Giving Thanks for a Year of Great Eating (and More) in Portland

Finding inspiration in the year's best restaurants and incredible nonprofits in the month of gratitude.

By Rachel Ritchie November 3, 2014 Published in the November 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

You probably cracked open this issue to learn about the Restaurant Revolution we proclaimed on the cover. You made a good decision: plenty of delicious food awaits in the pages ahead, much of it unlike anything you’ve ever tried, labeled in languages you probably don’t understand. For me, it translated into my best year of Portland eating. 

In 2014, “fine dining” felt built for me: boisterous, personal, surprising, even a bit challenging—and holy smokes did it taste good. As we unveil our choices for the defining places, people, and experiences of the year, we hope that you agree. Our restaurant of the year, Langbaan, is now my default destination for visitors—I derive uncommon joy from observing guests as they duck into the hidden room and then watching their eyes go wide at the vivid array of ancient Thai recipes that appear before them. In August, I somehow mustered the foresight to sign up for a meal at Nodoguro, when Haruki Murakami’s surrealist prose inspired a sequence of whimsical, farm-driven Japanese plates. A midwinter skillet of squid-ink noodles at Ataula surely elicited involuntary snorts of satisfaction. A frenzied summer Friday turned tranquil as Kurt Heilleman plied me with crisp European wines at Davenport’s bar. I learned many lessons in eating this year, among them that it is always wise to listen to my indefatigable comrade Karen Brooks, our emphatic and incisive food critic. Always.

Mouthwatering as it all is, there’s much more to this issue than food. I’d like to direct your attention to our Light a Fire awards, honoring those working to make Portland a better place for all of us. Urban Gleaners, with a staff of just three, delivers 45,000 pounds of excess food from grocery stores and farmers markets to shelters and schools each month. Anna Allen went from sleeping on the streets to getting her GED and leading the development team for NAYA. Operation Pitch Invasion leverages the muscle of the Timbers Army to build and maintain kids’ soccer fields across Portland. And then there is Kathy Oliver, who has spent 33 years of her life at Outside In, working tirelessly to get homeless kids off the streets, to provide medical care to those who need it, and to make dignity and self-sufficiency possible for everybody in this city.

So in this month of Thanksgiving, we ask not only that you gobble up Portland’s next frontier of ambitious food, but that you help us celebrate the spirit of our Light a Fire winners and so many others. Think about how you can give back this season. Nothing is more satisfying.

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