Buckle up! Bite Club's takin' a high-speed tour through Portland food 2005.
FOODSTUFF, USA The launch of big name restaurants, from David Machado's spice-router Vindahlo (see review, page 49) to Bruce Carey and Kenny Giambalvo's Balvo were big news. But really, 2005 was all about cute food boutiques, from Lisa Schroeder's third downtown restaurant, the Jewish Balaboosta deli, and Elephant's Deli's spiffy new Northwest 22nd Avenue digs to wee cheesers like Curds & Whey and Steve's Cheese. And then there's the city's appetite for Seattle's Salumi: Aside from being carried at some of the aforementioned markets (as well as Irvington's new fancy-foods pimp Foster & Dobbs), cured meats from the shop have popped up everywhere from the late-night sandwich shop Valentine's to Cathy Whims and crew's highly anticipated Italian joint, Nostrana. These days, Portlanders seem to crave a quality take-out salami as much as a white tablecloth and a hunk of foie gras—which is OK by us.
SKY-HIGH PIES Crisp, chewy, saucy or refined, Portland simply went wild for (primarily wood-fired) artisan pizza this year. Brian Spangler kicked the trend into high gear last January when he opened the Hawthorne 'hood's Apizza Scholls. Then, fancy pies sprung up throughout the city's kitchens. Ken's Artisan Bakery head Ken Forkish has even decided to make his Monday Night Pizza sessions a permanent gig—his very own wood oven-fired pizzeria (located just two blocks down from Noble Rot) is set to open sometime next May. Remarkably, this trend hasn't led to a New York-style pie backlash...yet.
NATIONAL LAMPOON Hooray for us! The New York Times Style Magazine shone its spotlight on Portland in November, gushing over the fact that our "fresh ingredients are allowed to speak for themselves" at restaurants from Wildwood (duh!), ripe and Park Kitchen to Hot Lips Pizza and Sahagún Chocolates.
IN RIPE WE TRUST Despite rumors of a split in the House of Hebberoy, 2005 was a banner year for the ripe crew, as Michael and Naomi Hebberoy paired with chef Tommy Habetz to open Portland's first Jenga-decorated pub, the Gotham Bldg. Tavern last April. Gotham's food, from waffles with mascarpone to blood pudding, is remarkably delish, but it seems only marginally more important to the empire than world domination via glowing articles in W and The Wall Street Journal. Spin King Hebberoy announced in December's Food and Wine, "People say that Alice Waters launched a food revolution, but they're wrong. That was only an ingredients shift." (Note: We don't see Prince Charles and Camilla visiting clarklewis just yet.) He also compared his upcoming tome, Kill the Restaurant, to Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. Wow. In 2005 ripe also hired its own "writer in residence," Matthew Stadler. This development hasn't stopped the crowds from lining up for Family Supper, though—proof that Portlanders are capable of happily stuffing their faces and rolling their eyes at the same time.
BINGE 'N' CYBERPURGE Equal parts quality critique and bitch-fest, locally bred foodie sites like portlandfood.org and An Exploration of Portland Food and Drink (portlandfoodanddrink.com) trained an eagle eye on everything from local taquerias to pastry chefs in 2005, even breaking news as members of the service industry logged on. Our prediction for 2006? Apple strikes a deal with those evil face-transplant geniuses to create the iHead, a direct brain-Web interface that allows local food lovers to upload quickie restaurant reviews and sordid food gossip instantly, leading to a rash of Scanners-like head explosions. With more fat.