Portland gathered once again to celebrate the city’s chosen meal at PoMo’s rollicking 5th Annual Country Brunch this past Sunday, dedicated to all things breakfast and Bloody (Mary). Crowds of happy eaters devoured honey-drizzled Pip’s mini-doughnuts and Screen Door’s shrimp-topped grits, an epic tomato cocktail battle raged between defending champ Raven & Rose, Boke Bowl, and other Mary masters, and, equally importantly, a line of tipsy adults waited patiently to pet Sunshine Dairy’s baby cow Sandy in an iron gazebo hidden away in a lush garden bower. It was the stuff of Portland dreams, people.
The retooled event, hosted at eclectic event space Castaway in Northwest Portland and benefitting cool urban ag outfit Zenger Farm, boasted plenty of elbow room for hungry attendees. People wandered with cups from Coava Coffee’s beautiful pour-over in hand from wonder to wonder: an increasingly risqué “Breakfast in Bed” photo booth featuring a king-sized mattress to sprawl/pose upon, an Instagram-worthy trough of cork-topped, "glass bottle-conditioned” Bloody Marys courtesy of Woodsman Tavern, and PoMo’s spirit animal/hostess Poison Waters decked out in cowgirl gear—red leather boots to indecent peasant blouse.
A one-two punch of Batter’s maple bacon pancakes and Broder’s classic aebleskiver pancakes sent eaters into blissful sugar comas, which wore off just in time to nab a tender dumpling from the Dump Truck’s cheery yellow cart. Chic café Milk Glass Mrkt made a welcome heathier play with a granola-sprinkled, sunflower dressing-tossed kale salad and sponsor New Seasons Market surprised with housemade “mimosa gummies.” All the while on stage, the Junebugs—a cheerful crew of, as Poison put it, “be-plaided men”—slayed with wry, folk-rock covers of “No Diggity” and Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.”
The party’s signature Bloody Mary Smackdown competition was fiercer than ever this year; rife with unorthodox garnish (Besaw’s delish piquillo pepper wrapped smoked oysters) and sloppy, lip-smacking goodness (Pizza Jerk essentially served a glass of vodka and pizza sauce topped with a slice of cheese ‘za). Grain & Gristle charmed with a beet-heavy sip while dive bar My Father’s Place concocted a cilantro-spiked Carmen Miranda of the Bloody world, topped with everything from blood oranges to garlic cloves and cucumbers.
Boke Bowl garnered partisans with its signature fried chicken-topped Bloody while last year’s Judges Choice winner Raven & Rose doubled down and simply served its winning entry from 2015 again: Bartender Dave Shenaut’s Full Bloody Irish, a sweet, spicy, perfectly balanced Hot Monkey pepper vodka stunner laced with nitro stout and mescal and topped with a sautéed skewer of black and white pudding, potato fadge, and gherkins.
Ultimately, our crack team of judges (Feast Portland’s Mike Thelin, bartender-at-large Todd Isaacs, Expatriate co-owner/bar whiz Kyle Webster, and PoMo publisher Carrie Hinton) could not resist the charms of the Full Bloody Irish, leading R&R to a repeat victory. Even more surprising, the public agreed: the People’s Choice Award went to Raven & Rose as well. Boke Bowl scored a major win, claiming the runner-up berth in both the Judge’s and People’s Choice Awards. Wanna get a sip yourself? Raven & Rose proudly serves the Full Bloody Irish during its Sunday Brunch service while Boke Bowl’s Bloody is on offer at its Northwest location’s weekend dim sum service every Saturday and Sunday.
Cheers to that. And see you next year.
Still hungry? Check out Portland Monthly’s huge tribute to Portland Brunch from May 2015, as well as step-by-step instructions on how to throw your own epic home brunch party—with recipes from our favorite breakfast chefs in town.