For three years, I watched as downtown Portland, Oregon was transformed by the festival called Feast Portland.
I inhaled the seductive aromas as I strolled past Pioneer Courthouse Square, where Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting and Brunch Village were held.
I envied the lines of drooling festival goers wrapped around the block waiting to get in.
Something out of the ordinary was clearly going on. And I vowed to make 2015 MY YEAR to find out what the hoopla was all about.
So when I saw the call for Portland food bloggers, I threw my hat into the ring, and guess what?
I was invited to attend, free of charge, with a heap of phenomenal extras that had me pinching myself to make sure it wasn’t a dream (Media Welcome Party, Hospitality Lounge, Happy Hours, and After Parties).
Nope, not a dream. All I had to do was show up, bring my camera, eat, drink, and talk it up. They call this WORK?
But this wasn’t just any food festival. Portland’s finest chefs and artisans, plus several renowned chefs from across the nation, pulled out ALL THE STOPS to stretch their skill and creativity, while showcasing the regions finest meats, seafood, grains, dairy products, and produce.
The result was bite after delicious bite. For three days and nights, nothing but photographing, wining, and dining.
Because of the crowds at each event, noshing was catch-as-catch-can. Meaning eat dessert first if you find yourself in front of Annie Pies while everyone else is waiting in the savory lines.
And then clear your palate with a few incredibly smooth and unusual Batch PDX chocolates, perhaps finishing with a Ghost Pepper Truffle so hot that it takes your breath away.
Then run for something cooling. Like Chef Gloria Vargas’s Shrimp Ceviche. Which may have saved my life.
Then on to Seared Wasabi Tuna with Beer Aioli, from Chef Aaron Bedard of Stephanie Inn.
And who could resist this beautifully presented open-face sandwich from Chef Kimber Hong of the Asian fusion restaurant, Magenta, in Corvallis?
Or flavor drenched steak so tender that you could cut it with a plastic fork?
Or ricotta, so fresh and smooth that it makes you rededicate yourself to eating it every day. With a spoon, straight from the carton.
Or “lox” cheese so savory that it makes you rethink cheddar altogether.
Or babycakes and bar cookies so swoon worthy that make you reconsider the viability of gluten-free pastries.
Raspberry and boysenberry creations that make you pledge to go beyond berry shortcakes and pies next season.
Or beyond dessert altogether.
Until you find yourself in front of a simple platter of prosciutto, wondering how something so ordinary can compete with the other offerings. But then you taste it. And will never take prosciutto for granted again.
Nor the humble grilled cheese sandwich.
Nor fresh pears–be they Anjou, Bosc, or Seckel.
Nor sliders. Because they might be made with water buffalo. Water buffalo!
Nor butter. Because it really does make a difference.
And lastly, everyone walks away from a Feast event with a favorite bite. Including me.
So I leave you with my favorite Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting 2015 bite. The most beguiling composition of flavor, texture, sweet, tart, and umami ever invented–courtesy of Fifty Licks and Chef Jenn Louis of Lincoln.
And in case you don’t know what bottarga is, the LA Times will tell you all about it.