Usually, only bad parties smell like hot dogs. But as two WW reporters learned at last Friday's swanky, sweaty Portland Monthly Feast party at Irving Street Kitchen, there are exceptions. The elephantine buffet of charcuterie plus a roasted lamb and several buckets of caviar was laid before a crowd of cocktail-swilling VIPs on a table illuminated by too-warm lamps. And all that chopped and heated meat together smelled… well, just like hot dogs.
Still, whatever the overwhelming must of mixed meat in 11 permutations, each thin-sliced or bread-spread morsel tasted lovely. It was the excess itself that was jarringâmixed with the sweltering crush of the milling humans themselves, half-drunk on shandy and fully glutted either from Fridayâs packed Night Market at the Ecotrust Building or from all the free food from Feastâs suckerfish events.
It was not the first piece of meat-laden ebullience. The night before, on Thursday at Feastâs Sandwich Invitational, weâd eaten a mountain of mayo-slathered, fried bologna on straight-up white bread from Sean Brock of McCradyâs in Charleston, South Carolina. It was possibly the best sandwich of the nightâor maybe just the most fun to eat, the firmest distillation of simple unconsidered gluttony.
Bunk sidled up also with its pork belly, pineapple and jalapenoâalmost the same combination Matthew Korfhage puts on a big, sloppy slice of pizza when he gets his druthers. The crowdâs favorite sandwich of the night, Laurelhurst Marketâs beef tongue, was in its own way stinting, more gently balanced and less a doting grandmotherâs treat to a fattening child.
Balance was nonetheless a minority approach. Oxâs duck confit on waffles, for example, was an overindulgence, so sweet and fatty it seemed almost condescending to the human palate. The longest lines of the night were for Austin eatery Qui, whose chef Paul Qui made a rabbit seven ways sandwichâalthough unfortunately, when smashed together between slices of bread, rabbit seven ways tastes a lot like âvery confused rabbit one way.â
But still: no one goes to this festival to critique anything, $95 sandwich ticket or not. The Feast main events were not a place for the gourmet but for the gourmand, an excuse to enjoy for the sake of enjoyment.
Provided youâre there on a media pass or a participant pass, or are part of Portlandâs food industry, or have the sort of money that makes $465 sound like a reasonable sum for a weekendâs partyâfor a constant, button-popping nosh at a bacchanal with sponsored booze, with massive consumption conspicuous only in small circlesâthe highly pedigreed finger-food becomes the equivalent of a fondue fountain.
It is also, perhaps, a way to compare notes on cross-country food trends. And maybe garner purveyorâs contracts with restaurants. And have seafood sausage from New Yorkâs The Spotted Pig and say that you did. And that it was... pretty good.
This is all either a pleasant three-day indulgence or a grotesque spectacle punctuated by massive food waste. Itâs probably both. We donât know. We know we always had meat stuck in our teeth.
We offer, simply, random notes on drunkenness:
- The staff of St. Jack beat our all-media team in the very first round of an after-midnight Friday flip-cup tournament eventually won by Racion, at the Grassa space. Martin Cizmar blames Andy Kryza of Thrillist for the loss. How can anyone can go to Michigan State and take five flips on a wet table?
- Karen Brooks and Nong Poonsukwattana are both everywhere at the same time. Or are holograms.
- At a karaoke party at Chopsticks II, somebody kept punking the Castagna chefs by putting their names in for songs. Ex-chef Matthew Lightner received âLike a Virgin.â Current chef Justin Woodward received Meatloafâs âItâs All Coming Back to Me Now.â Neither sang.
- If youâre going to skip a meal at Castagna for one of Feastâs pricey events next year, make it the $125 per person Night Market. This had the top chefs from many of the best restaurants in townâAviary, Smallwares, Pok Pok, Beast, Nong or the HoloNongâdoing something resembling what they do best.
- Steven Smithâs tea makes a helluva cocktail when blended with Clear Creek pear brandy and pear liqueur for the Hood River Iced Tea. That minty and delicious cocktail deserves to be on someoneâs menu, and stat.
- Someone needs to do the things that Momofuku Milk Bar does, but in Portland. Their little truffle bites in pretzel, birthday cake and passion fruit and chocolate might have been the tastiest thing at the entire festival.
- Canned wine is destined to be a thing. Union Wine Co. should really dispense with the gimmick of handing out little rubber bands to hold oneâs pinky down and start pushing harder to get their silver aluminum cans of pinot on shelves.
- Jenn Louisâ lamb tartare is great on a potato chip.
And, finally, a tip oâ the hat to the Oregonianâs everyman food critic Michael Russell, who interviewed all the top visiting chefs before Feast (his conversation with Seattleâs Renee Erickson was the best of the lot) then decided to only hit the free events so he could experience Feast like a typical Portlander while sending former WW staffer Ben Waterhouse out to the expensive marquee events. A great angle. Wish weâd thought of it. Instead, well, we ate this...