As Hunter S. Thompson might have observed, Feast is Portland's most decadent and depraved food festival.
At the very least, it's certainly the most supremely gluttonous. For four days, chefs and food media from around the country descend on the city for lavish dinners, cocktail parties and after-hours ragers. Most events sell out well in advance, or remain far out of the price range of the common foodie. (Act now and you can drink rosé and learn "the art of macramé" for only $160!)
But for Portland's food-service industry, this is effectively its South by Southwest—a weekend-long party of consumable extravagance. And you don't partake in such excess without coming away with a few great stories. So to mark the festival's seventh year, we asked local writers and restaurateurs for their most overindulgent Feast memories.
THE FERNET DROUGHT
"The first year of Feast, we invited Fergus Henderson, the legendary chef from London, and thought there's no way he'd come. But he actually came over, and was at every party all weekend long. It was surreal. He was not only the guy, on a big scale, to really champion offal food, he also was one of the first—maybe the first—enthusiasts to really turn people on to fernet as a digestif. Everyone in town wanted to drink fernet with Fergus. At the end of the weekend, everyone was like, 'There is zero fernet left.' We literally drank the town dry of fernet. I feel like that was my greatest life accomplishment at that point." — Mike Thelin, Feast Portland founder
THE PIG HEADS
"The 2014 Feast after-parties are still the ones to beat. It was my first Feast, and my itinerary looked like the game plan in Leaving Las Vegas: methodic instructions for How to Eat and Drink Yourself to Death in Four Days. The whipped tallow really hit the fan at the first-ever Pork of Ages after-party. Roasted pigs' heads ringed the Rontoms patio, their eyes bulging or blackened, and the effect was pure Lord of the Flies. People hacked at them, withdrawing juicy pig cheeks. Someone must have eaten an eyeball. I didn't tell my vegetarian parents." — Mattie John Bamman, WW food critic
THE FLIP-CUP TOURNAMENT
"Pork and beer are two of my favorite things. So when the inaugural Feast's first-night after-parties included both a flip-cup tournament at Lardo and a pork fest at Irving Street Kitchen, nothing was going to keep me away—not even the fact that a pinched nerve had rendered me more or less paralyzed in my right arm. I had been aggressively talking up my flip-cup skills before the injury, and I wasn't about to leave my media team in a lurch. So after several cocktails and about 3 pounds of pork, I slowly limped over to Lardo. Well after midnight, we faced off against a team representing Chefstable. We were well ahead by the time of my turn as the second-to-last flipper. I downed my beer, surveyed the table and went for the flip, but my arm wouldn't lift. It took about 10 long, excruciating tries, and the other team pulled ahead while I struggled. My teammates were livid. I've never returned to the table." — AP Kryza, WW contributor
THE GRILLED CHEESE HOTLINE
"We used to do this thing where we'd give every chef and visiting media what we'd call the 'Walter White cellphone'—you know, a little burner cellphone. Basically, you could call this number any time between 11 pm and 2 am and Tillamook [Creamery] would make you a grilled cheese and deliver it to you anywhere in close-in Portland. One year, Michael Voltaggio, the chef from Los Angeles, was hanging out at Mary's Club, and they called the number and asked if they could have a bunch delivered. So you have all these chefs apparently hanging out in Mary's, eating grilled cheese sandwiches. The cool thing is, Voltaggio was one of the first chefs to adopt tattoo culture to commemorate experiences in tattoos, and he actually went out the next day and got a tattoo of a grilled cheese sandwich." — Mike Thelin
THE SECRET CONCERT
"Last year, Jacobsen's Sea Salt had a big opening party. I was walking in, and Michael Russell from The Oregonian was like, 'Hey, they have canapés inside!' I go inside and Portugal the Man is playing. Their new album had dropped, but that song ['Feel It Still'] hadn't gone viral yet. But for me, I've always been a huge fan. There were maybe 20 people watching them, and I was like, 'What the fuck? Portugal the Man is playing and everyone's worrying about canapés.'" — Tommy Habetz, Bunk Sandwiches
Related: Portugal the Man Frontman Pitches Portland To “Esquire” Readers.
THE ABANDONED POP-UP
"At Feast, I have eaten meat fork-pulled from one of a row of pig heads, nearly fainted from the all-enveloping smell of hothouse meat at an after-party, and lost at beer pong to line cooks dressed up for a Wigz n Chainz-themed costume party. But somehow my defining Feast memory will be the evening I randomly drove by a massive smoker in a Division Street parking lot, only to discover it was the remains of a pop-up between Woodsman Tavern and Austin's egregiously famous Franklin Barbecue. I drank beer in the parking lot with a local brewer whose main overriding concern was the fact he had not been invited to a Bon Appétit magazine party being held in a fake castle on Sandy Boulevard. Others were drinking sponsored alcohol and eating free food made by famous chefs, and he was not. This was, to his mind, against the entire spirit of the festival." — Matthew Korfhage, former WW staffer
SEE IT: Feast Portland runs Thursday-Sunday, Sept. 13-16, at various locations. See feastportland.com for a complete schedule.