Food-writer-about-town Michael Zusman continues his gastronomic journey through Portland new food festival, Feast. Read his diary of day one here.
Friday, Sept. 21
6:45 am: Late to bed, early to rise…Portland skies have their autumn-typical ash gray hue and it’s sprinkling. Excellent. No more migration-inducing blue sky, 75 degree, light breeze perfection.
Noon: Gotta suppress the nightmares. But the frenzy of private, Feast-related, invite-only parties this weekend is causing me a Janis Ian (“I Learned The Truth at 17”), back-to-high-school moment. The Portland food world has always been so self-consciously collegial, egalitarian and—ugh, how I hate to say it—nice. And now this: a pecking order with the coolest kids, the sort-of cool kids and the hapless losers stratified by which parties they are (and aren’t) invited to. And, naturally with Twitter and Facebook as an amplifier, everybody knows exactly where they stand on the hipness scale. Not sure Portland will ever be the same—and not sure if that’s good or bad.
4:30 pm: Missed most of the afternoon’s “Oregon Bounty” festivities in Pioneer Square on account of having an actual paying day job. Finally made it, and it’s like a big trade show tent with row after row of little booths staffed with smiling earnest people talking up their companies and organizations and giving away stuff to eat and drink. The unspoken convention is to ask at least one quickly conceived, idiotic-in-hindsight question before grabbing several samples of whatever’s on offer. Other than a couple chunks of chocolate from Cacao, I’m reserving stomach space for later gorging.
5 pm: Stopped in at the "Media Lounge" sponsored by Hungry, a new YouTube subscription channel. Sandwiches by Lardo: Mortadella, yes. Chris Cosentino, offal-crazed chef at Incanto and owner of Boccalone Salumeria in San Francisco, is here. He’s the star, along with two comically overdone young women, also present, called the “Beer Chicks.” The producer with an English accent, Bruce, does not mention whether the Beer Chicks have actual names. I don’t ask. I’d met Cosentino before when he was in a horrendous food TV show (Chefs vs. City for the detail-oriented), and I like him because he seems like he’s still well-grounded. He offered a cogent rationale for being a TV celebrity chef, “Hey, I’ve got a wife and kids to feed.” Fair enough.
6:30 pm: Night Market time in the Ecotrust Building parking lot. More booths, more food, more upper middle class pale people wandering around feeding their faces and drinking heavily. Highlight dish is probably David Thompson’s spicy skewered mussels-on-a-stick. The seemingly ubiquitous Duff Goldman and Jeff Steingarten are both here: Duff posing for photos next to a 6-foot tall “real” cake that looks like giant shish kebab. Jeff is looming large, seemingly rooted to a good see-me spot and looking slightly dyspeptic. I get my picture taken with Duff (for my daughter, of course) and consider but reject offering Jeff an antacid. Obnoxiousness all-stars award goes to aggressively bustling camera crews who knock over anyone in their path while following around unrecognizable TV food wanks as they gush obsequiously in front of several booths. I can’t stand this anymore.
8:10 pm: Arrive at Ox for dinner with Big Shot Chef. Hilarity and rock star treatment follows: the plates we order are supplemented threefold. Big Shot Chef and his accompanying sous chef, who looks to be about 19 years old, work their iPhones reflexively, ostensibly for vital business purposes. Conversation lags.
9:30 pm: Book pre-release party for Portland Monthly food editor Karen Brooks’ upcoming title The Mighty Gastropolis Portland. Knowing Karen, I’m sure it will be a lively read. But “Gastropolis” sounds like a city inhabited by slugs. Hmmm… Party is on the roof of the Weiden Kennedy building, so I feel pretty badass being in such hotsy-totsy space. A good half the crowd is from out-of-town and, judging from conversation snippets, they have no idea who Karen Brooks is. Ah, the lure of free food and booze. Since I’m only about 110 percent full, I have to sample charcuterie from Olympic Provisions' top smoked meat heads, Eli Cairo and Nate Tilden. Food always tastes better when it’s free. Nattily attired in tight-fitting, buttoned up powder blue blazers and tacky ties, the OP bosses are deliriously slicing cured pig for the assembled masses. I say goodbyes, snag an advance copy of the book and descend the W K elevator, an accompanying security guard eyeing me warily.
Saturday, September 22
12:30 am: After a quick stop at home to tend to, ahem, domestic needs, I’m attending yet one more Feast-related after-party, this one held simultaneously at the Parish and Oven & Shaker on Northwest Everett. Many local food industry people here, far fewer out-of-town big shots. By this point, my brain is starting to blink and the comfort of a warm bed beckons. After 45 minutes of shoulder-to-shoulder crowding and the blasting music and youthful groin grinding at O&S—those wacky kids—I realize my day is done. More tomorrow, er, later today.