Farewell to Feast

feastfiftylicksIt’s not easy getting ready for Portland’s fantabulous Feast food fest every year. There are pre- and post-event juice cleanses to undergo, there are heavy swag bags to be claimed, there are waistbands to be elasticized, and there are afterparty attendance strategies to be mapped out. I know, I know, the struggle is real. (Real tasty!)

This year as always, Feast kicked off on Thursday evening with the Sandwich Invitational, which populates Director Park with platter after platter of sandwiches, some traditional, some less so. There were Olympia Provisions’ flawless grinders, Meat Cheese Bread’s grilled pork belly, kim chee and aioli sliders on a scallion roll, and Departure’s superb spicy sweet crepes with pork pastrami, pickled turnip, herbs and hoisin.

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In between sandwiches, you could take a break at Hendrick’s Gin’s cocktail booth, Widmer’s beer booth, or Stumptown’s cold brew booth, then leap back into the gluten fraught fray. The evening’s afterparty, at the Doug Fir, had everything from a patio lined end-to-end with sizzling yakitori grills to Sokol Blosser’s Sabertron, which schooled interested passerby in the art of lopping the head off a bottle of Evolution sparkling wine.

At the stroke of 1pm on Friday, the gates opened on the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting in Pioneer Courthouse Square, and thankfully, I stumbled upon Fifty Licks’ booth first, because proprietor Chad Draizin was crafting cups of buttermilk fudge ice cream topped with lime zest, candied ginger, peanuts and shaved bottarga, which as you can imagine, was amazing.

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Inside the main tent, Xocolatl de Davíd’s David Briggs was gifting everyone with gobs of his legendary Foitella, while Batch PDX’s Jeremy Karp urged people to try all his bon bons, and Annie Pies kept the double chocolate and salted caramel pie coffers full. (Yes, I pretty much just ate ice cream and chocolate all afternoon.)

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Friday night’s mild weather and picture-perfect spattering of clouds incited an Instagram frenzy come sunset, and also made for ideal conditions at the Night Market, held on the banks of the Willamette at Zidell Yards. It was both difficult to run from booth to booth because of the chunky gravel, and it difficult not to run from booth to booth because the offerings were just so good—Earl Ninsom from Langbaan dished up spicy Southern Thai style noodle curry with grilled beef, jackfruit and betel leaf,

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Kachka’s Bonnie Morales plated lamb pelmeni with adjika butter and pickled pears at a breakneck pace, feastnmkachka

super cute and cheery Carlo Lamagna from Clyde Common brought the beef tongue with roasted bone marrow aioli and crispy rice,

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Sunny Jin from The Allison Inn’s Jory restaurant featured his goat tartare with charred green tomato, frozen egg and panisse croutons,

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and Top Chef fans clustered around Mei Lin as she slung pork belly pâté egg rolls with nuoc chấm and fresh herbs.

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For dessert, Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo of Chicago’s Fat Rice thoughtfully prepared some rather addictive nori–laced Macau rice crisps with fish sauce caramel and fried shallots,

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while Holdfast’s Will Preisch and Joel Stocks served their ethereal cornbread madeleines with lardo parmesan and honeycomb.

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Saturday night was the highly-anticipated, brand-new Smoked!, a celebration of coals and ‘cue and bottomless bubbles. I’d been mostly on the wagon up until then, but I cannot resist freely-flowing champagne and the Nicolas Feuillatte people were infallibly polite every time I returned, homing pigeon style, to their vintage Coleman cooler of bottles, greeting me with a warm, “You’re back!”

Delicious dishes abounded, but I had a soft spot for Ben Bettinger’s smoked ribeye and beef fat poached shrimp and corn salad with pickled Fresno peppers and smoked tomato aioli, Greg and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton’s otherworldly Bosc pear ham with burrata and hazelnut-green olive relish (served inside a smoke-filled cup), Nong’s grilled chicken khao man gai with Thai mushroom salad, and Adam Sappington’s incredibly tender ribeye chop with tomato chimichurri butter. Sweet endings were provided courtesy of Salt & Straw, as Tyler Malek handed out frozen Snickers bars made with smoked marionberries, chocolate and vanilla ice cream, smoked honey fluff and candied peanuts.

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feastsmokedsaltstrawAfter one final glass of champagne (fine, two), we took the official Feast karaoke bus on a two-mile, one-hour, 10-or-so-song trip to the afterparty at Loyal Legion, where we sipped cocktails and ate about a thousand of the Valrhona chocolate miniatures scattered around its beautiful brick-walled upstairs event space, The Evergreen.

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Remarkably, we still had the staying power to queue up for Brunch Village on Sunday morning, and I’m glad we did, because the first thing we encountered was a table of infinite (give or take) æbleskiver from Broder.

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I could have ended the event at that point and been happy, but at the end of every long, snaking line was yet another brunchy gem, like Lardo’s brisket benedict with sunny side up quail eggs and smoked hollandaise, and Pine State Biscuits and Tillamook’s collaboration, aka the Pine State Tillatart–a Tillamook smoked cheddar and bourbon apple butter tart topped with bacon jam and vanilla bean ice cream.

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The weekend ended on a high note, literally, at Departure’s sunset afterparty, which I heard was fantastic but I wouldn’t know because I was home washing a bottle of digestive enzymes down with a bottle of champagne. Or peppermint tea, maybe. And now, I’m looking forward to next year’s Feast, when I will greet my old friends at Nicolas Feuillate with a fond, “You’re back!”

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