Sometimes, as maudlin as it sounds, I just burst with pride to live in this singular, difficult, bountiful, skinflinty, illogical, impossibly beautiful place. It’s often wrong; it fucks up at the last minute; it’s lazy. But it’s also alive and growing and unstoppable.
Exhibit A: Feast Portland, a food festival happening right now all over town. I’m up here overnight, recording bits and pieces for a short spot for Food for Thought on KLCC, and was more worried than I let on about my ability to get around on my own, but I seem to be managing ok with just a bit of pain and swelling, totally par for the course. I managed to get mini-chats in with a handful of purveyors, some old friends of the show and some new voices. We’ll see if the audio is clean enough to work.
Regardless of the buzz, I was really happy at the vibe. The pretentious level was way down, and I felt really comfortable chatting with almost everyone (except for the too obvious wealthy Bayareans peering around a bit self-consciously, keeping themselves in protective knots — what happened to you, San Francisco?).
And the food responded in kind. Some of it was meant to be silly and fun, like Boke Bowl’s rice clump crawdad poutine or Salt and Straw’s weirdly delicious cendol (grass-green rice flour noodles and red clumps in a bag of coconut milk, topped with palm sugar ice cream, below) or Unbound Pickles’ peas and carrots pickles or East Side King in Austin’s beef tongue handrolls, but there were some seriously delicious treats, like the crab-layered-in-various texture bites from Paulée in Dundee, top photo, and the Southern-style grilled curry mussels from Nahm in Bangkok, above, or Sybaris’ trompe l’oeil pickled mussels nestled in a cracker shell with sea(weed)foam and wild ginger.
Still, I was unreasonably disappointed by the Night Market, just because I knew it wouldn’t be like the one I went to in Taipei and, sure enough, it wasn’t. But the lack of grit and grime and news cameras was probably a good thing, I guess. I was happy to see Portland kind of over the offal thing, or at least it’s no longer the sole focus of an entire city. Umamimissimo dishes are next: you’re killing my taste buds!
As opposed to the similar New York food and wine festival that I attended last fall, most everything at Feast Portland was not only brimming with energy and staffed by actual chefs, it was made from local stuff. We have hand- (well, bucket-) harvested salt, olive oil, lamb, wine, fruit, goat and cow milk cheeses, beef, honey, berries, chicken, crab, shrimp, tuna, beans — and some of the best examples of each of these things in the world — all within 200 miles or so of where we live. Hops were hanging like a thatched roof from the ceiling of one tent, and pears stuffed another booth that featured pear tattoos (for we in Oregon know diversification of one’s portfolio is a good thing). Another table, Grand Central Bakery, featured whole wheat flour from our beloved Camas Country Mill in their pies. It’s truly astounding. My eye followed the landscape of the vendors across Oregon, knowing where this company got this, and that baker got that, and I think I understand terroir for the first time.
So I had to take a few pictures of the bites at the Grand Tasting and the Night Market. More are posted on my Facebook page here, available for public viewing.
By the way, if you’re interested in Eugene food events, please do “friend” Culinaria Eugenius on Facebook, since I find I’m sharing many more stories of local interest there than I do here, just because it’s easier.
Tomorrow, it’s the speaker series, which I’m very much looking forward to attending. Probably no more pictures, but we’ll see!