|SF Chef Chris Cosentino|
Portland Monthly got the party started on Thursday night with a Sandwich Invitational, where over a dozen chefs competed for the best between bread. Which ‘wich took the title? Beast’s Naomi Pomeroy, with a maple-glazed pork belly with pickled watermelon slaw on semolina. Very honorable mentions went to Irving Street Kitchen’s Sarah Schafer for her “Say Hello to My Little Fritas - a Cuban slider of many meats, including sirloin Kobe beef, pork tenderloin, veal and chicken livers, topped with pepper relish, apple slaw, tomato aioli and crispy fries; and to out-of-towner Franklin BBQ of Austin for its tender, smoldering smoked cheese steak with melted jalapeno cheese.
Friday and Saturday’s Grand Tasting at Pioneer Courthouse Square showcased the best of Oregon’s bounty. And bounteous it was, with local luxuries like salaciously saline pink shrimp and Dungeness crab so fresh that the purveyors dinged a bell every time a happy taster exclaimed, “Oh my God!” Tillamook cheddar cheese impressed with a brilliant marketing gimmick: giving away “tillaphones” for late-night, grilled cheese booty calls. Sips included plenty of Willamette Valley wines, craft brews and spirits from local distilleries.
Friday night’s Night Market invoked Asian street food, with Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker front-and-center with an aromatic pork and rice dish; Top Chef season 9 winner Paul Qui’s beef tongue hand rolls; an ocean fresh albacore tuna from Anita Lo; and local ice cream purveyors Salt and Straw combining rice noodles with coconut milk and palm sugar ice cream for one of the more engaging, authentic tastes.
Saturday, Feasters moseyed on to the mother of all farmers’ markets at Portland State University, so vast that it made NYC’s Union Square look like a windowbox on a fire escape. Chefs could be seen browsing, tasting and picking through nearly too-beautiful-to-be-true fruits and veggies (with gorgeous tomatoes still in season) in preparation for the weekend’s highlight event: High Comfort.
At High Comfort, a celebration, and elevation, of comfort food classics, confused New Yorkers pulled out all the denim and plaid they packed for the occasion, while the locals busted out their party dresses and gowns. No matter what their attire, everyone enjoyed four rooms of comfort’s interpretation, from Cathy Whims’ (Nostrana) beef tenderloin braciole with pear schiacciata and horseradish cream; to pig skin spaghetti puttanesca via Chris Cosentino (SF’s Incanto); to Hedy Goldsmith’s (Michael’s Genuine, Miami) Nutella panini with espresso, bacon and banana.
Other events over the weekend featured dinners with clever chef pairings like Atera’s (and ex-PDXer) Matt Lightner and Husk’s Sean Brock, along with guest appearances from Fergus Henderson, Amanda Freitag and a slew of other boldface names… it all proved in the end, the dream of the foodies is alive in Portland. For highlights, check out our slide show above.