Look at that face. Look at it. That's the face of pure, unadulterated bliss after consuming a sensational bite of food. If that doesn't set the stage for my epic recap of my weekend spent at Portland Feast, I don't know what will!
For those that missed my grand announcement slash blog post last week, Portland Feast is an annual four-day food festival that I had the utter pleasure of embarking on last weekend. For four blissful days I was in my complete happy place. I mean, I didn't even know what my happy place was before Feast! We're talking adult Disneyland, only Disneyland is copious amount of food and alcohol without stroller city or "It's a Small World." To call it a "food festival" isn't even doing it justice. It's so much more than that!
To recap though, my best friend and I, who also happens to share my love for food (and drink!) had been planning our Feast adventure for quite some time. We were motivated to go for a few reasons: 1) we wanted to eat and drink obscene amounts of food and alcohol with zero judgment 2) Seattle, as great of a food city it is, has nothing remotely like Feast. No, Bite of Seattle doesn't count. Not even close. And 3) we wanted to have an excuse to get out of town for a girls' trip. Obviously!
I can't wait to share all the delicious deets with you. But first, I wanna just sum it up. So what does make Feast stand out so much? What makes it "the best food festival in the country?" Here are a few of my takeaways of what made it truly one of the best (and tastiest) things I've ever experienced:
- It's 21 and over. That's right, your duck confit BLT and basil gin smash can be enjoyed sans screaming children!
- Star power! For those of you who adore Top Chef and all of those other foodie shows, you get to rub elbows with some of the greats, like Hugh Acheson, Chris Cosentino, Nina Compton and Andy Ricker, to name just a few.
- The sheer quality of the chefs, artisans, distilleries, breweries and wineries is remarkable. Being in close proximity to them is great and all but the best part? You get to eat their food. Refer back to picture of me on the right to give you a visual of what that feels like, or rather what that tastes like!
- It's not just about quality, but quantity! We tried to keep a running tally of all the bites we consumed per event. And some "bites" are truly sample size, while others are a few biters that involve a fork and knife. On average, I'd say 15 bites and a handful of beverages were consumed at each event, and that was only just scratching the surface of what was offered. One person can only make so much room!
But to really paint the full picture of why it was one of the best experiences I've had, I just have to dive right in and give you the Feast play-by-play. You ready? Buckle up, foodie friends!!
Quick disclaimer: I have to start by saying that all the food pictures you see are probably only 1/4 of the foods and beverages consumed. So yes, we ate a ton of food, I mean a ton! I'm also going to butcher 90% of the food descriptions because, well, there was just so darn much of it to even remember! #firstworldproblems
Ok, here we go!
Ok, the fact that I got to go to an event called "The Sandwich Invitational" is almost cool enough. Am I right?! The Feast kick-off event did not disappoint. From the moment we walked into the event, we knew we were home. Set in the RoseQuarter, home of the Portland Trailblazers, the Sandwich Invitational kicked off in festive fashion. Catchy beats, balloons and food and beverages stretched as far as the eye could see; Our eyes were literally as big as our stomachs upon that first glance at Feast. We were just giddy with excitement!
The whole premise of the Sandwich Invitational was to have local – from Portland to Seattle – chefs present their gourmet, "Top Chef version" of one of food's greatest vehicles, a sandwich! This wasn't just ham and cheese and tuna salad: we're talking slow braised, house-cured and artisan meats paired with craft cocktails, brews and wines. Even better, they set it up Top Chef-style with a panel of judges ranking the sandwich offerings and letting guests chime in with their fan favorite. I was geeking out!
Oh and the food? Well, as you can see, the food was pretty damn good.
- The first bite we took was still one of the highlights of the evening, and entire trip in fact: Bunk Sandwich's Duck BLT with boar bacon, quince mayo and frisee. Un. Real. It was also serendipitous because the last visit I took to Portland involved lunch at Lardo, another Portland Sandwich institution. Lardo is amazing (and more on that later) but my Dad couldn't stop talking about how he also wanted to try Bunk Sandwiches. So my dad was rather jelly when I told him about my encounter with Bunk, to say the least!
- Seattle's beloved food icons, Tom Douglas and Rachel of Rachel's Ginger Beer made the trek down to Feast along with us! Tom was serving up a tasty roasted veggie sandwiches with anchovy and Rachel made some addictively delicious and quenching Pink Guava Moscow Mules with her infamous ginger beer. They were so good, we may or may not have had seconds…
- Don Julio was there was with a cute, blue truck pouring draft tequila cocktails, and surprisingly not margaritas! They were pouring Ginger Mules with apple cider and candied ginger. I'm definitely scheming a Hungry Ali copy cat, just you wait.
- The Bombay Monte Cristo from Bollywood Theatre PDX. Holy smokes. This arguably was my favorite bite of the night. In fact, it won "People's Choice" at the invitational! To describe this sandwich would be like describing a Monte Cristo, delicious, fried, sweet and salty goodness only with spicy, sweet and savory Indian flavors. This is actually the bite I'm consuming in the photo at the very top so enough said.
- Ice cream sandwiches from Ruby Jewel, my new favorite ice cream shop, apparently! We devoured salted bourbon pecan cookie sandwiches with huckleberry ice cream dipped in salted caramel and rolled in pecans. Tell me you couldn't eat that every day.
- Filet-O-Fish. Truth be told, we actually passed this booth at first and turned our noses a bit because it honestly looked like McDonald's posted up at Feast. Say what?! No, no, no, some local PDX restaurant which I cannot remember made their take of a Filet-O-Fish and it was one of the stars of the night!
The Grand Tasting events (yes, there was not one but two of them!) happened to be just a few steps away from our humble abode away from home at The Paramount Hotel Portland. Real classy digs! So just a hop, skip and a jump away were copious amounts of food and tasty drink for us to keep on Feastin'.
Unlike the other events which you'll notice have a central theme – Sandwich Invitational, Night Market, Brunch Village, Smoked – The Grand Tasting was much more of a smorgasbord of all kinds of food and drink, emphasis on the drink, actually! Tons of wineries and breweries were featured from all up and down the PNW, even some of my local favorites like Buoy and Base Camp Breweries! The foods ranged from local cheese artisans sampling fresh curds to hand-crafted chocolate truffles. It was truly a grand tasting!
- Chef Gregory Gourdet from Top Chef season 12 was partnering with Williams-Sonoma to create a seasonal, fresh bite that truly did not disappoint: fresh berries, crispy shallots, mint and an Asian vinaigrette of all things. It was just so crazy that it worked. One of the most unique bites at the Grand Tasting!
- Bon Appetit, the premiere sponsor of Feast set up shop at the Grand Tasting with a pretty darn cute little booth. It was actually draped in hop vines! Hop vines! The real treat, though, waited inside: the charcuterie spread of all charcuterie spreads from Portland's renowned Olympia Provisions. My favorite part of the charcuterie was the Pok Pok sausage as an homage to one of Portland's best and most well known Thai restaurants, Pok Pok.
- USA Pears, also a Feast sponsor was a hosting booth. Instead of just the typical grab-and-go method that every other Feast participant was doing, USA Pears was actually letting guests stop by for a semi-private wine "pearing." Top Chef contender, Doug made four delectable and extremely creative pear bites paired with an entire flight of Chateau Ste. Michelle wine. It was a treat! Our favorite bites were a pear bisque with tarragon oil and a sweet and sour poached pear with foie gras.
- Venison tartare
- Cherry Bourbon dark chocolate cookies
- Crispy pork belly bites with goat cheese and pickled cherries
This was really the main star of Feast, y'all. Where do I begin? From the moment we walked inside the event space at Zidell Yards, it was like I was transported to an actual Night Market in Latin America. Zidell Yards, the venue, was just a gravel parking lot but somehow was transformed it into a whimsical, festive backdrop for Night Market. It also happened to be a delightful Indian Summer evening, so that didn't hurt. From the extremely festive and colorful Mexican-themed decorations to the sick Latin beats, the setting and evening in general, it was pure magic.
If the ambience and the decor weren't enough to win us over completely, it was really the quality of the food across the board that swept us off our feet. It was the best food we tasted cumulatively, hands down. Literally every bite we consumed was like a fiesta for our taste buds, each one building off of the last. When we thought we had tasted the best thing yet, another bite came and we were amazed all over again!
The highlights before are just a mere sampling of some of the favs.
- Oysters on the half shell from Olympia Oyster Bar
- Albacore, Watermelon and Quinoa from Manolin – another Seattle shout-out!
- Sweet potato and duck confit tostone
- Chipotle lamb ribs with creamy grits from Lardo
- Salmon ceviche from Launderette in Austin
- Red pozole with calamari
- Seafood paella
- Totopos aka saucy nachos. SO good.
- And, the grand finale and our favorite bite of the evening, potentially the whole event, chicharone with chili lime salt and crab ceviche from Eggslut. Get in my belly!
- Also, this really adorable picture we took. Model status, am I right?!?!
Honestly, we could've packed up and headed home to Seattle after Night Market – it was just that amazing! But alas, two more insanely delicious Feast events were still on the horizon, one of them being the highly anticipated Smoked! event.
You all know I love me some smoked meats, especially some barbecue. I mean, I'm constantly posting recipes that feature smoked meats and/or sides to pair with them. But let's not forget when I took a trip to this little place called Austin, Texas just so I could get my hands on some of the world's best barbecue. So you know I was pretty stoked for this event…
Putting the food aside completely, the lineup of chefs preparing delicious smoked meats of all varieties was looking pretty stellar. I was nerding out just thinking about being within close proximity to some of these legends, let alone getting to eat their food! Hugh Acheson, Chris Cosentino, Andy Ricker and Nina Compton, as I mentioned earlier, all made their appearance at this one event, setting it up for a pretty tasty evening, to say the least.
And a pretty tasty evening it was indeed! The one teeny, tiny downside was that, in true PNW fashion, it was dumping rain this night and the event was set in a grassy field that turned to slop. But that didn't stop us and our fellow Feasters from eating and drinking the night away!
- Hugh Acheson's lamb burger with homemade pickles, tomato and goat cheese. Before you start thinking that this sounds pretty "basic" for such a well-known chef, think again. It wasn't just a lamb burger, it was a perfectly prepared lamb burger – seasoned and cooked to perfection with the best quality ingredients. Knowing his TV personality I really wouldn't expect anything less! And it was damn good.
- Chris Cosentino was serving up…sweetbreads! I was totally nerding out about how "adventurous" I was about to be by saying I've tried sweetbreads. Ha! But in all seriousness, I have to say I was a huge fan. The texture is a cross between an oyster and pork tenderloin. And Chris packed them with some serious flavor – chipotle, pineapple, pickled red onion, cotija and spinach. To die!
- Beef tongue "Big Mac." – yes, another homage to Mickey D's!
- Spam musubi sliders. OMG. I still cannot stop daydreaming about this bite! A Hawaiian roll with "spam" (it was some high-quality, thick-sliced cured ham), teriyaki glaze with nori and sesame seeds. It was savory, sweet and full of delectable umami. I may or may not have been making obscene noises it was so good….
- A toasted marshmallow ice cream sundae with lemon curd and blackberries from Tillamook. Amaze balls.
- Nina Compton made probably my favorite bite of Smoked – braised goat with papaya on roti. Simple and made with love. It doesn't get better.
Right about now you're thinking, "how could you possibly fit in more food and drink?!" As it turns out we can rally, all in the name of good food and drink. Even though we had four extremely tasty, unforgettable events under our belt (literally), there was still room for one more epic event: Brunch Village.
I know, let's pause for a second. A brunch village. A village of brunch. Get out of town!
Once we set food inside the Pioneer Courthouse where it took place, I understood immediately why they chose to call it a village. The space was stacked with chefs, artisans, breweries and distilleries all serving everything from bloody mary and mimosa bars to biscuit sandwiches and croissants. It was heaven on earth. As someone who's obsessed with breakfast foods, I couldn't have imagined a more perfect way to end Feast.
- Rachel Yang, another Seattle chef, made these amazing shrimp tamales. I didn't know one could eat shrimp tamales for brunch but as it turns out they're pretty dang good!
- Fried chicken biscuits with pimento cheese from PDX's Toro Bravo, because fried chicken on a biscuit is always a good idea.
- Stumptown's coconut and chocolate coldbrew
- Double baked almond and plum croissants. Yeah, I could've eaten that every day.
- Our very last bite: Olympia Provisions "Monte Cristo Dog" – house-made sausage wrapped in gruyere, wrapped in house-made ham, dipped in pancake batter served with huckleberry preserves and Woodinville maple syrup. Sweet and salty, fried perfection, it was the perfect Feast sendoff!
All in all, I couldn't have been more tickled and delighted with my Feast experience. It's something I'll never forget (and now I really won't be able to because I'm putting it in writing!) My final takeaway is that if you love food even half as much as I do, I say you have to Feast at least once in your life. It's an eating and drinking experience of a lifetime!