Feast Portland 2016

Hi faithful followers! I’ve been much busier lately on weekends than I typically enjoy, hence my being MIA from blogging. I will be bringing you a tasty new weekday breakfast recipe later on this week, but before I do that I have to tell you all about some fantastic food events we attended two weekends ago at the fifth annual Bon Appetit presents Feast Portland extravanganza! So, I there was simply no time to photo shoot new recipes because I was just sooo busy eating just about everything on the planet amongst my food-obsessed brethren. Sue me.

Feast Portland 2016 packed over 40 food and drink events within a mere four days at various locations around inner Portland. It was so much action that there is physically no way a person could attend them all. Nor could any average human afford to, for that matter. It’s a really big deal! Most events were all-inclusive food and beverage tasting festivals centered around a theme, like Shabbat Shalom, a dinner tour of Israeli cuisine, and Smoked!, described by Bon Appetit as “a delightful meat-fueled inferno of the best chefs slinging Flintstonian cuts of meat”.  Many were hands-on educational classes on everything ranging from cooking and buying sustainable Salmon to crafting the perfect signature cocktail. All events featured reputable chefs and food industry folks.

Out of all 40 events, or at least the ones that had not yet sold out 15 minutes after tickets went on sale (true story), we scored tickets for two events that spoke to us in particular. The first event was Brunch Village presented by Whole Foods Market, a massive outdoor celebration of my favorite mealtime. Fancy chefs from Portland, Seattle, and Los Angeles represented a wide range of cuisines, each creating a completely unique and inventive small plate in the spirit of brunch! We ate quite a lot. I snapped a few phone pics in between bites, which are made extra special by a horrendously cracked camera lens, thank you very much. 

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Let me just get my favorite small plate out of the way immediately, which was Bamboo Sushi’s Tamago nigiri with foie torchon, crispy lardo, and bittersweet chocolate- pictured below. The best way that I can describe this is, stay with me here, french toast sushi. The custardy tamago and sweet sushi rice were a dead ringer for french toast, while the foie torchon and lardo acted as an unmistakable side of bacon. It was stunning, completely unique, and impeccably executed. I revisited that table a couple more times, shh..
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Next came Urban Farmer’s booth, which offered “French Toast with Epic Sauces”. Some of the sauces didn’t strike me as particularly inspired (looking at you, bacon jam), but I enjoyed the farmers cheese mousse and roasted red pepper jam the most. Chocolate mole was a miss for me, though. The sponge-y looking blob in the below-left photo is a piece of honeycomb candy. At the beginning of the line, not pictured, was practically an iceburg of honeycomb candy about the size of a spare tire.

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At one point we found ourselves shuffled into a very long line headed for Toro Bravo’s tent, where Chef John Gorham offered a fried chicken biscuit with pimento cheese. The woman directly in front of me nabbed the very last sandwich on the table (sucker), which left me first in line for the next fresh hot batch, right out of the oven. What a win! The fried chicken was perfectly crispy, but what stood out to me was the biscuit. Flaky, crunchy, buttery and everything a biscuit ought to be. Just look at that thing. However good it was, I couldn’t in good conscience allow myself to eat the entire thing, lest I run out of valuable real estate in the stomach-region.

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We next found ourselves in front of what appeared to be a snack bar with many of our favorite things, namely, pickles and olives and Olympia Provisions sausages. If we had approached the table from the other direction, we likely would have noticed that it was actually the end of the best bloody mary bar in the world. Hashtag, no regrets.

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Next up was Chef Rachel Yan of Seattle’s Trove who served up lardo tamales with pickled shrimp, which I enjoyed enough, but did not find particularly brunch-y. But isn’t it pretty anyway?

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At this point we had not eaten everything but we were both about to burst, so we made one last visit to the Olympia Provisions booth which featured a veritable smorgasbord of charcuterie. Olympia Provisions is a Portland company that Ben and I have been huge fans of ever since we moved to Portland. Olympia Provisions crafts salami using old techniques of slow aging and curing- they are never cooked, and naturally ripen with a powdery white coating of mold over the casing (the same type of mold that surrounds your brie or camembert). Further, they source high-quality meat from local, sustainable sources who slaughter humanely. Their attention to detail is admirable from start to finish, and their products are incredible as a result. You should go learn about them. And hey- they have a sausage of the month club, too!

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At this point there was still so much more to eat, but we could not, so we rolled ourselves home. But not before we smuggled out a small plate of charcuterie for the road. I took a quick nap and then it was time for me to attend my second event alone, which was a hands-on class held at Tournant on the east side of town entitled Cook, Style, Shoot, Share: A Food Styling, Photography, and Social Media Workshop, led by award-winning cookbook author and food stylist Andrea Slonecker and celebrated restauranteur and social media wizard Kari Young. Ben surprised me by buying me a ticket (forcing me against my will) for this class- full disclosure, I dreaded it for months. It wasn’t because I lacked interest in the subject, because it was totally right up my alley and I was sure that I’d find it helpful overall, especially as far as the blog is concerned. I dreaded it because the mere thought of standing in the same room as two very talented and successful industry people, as well as possibly other Portland food bloggers, made me feel like a complete imposter, and I was terrified of being discovered. I can be quite neurotic, but Ben’s always encouraging me and helping me confront my many insecurities- he is a jerk-face to the max.

I was pretty awkward literally immediately- with Ben’s parents coincidentally in town that weekend they kindly gave me a ride to the class, and when I arrived I stepped out of the car directly in front of a group of classmates, and I felt like I was being dropped off at kindergarten. And then while we all waited outside for Tournant to open, a photographer for Eater Portland, making polite conversation, asked me if I had attended the Smoked! event, and I thought she was asking me for a cigarette and told her that I didn’t have any. She stared at me blankly until I crumpled from embarrassment (actually, we laughed it off, and then she told me my camera was cool). Then we all went in and class started and SPOILER ALERT: I did not die and nothing perilous happened to me at all.

It was actually pretty fun. After brief introductions, we split up into groups. Each group was given a recipe to prepare that would be used to photograph a big tablescape at the end. My group was responsible for eggs en cocotte with wild mushrooms. The other groups prepared waffles with fresh fruit, grilled vegetables and sausages, and jalapeno margaritas. This part of the workshop was a lot like home ec class, but since it was sponsored by Breville and Le Creuset, it was a lot prettier than home ec class. Seriously, I’ve never seen so much Le Creuset wares in one place outside of Sur La Table. Anyway, the cooking part had to happen really fast since the class was crunched for time, but I did have a few seconds to nose around and snap the other groups working while our cocottes were in the ovens.

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Once all of the food was cooked we carefully brought our dishes up to the front where we would be photographing. We gathered around while Kari and Andrea worked and explained their magic- comparing different textiles to the wood of this cutting board and that teapot, pushing and pulling plates around, scattering utensils and black sesame seeds with abandon. Apparently the key to styling a table of food is to throw things around before you have time to think, to make it look casual and effortless, and then adjust for balance and texture. Also, a brushing of bacon fat makes meat look shiny and delicious in photographs.

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At the end we all took turns standing on dining chairs and snapping our perfect instagram-worthy photos. I grabbed my real camera to take the best shot possible, and immediately realized I’d left my memory card in my laptop at home, like an amateur, and had to shoot with my cracked phone again. I got my shot, and then Ben and his parents picked me up from school, and we went to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. I’d had enough of fancy food for the day. But just look at that shot!

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Well that was Feast Portland 2016 for me! We’re looking forward to attending again next year. Come back later this week for a new recipe!

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