Two years ago while visiting Portland with my parents my ears perked up at something I heard on the radio. I only remember sound clips: Sandwich. Invitational. Feast. Portland. Bon Appetit. I was still relatively new to the Pacific Northwest at the time so it was a mystery that grabbed my attention instantaneously. I needed to know more. Upon further Googling I learned 2 things: 1) Feast was an annual multi-day festival held in Portland, sponsored by Bon Appetit, that showcased Oregon’s bounty and featured several renowned Chefs from around the nation. 2) I HAD TO GO.
Fast forward two years to 2017. On the morning of June 2nd I sat at my computer, cheek in hand, impatiently refreshing the page where I’d purchase tickets for the festival once they were released at 11am. The moment struck and after surmounting a delay caused by an overloaded server I was in. I scored tickets to four events: Late Night Adventures in Takeout, The Grand Tasting (like a deluxe weekend costco sample experience), No Kilts Required: American Single Malts and—the piéce de résistance—Tillamook Presents: SMOKED (A BBQ PARTY, YA’LL).
June, July, and the early days of September crawled by, but finally it was time to pack up the Mazda3 and zoom down to Portland for Feast. The weekend unfolded in what I can only describe as a sensory extravaganza. One that I’m going to try and recreate for you now.
Feast looked like –
- A series of electric parties across the city accented by thematic mood lighting that gave every event charisma. My favorite was the neon, untraditional at a BBQ event.
- Crowded, enthusiastic gatherings of all kinds of people—friends and strangers, groups and soloists, from different places, of different generations.
- A tie-dye of stains on my shirts from who-knows-which saucy snacks.
- A never ending sea of artistically composed dishes created by chefs whose home restaurants are peppered around the US.
- A list to which I was always adding, documenting names of new restaurants I otherwise may have remained oblivious to.
- Caramel colored splashes on my collar from that last whiskey cocktail I shouldn’t have had.
Feast sounded like –
- The ubiquitous hiss of raw meats sizzling on grills.
- Exclamations between guests about which dishes were worth standing in line for—guiding my next move.
- Bumpin’ music adding to the energy of the night accented by the percussion of iced bourbon cocktails being shaken in both fists by the boisterous bartenders.
- Soft speaking between members of a restaurant’s staff underneath the tents.
- The wise words of innovative chefs being interviewed by Bon Appetit’s Adam Rapoport.
- Clattering of metal stock pots and pans. The metal clapping of tongs.
- Joy during a time of political turbulence—laughter, casual conversation, excited statements punctuated by each new bite.
- The low, slow groans of indigestion around 2am.
Feast felt like –
- Oregon’s warm September sun, it’s chilly twilight breezes.
- The crunch of my first air fried dumpling, and the contrasting soft textures of regional cheeses.
- The delicate balance of my wine glass in one hand and two small paper plates in the other.
- Warmth from open faced grills.
- Fumbling with utensils: chopsticks, forks, spoons, skewers.
- The constant pressure of my finger on the shutter button of my camera.
- Conflict because my stomach was full but MORE THAN ANYTHING I just wanted to keep eating.
Feast smelt like –
- Competing smoky scents from the forest fires of Jolly Mountain and the plumes dancing skyward from the charcoal grills.
- Complex combinations of spicy aromas characteristic of single malt american whiskies.
- An amalgam of currently-being-cooked dishes—fermented, peppery, sweet, mesquite, fruity, floral.
- The perfume of Febreeze inside of a suburban mom’s lyft vehicle.
Feast tasted like –
- Fruit-forward wines from all over the pacific northwest.
- Sweet baked goods and fragrant berry jams from local vendors.
- Unique combinations of sweet and savory ingredients that I would’ve never thought to combine like brussels sprouts and pomegranate seeds.
- A just-been-torched s’more donut from Blue Star that was crunchier than I was expecting.
- The spicy, moist brisket from Langbaan served in a pool of spicy gravy poured from a hot silver kettle, and decorated with flowers that packed a peppery punch that you can’t even imagine.
- Very high quality hot dogs with very high quality pumped cheese.
- The kind of tastes that left an impact on your palate, and lingered even after you brushed your teeth—more like a fond memory than an annoyance.
I am so grateful to have had the chance to attend my first Feast. For every moment I was there I was filled with joy and was able to momentarily forget about daily stresses that often overwhelm me. It wasn’t just me, I was surrounded by other people who were just as I happy as I was. I already look forward to the next Feast I’m able to attend. Next time I’ll go to one of the suppers, I won’t miss the Night Market, and I’ll bring more than 2 doses of indigestion tablets.
To learn more about the festival check out their website at feastportland.com