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August 11th, 2004 KELLY CLARKE | Bite Club
 

Let's Get Physical

     
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"Buff" customer Matt Hennessey eating a cup of noodles at Ken's.
Ken Gordon has given the Bite Club yet another reason to feel guilty for not going to the gym--the food.

Gordon, whose high-class Americana cuisine charms diners at Ken's Place on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, pumped up the local fitness community last week. He's thrown his sweatband into the gym-food scene with the launch of a new branch of Ken's Place (open 7 am to 7 pm daily) at Northwest Portland's Mavericks Sport Club.

No matter how warped the mix of cardio and carbs might sound, from the looks of the charming niche Gordon has carved out of Mavericks' coffee-colored workout room, maybe he's got a shot at making this power bar successful. The cafe menu specializes in grab-and-go eats, like tall cups of spicy cold noodles tossed with crunchy bits of celery, chicken and carrots, and other "fat-phobic" options like tomato-and-sweet-corn gazpacho. There's also heftier fare--like the Pan Bagna sandwich, a lush mix of tuna salad niçoise with kalamata olives, pickles and tomatoes on a squishy bun--to attract the neighborhood's hungry business workers.

The biggest seller? Lunchers are already stuffing themselves on the chef's near-mythic homemade "Better Than Oreos" cookies. "My goal is for the neighborhood people to get Mavericks memberships," he jokes, "and for all the Mavericks members to put on 10 pounds."

We're holding our breath to see whether Gordon's pump-you-up food room will be successful, but Bite Club does know one thing. We've found it's a delicious form of exercise to munch on a pain au chocolat while yoga-mat grandmas and platinum-haired metrosexuals bust ass on the StairMasters.

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And a note to my fellow gluttons: This year's super-sized edition of the Bite of Oregon, a benefit for Special Olympics Oregon, is one behemoth three-day Waterfront Park lineup of food, booze and bands.

First, a little history: The food event was sullied last year by fest planner Clear Channel's lame-brained plot to pair the 20-year old festival with Z100's Last Chance Summer Dance, which featured pop abominations Jessica Simpson and Kelly Clarkson. Ick. While the food might've tasted great, the ear candy was rotten.

This year, new organizers enlisted the help of former Aladdin Theater honcho Steve Reischman of Showman Productions and Lisa Lepine, "Portland's Promotion Queen." The pair increased the number of bands from 60 to more than 100 local, regional, and national acts and wrangled indie favorites like Death Cab for Cutie and Pedro the Lion onto the bill.

The whole shebang still costs $5 per day (compared to $17 tickets for Death Cab's concert at the Crystal this past May), and that includes a chance to taste-test more than 50 restaurants from around the state, hang out with winemakers, and check out a handful of chef demonstrations. Sigh. Finally, a summer festival that brings tall white toques and Chuck Taylors together--the way it ought to be.


Ken's Place @ Mavericks, 2025 NW Overton St., 502-5870.

2004 Bite of Oregon, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Front Avenue between Southwest Harrison and Northwest Glisan streets. 11 am-11 pm Friday-Saturday, Aug. 13-14, 11 am-9 pm Sunday, Aug. 15. $5 donation.

 
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