Feast Portland Offers Food for Thought for a Second Time

grand-demo-640-7993There was no sophomore slump for Feast Portland, which packed the same culinary punch as last year’s premiere event.

Wandering the halls of Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, awaiting the start of a class, I stumbled upon a white wall inscribed with wise words from Plato: “Knowledge is the food of the soul.” The four-day festival was a feast for both the stomach and the mind, packed with a speaker series, classes, workshops, wine dinners, brunches, “Grand Tastings,” and three grand evening events. Not to mention numerous pre- and post-parties, most of which I found myself too full and tired to attend.

Like last year, the evening wine dinners typically paired an out-of-town chef with a local one. Jason Franey of Canlis cooked for one such dinner, and Renee Erickson, Tom Douglas, and Thierry Rautureau were among the other Seattle chefs I spotted during the festival. This year, I was lucky enough to be invited to Levant, where host chef Scott Snyder worked with Michael Solomonov of Zahav (in Philadelphia) in preparing an Israeli/Arabesque dinner with wine pairings from Hawks View Cellars. Some of the highlights of the four-hour affair (my last official meal of the festival, with stomach stuffed) are in the slideshow above.

The template for the larger evening events remained the same. (I wonder if Feast will change things up next year.) Thursday’s Sandwich Invitational (my full report here) kicked things off, offering an opportunity to try 15 sandwiches competing for awards—plus an additional three from Tillamook Cheese. Friday was the Night Market, a festive celebration of global street food. And Saturday was High Comfort (my full report here), an event in which chefs were asked to create “comfort foods pushed out of their comfort zone.” With local and national chefs participating, the range of the food was diverse and the quality largely high. In the slideshow, I try to choose my three favorite dishes from each of the three events.

The Grand Tastings provided opportunity to meet food-makers face-to-face, as well as to attend cooking demonstrations from popular chefs. I found three favorite bites, plus a fourth for good measure. My learning continued with educational sessions, as I attended a Beer Breakdown tasting panel, a Face Meat workshop on pig butchery, and a class called Roasting Coffee at Home.

Maybe most interesting was a Speaker Series panel discussion called The American Experience Through Food. The conversation about authenticity and regional differences in cooking (of barbecue and beyond) had me thinking about my obsession with ramen authenticity. In the same session, I was especially impressed with Hugh Acheson’s call for food to not become too “precious,” as he bemoaned the high price of beets and the low cost of fast food burgers, particularly in food deserts. Sitting in the discussion room, and throughout all of the Feast Portland events, I felt fortunate to be there (yes, disclosure: I was on a media pass) when others couldn’t. And I took solace knowing that in the bounty of celebration, the proceeds from Feast Portland again benefitted the statewide Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon as well as Share Our Strength, a national organization aimed at ending childhood hunger.

Hungry for more? Check out the 39 photos below, which include a couple of beef tongue dishes, plenty of pig, and some intriguing ice creams — including one called “Loaded Baked Potato.”

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Feast Portland offered another year of pigging out, both culinarily and philosophically.

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At the “Face Meat” class, we could do butchering and eating at the same time. Everyone got a plate of charcuterie from Olympic Provisions, with extra platters available!

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Elias Cairo of Olympic Provisions demonstrates proper knife technique. “Away from the body to prevent a knife to the femur,” he implored.

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A classroom full of students facing the meat, fiercely.

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The judges’ award for best of the Sandwich Invitational went to David Kreifels of Portland’s Laurelhurst Market for his smoked beef tongue sandwich with padrón peppers, aji pepper aioli, mint, basil, and picalilli. I agreed with the choice.

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Also delicious, and worthy as winner of the people’s choice award, was this lamb burger by Adam Sappington of Portland’s The Country Cat. It’s topped with Havarti cheese, smoked tomato jam, and iceberg lettuce slaw.

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Lisa Herlinger-Esco and Becky Burnett of Portland’s Ruby Jewel served a dessert sandwich they called “The NW Club.” Their description: “brown sugar cookies, marionberry caramel, hazelnut ice cream, chocolate and cocoa nib cookie, bacon, caramel ice cream, marionberry caramel, and another brown sugar cookie.” Topped with a candied sage leaf, and optionally coated with hardening chocolate, this was a deliciously sweet ending to the Sandwich Invitational.

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Here’s the entrance to the Grand Tasting, held twice during the festival.

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Needing morning pig, I enjoyed “The Elvis.” Made with oats from Bob’s Red Mill, the oatmeal has peanut butter, bacon, and banana.

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For the second year in a row, I couldn’t resist the chicken liver mousse that Olympic Provisions served at the Grand Tasting.

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The Parish in Portland did some amazing things in pairing oysters with Texas Pete hot sauces. (I especially liked the oysters with dehydrated hot sauce, and found the oyster sorbet interesting.)

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Since the Grand Tasting was more than one day, I’m adding one item to my “Top 3.” Salt & Straw, perhaps my favorite ice cream in the Pacific Northwest, always amazes me. Here’s their loaded baked potato ice cream, made with Russet potatoes and sour cream, and loaded with bacon chocolate crumbs, onion juice caramel, white cheddar cookie dough, and green sprinkles.

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A grand look at the Grand Tasting scene. Chris Cosentino of Incanto (in San Francisco) is doing a beef heart tartare demo.

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At the Night Market, Patrick Fleming of Boke Bowl did “Rabbit Three Ways” with seared rabbit confit, rabbit & fresh water chestnut dumpling, and rabbit dashi.

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Back to Chris Cosentino, his contribution to the Night Market was “Beef Tongue and 5 Shades of Hay.” Served raw, of course, and with sarcastic notes of warning on his table after health department insistence.

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My final “Top 3″ of Night Market was Nong’s Khao Man Gai. It’s now a Portland institution. I loved the packaging and respect the consistency she achieves with this chicken and rice dish, which feels very “night market.”

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Whole Foods Market sponsored a final face-off to their regional butcher vs. fishmonger contests. Everyone was a winner, as the event was free, with plenty of fabulous food. One of the longest lines was for the grass-fed beef burgers.

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From the “can’t we all just get along” department, the bacon-wrapped scallops proved that both meat and seafood are winners.

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Here are the smart words I spotted at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school.

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In the Roast Your Own Coffee class, Adam McGovern of Sterling Coffee Roasters introduced the Whirley Pop as an exciting piece of equipment.

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The class roasting coffee beans in the Whirley Pops.

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Coffee beans turn green to brown in front of your eyes.

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The scene is set for the Beer Breakdown tasting panel.

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Malt, hops, and other ingredients in learning about and making beer.

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A variety of beers to sample in the class.

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The panel in “The American Experience through Food,” as part of the Speaker Series. From left to right: Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor, Texas Monthly (Austin, TX), J.M. Hirsch, panel moderator, Associated Press (New Hampshire), Naomi Pomeroy, chef, Expatriate and Beast (Portland, OR), Hugh Acheson, chef, The National (Athens, GA), Christopher Kostow, chef, The Restaurant at Meadowood (Napa Valley, CA).

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My “Top 3″ from High Comfort starts with this pho from Michael Voltaggio of ink, in Los Angeles. It contains noodles made from daikon, beef short rib, broth made from beef fat and knuckle, puffed beef tendon, herbs he brought from California, and dots of hoison sauce.

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Also in my top three is this foie gras hot dog by Andrew Carmellini at The Dutch in New York. The dog itself is made with foie gras, duck meat, and pork, then topped with more foie, choucroute, daikon radish, and sour cherry sauce.

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Finishing my “Top 3″ at High Comfort is this seafood sausage from April Bloomfield of The Breslin Bar & Dining Room (and The Spotted Pig) in New York. It’s made with line-caught sea bass, lobster, and shrimp.

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Still enamored with ice cream, I can’t help but include this raspberry-dipped cone by Portland’s Tyler Malek and Salt & Straw. Inside is smoked ham ice cream.

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I started the morning after Night Market with brunch at Higgins, prepared by host chef Greg Higgins along with The Country Cat’s Adam Sappington, and done in collaboration with Charleston’s (SC) Lee Brothers. Lots of rich dishes, including this Lee Brothers shrimp and grits with bacon.

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Brunch ended with this Oregon corn meal cake (great texture) with fresh fruit salad and plum brandy chantilly cream.

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Despite a stuffed stomach, I was excited to attend dinner at Levant with local host chef Scott Snyder and guest chef Michael Solomonov of the highly acclaimed Zahav in Philadelphia. Here they warn of a very filling meal ahead.

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Scott Snyder playing with fire (or cooking eggplant).

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The meal started with several passed hors’ d’oeuvres, including these delicious baked eggs.

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Simply incredible (masabache) hummus and laffa bread.

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The meal included many cold and hot mezze. Two of my favorites are pictured here: beet and tahina salad (divine!), and twice-cooked eggplant salad. I also loved the crispy smoked lamb’s tongue.

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After squash soup, a sardine dish, and squab breast with (the cutest) confit leg (and nice wine pairings from Hawks View Cellars), the final savory course was spring baby lamb and harissa roulade, hearth-roasted herbed leg, charred eggplant, slow-roasted tomato, and nepitella tahigurt.

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Pre-dessert was shaleb custard with sour grape compote. Pictured is spicy ginger molasses cake with moscato-roasted fig, and, to finish with my frozen fetish, burnt fig leaf ice cream.

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