If you're reading this, it's too late.
By the time we're this close to Feast—Portland's most decadent food festival—the utility of a preview piece is rendered moot. Everything worth attending is long sold-out, and the only stuff left is like, a class on how to better photograph whiskey for social media that costs $60 to attend. (That's real, by the way.)
Here's the thing, though—in this city, you don't need Feast to feast.
Yes, the festival is an once-a-year explosion of gustatory excess, packed with ridiculously gluttonous dinners, boozy industry parties and "workshops" that are basically just excuses to see how much more food and alcohol you can shove or pour down your gullet.
But this isn't the culinary Coachella. We're not just some empty plot of land in the middle of the desert that's built into a consumptionary playland every year and then abandoned. This is Portland, one of America's great food cities. If you want to eat yourself into a stupor, that option is available pretty much every day—and often for a lot less money.
If you missed out on this year's big-ticket events—or simply can't afford them—here's a guide to replicating them on your own.
East Coast vs. West Coast
Rose Quarter Commons, 6-9 pm Thursday, Sept. 12.
How Feast is doing it: Two teams of chefs representing either side of the Mississippi square off, pitting regional delicacies against each other in a taste-off to prove definitively which half of the country is the most delicious. It's lobster rolls against Dungeness crab! A Kentucky old-fashioned versus, uh, some other kind of West Coast cocktail! It's all in good fun, of course, but that doesn't mean things won't get heated—remember that time two chefs knuckled up over a pig outside a strip club in Old Town?
How to do it yourself: Regional rivalries are for '90s rappers and Midwest college football fans with nothing better to care about. Cross-town rivalries, though? That's where the action's at. The Mississippi ain't all that relevant all the way up here, anyway. Instead, let's settle, once and for all, which side of the Willamette has the best food. Get an odd number of friends together and choose a few opposing businesses with easy takeout options—maybe Mi Mero Mole versus Matt's BBQ Tacos? Bless Your Heart versus Stoopid Burger? The Star's cornmeal-crust pizza versus Dove Vivi's?—for a blind tasting. Vancouver, perhaps?
More Zero Proof
The Nightwood Society, 6:30 pm Friday, Sept. 13.
How Feast is doing it: Feast has long been known as a Caligula-esque bacchanal of conspicuous consumption, but even extravagant food orgies can't help being touched by the trend toward health and wellness. In 2018, a sober dinner thrown by several big-name chefs—including Canard's Gabriel Rucker—was the talk of the festival, so they're doing it again this year. Rucker is back, along with Departure's Gregory Gourdet, and visiting chefs from Austin, Philly and Vermont. Local beverage wizard Eric Nelson will also be involved, mixing up creative zero-proof cocktails of the sort he's put on the menu at Eem, everyone's favorite new restaurant.
How to do it yourself: Well, you could always go to Canard and just, like, drink water or something. But there are enough bars and restaurants in town serving interesting, flavorful "mocktails" that it's possible to put together your own bar crawl. Most of the notable ones are clustered on the westside, so start with a rose daiquiri in the relative quiet of Tryst, and end by ascending to the top of the Nines and sipping one of the four tropical non-alcoholic offerings at Departure. In between, you can bounce around as you please—after all, you won't be drunk, so there won't be any actual crawling involved.
Ice Cream Dreams
Salt & Straw R&D kitchen, 3-4:30 pm Saturday, Sept. 14.
How Feast is doing it: Salt & Straw co-founder Tyler Malek is pulling back the curtain on S&S's cold, creamy empire, giving guests a taste of flavors still in development while also offering tips on how to make your own ice cream at home. Finally, you too can have an endless line of tourists queuing up outside your front door!
How to do it yourself: Ruby Jewel's whimsical new location on Northwest 23rd also functions as a test kitchen, where you can pull up a stool and watch how the sausage gets made, so to speak, and it's open regular business hours. And if you'd like to spice up the relatively traditionalist flavors and approximate the Salt & Straw experience, you can always bring a bag full of, like, chives and shredded pig hearts to sprinkle on top.
Melty Fest Presented by Tillamook
The Redd on Salmon Street, 4-7 pm Saturday, Sept. 14.
How Feast is doing it: Want more proof that Feast is settling down, aside from the sober dinners and chilled-out "before-parties"? In the early days of the festival, organizers would give out-of-town guests "burner phones" so they could order sandwiches on demand at any time of the night, leading to such debaucherous sights as a bunch of chefs from L.A. drunk-eating grilled cheese at Mary's Club at 1 in the morning. Now, they're putting on family-friendly extravaganzas aimed directly at kids. This one promises "cheffy food envisioned by cheffy parents," including ice cream floats and yes, grilled cheese sandwiches, plus games, face painting and kindie music.
How to do it yourself: The description of this event in the Feast program argues that "kids these days are every bit as fanatical about great food as their parents," but that's debatable. Let the little ones have their pick at Grilled Cheese Grill—which should still be "cheffy" enough for anyone—then let them run in circles at the park for an hour before they fall into a food coma and you can catch up on Succession in peace while they nap it off.
The Fields, 6-9 pm Saturday, Sept. 14.
How Feast is doing it: The Fields—that big green space in the Pearl, next to the river and in view of the Fremont Bridge—will be transformed into a giant campfire, with 20-something chefs, including Chris Cosentino of Jackrabbit, Bonnie Morales of Kachka, and Jackie Sappington of recently closed Country Cat, showing off their fire-roasting skills under the stars.
How to do it yourself: Newly opened artisanal s'mores shop 1927 S'mores will be representing as well, but if you need someone to make a s'more for you, well, hope you don't blow up your kitchen every time you try to microwave a Hot Pocket. For the slightly more self-sufficient, White Owl Social Club will give you a make-your-own-s'mores kit to bring out to its patio, complete with a Bunsen burner. It won't remind you of summer camp, but it'll do.
GO: Feast is Thursday-Sunday, Sept. 12-15, at multiple venues. See feastportland.com for a complete schedule.