Feast Portland: Eat, Drink, and Celebrate the Bounty
This last weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of attending Feast Portland for the first time. If you’ve never been to this fun event before and you like food, put it in your calendar for next year. In ink. Do it now.
Few people really love what they do, enjoy it, savor it and really get geeked about it. I’m one of the geeks. I could talk about food, the implements it takes to prepare it, the purveyors and artisans who lovingly cradle their ingredients to make the raw materials for something that makes your tastebuds sing.
I’m really not a foodie. I just love food.
No really. I’m just a gal who lives in the suburbs, with two cars in the garage, standard issue yellow lab, a husband I adore, and a son who makes me laugh with his quirky humor. I’m just a girl who loves to cook, and show others they can too. I’m no snob, and yes I will eat that salty pork product in a can on occasion. Oh stop it, you know you secretly like it too.
There were many like me at Feast Portland.
This mindblowing event is only in its second year, and oh what a year. It’s been called the SXSW of Food. Now, if you’re not in dabbling in the tech circles like some (ahem), SXSW is like spring break for geeks (hello my people). Feast Portland is like spring break for those who love food, and the events and industry around it. It’s a rock and roll festival, conference and non-stop progressive dinner party all wrapped up in one. And it’s delicious.
“Feast of Sloth & Gluttony”
Ok, so I did call it this once or twice (insert laugh here). Feast PDX (as I will call it from here on out), does not leave you hungry. There was more meat, fantastic wines (as far as this suburbia gal could tell), and beer than you could know what to do with. There was local fruit, honey, coffee and ice cream. Butcher competitions, fishmonger faceoffs and after parties. If there was something you like to eat or drink, my friend, you will find it here.
Values in business – what a concept.
During the weekend, there was a speaker series with all matters of subjects. One that I attended was called “Beat the Devil”. This was a panel led by Allison Frost (of OPB fame, I’m quite a fan), including executives from Grand Central Bakery, Pacific Foods, Whole Foods Market, Salt & Straw, and Smith Teamakers. Some of my favorites were here.
This panel was about building a business without selling your soul. As you can imagine, there were some very passionate business owners at this table.
A story of believing so deeply in your product, that you’d empty out your retirement account.
Starting a company because you believed artisan tea was the way to go.
Dropping out of college to pursue a career that just felt right.
A family business that spans decades.
A mission to make food your discerning consumers would make if they had the time.
These are the stories behind the food that compel me to dig deeply into what they are all about. These stories matter, and bind us to our food, where it comes from, and the faces behind the package on the shelf. The are the silver thread that connects us to our food, especially when that business has a mission to do good, shining through in a product that stands for something.
Values in business matters. This movement is growing in numbers, and I’m so pleased to watch it unfold. In a country with factory farms, growing questions about biotechnology and its long term health affects, thoughtful conversations about how we grow and treat our landscapes and animals that will grace our tables, these companies are making a difference. I care deeply about these issues, and was touched to hearI am not alone.
And it’s all in Portland, with much to offer besides hipsters, rain, and flannel.
Walking around, you might expect to see this type of event in New York, Seattle or the Napa Valley. With all the satyr surrounding the Pacific Northwest-ia, you’d be led to believe there are only pot smoking hippies, grunge rock and hipsters sucking down lattes and mooching on free wifi out of the pouring down rain. Not so, my darlings, not at all. Ok sure, there’s some truth to that, but if you love real food and artisan products, you’ll never run out of things to see and eat here.
The food celebrities came, saw, and cooked for us.
Chris Constantino, Duff Goldman, Paul Qui, our own Chef Vitaly Paley and Naomi Pomeroy, and many others graced our town with their passion and finesse. The night market, Oregon Grand Bounty, High Comfort and Speaker Series events were packed with people who love to eat, drink, and talk about food. The Fishmonger and Butcher Faceoff was so much fun and anyone could come (somehow I won a Whole Foods Market gift card at the end!) I was honestly in heaven, and a little overwhelmed about where I should go next.
So many products, so little time.
Some of my favorite brands were there: Kitchenaid, USA Pears (have I mentioned my LOVE of pears before? Ok then…), Stumptown Coffee, Bee Local honey, Kyra’s Bake Shop, Tillamook Cheese (late night grilled cheese anyone?), Ancient Heritage Dairy, Whole Foods Market, Imperial, Smith Teamakers, Cacao, Salt & Straw, Pacific Foods…. and on, and on.
Thank you to all the companies who brought their product for us to eat, drink, and swoon over. Can you tell this was a HUGE event? I can’t even remember them all!
Shhhh…. don’t talk… I need a moment.
Walking thru the Grand Bounty, I came across a lot of outstanding food. Then I tried this drinking chocolate. Ok, so what’s not good about drinking + chocolate? I love to make hot chocolate at home, but this was a little different experience. I sipped the luscious chocolate elixir, and as the vendor was talking about it, I literally told him to hush, because I just needed a moment to soak it in. Both of the people behind the booth giggled. I’m guessing this was not the first time someone had this reaction. I did let him finish, but I am thanking my lucky stars this place is in Portland, because I WILL be visiting. Often.
A Bloody Mary BAR?
I love a good cocktail like anyone, and then there was this Bloody Mary bar (I believe it was in the Media lounge at the Fishmonger and Butcher Faceoff event.) The bartender handed me the main drink, and then casually pointed in the direction of the table you see above. Oh-my-over-the-top garnishes! Yes please! Sliced meat, pickles, olives, and other things graced this table. I must remember this for a really fun themed party. Or for Saturday.
I love pears. No really.
You may not know this, but I have had a lifelong affliction with pears. I love to eat them. I love to look at them. I love to cook with them when I don’t eat them first (let’s face it, I usually just eat them, because I can’t wait that long.) They are silky, smooth and sweet, and one of my favorite things to eat. Have I mentioned I like pears?
So, when USA Pears is doing their thing in the back corner, and giving away free pear tattoos, I was ON IT. Ok, settle down, it’s only a temporary tattoo, and it’s already gone *sniff*. But, I asked the artist to do a rendition of a spoon and saucer with a pear. I think he did a fine interpretation of it!
So there’s that, and then there’s all the awesome people.
Clearly this event is about food, but it’s also about people. I met some amazing people for the first time in person (I had known a couple of them only on Twitter!), and others I met up with again (and again, and again). These people are my tribe, and I count myself lucky that I love what I do, and adore the people I get to hang out with while I do it. Fun, laughter, snark and giggles ensued all weekend. Mostly sassy side comments and giggles.
Feasting for a cause, and a good one at that.
While we were gorging ourselves on some amazing food, we were supporting a really wonderful cause: Share Our Strength and Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon. These wonderful people believe that no child should be hungry. Feast Portland donates the net proceeds of the event to this cause. I had the distinct pleasure of volunteering at their table during the High Comfort event. In this country of so much abundance, it’s unacceptable that so many children go hungry (about 1 in 5!). I hope you’ll take a moment to go and read about what these wonderful people are doing to make a difference.
A big thank you.
I attended this event as a guest of Feast Portland. It was an honor and a priviledge to work with such a classy group of people. A year ago, I could never imagine I would rub shoulders with some of the most amazing people. It’s really a dream come true.
Thanks to Feast Portland, Urbanspoon, Little Green Pickle, Travel Oregon, Alaska Airlines, numerous sponsors, organizers, and the countless volunteers and food purveyors at this event. I am deeply thankful for your hard work, sleepless nights and boundless energy (no doubt fueled by coffee and chocolate).
If you haven’t been to this event, get there next year. I’ve put it in my calendar in ink for next year. If they’ll have me. I’ll be the one still trying to figure out how to operate this camera with the big lens, coffee in one hand and a smile on my face.
See you there in 2014?
To learn more about Feast Portland and all the events of 2013, visit their website.