Portland's new food festival Feast debuts this week, running Sept. 20-23. Even if you couldn't scrape together the $650 for a ticket, you can still enjoy the festival vicariously through the diarised literary stylings of food-writer-about-town Michael Zusman (who, standard disclaimer, is no relation to WW editor in chief Mark Zusman, though we'd love to see them together in a buddy comedy), who will be reporting back here all week long.
Tuesday, Sept. 18 (pre-Feast)
Every P.R. hack in town is pimping Feast—Portland's first ever big deal food festival—like it's the Second Coming…of Julia Child. Twitter, Facebook, whatever: a crescendoing cicada screech of anxiety-driven hype. Local media and posers slobbering all over each other for a piece of the action. Portlanders doing their customary little brother/little sis, "Notice me, everybody" thing. I'm in training—a nice heavy dinner at Ox.
Wednesday, Sept. 19 (More pre-Feast)
Preparation, both mind and body, is essential for a multi-day mass pigfest like this. Some work the yoga angle. Others practice a more pharmaceutical approach. My drugs of choice these days are limited to Costco-sized bottles of Pepcid and Beano—always stashed within easy reach. To further my foodie focus, I haven't been to the gym in months and my nightstand is empty of anything unrelated to food. Think I'm ready to rumble.
Thursday, Sept. 20
11:30 am: About to do more pre-Feast "training" with lunch at Imperial (finally some decent downtown food featuring actual tables and chairs.) "Sandwichfest," or whatever it's called, starts at 5:30. The sandwich is Portland's culinary high water mark. I have mixed feelings about this.
Contemplating a Q&A I'm doing Sunday with Thai food giants Andy Ricker and David Thompson. Stewing over idiotic comments from big-shot New York chef/potty mouth Eddie Huang implying white guys cooking Asian food are stealing Asian culture. What a jerk. Wonder if anybody else sees the not-so-subtle racism here.
5:30 pm: Release the hounds! It's the Sandwich Invitational in Director Square downtown and the official Feast PDX debut. The line to get in is a block long at the opening bell. I bolt for the Franklin BBQ/Podnah's Pit booth. First to arrive gets me the ethereal end slice of a badger-sized slab of smoked prime rib and a moment to schmooze with Texan Aaron Franklin. Quick hit: nice 30-ish guy who's mastered the unique alchemy of turning beef into gold. A block-long line at this booth forms within two minutes. I go for a second helping anyway.
6:00 pm: Important research working through all the sambwiches: Adam Berger's 24th & Meatballs (meatball sandwich, decent), an Imperial banh mi (just OK), a Kenny & Zuke's Reuben (pastrami love) and crab salad with bacon from Lincoln's Jenn Louis (shellfish and pork during the High Holidays. Oy!) But it's the not-an-Egg-McMuffin-cuz-that-name-is-taken-but-everybody-knows-what-I'm-talking-about from Duff Goldman, a televised cake baker from Baltimore, that is a huge hit. Sausage, cheese, bacon and an egg with a splash of hot sauce on an English muffin is large, filling and a powerful euphoric. Duff is frying the eggs himself. He is also short and, let's just say, high-spirited. Party on, dude!
In other nattie celeb gossip, author and curmudgeonly Iron Chef America judge Jeff Steingarten is in the house, so to speak. Good God, like a pair of comically baggy jeans, he's big enough for two. Occupational hazard, I know too well. I run into ex-Portland chef Matt Lightner, beloved Portlander-for-life Cathy Whims and just about any Portlander who has every written, edited or blogged a single word about food over the last decade. The most notable thing about the few-hundred-strong crowd, though: it has the retina-searing whiteness of a country club wedding reception. Could this have anything to do with this event's $95 price tag? Who am I to judge?
7:00 pm: Bloated but content, I waddle off for the night contemplating the state of my digestion. Going to skip the Pepcid, but am thankful for a brief respite in the relentless chowdown. The next couple nights are bound to be rigorous. Good thing I've been training.