"In America, festival food is bad food," says Michael Hebberoy, the co-owner of ripe.
He's right. And we're not talking about Rose Festival Fun Center eats, either. The cuisine at last year's sophisticated TBA Festival was limited to rum, vodka and those little vegetarian sandwiches from No Fish! Go Fish! But when the second installment of the international performance festival kicks off next week, the art won't just be on stage. This time it'll be at the dinner table, too.
"In Germany and Amsterdam, festivals have temporary restaurants as part of their programming," says Erin Boberg, PICA's assistant curator of performing arts. "We wanted to show off our local restaurants, too--and to eat more than corn dogs all week."
Amen, sister. So with PICA's blessing, the Hebberoys (Michael and wife Naomi) are serving as, well, the festival's unofficial culinary curators. First, ripe's signature communal dinner, Family Supper, will be held at 7 pm every night at PICA's cavernous Machineworks space in Northwest Portland. Then when the evening's late-night party performances heat up 'bout 10 pm, Machineworks Cafe takes over. The Hebberoys convinced local kitchen artists--from Noble Rot's Leather Storrs to the folks at Nuestra Cocina and Lovely Hula Hands--to take a turn behind Machineworks' "stove." Each chef gets one night to create a dish ($7-$10) and a "gnosh" ($3-$5) to satisfy the festival crowd's munchies.
Just as TBA's curators match performers and venues, Michael Hebberoy has paired chefs with artistic muses: Russell Street Barbecue serves during funk-fried band Burnt Sugar's set at TBA's closing party. Smart Monkey Food chef Ani Phyo's uncooked treats share the spotlight with one-woman ruckus Sarah Rudinoff (who's pictured hitchhiking in the festival's catalog, bare-breasted and nonplussed).
But the most interesting food development of the festival is PICA's decision to suspend all Machineworks performances on Sept. 11 in order to throw one super-sized Family Supper for 75 hungry revelers.
OK, but Bite Club has one question: What the hell do you feed people on Sept. 11?
Something comforting, according to Hebberoy--that is, not squid-ink pasta. He says the challenge of creating the menu reminds him of when ripe catered a funeral. He asked a friend what to serve, and she suggested milk and cookies. "She was right," Hebberoy says. "We served milk and warm cookies and it was perfect."
Milk and cookies, eh? Our performance-hungry stomachs are grumbling already.
TBA is only the beginning of ripe's performance-art forays. "We're planning a project for clarklewis called RA: Random Acts," Hebberoy told Bite Club about ripe's eastside restaurant. We pinky-swore not to reveal any details, but let's just say it'll involve impromptu wining and dining, and such local musicians as lit-pop darlings the Decemberists.
at Machineworks, 1115 NW 14th Ave., 242-1419. 7 pm Saturday-Friday, Sept. 11-17. $30. Reservations required.
eats will be available after 10 pm Sept. 10-19.