Portland’s restaurant scene is all grown up, and that means we get a fancy food festival to call our very own. Feast Portland, the brainchild of former WW contributor Mike Thelin and PR consultant Carrie Welch, debuts this week and it’s a bona fide big deal: marquee chefs, national media attention, its own flavor of Salt & Straw ice cream. It’s pretty spendy and much of it is sold out, but we couldn’t let it pass without comment. If you are going, or just planning to be in downtown Portland sometime over the next four days, here are 10 things to look for:1. East Coasters
This festival had its Travel Oregon-sponsored launch party 3,000 miles away in New York. Feast Portland costs $650 for a full weekend pass, so we assume moneyed New Yorkers are its target demographic.
2. White guys cooking Thai food
One of Feast’s biggest coups has been scoring London-based Australian chef David Thompson, whose Michelin-starred restaurant, Nahm, charges $37 for a red curry. Naturally, he’ll be hanging out with Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker all week, cooking together at the $125-per-person night market, doing a guest dinner at Pok Pok, and railing against ignorant farang who dare put chicken in their pad Thai.
3. The 15th best chef in the world
French chef Inaki Aizpitarte’s Le Chateaubriand is ranked the 15th best restaurant in the world. His dinner, a collaboration with San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson, is sold out, of course.
4. Andrew Knowlton being an expert on everything
Restaurant editor of major Feast sponsor Bon Appétit magazine, The Next Iron Chef judge and dreamboat Andrew Knowlton will be presenting classes on coffee-making, weird beers, cocktails and Thai street food. Hopefully, he will also find time to explain his recent bizarre pronouncement of good but hardly revelatory Portland restaurant Luce as one of the 10 best new restaurants in America.
5. Your tax dollars at work
This for-profit event received $75,000 from state tourism body Travel Oregon and $20,000 from the city of Portland’s Travel Portland. So even if it’s not you chowing down on a $150 dinner of artisan charcuterie, you can feel good knowing you still played an important part in the meal. Just not the part where you get to eat anything.
6. The prodigal son returns
Former Castagna chef Matthew Lightner, whose new restaurant Atera is the toast of New York, returns to Portland for a collaboration with South Carolina rock-star chef Sean Brock. The $150-a-head dinner is sold out. Atera also charges $150 per diner, and is booked until November. And to think that only a little over a year ago, you could get his food here any night of the week for just $65. Now you’re regretting never going to Castagna, aren’t you? See, Portland, this is why you can’t have nice things.
7. A really expensive Reuben
Reflecting Portland’s love of gourmet stoner food, the most expensive event at Feast is a $200-per-person “showcase” of high-end chefs doing comfort food. Among other things, the program promises “a Reuben sandwich...made with Dungeness crab and sturgeon caviar.” Fun fact: for the same price, you can give two ducks, a pig, goat and sheep to a Third-World family.
8. Just these two barbecue guys; you’ve probably never heard of them
Aaron Franklin, from Austin’s celebrated hipster barbecue joint Franklin Barbecue, and Rodney Muirhead, from Portland’s celebrated hipster barbecue joint Podnah’s Pit, will compete against each other at the $95-per-ticket “Sandwich Invitational.” Did we mention gourmet stoner food?
9. Celebrity chefs galore
If you like your chefs to come with a five-book deal and their own line of cookware, Feast delivers: The Next Iron Chef contestants Marco Canora, Brad Farmerie and Amanda Freitag; Top Chef Masters contestants Naomi Pomeroy, Anita Lo and Paul Qui; Ace of Cakes’ Duff Goldman; Cheap Bites’ Eddie Huang; and 2 Dudes Catering’s Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo will all be there.
10. New York Times reporters working on their next big trend piece
It’s a tired joke at this point, but almost certainly true. Brownie points if they can resist using a Portlandia reference.
GO: Feast runs Sept. 20-23 at various locations around Portland. Visit feastportland.com for more info.