Summer is road-trip season, so we're taking a culinary tour of America. But because Portland is a city of immigrants from other states, we don't have to leave town to do it. We're traveling to 50 Portland restaurants to try one distinctive food from each state. Our 50 Plates tour continues with the elk burger of Montana, which joined the Union on November 8, 1889. To vote for Oregon's state food, go here.
The state: When I think of Montana, I picture bear hides and elk and moose horns. That's what decorated the walls of my aunt's place in Wisdom, Montana, a town with a population of 98. Major selling points for the state include Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park and its annual Testicle Festival. Also known as the Testy Festy and held in Clinton, Montana, the festival celebrates eating the gonads of various small-and big-game animals. 3,000 people show up to do so.
The food: For a state teeming with hunting trophies, it makes sense the elk burger would be on the top of the list for Montana foods. Though the elk is higher in protein than beef, it doesn’t taste much different— though some might describe it as a milder and slightly sweeter.
Other foods considered and rejected: Buffalo burger, Rocky Mountain oysters (deep-fried testicles of prairie dogs, boars or bulls), huckleberry macaroons, bison pot stickers, buckwheat pancakes and grilled trout.
Get it from: For $13.75, you can get a slab of the game meat at the Portland Deschutes Brewery (210 NW 11th Ave., 296-4906). It comes in a brioche bun with gruyere cheese, roasted shallot, thyme mayo and lettuce. Get it medium rare, if you're not afraid of a little ungulate blood. Pair the burger with a side salad drenched in rich blue cheese (an extra buck for the fries substitute) and a pint of their Northwest pale ale.
Click on the map to see each state's distinctive food and where to get it in Portland.