Forktown Food Tours

forktownlogoThere’s nothing I like more than walking around eating, unless it’s sitting around eating or standing around eating. So I was looking forward to trying brand-new Forktown Food Tour‘s foodie whirl around Northwest Portland’s Alphabet District today. Led by fun, food-loving Portland girl Jessica Kleiderman, the tour starts at Besaw’s and ends with a full stomach.

jessica2The group gathered at Besaw’s on NW 23rd & Savier at 2pm, and as we took our seats around the long, rectangular table in the bar, we were almost immediately plied with pale pink rhubarb mimosas, an excellent start to any tour. If I knew of more tours that began with champagne cocktails, I’d be a touring fool.

After introductions, which included supplying our names, where we’re from (our group was a mixture of Portlanders, out-of-staters, and a delightful Australian fellow), and our current craving or favorite dish consumed recently (mine was Evoe’s Summer Delight soup), we were served a braised oxtail slider topped with horseradish-red cabbage slaw on homemade focaccia, and then everyone traipsed out to Besaw’s impressive backyard garden to admire the rows of baby lettuces, snap peas, beets, herbs and nasturtium flowers, all of which, we were told, makes their way onto one plate or another inside the restaurant.

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Crossing the street to the new NW 23rd Portland Farmers Market, we huddled in front of the yellow caution tape intended to keep early birds at bay, while market manager Amber Holland provided a little background on the market and its vendors. When asked what was in season, she ripped the caution tape off the posts with a flourish and told us to see for ourselves. Everyone strolled down the aisles towards the Olympic Provisions booth, where super-cute meatmen Elias Cairo and Tyler Gaston were kind enough to pause in the midst of setting up their booth to give us an impromptu salami tasting and a mini-meat talk.

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Next, we walked to City Market, home to Chop Butchery & Charcuterie, Newman’s Fish Company, and Pastaworks. Along the way, Jessica pointed out interesting Portland landmarks and oddities, like the neighborhood’s oldest house, and a garden someone had planted in a plastic-sleeved shoe caddy and hung on the terrace of their NW 21st apartment.

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As we clustered in front of Newman’s fish counter, ogling the Chinook salmon and halibut and eyeing the live crabs, manager Thea shucked sweet, briny Kumamoto oysters for sampling, while we nibbled house-smoked escolar and chunks of fresh Dungeness crab. Across the store, Chop owner Eric Finley talked about his enterprise and how he sources his meat, while Jessica passed around a platter of spicy soppressata.

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Something sweet was in order, so we stopped in at Two Tarts Bakery, where a cookie-tasting and glasses of iced coffee and freshly squeezed sparkling Tartmade Lemonade were waiting. The tasting included an assortment of tried and true Two Tarts cookie morsels like the peanut butter creams and fleur de sel chocolate chippers, as well as seasonal specialties like the beautiful pale pink and green strawberry basil macarons.

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Next, we ventured a few steps east to PBJ’s, a newish peanut butter and jelly sandwich cart that debuted at this year’s Eat Mobile event. PBJ’s is fast becoming a Portland favorite, thanks to enthusiastic owners Shane and Keena’s deliciously inventive and impeccably-sourced spins on the iconic sandwich classic, not to mention their fresh organic peanut butter, made with coconut oil instead of palm oil. Keena passed plates of just-off-the-griddle Hot Hoods–peanut butter, black cherry jam, applewood-smoked bacon, and roasted jalapeños on Gabriel’s Bakery challah, and Spicy Thai’s–peanut butter, orange marmalade, Sriracha, fresh basil, and curry on challah. The group’s eyes were like saucers as they munched the triangle-shaped wedges…just like Mom used to cut ‘em.

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wildwoodchef2After a relaxing walkabout up NW 24th to Northrup, Jessica ended the tour at venerable Wildwood, where Chef Emory grilled tiny harissa-marinated Cattail Creek lamb burgers with cilantro yogurt, then served them alongside a delectable smoked Chinook salmon salad with tarragon, chives and capers over Ken’s Artisan Bakery’s levain bread. Paired with the dishes were generous pours of Caldera Porter from Ashland’s Caldera Brewing Company, and Astoria’s Fort George Brewery’s Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale. Emory explained each dish, and gave a little bit of history on Wildwood and its role in the modern Portland food movement.

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Fully sated, fat ‘n happy, a small cluster of new friends stayed behind at Wildwood to continue fraternizing, while the rest of the group went on their merry way–some home to lie down for a well-earned nap, some back to the market to stock up on Hood strawberries.

If you’re feeling hungry stirrings right about now and think you’d like to take a Forktown food tour yourself, or perhaps send visiting relatives or friends on a Forktown food tour to get them out of your hair while you reclaim your home/privacy/remote control for a few precious hours, you can read more about the tours and sign up at forktown.com.