Thursday, September 24, 2015

Feast Portland: Showing off Portland with food, views and sunsets

My favorite from the Sandwich
Invitational... St. Jack's quail and bacon
Feast Portland, the well-organized foodie extravaganza benefitting charities impacting child hunger, was much more than a food festival. Feast Portland was a long weekend of events showcasing all that Portland and Oregon have to offer. I’ve written about some of the social problems impacting tourism and so was pleased to attend the event that showed off the hip, scenic and delicious side of Portland we all love.

Major Feast Portland events took place all over the city in late September starting with a focus on Portland’s vibrant and historic downtown.

The kick-off marquee event, the Sandwich Invitational, took place at downtown’s Director Park.  The open-air evening event was featured live on network TV news. Local chefs and out-of-town luminaries promoted both their restaurants and their creativity. I asked visiting chefs why they came to Feast Portland. Their answers were consistent… because we love coming to Portland!

Both of this year's winners were Portland chefs; Gregory Gourdet of Departure (Judges' Selection) and Vitaley Paley of Imperial (People's Choice). There is no doubt that their offerings left feasties (as I call them) yearning for more and grabbing their smart phones to make reservations to dine at their restaurants.
Gregory Gourdet, Top Chef runner-up,
won the Judges' Selection with his
Chinese BBQ pork crepe.

Pioneer Courthouse Square was the outdoor venue for the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting. While sipping wine and standing in line for such delights as Chef Pascal Chureau’s farro and octopus salad, feasties could look up and enjoy the architecture of downtown against a bright blue sky.

Travel Oregon offered a zany photo booth and gave out passports to a culinary adventure highlighting the Seven Wonders of Oregon. What a great way to get people to plan adventures across the state!

Travel Oregon!
Outside the event, MAX light rail brought attendees from outlying areas. Everyone certainly saw a great side of Portland’s downtown that day. Many of Portland’s well-known restaurants are located in downtown and many of those had chefs cooking for the Grand Tasting.

After getting a sense of the excitement, history and vibe of downtown, it was off to the newly developed South Waterfront for the Night Market at Zidell Yards. This time we could take either a Portland Streetcar or the new Orange MAX line to get there.

With a view of the newly opened Tillicum Crossing Bridge, Feast Portland amped up the market with a DJ playing world music and festive oriental touches.
My favorite of the Night Market - Langbaan's beef curry.
Chefs and purveyors of wine, beer and spirits were lined up in a festival booth type configuration.  Do you know how hard it is to get a table at Langbaan? Well, Chef Earl Ninsom was right there serving a marvelous beef and noodle curry, no reservations needed. And down at an end booth Top Chef Mei Lin was carefully crafting a configuration of greens on her delicate pork belly pate egg rolls.
Delicate leaves decorate Mei Lin's egg roll.

Picnic tables with a view of the Willamette River gave feasties a place to enjoy the evening’s offerings. But what stole the show was the sunset over the river…. Stunning!

As if that wasn’t enough to entice anyone to visit Portland for a longer vacation, the next night topped it all with the premier of Oregon Media Group’s Smoked. The hashtag #OMGSmoked, said it all.

This time it was the Portland Streetcar that took us to The Pearl District and The Fields urban park. On the cool grass overshadowed by steel and glass buildings and with a peek at the historic, there was a lot of smoke… smoke from barbecues, smoke from fire under paella pans and smoke from barrels of smoking oysters. 
When we arrived, these wonderful smelling rib eyes were already ablaze.
The wine was flowing, oysters were being smoked in a bong (yeah, really!). There were pop up lounges where you could rest, a convenient park wall for more seating and the continued good cheer and smiles of chefs, vendors and volunteers.

Both the old Pearl District and the new provided a backdrop for the event.
Chef Jose Chesa was there dishing up Pork Belly, Lentil Purée, Escalivada, Olives, and Cracklings when he might have been home packing for his trip to Barcelona leading a culinary tour with Portland Food Adventures. But no, he was there smiling and enjoying the event along with the rest of us.

Chef Jose Chesa was all smiles even though he was soon leaving
to lead a foodie tour of Barcelona.
I was taken by the hard work being done over and under five-foot wide paella pans by Crown Paella chefs. The paella was being cooked before our eyes and the fire had to be carefully tended. That was the fun of Smoked. You could watch the food being cooked and the fires being stoked.

Preparing the paella pan.
The Pearl has a vibrant and upscale reputation. Smoked, although it was a casual event, carried with it this vibe. And, as with the night before, a colorful sunset reflecting off the buildings and the Fremont Bridge was a show-stopper.
View in the Pearl

On Sunday feasties bade Portland farewell with the Tillamook Bruch Village, also located in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Again, Portland weather provided a sunny warm day for the event and the square was full of excitement and good food from many local restaurants and bakeries.

Feast Portland is just one weekend a year but you can feast all year long in Portland restaurants. You can tour Oregon and see where the food is grown. Portland Dining Month in March is a good one to plan for and, of course you’ll want to put Feast Portland September, 15th - 18th, 2016 on your calendar! It will be their fifth year of showing off Portland and the bounty of Oregon.

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