Food fans: It might be time to give the Safeway Bite of Portland another chance. For many years, this waterfront Special Olympics fundraiser had become a culinary benefit more suited to Chef Boyardee than Chef Philippe Boulot. An event, that is, where the circus of comedians, bands and bustling food tents substituted for meatier explorations into cookery.

But that's changing, according to Jody Ruff-Harcourt, the Bite's culinary and wine director. Last year, by enlisting the kitchen demonstration skills of chefs like Eric Laslow and Fife's Marco Shaw, Ruff-Harcourt succeeded in kicking the festival's chic-meter up a notch. This year, the Bite will feature 20 talented Portland tastemakers in action, including Rivers restaurant power couple Rolland Wesen and Claudine Pepin, as well as Thomas Hurley (whose French bistro Hurley's opened a month ago). These worldly pros will preside over a state-of-the-art Viking kitchen stage throughout the four-day festival. Their slice-and-dice mission? Demystifying such serious stovetop practices as creating foie gras sauce and offing live lobsters. You might consider the event Portland's version of the Food Network--just live and sans the BS. Meanwhile, under the wine tent, 30 of the state's top wineries will shout salut, while smaller vintners and rising chefs hold court at the rotating Chef and Winery Tasting Booth.

Not that the food festival is losing its plebeian flavor. It's still partnering with Z100 to stage the "Last Chance Summer Dance," featuring (God help us) pop princess Jessica Simpson and insufferable hubby Nick Lachey--as well as America's golden calf, Kelly Clarkson.

But the lineup of chefs gives a taste of the size of the ambitions for the food festival. "This event should be a real showcase of the whole state," Ruff-Harcourt says. That's a promise that should turn into more than puffery next year, when the Portland festival officially becomes The Bite of Oregon.

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In other edible news, the Fred Meyer Taste of Vancouver kicks off up north this weekend. Nab a nibble of the real 'Couv at the Widmer Beer & Wine Garden, then roll your stuffed body to the stage to hear Johnny Limbo and the Lugnuts, as well as a certain local band named after a cocktail.

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Portland's Hot Lips Pizza has added two spiffy new vehicles to its delivery fleet--an electric car and a European commuter delivery bike. While the bicycle has a special trailer for lugging pizza around the Pearl, the buggy-looking black GEM car can carry up to 30 pizzas in its custom hot box. Hot Lips co-owner David Yudkin says he bought the $3,400 plug-in car, which runs on a battery, to promote the homegrown pie shop's commitment to all things eco-friendly. A drawback is speed--the electric buggy runs at a top speed of 25 miles per hour. So, how late does our delivery have to be before we get a discount?

Send more servings of your dishy bites to or call 243-2122, ext. 314.

The Bite of Portland

Tom McCall Waterfront Park, 1020 SW Naito Parkway,

Noon-10 pm Friday-Monday, Aug. 29-Sept. 1. $5.

The Taste of Vancouver
Esther Short Park, West Columbia and 8th streets, Vancouver, Wash.,
3-10 pm Friday,
11 am-10 pm Saturday-Sunday, 11 am-6 pm Monday, Aug. 29-Sept. 1. $5.

Hot Lips Pizza, 1909 SW 6th Ave., 224-0311. 10 am-9:30 pm Monday-Friday, 11 am-9:30 pm Saturday, noon-8 pm Sunday. $. Call for other locations.