For four days and three very long nights, I made Feast Portland my full-service restaurant and bar. Feast is a multi-day food and drink festival in its fourth year, celebrating the nation’s top chefs and the bounty of Oregon. Net proceeds are donated to Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. To learn more about these organizations, click here.
It was my first Feast and the main advice I kept hearing was “pace yourself, this is a marathon.” I’d like to say I took this to heart, but as I was on assignment to drink all the things and report back, well, let’s just talk about that.
Walking into the Sandwich Invitational, there was a horde of people surrounding the Olympia Provisions table, someone from Dave’s Killer Bread (the sponsor) passing out spicy PBJs, and an already growing line to Franklin BBQ (Austin, TX), which only got longer.
The first line I stood in was for Hendrick’s Gin. When I got to the front, I was rewarded with a Melodius Melonade: 1 ½ parts Hendrick’s, ¾ part simple syrup, ¾ part fresh lemon juice, ¾ part honeydew melon juice, ½ part melon tea. The cocktails were served up in tulip-shaped plastic cups. With so much melon, I expected it to be overtly sweet, but as Henrick’s is traditionally served with cucumber, the melon imitated the crisp flavor and tasted well-balanced, if a bit fruitier than I normally lean. The drink was a nice cooling agent to the fatty sandwiches scattered about the event.
Drink Tank — I’m in a Cult
Five beers on a hot day sounds like a good idea to me most of the time. Five rare beers with a panel of five drink luminaries was impossible to resist. Although the pre-poured beers got a touch of heat in them, I can only imagine it may have opened them up a bit. The five beers we tasted were To Øl Sur Citra, Crooked Stave Surette, St. Bernardus Abt 12, Deschutes The Abyss and Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.
On the panel, my favorite person to listen to was Sarah Pederson of Saraveza Bottle Shop and Pasty Tavern in Portland. Along with the specific tasting notes, she spoke about the craze for beer. “People are willing to try something new and just as willing to turn it down right away,” she says of loyalty to beers. She also says that, although seven years ago, bars were always willing to give something new and local a chance, now “you kind of can’t do that.” Instead, she says that in order to keep a certain level of excellence with their taps, they’ve had to say no to a lot of potentially good up-and-comers in favor of better known beers.
I enjoyed the Deschutes The Abyss, though one panelist suggested it could “sit down a couple years” to improve its complexity, which already has a great deal of flavor thanks to time spent aging in Pinot Noir barrels.
Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting
Pioneer Square transformed into an overflowing array of bites from restaurants and producers, as well as beer and wine at every turn. One of the best parts was the USA Pears sponsored pop-up mini restaurant, which allowed a handful of attendees to stand at a walk-up chef’s counter every 15 minutes. Each dish featured pears, and Brian Clevenger (Vendemmia, SEA) started his three-course meal with a cocktail. The Frost Before Harvest featured bourbon, pear syrup made from fresh Bartletts, Cocchi Americano, and chamomile. If it’s not on the menu at his Madrona restaurant, it should be. pFriem Family Brewers also brought an enormous selection of their beers from Hood River, and my longest stop of the OBGT was spent tasting through the whole line.
Night Market at Zidell Yards
Just as I expected from a Night Market, there were mostly Asian-inspired bites at stands from Earl Ninsom (Langbaan, PDX), Johanna Ware (Smallwares, PDX), and Angus An (Maenam, VAN) among many others. However, there were few cocktails or drinks in the same vein. A Singapore Sling featuring House Spirits rum was well-made and refreshing. A Temperance Trader Bourbon cocktail featured Tea Spirit No. 50, Kashmiri spiced Amaro, fresh lemon juice, Mexican Coke and a Townshend’s No. 50 amaro lollipop, that was caramely and crystallized and outstanding.
In a VIP tent, Raven & Rose (PDX) made a strong showing with their cocktail, Autumn’s Welcome Punch. Made up of Reyka vodka, dry white wine, rooibos, lime, blackberry, allspice and bitters, it was the perfect bridge between summer fruit and fall flavors.
But the best drink for the occasion was the Double Mountain Brewery Killer Red, a fresh hopped IPA. The beer had bright citrusy notes, plenty of vegetal, grassy flavor, and a biscuity, malty character that calmed spicy curry and invigorated filling lamb pelmeni (Kachka, PDX).
Bonus: Sokol Blosser Winery Evolution Sparkling
The line for Langbaan’s outstanding noodles was crazy long, and the handsome gentleman who allowed folks to saber some ice-cold bottles of his sparkling Sokol Blosser off-dry wine also paced the queue to offer up a glass.
Bon Appetit House Party
No one knew whose house we were in, but the mansion where the media sponsor Bon Appetit House Party was held was a trove of delicious things, naturally. Bartenders served up Old Fashioneds and a Jell-O shot with Jägermeister in it was surprisingly delicious, with a balanced root beer flavor.
A BA-branded ice luge was ground for generous pours of Ketel One and 1800 Tequila, as well as sake I think was brought by the Eggslut crew from LA. The best drink there was Jungle Juice, served out of pitchers but kept in an enormous white cooler. The pink booze held three icebergs, numerous citrus rounds, pineapple, and a few too many rubber duckies for comfort. It was tart and punchy and of dubious health safety standards, as punch should be at a house party. But since Adam Rapoport (Bon Appetit editor-in-chief) drank it, so I did too. I didn’t see anyone drinking water.
Bonus: Vieux Carré at Imperial
There was an after party at The Jupiter, but I can’t leave Portland without a stop at Imperial, where bar manager Tony Gurdian makes lovely cocktails. A Vieux Carré on tap was followed by a round of Fortaleza with some fellow Feast-goers. I couldn’t resist bringing one over to Top Chef Season 12 winner Mei Lin, who was having dinner made by fellow finalist Douggie Adams. I made it awkward but Lin remarked the next day that the tequila was incredibly smooth.
PS: A special thanks to Stumptown Coffee. Without the 20 cups of nitro cold brew I consumed throughout Feast, I would not have made it through.