of the marquee events which not only fed me for days, but also gave me a great overview of many of the heavy hitters dominating the Portland food scene.
Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting
The day tasting was held right in Portland's downtown Pioneer Courtyard Square. Top wineries were shoulder to table with artisanal food products like homemade jams, nut butters, ketchup, fabulous fig spreads and many healthy, non-GMO products. I love that Portland is similar to LA with its consciousness towards using natural ingredients and avoiding processed one's.
Whole Foods had a nice display of local cheese, spreads and everything you'd want next to it.
Olympic Provisions had one my of favorite bites of the day with their all pork frankfurter, sweet corn and Oregon bay shrimp. Loved the sweet topping on the savory sausage.
My favorite sip of the day was the Face Rock Bloody Mary Shooters filled with sweet peppadew peppers stuffed with garlic cheese curds - a meal and drink in one!
Big name chefs like Naomi Pomeroy, Paul Qui, Chris Consentino and Hugh Acheson took to the stage to try and lend the rest of us some of their culinary knowledge. There was also a cocktail competition, and of course, more eating and drinking.
The night market was held at Zidell Yards, a new location for the event that used to be a shipyard and now is an up and coming area with new housing and shops. This event had a strong collection of top chefs from the area, and beyond, serving larger, more substantial tastes than the days' events. There was a bollywood theme and music with pretty white lights and small glowing laterns throughout.
Levant was one of my first bites and it didn't disappoint. Grilled beef kofta sat in a bed of herbed yogurt and was topped with roasted tomato relish. One of my favorites.
Ataula's rabbit loin with ginger-soy aioli was a great bite with nori as a nice salty addition.
Hotspot Ox did a fun play on nachos using a crab pimento cheese and crab pico de gallo topped with a habanero-cherry hot sauce. I could get very used to eating that kind of upscale nacho.
Big names also included Anita Lo serving pepper spiced, grilled quail and Andy Ricker doing a coconut crab rice. I did make it to Ricker's Portland Pok Pok brick and mortar location before my flight out (more on that later), but good news is that he's launching a Pok Pok in LA in the coming months.
Also arriving in LA from Portland is ice cream shop Salt and Straw who was torching an interesting lavender meringue dessert to pair with a local white wine. Not sure the pairing worked, but it was good fun, along with a popcorn pairing. LA was also represented by Jon Shook from Son of a Gun. Loved the jerk spiced salmon with zippy habanero vinaigrette.
Other notable Portland restaurants in attendance were Smallwares, offering a unique masa cake with beef tongue, tomato jam and crema. Departure had a fatty, but flavorful Vietnamese grilled port with refreshing mint, cucumber and toasted peanut.
The biggest highlight of the evening was chatting with Ruth Reichl. She was wandering the festival on her own and stopped to chat with us, and even asked me where I was eating in Portland. Not sure I was going to offer the former Gourmet magazine editor and NY Times restaurant critic any new recommendations, but she was very approachable and friendly.
Tillamook Brunch Village
How else do you end a food festival, but with brunch. Funny enough, the longest line of the day was at the booth from LA based Eggslut. There's always lines for them here at Grand Central Market, but I have yet to make it there, so I decided to wait in the Portland line. Alvin Cailan presented me with a take home tin of kimchi fried rice, bacon and a perfect sous vide egg - all the things he think can help cure a hangover. I think it could cure most things, including the common cold. We can only hope he'll bring this dish back to LA with him.
NY's Black Seed Bagel also made the trek to Portland to serve a soft, doughy sesame bagel with a fresh salmon salad. The other longest line was from another out of towner - Austin based Franklin Barbecue. What Franklin knows is brisket and we were treated to a fresh cut piece in a freshly made tortilla, drizzled with charred salsa and avocado, all sitting in a fresh made tex mex tortilla. Simplicity at its finest.
As you would expect from a place called Tails & Trotters, we got a plate full of breakfast meat - applewood smoked ham, applewood smoked bacon and sausage. Luckily next door Duff Goldman was dishing up a tasty carrot cake pancake with cream cheese. Yes it tasted as good as it sounded.
The Parish brought shrimp 'n grits to a new level with a deep fried shrimp ball, topped with a quail egg and sweet and tangy sauce.
Pine State Biscuits may have had the most indulgent two handed bite of the evening with The Chatfield. Sure they fried the chicken. Yup there was bacon on top. Then they add cheese and apple butter and put that all between two buttery biscuits. After that, you slip into a fabulous food coma.
The Feast Portland was a great way to sample so many different restaurants in just one place, in addition to local wines, which I'll cover in more depth when I talk about my adventure to nearby Willamette Valley.
More to come from Portland and beyond!
*I was a guest of Portland Feast, but all opinions are always my own.