You KNOW I meant to write out a detailed post sooner. Clearly, it didn't happen. Days 2 & 3 of FeastPDX were a hazy blur of food, fun, and drinks. Drinks with meat, even. It's taken a few days to wake from the Feast Food Coma and to remember what happened when.
And in case you didn't read it, here's my FeastPDX Day 1 experience.
Rookie Confession: I was poorly equipped for the marathon that was FeastPDX.
I was definitely prepared to take notes and was keeping my food intake to a minimum in order to maximize my sampling. What I hadn't counted on was how bad my feet were going to hurt. At one point on Day 2, I was standing in the middle of Target with a boot in my hand, limping around semi-barefooted, looking for socks and band-aids, cursing myself for not bringing more comfortable shoes. I might have been able to make it to more of the late night parties had it not been for my tootsies.
So, it's not because I'm old that I couldn't make all the parties. It was because of my poor shoe choices. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)
Day 2 began with a Media breakfast at the Imperial. I arrived on time and saved a table in the back for bloggers I have never met in real life. While I waited for them, the food editor from the Portland Monthly came and sat down. She told me a little about herself while I guarded the other two chairs. We had a really nice conversation, but my eyes kept going to the next table that was having WAY more fun than me. Someone from the group asked if they could borrow a chair. I said I was holding them for some friends... who I later found out were at the next table having WAY more fun than me. All hugs broke loose when we figured it out.
We were having so much fun chatting over Bloody Marys that I totally missed the first of the Speaker Series. But the drinks were incredible, so...
After that, I headed over to the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting Presented by Alaska Airlines (aka "Bounty"). Imagine a huge tented farmer's market filled with food, drinks, savory ice cream, and spray on tattoos. I stopped in for a bit to taste some wine (as one does at noon on a Friday... duh), then headed over through a picture perfect park, up to Portland Art Museum to hear a panel of food stars talk about The American Experience Through Food.
The panelists answers were as thoughtful and complex as the dishes we have adopted and enjoy in the U.S.
Everyone was in agreement that modern conveniences of canned and instant foods from the post WWII days really did a number on how we eat. American food meant American cheese, casseroles made from cans of soup, but now the shift is back to whole food ingredients and slower cooking. Self proclaimed Beast, Naomi Pomeroy said she was raised by hippies in gardens and eating what was in season. She was farm-to-table when farm-to-table wasn't cool. Noting the change that is taking place in how we eat in America, Naomi said, "We've gone from a Convenience Culture to asking where the food is coming from."
The discussion lead to regional foods and how territorial people can be about barbecue and other food traditions, and that sticking to what is or is not authentic can be an impediment to creating good food.
Then Hugh Acheson of Atlanta (by way of Canada) sort of ended the debate about there being one American Food with the example of Italian food. "Italians don't see their food as Italian food, but as the foods from various regions." In that same way "American" food isn't one way of cooking or one kind of food, but a variety of flavors, adapted by all those inhabiting the country in the different regions of the country.
Philosopher and Michelin starred chef, Christopher Kostow of Napa Valley took "regional" a bit further by saying, "You take an individual approach while incorporating the history of a region and by utilizing the artisans of the region."
My ultimate takeaway: When you talk about "American Food," you're really talking about the food that we have adapted from our various ethnic backgrounds, flavored by the bounty of the region and the diversity of the people in that region.
After that thought provoking panel, I headed back to Pioneer Courthouse Square to Bounty.
Food stars were scheduled to do demos there on the KitchenAid Main Stage. I had one highlighted, and I am so glad I didn't miss it! Duff Goldman from Charm City Cakes was hilarious and incredibly entertaining! He made us some butternut squash waffles and almost made us some roasted squab. The pigeons of Pioneer Courthouse Square were dive bombing the demo stage and Duff was at the ready with his trusty knife. Don't worry, PETA Pals, no pigeons were harmed in the making of those waffles. It was just for yucks, which Duff got plenty of. And right on cue, just as the breakfast was completed, a few drops started to fall.
That was about all the rain I saw in Portland, by the way. The weather was perfect the whole time I was there.
That night was the USA Pears Night Market at the Ecotrust Building. While most of the events were within walking distance of my hotel, this event required a ride on the street car.
Here's where I have to absolutely gush about Trimet. Except for nights when the Timbers play and the buses get all jacked up from people getting out of the stadium, public transportation in Portland is AMAZING! Someone told me that other cities and government agencies go to Portland to study their transportation system. It's like public trans in San Francisco, but less smelly and way cleaner.
Back to the USA Pears Night Market Presented by Snake River Farms...
This was basically a night time farmer's market but your ticket got you a taste of all kinds of delicious bites and potent sips. Oh and live music. There were crazy long lines for a few items, including Franklin's Barbecue of Austin, TX. Someone (who shall remain nameless because she's awesome) borrowed my media badge and went to the front of the Franklin's line to get us some brisket. I do believe we hold some sort of crazy record for getting to eat Franklin's that fast.
I sampled some good bites -- I also tried a coconut corn cake with braised pears and something saucy and pink on top, some liver mousse (it's good for you!) wrapped in a thin slice of carpaccio, dangerously delicious fruit flavored sake, and spicy jalapeño Milagro margaritas -- but the one booth that I came back to more than twice and later dragged other people to was Nuestra Cocina. Chef Benjamin Gonzalez made the most delicious carnitas I've ever tasted and he served it with a sauce made from tomatillo and finely diced jalapeño. I seriously could have eaten at that one booth all night.
After an hour of noshing, I got back on the TriMet and headed across the WIllamette River to the South East side of town. I would have been there in about 30 minutes, but because of the aforementioned "nights when Timbers play," I waited for 45 minutes at a freeway off ramp for a bus. I would have walked but I already told you about my rookie mistake and not bringing good walking shoes. I finally got to Aalto where I met another on-line friend IRL for the first time. Saying you "met on-line" sounds so lame, so we told people we met in prison before my sex change (it could happen!), and after a few hours of drinking even SPICIER margaritas than I had at the Night Market, I pulled out my handy dandy Tillamook Loaf Love Tour Tillaphone and ordered us some grilled cheese goodness for delivery.
Thirty minutes later, this really nice kid named Sam arrived with bags of grilled cheeses, as well as waters and yogurts for the next morning's breakfast. I mean, I don't really KNOW Sam, but I'm guessing he's nice. He brought us grilled cheese in the middle of the night. How is that not the height of nice?
I Cheese Tillamook.
By cheese, I mean heart.
Too late for a TriMet trip back to the Crystal Hotel, I grabbed a Radio Cab and headed home... worn fucking out... looking forward to another day of feasting with new friends.