Four days, 100-plus chefs and 30 official events. Feast Portland, now five years old, came and went in a blur of food, flavors, cuisines and promotional swag. People ate like fools at ticketed affairs and then spread out across the city to eat even more at local restaurants. Every year it’s a mix of good fun and inevitable grumbling. But at the end of the meal, this much is certain: it’s great to see Portland chefs—often the first to donate sweat and blood sausages to fundraisers of all stripes—having this much fun. And good on Feast for donating net proceeds to hunger organizations. Whether you went to Feast, missed it, or are still having shrimp tower flashbacks (see below)—here are our takeaways from the main events. And make sure to scroll through the slideshow above for the full Monty.
Sandwich City Rising! Feast’s annual kick-off event (sponsored by Portland Monthly) relocated this year to the Rose Quarter Commons, a.k.a. where Blazer fans anxiously mill about before games. The spacious pavilion and music pounding at Hair Rock levels translated into a giant party vibe. What the new hoops theme had to do with sandwiches? No clue. But the evening’s “People’s Choice” champ—Bollywood Theater’s Troy MacLarty—did look splendid in a Blazers jersey, dishing out a devilish sweet-hot Monte Cristo-meets-samosa. The night belonged to Han Ly Hwang and his jury-winning Bulgogi Club Sandwich, proving, once again, the owner of food cart Kim Jong Grillin’ is a guy to watch. And though it came away with bupkis, Nomad.PDX’s homage to McDonald’s filet-o-fish was the talk of night, nailing the details and going the distance with homemade buns. Chef duo Ryan Fox and Ali Matteis (PoMo’s Rising Star 2015) seemed all-in, down to their matching red “McNomad’s: I’m Crushing It” t-shirts. It made our tongues smile.
Best overheard diner exclamation: “I’ve never had fried avocados before!!!” (thank you, Nashville’s Butcher & Bee). Best statement we didn't hear because it was too loud: "Please mommy, don’t make me ever hear the Macarena again." —Karen Brooks
Feast’s shift from Asia to a Latin-themed Night Market mostly translated to tacos, tacos, tacos. Luckily, there were many damn good tacos, from Podnah’s tender beef rib taco to smoky, fiery, crispy pork morsel from Nuestra Cocina. But the indisputable champ of the night was Austin, Texas’s Launderette. Cries of “Go get that ceviche thingy” and “Ohmigod did you try that fish stuff?” erupted through Zidell Yards as wandering eaters demanded friends drop out of whatever line they were in and go taste Launderette chef Rene Ortiz’s limey electric “chifa”-style salmon crudo, which took a page from Peru’s wild take on Chinese flavors. I could swill fancy gin and tonics from West Coast spirits maker the Walter Collective, decorated with rosemary and pink peppercorns, and gorge on chifa all night and die happy. —Kelly Clarke
BON APPETIT AFTERPARTY AT CLYDE’S PRIME RIB
Oddly enough, the biggest winner of the weekend may have been longtime local restaurant fixture Clyde’s Prime Rib, the setting for Bon Appétit’s blowout Friday night Feast after-party. A packed crowd of national chefs and food insiders all fell for one of the city’s most resolutely old school spots—giddy over its stone castle façade, smoke-stained oil paintings, and live cover band. A cast of locals upped the drama, with a coterie of Portland’s best bartenders crammed in one corner stirring pitch-perfect martinis, while Doug Adams and Han Oak carved prime rib in the other. The surreal crowning glory? A four-foot tall shrimp tower constructed by Chef Francois de Melogue, adorned with green olives and crayfish and spewing dry ice smoke like an angry shrimp dick volcano.
Clyde’s has actually long been a favorite of Feast co-creator Mike Thelin, who wrote about its time-warped charm in PoMo’s 2011 Restaurant Issue, deeming it an “antique steak house with a funeral-parlor ambience of dark wood, red velvet, and creepy chandeliers. The mood is a scene in Goodfellas, but directed by the darkly funny quirk-master Tim Burton.”
Psst: Clyde’s new owner, Alex Bond (Serrato, Saint Cupcake), promises he’ll leave the décor (and swank bar) alone as he works to refresh the menu in the months to come. —Kelly Clarke
Columbia Sportswear-clad crowds huddled under drippy tents in Pioneer Square, blissfully ignoring the mid-day downpour in favor of guzzling regional wines and nibbling everything from local kraut to water buffalo sausages lining table upon table of product samples. A standout, as usual, came from David Briggs’s Xocolatl de David, whose amazingly odd, perfectly wonderful collaboration with Olympia Provisions crammed a full Swiss Picnic into a chocolate bar, Swiss country ham to apple cider-soaked mustard seeds. I know, I know. Just trust me. It’s amazing. An equally great partnership? Stumptown cozying up to fresh juice and syrups bar company the Commissary. Their collaboration birthed the Salty Henry Cold Brew Coffee Cola, made with a custom salted grapefruit syrup from Commissary and Stumptown’s nitro Hair Bender cold shot. They’re rolling it out in Stumptown cafes in the weeks to come, so be on the lookout for this fizzy, bittersweet coffee-citrus stunner. —Kelly Clarke
Drizzle was no match for the flame-roaring grills that dotted the Fields Park in the early Saturday evening. Locals delightedly compared rubber boots while out-of-towners bravely squelched through the lawn-cum-mud pit (one woman wore flip-flops; looked totally cool with the oozing muck-between-the-toes situation). The must-try bite of the night belonged to Top Chef alum Gregory Gourdet (Departure), whose smoked, charred pork belly chop was a smoky-creamy-meaty-crunchy wonder, paired with fermented chile and dried peaches in Chiang Mai spices. Even better, his entry came with a bonus ice cream-coconut milk concoction, dotted with berries and what tasted like Butterfinger bits (but was probably something far more involved). The man has some cosmic link to sweetness. He needs to open a dessert bar, pronto. Another standout was Carlo Lamagna (Clyde Common, Honky Tonk Taco), who tapped the flavors of his Twisted Filipino pop-up to grill some excellent quail on a stick paired with L.A. pastry lady Isa Fabro’s crazy-tasty coconut sago pudding with passionfruit, pineapple, and basil. Come to think of it, there were a surprising number of dessert standouts at Smoked, given that Coquine pimped towers of their truly perfect smoked almond, salted caramel, chocolate chip cookie (PoMo’s 2015 Cookie of the Year), while the folks at Nineteen27 cart hand-torched approximately one zillion bitter-good negroni s’mores. One more thing: the Oregonian has branded firepits. Just thought you should know that those exist. —Kelly Clarke
The lines stretched longest for the French toast, courtesy of Portland’s Urban Farmer. The centerpiece of Pioneer Square was the eye-popping Bloody Mary bar. It that looked like Bon Appetit fever dream of a farmers market-Thai-beach bar. The mode included giant glass jars of floating fruit, condiments galore (baby corn to kimchi), enough salami and bacon to fill a barn and, of course, lots of booze. Meanwhile, the lords of Olympia Provisions killed it, as they always do, with a major charcuterie board and a Monte-Cristo-meets-breakfast dog… on a stick, with righteous barrel-aged whiskey maple syrup from Washington’s Woodinville Whiskey Co.
But the day belonged to what we’ve already been predicting is the next great food trend: Asian flavors, for breakfast. Chef Johanna Wares’s congee chunked with black bean sausage was delicious and bittersweet, as she readies for her Smallwares restaurant to shutter in Northeast Portland. Chicago’s Fat Rice ruled the morning with fios de ovos, a nuanced layering of fine, shredded eggs, peanuts, maple-scented fish sauce and chiles. It hit all the senses, including the eyes. Maybe next year we’ll have an Asian Morning Market? We hope so. —Karen Brooks