September 24th, 2012 | by MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN Food & Drink |

Feast Diaries: 72 Hours of Wretched Excess

Day three

feast
Food-writer-about-town Michael Zusman continues his gastronomic journey through Portland's new food festival, Feast. Read his diary of day one here and day two here.

Saturday, Sept. 22

8:30 am: Bleary-eyed and bloated after too many calories and too little sleep, I’m keeping the Feast schedule light today. I know there are a bunch of fascinating seminars such as “Building Your Own Bitters,” “Basic Pig Butchery” and “Novice's Guide to Wine Tasting: Descriptive Gibberish and Spitting Techniques.” But it’s a gorgeous blue-sky first day of fall and I have religious obligations, namely watching college football on TV. Eating isn’t everything, you know.

Noon: Head to the “Oregon Bounty” tent for seconds. Discover edible nirvana for sampling: whole Dungeness crab legs from the Oregon Seafood Council (Me: “I have a question about the molting habits of the Dungeness; by the way, could I have another crab leg?”), local beautifully-packaged chocolates from Cocanú (“How do you get the pop rocks in the little squares of chocolate without them popping? Can I have one more?”) and marionberry squares from Pie Spot (“Mmffmmffgmf, these are good. [Extending plate with plaintive whimper].”) After 30 minutes or so of uninterrupted face stuffing—I think of it as $50 worth of heavy hors d’oeuvres—I pop around to the main demo stage. Naomi “Beast” Pomeroy is prattling on about herself before a rapturous crowd. She apologizes for going over her allotted time. 

5 pm: There are a bunch of big-time chef dinners around town tonight. The marquee event I signed up for a couple months ago, cooked by Portland-favorite-son-turned-New-Yorker, Matt Lightner, and Sean Brock, the highly-regarded chef at Husk in Charleston, S.C., is in two hours. How to ready myself? Portland protocol would dictate come-as-you-are, but this is different. Out-of-town fancy people might be there and my dining companion is planning to wear a nice dress. Steering a middle course, I go with upgraded Portland casual: button down shirt (over a black “No Huddle No Mercy” logoed t-shirt in support of the Oregon Ducks football team), blue shorts (it’s over 70 degrees) and my dressier pair of Birkenstocks.

7 pm: Arrive for the dinner. Portlanders, unlike big city folks, are never late for a meal, fashionably or otherwise. Snag a table. Scan the room, the downtown dining room called “Technique” that serves as an adjunct for Le Cordon Bleu cooking school (formerly Western Culinary Institute). Very famous Bon Appetit magazine restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton introduces the dinner. Not sure why. Knowlton is the one who recently anointed a second-rate Portland restaurant as one of the top new places in the entire country. Love to know the back story: abject cluelessness? A clever ploy to channel naive tourists away from the real winner? Good ol’ fashioned graft? The mind boggles. Knowlton has abandoned the shoulder-length bob and perpetual three-day beard growth. In their place is a modified faux hawk a la Pee Wee Herman. Later, he sniffs the same glass of wine three times without taking a sip. This is what I hate about the foodie elite. My dining companion says I’m being snarky. Yeah? Sorry.

7:30 pm: Oh goodness! Look who strolled in midway through the first course: it’s Jeff Steingarten. Don’t think he’s changed clothes all weekend. He hangs with some of the east coast toadies, no doubt here on comps, who sit off in their own corner of the room.

9 pm: Jeff Steingarten leaves in the middle of the fifth course. I wish I’d offered him an antacid the other day.  Maybe he’d be friendlier.

10:30 pm: The eight-course dinner is winding up. A plate of thinly sliced matsutake mushrooms with the concentrated aroma of a pine forest, over silky black cod with a black walnut oil emulsion is the tops of the lot.  Our dining companion, John, is a pleasure to chat with. Old friends—Karen Brooks, Leslie and Manuel from Viridian farms, Earl from PaaDee restaurant—and new acquaintances—local writer Lucy Birmingham, Charleston restaurant manager and a server tonight Katie DeHart and Sean Brock himself who stopped by the table to schmooze—along with top-tier food have made this a delightful meal. Was it worth the $150 price tag? To me, absolutely.

11 pm: Home watching the DVR-ed Oregon Ducks game, noshing on a couple brown sugar-cinnamon Pop Tarts and some smoked almonds. (The dinner was great, but not exactly a gut stuffer.) Too comfortable and content to attend an 11:30 pm after-party at Nostrana. Trying to put this Feast thing in perspective. 


 
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