If you follow me on Instagram and wondered why I spent the weekend taking photos of small bites of food on tiny wooden plates, it's because I was in my beloved hometown of Portland, Oregon attending Bon Appetit Magazine's food festival, Feast.
Feast is a four-day long celebration of food in one of the country's leading culinary cities. The event is jam packed with dinners, classes, and epic night time events, and several chefs and artisans from around the city, state, and country come together to serve the best sandwiches, street food, barbecue, and brunch foods.
So without further ado, here's what it was like to FEAST on some of the best food in the country (a.k.a. how I came back to San Francisco weighing 4lbs heavier in just 4 days; seriously, that's a friggin' pound per day). And if you missed it this year, don't worry — there's always next year!
PSA: This is an incredibly, incredibly long photo-oriented post. Sorry... but not really, because it's all just so beautiful and delicious. I couldn't help myself! I'll be back to my regular programming of all your favorite recipes next week — in the mean time, whet your sugar appetite with this fresh fig and lemon cream tart.
Not one to take itself too seriously, Feast kicks off with none other than a sandwich competition. But this isn't just any sort of competition — it's like the sandwich Olympics, filled with major players like Austin, Texas's famed pitmaster Aaron Franklin, Duff Goldman (former Ace of Cakes star and owner of Los Angeles' Charm City Cakes), and Top Chef runner-up and Portland local, Gregory Gourdet. Several folks from some of my favorite restaurants in town (Olympia Provisions, St. Jack, Smokehouse Tavern, and Levant) were also there, representin'.
Two of my favorite sandwiches from the night were polar opposites. First, an "egg dip" sandwich with slow-roasted pork shoulder in a French Vietnamese style baguette sitting in a warm egg yolk dipping sauce from L.A.'s Eggslut restaurant. Next, this delicious puff pastry thingamabob filled with berry compote and pastry cream from Little T Baker, one of my favorite bakeries in town:
There were two awards to be won that evening — People's Choice, as determined by the attendees of the festival, and Critic's Choice, as determined by some Very Important Food People in Portland.
The People's Choice Award went to local Portland legend, Vitaly Paley of Paley's Place and Imperial, whose take on bahn mi included soy-braised pork belly with spicy mayo, pickles, and Fresno peppers on a fry bread taco:
The Critic's Choice Award went to none other than Gregory (of course!), who, ever the over-achiever, served two dishes — Chinese BBQ pork, pickled turnip, and fermented chili all folded in a green onion crepe, finished off with a peanut butter ice cream sandwich with banana brittle for dessert. Both were delicious:
Next up was the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting event, which actually happens on both Friday and Saturday. I like to think of Grand Tasting as a marketplace that brings together the best food, ingredients, and products from the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Think: lots of Oregon and Washington beer and wine, cheeses, charcuterie, and more.
Since I have the world's biggest sweet tooth, I immediately gravitated towards the chocolates. Valrhona, one of the best chocolate makers in the world, had partnered with Oregon confectionery maker Batch PDX to bring an assortment of chocolates and truffles. I shamelessly parked in front of the table and literally tried a bite of almost every variety of chocolate they had on the table. Standouts include: Earl Grey, Spicy White Chocolate and Passionfruit, Vietnamese Ice Coffee, and the Nutty Crunchy PDX.
Another favorite of mine was Moonstruck Chocolate, who was there debuting their new chocolate milk. In this case, "chocolate milk" is kindof a modest term — it was like drinking little shots of the most creamy and delicious chocolate milk you'll ever have. The secret, apparently, is that instead of using cocoa powder to flavor the milk (which is what most dairy companies do), Moonstruck emulsifies the milk together with actual solid chocolate. Respect.
In addition to all the food, big brand names like Williams-Sonoma and Breville were at the Grand Tasting to demonstrate their latest gadgetry and other products. My favorite booth, however, was from Will Leather Goods (who also provided all media folk these adorable Feast gift bags). In addition to displaying their beautiful leather bags, they had a station in which you could hammer letters and cute little icons onto leather strips to turn into keychains! Pretty cool.
ALSO — PSA for all San Franciscans: word on the street is that Will Leather is opening up an outpost in Noe Valley, my neighborhood. Get stoked.
The following evening was The Night Market, which has always been one of my favorite events at Feast (to wit — check out my pictures of the event from 2013 and 2014). Intended to emulate the evening open air food halls and markets found in Singapore, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries, the Night Market offers a variety of street food with Asian flavors and inspirations. What does that mean, exactly? Lots of meat, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs. Basically, everything I LOVE:
A common theme at Night Market this year was combining sweet and savory. One of the most divisive dishes was this "rice krispie treat" topped with pork floss, nori, fish sauce caramel, and fried shallots from Fat Rice in Chicago. Another sweet/savory dish was this cornbread madeleine with parmesan cheese and honeycomb from Holdfast in Portland that I loved, loved, and LOVED:
Other favorites of mine include these pork belly pate egg rolls topped with fragrant herbs from Top Chef winner Mei Lin and deep fried cauliflower doused in sweet and sour sauce, garam masala, and deep fried curry leaves from Portland's own Bollywood Theater (where you can actually order the dish off their menu, look for a plate titled Gobi Manchurian):
Also, this noodle curry with grilled beef, jackfruit, and betel leaf from Portland darling Lang Baan and a simple but delicious grilled pork jowl served with tamarind dip from Vancouver, Canada's Maenam:
Surprisingly enough, my favorite dish of the night wasn't Asian, but... well... Russian? Kachka, another Portland superstar, was representin' with their famous lamb pelmeni (Russian dumplings!) tossed in adjika butter and pickled pears. It was so good that I blatantly stood at their booth and combined three of their tiny bowls onto one bigger plate to help my self to a larger serving. This dish is also available at their brick-and-mortar restaurant in southeast Portland:
There weren't a whole lot of classic sweets (that is, not mixed with fish sauce or cheese) to choose from, but the one dish that was was a freaking standout — this semolina biscuit thingamabob with blueberry compote, mascarpone, and saba from Rolf & Daughters in Nashville, Tennessee:
Smoked was a new event at Feast this year, replacing previous years' hoity-toity High Comfort event with what is essentially a casual, outdoor barbecue with some of the country's most famous chefs. Since I've always been a Night Market loyalist, I initially thought that there was nothing that could top Night Market... until I attended Smoked. While Night Market is definitely more zany and glamorous, Smoked felt like being at a chill backyard party that happened to be in the prettiest garden with the best barbecue ever. Additionally, it was super cool actually watching folks like Andy Ricker from nationally acclaimed Pok Pok and locally beloved Nong Poonsukwattana from Nong's Khao Man Gai just doing their thing on the grill right in front of you.
The only downside to Smoked was that there's only a handful of things you can really do on the grill; there were a lot of pork belly, steak, corn, and/or bruschetta type dishes:
And it's funny — although I was at a pretty meat-focused event, the dishes that I liked best were actually... kinda vegetarian? I mean, don't get me wrong — I loved the grilled beef tongue and roe fettunta from Chicago's Paul Kahan, as well as the grilled jowl with smoked oyster roulade from San Francisco's Chris Cosentino — but they didn't stand out quite as much as the vegetarian plates. To wit, Greg and Gabi Denton from Portland's critically acclaimed Ox accomplished some pretty incredible feats with their dish, a Bosc pear "ham" served with burrata, hazelnut and olive relish, and a cup full of smoke. Not only did they make fruit taste like meat, they actually figured out a way to create a miniature smoker on your freaking plate! How cool is that?
Other favorites of mine included these deep-fried smoked oyster mushrooms served aioli, as well as this pretty hibiscus gin drink:
As for the dessert situation, there was a lot of chocolate combined with the smoke. I loved both the "Snickers" bar from Portland's Salt & Straw (made with chocolate magic shell, marionberry ice cream, smoked almonds and sea salt) and the shortbread with honey caramel, bacon, chocolate, and toasted marshmallow from Kyra's Bakeshop in Portland:
Feast was concluded by Brunch Village, which was a wonderland of my favorite pastries, coffee, and breakfast foods. Up top we have some marionberry cinnamon rolls from Hood River's Packer Orchards and Bakery, bags of chocolate almond croissants from Vancouver, Canada's Beacoup Bakery, and ebelskievers (Danish pancakes) with lingonberry jam from Portland's Broder Cafe.
For savory breakfast foods, there was a range of different types of cuisine, from traditional eggs Benedict, brisket tartines, bao and turnip cake, and sausage and sauerkraut:
Although everything was amazing, standouts were definitely these Turkish slow poached eggs in a pool of cheese, chili oil, and herbs from Brad Farmerie (showing off his tattoo of his Michelin-starred restaurant, PUBLIC) of New York City's Saxon + Parole:
And of course, these honey drizzled donuts from Portland's beloved Pip's Donuts, who even jerry-rigged a foodcart with their famous conveyor belt donut machine to bring us freshly piped and deep fried miniature donuts:
- Shameless plug: did I mention I'm available for hire as a food and food-events photographer? Don't be shy — feel free to shoot me an email for more information!
- A big thanks to Feast Portland, Bon Appetit Magazine, and all the wonderful and incredibly talented folks at Little Green Pickle who sponsored this post by providing me with the Alaska Airlines plane tickets, swanky Heathman Hotel accommodations, and epic Will Leather Goods bags to attend the festival. Despite this incredibly generous sponsorship, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and I genuinely think that Feast is one of the best food festivals out there — I have the time of my life every year!!! Thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and all my sponsors!