Rivers edge chevre suvtse

What gives Rivers Edge chèvre its unique bite? Maple leaves.

Image: Sean Lesch

What, might you ask, is the one metaphysical force powerful enough to draw Portlanders indoors on a sunny spring afternoon? Three words: artisanal craft foods. 

On May 4, national traveling craft food show Good Food Mercantile made an impressive inaugural debut in Portland. The industry-only event was presented by the Good Food Foundation, a self-described sustainable food movement “do-tank” that connects craft food producers with retailers and holds the annual Good Food Awards (local 2018 winners included Alma Chocolate's Matcha Mint Bar and Bunches & Bunches Green Fire Roasted Green Chile Sauce). More than 150 producers from around the country—all of whom passed a sustainability vetting process to become Good Food Guild Members—shared their wares at Pure Space in the Pearl.

From bean-to-bar chocolates and Prohibition Era style-bitters to watermelon-jicama kimchi, the culinary show didn’t disappoint. (With bourbon-infused maple as the starring flavor trend, how could it?) Here are the five best things we ate and drank at the Good Food Mercantile PDX. And lucky you, because all of them are available at stores throughout Portland or online:

1. Runamok Maple’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup

We’d like to personally meet—and thank—the genius who thought to repurpose bourbon barrels to age first-rate Vermont maple syrup. Elevate your next short stack by drizzling (or drowning) your cakes in this maple syrup with a robust whisky essence. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try using Runamok’s Makrut lime leaf-infused syrup in your next homemade salad dressing. Available at Elephant’s Deli, Market of Choice, World Foods, and Zupan’s.

2. Rivers Edge Chèvre’s Up in Smoke Chèvre

Fromagers from Rivers Edge Chèvre forage the woods along Oregon’s central coast for large maple leaves. The team smokes the leaves for several hours before wrapping them around the creamy spheres. The foliage-covered cheese then undergoes a second round of smoking and a final spritz of bourbon. This is the cheese you will want to accompany you on your next summer glamping trip, or cozy up with alongside a bottle of merlot by a warm fire come autumn. Available online.

3. Blue Bottle Coffee’s Organic New Orleans-Style Iced Coffee

A nice tall glass of this creamy, dreamy iced coffee is definitely an indulgent, warm weather way to get your morning buzz. San Francisco-based Blue Bottle pays a lovely tribute to New Orleans with this chicory-infused cold brew served in a milk carton. The crew adds just the right amount of organic cane sugar to counterbalance the slightly spicy and bitter notes from the roasted chicory root. Available at Whole Foods.

4. Bow Hill Blueberries Pickled Heirloom Blueberries

The best unexpected preserve? Pickled organic heirloom blueberries. Grown on the oldest family-run blueberry farm in Skagit Valley, these vinegar-doused blueberries erupt with a savory-sweet kick. Seriously consider replacing capers with these pickled blueberry bites the next time you have bagels and lox. Available at Elephants Deli, Market of Choice, Whole Foods.

5. Girl Meets Dirt Orcas Pear with Fresh Bay Spoon Preserves

Things can only go right when single-varietal Orcas pears, cane sugar, lemon juice, and fresh bay leaves all simmer together in a large copper pot. Prepare to find yourself spooning this slightly chunky preserve on practically anything. Available at Cheese Bar, Elephants Delicatessen, Olympia Provisions.

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