This post is a tad late in the telling, but I’m catching up with all my back stuff this week, and wanted to have these notes on the record. Retrogrouch and I were happy to have the opportunity to spend the weekend in continuing education at the Northwest Food and Wine Festival, courtesy of festival sponsor Buick, a couple of weeks ago. Thought I’d check out the PDX food scene in one fell swoop, ha! Here are some of my impressions on the festival, a collection of 50 restaurants and food vendors, plus hundreds of wines to taste.
- Urban Farmer, a “modern steakhouse” that really is all about the steak, had the nicest spread, offering two bites: a delicious shellfish mousse cube topped by honsui Asian pear, sorrel, and lemon zest purée and a crunchy, crackly pork chicharrón on top, and the one pictured here, a too-large corn cake topped with some type of pork pâté, peach preserves, and chili aïoli. The carrots upon which the corn cakes are resting, and several other examples of the restaurants preserved products, looked delicious, but I can’t help but wonder if they are safe, being pickled in such large jars. Maybe there are commercial versions of our home canned recipes.
- “Pork chops and applesauce” from Toast. A piece of juicy pork tenderloin with quince purée. (Not as good as my grilled pork chop with membrillo paste with Nostradamus spices, but not bad and certainly more refined than my chop.)
- Brioche sliders made with pork sausage, also from Toast. The server explained that at the restaurant, they are served with scrambled egg and hollandaise.
- Salmon showed up in a tartare with yuzu and togarashi (delicious) from H5O Bistro Bar, and a “Portland-style” miniature hot dog from The Original, a so-called dinerant. The hot dog was topped with smoked salmon, pickled onions and peppers, and flavored sour cream. I’m not sure PDX has ever seen a hotdog like that (or wants to), but it was a cute interpretation next to the Chicago Dog, complete with green-dyed onions, jalapeños, mustard and peppers, and a Coney Island dog with chili and cheese. Too much whimsy = pretentious by calling it a “hot dog flight,” though?
- Also from H5O, a very precious foie gras bonbon with pomegranate candy and micro celery (aka celery leaves). Annoyed by the name of the restaurant and the use of the term “bonbon.”
- A delicious curried lump (aka dahi wada) from Plainfields, which is a wonderful place to enjoy a meal. I was happy to see the owner there.
- The pork pâté parade continued all through the festival, becoming a bit tiresome by the end. The Heathman brought out one with sultana marmalade and a pickle. It was fine, but by that time I was getting a little tired of the spam-jam combo.
- But I still had room for Davis Street Tavern‘s taleggio topped with fig jam and a marcona almond. Yum. Their butternut squash soup, for the record, was more savory and cheesy than the other butternut squash soup down the line. Davis Street’s also had a yummy cilantro crème on top.
- More of the same -ish, but representing more preservation trends that get my full approval, Wildwood Restaurant had baked up some home cured pork tongue over sauerkraut, served on teeny rye bread slices.
- Date syrup, tasting like a cross between a molasses and agave syrup. I’m not sure about any health claims they’re making on the site, but it was tasty.
- Pork was the real star (the festival featured not one but TWO pig heads from Sweet Briar Farms), but beef appeared in many stewed forms, and a few plain grilled chunk forms.
- Cattail Creek Lamb stew made of shoulder (I think) and served over brothy white beans. Lovely. The Cattail folks weren’t particularly interested in talking to me, though — always awkward when you’re the only person standing there — so I didn’t ask more questions about their outfit in Junction City. A shame, really.
- Hama Hama oysters were excellent with a mignonette sauce.
- An ash-coated Mt. Townsend Creamery cheese called Seastack rocked my world. Less rarified but still not bad was the new black label Cambozola cheese, soon to be at an upscale grocery near you. The Cambozola was part of a display of many deli products being distributed by a big vendor, next to a similar distributor hawking fresh fruits and vegetables. Note to fruits: you probably don’t want to bring out of season California strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries to an Oregon food event. Just sayin’.
- The Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission was there serving pure, unseasoned chunks of crab. Yes, just plain crab. And it was better than anything at the festival.
- Oh yes, and a taste of subtle, creamy bacon maple ice cream from Fifty Licks for dessert. I would have chosen the scotch flavor, but they didn’t have that one at the festival. FIfty Licks doesn’t have a website, but look for them at events around town!
As for the wine part of the festival, I am a bit sad to say I’m not drinking these days, so the wine tastings were largely lost on me. But I did succumb to the charms of the German rieslings being poured by Portland wine distributor Ewald Moseler, tiny tastes of the pepper vodka and the gin at BendDistillery, a few new vintages from South Willamette Valley pinot noirs and rieslings, and, well, a half glass of Stella Artois.
All in all, it was fun and I learned quite a bit about dining trends in the big city. I think the chopped organ meat trend has just about run its course, though, boys. Maybe others disagree, but I, for one, am ready for something new on the scene.