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 jarring—mixed with the sweltering crush of the milling humans themselves, half-drunk on shandy and fully glutted either from Friday’s packed Night Market at the Ecotrust Building or from all the free food from Feast’s suckerfish events.

It was not the first piece of meat-laden ebullience. The night before, on Thursday at Feast’s Sandwich Invitational, we’d eaten a mountain of mayo-slathered, fried bologna on straight-up white bread from Sean Brock of McCrady’s in Charleston, South Carolina. It was possibly the best sandwich of the night—or maybe just the most fun to eat, the firmest distillation of simple unconsidered gluttony.

Bunk sidled up also with its pork belly, pineapple and jalapeno—almost the same combination Matthew Korfhage puts on a big, sloppy slice of pizza when he gets his druthers. The crowd’s favorite sandwich of the night, Laurelhurst Market’s beef tongue, was in its own way stinting, more gently balanced and less a doting grandmother’s treat to a fattening child.

Balance was nonetheless a minority approach. Ox’s 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 sandwich—although unfortunately, when smashed together between slices of bread, rabbit seven ways tastes a lot like “very confused rabbit one way.”

The duckwaffle from Ox

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 you’re there on a media pass or a participant pass, or are part of Portland’s food industry, or have the sort of money that makes $465 sound like a reasonable sum for a weekend’s party—for a constant, button-popping nosh at a bacchanal with sponsored booze, with massive consumption conspicuous only in small circles—the 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 purveyor’s contracts with restaurants. And have seafood sausage from New York’s 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. It’s probably both. We don’t 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 “Like a Virgin.” Current chef Justin Woodward received Meatloaf’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” Neither sang.
  • If you’re going to skip a meal at Castagna for one of Feast’s pricey events next year, make it the $125 per person Night Market. This had the top chefs from many of the best restaurants in town—Aviary, Smallwares, Pok Pok, Beast, Nong or the HoloNong—doing something resembling what they do best.
  • Steven Smith’s 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 someone’s 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 one’s pinky down and start pushing harder to get their silver aluminum cans of pinot on shelves.
  • Jenn Louis’ lamb tartare is great on a potato chip.
  • IMAGE: Mindy Green

And, finally, a tip o’ the hat to the Oregonian’s everyman food critic Michael Russell, who interviewed all the top visiting chefs before Feast (his conversation with Seattle’s 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 we’d thought of it. Instead, well, we ate this...