Feast: Portland’s Biggest, Baddest, and Best Food Festival
Portland's Feast is sneaking up (September 14!), but there's still time to get your tickets. So don't miss the one food festival of the year worth attending.
There are food festivals and then there is Feast. Unlike any other in the country, this gastro-fest has one thing that the others don’t—and can’t—have: Portland. It’s here where Oregon’s bounty of ingredients are showcased at their finest by local artisans, chefs, winemakers, brewmasters and pastry makers. And it’s all presented with a backdrop of Portland’s incredible food scene. So if there’s just one food festival to attend during your time on this earth, make it this one.
How We Do Feast
Day 1: Thursday
Cheat Sheet: Blue Star Donuts, Courier Coffee, Maurice, Alder Street Food Cart Pod, Sandwich Invitational, Ava Gene’s
The key to doing Feast right is recognizing it’s a balancing act between hitting the food-filled events and filling your remaining time wisely exploring the culinary offerings with which Portland is so densely populated. Keep in mind, you won’t be able to do it all in one long weekend, but you can get quite a bit accomplished given the festival’s gathering of top tastemakers.
That said, we believe in always hitting the ground running, so don’t wait for the festivities to start, drop your bags and head straight to Blue Star Donuts. There’s no wrong time of day to have a doughnut, especially one of these babies.
Next, fuel up with your first cup of coffee in the city where the third wave coffee behemoth Stumptown was founded. They can be credited with paving the way for the likes of Case Study, Heart, and Courier, any of which would be a good start if you’re staying downtown. Should you choose Courier, be sure to pop into the neighboring Maurice. A sweet little all-day cafe with a handwritten menu, French apartment kitchen vibe, or as they describe it a “pastry luncheonette”.
If you’ve gone all-out and purchased a “Package Pass” you’ll need to hit the hospitality suite to pick up your credential before the first event. While you’re down there, do a lap around the Alder Street Food Cart Pod. If you think you’re over the food truck trend, think again. The Alder Street hub (between SW Alder and Washington streets, from SW Ninth to SW Tenth avenue) has been a fixture in Portland’s culinary scene. Bing Mi serves up the best Jian Bing. A Chinese street food that’s a take on an egg sandwich only instead of the bun, it’s a thin crepe-like pancake wrapped around a combo of eggs, herbs, black bean paste, pickled veggies and crunchy wontons.
This year’s festival kicks off at 6 p.m. with the Sandwich Invitational hosted at the Rose Quarter arena. There eighteen star-chefs will go head-to-head to serve up their most tasty sandwich. The showdown ($85 individual ticket) is okay for solos, but even better tackled with a group so you can split off to get the goods, then gather to bite into all 18 sandwiches and discuss your picks and pans.
Sandwiches are not the only thing offered on the inaugural night. Early birds were able to book seats at the collaborative dinners like “For One Night Only” featuring chefs Enrique Olvera and Daniela Soto-Innes (of Cosme fame), Jose Chesa (Chesa) and Portland’s most notable chef and national expert on Thai cuisine, Andy Ricker or “Game, On” a mash-up menu designed by chefs Chris Cosentino, Chris Diminno, Derek Dammann (Maison Publique) and Sam Mason (Oddfellows). As of now, the Thursday dinners are, sniff, all sold-out. Track down a friend who’s got an extra ticket, peruse the black market, or set a reminder in your calendar for next year or you’ll miss out again.
Our advice: Of all Feast’s events the Sandwich Invitational is not a necessity, but if you can afford it then budget about 30-45 minutes to walk around the first hour as a palate primer to dinner out at one of the stellar restaurants in town. (Aim to pick a spot where the chef is in the kitchen and isn’t busy preparing and serving their fare at Feast.)
Day 2: Friday
Cheatsheat: Cup & Bar, Nong’s Khao Man Gai, Grand Tasting, Little Bird Bistro, Drink Tank, Night Market, The Late, Late Show
AM: Again, you’re in the Pacific Northwest, a.k.a. Coffee Kingdom. To keep up on the Joe scene, you’re going to have to hit a coffeehouse each day, more if you can handle it. This morning, head over to the split personality Cup & Bar. There the marriage of Trailhead coffee and Ranger chocolate is sublime and results in transcendental drinks like the Dirty Charlie. Don’t ask, just order it.
Before going in search of carb-filled breakfast, walk a few blocks to Nong’s Khao Man Gai for, what else, but the Khao Man Gai. After much success, the famous food cart of the same name spun off into a brick and mortar location just a few blocks from Cup & Bar. There you can sit and savor the star of the show: Thai chicken and rice. The plate features perfectly poached, organic chicken perched on top a mount of rice simmered in chicken stock and herbs. To properly eat it, top with the sauce of fermented soybeans, ginger, garlic, Thai chilies, vinegar, housemade syrup and soy sauce. Take a bite, then before your next one, take a few sips of the organic chicken broth. Cleanse your palate with the sliced cucumbers and cilantro garnish. Repeat.
PM: Those that were smart enough to purchase tickets in advance may have snagged spots Bon Appetit‘s hands-on classes like Steak & Eggs. If you didn’t, it’s time to get your drink on and hit the Grand Tasting tent in Pioneer Courthouse Square for some day drinking. The tent is bursting with Oregon winemakers, cider producers, and brew masters along with a few local artisans featuring their sweet and savory goods. We recommend tracking down Sokol Blosser Winery, Apolloni Vineyards, Pfriem Family Brewers, Piper Heidsieck, Oregon Olive Mill and Salt & Straw for ice cream. After imbibing all those liquids grab a late, light lunch a few blocks from Pioneer Square at Little Bird Bistro. Chef Gabrielle Rucker’s charcuterie board is one to worship and the double patty burger is pretty damn hard to resist. There goes the “light” lunch.
If you think you can fight that post-lunch nap, there are still tickets left for the hour-long Drink Tank tasting, Pilsner: So Fresh and So Clean. The panel runs from 4-5 p.m. leaving time to catch a few z’s and dream about all those pale lagers. Be sure to set your alarm.
Eve: Bring an extra layer for the cool night ahead at the Night Market. (Note: At press time, the event is already sold out). This cornerstone event hosted at Zidell Yards affords views of Portland’s skyline with 20 top chefs set under strings of lights. It’s hard for us to choose a favorite, but we’re pretty excited to see what Jenn Louis’s has in store from her modern Israeli restaurant Ray.
After the Night Market, grab a ride and go to the The Late, Late Show: Adventures in Takeout. It’s everything we dream of for a late-night munchies session featuring chefs Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo (Fat Rice, Chicago), Kyo Koo (Danwei Canting, PDX), Han Ly Hwang (Kim Jong Grillin’, PDX), Gabe Rosen (Biwa, PDX) and Bonnie Morales (Kachka, PDX).
Day 3: Saturday
Cheatsheet: Farmers Market, Pine Street Biscuits, Cook and Capture, Distillery Row, Smoked!
AM: Don’t listen to anyone who tries to convince you to race to put your name on the waitlist for the many brunches around the city. (We’ll get to that). No, tell them that the one thing in Portland not to be missed is the Saturday morning Farmers Market at PSU. This is the only day of the week the market is opened (8 a.m. – 2 p.m.). Aside from the colorful produce at every turn, there’s much to consume including some of the best fare Portland has to offer. We advise having breakfast of a gravy soaked egg and cheese sandwich from Pine Street Biscuits which can be found if you head towards the PSU campus.
Midday: Go at your own pace at the market and after hopefully you have a spot at Cook and Capture at 1 p.m. It’s where our friend, and author of the amazing Back Pocket Pasta Colu Henry teams up with Andrea Slonecker and food photographer Kari Young (aka Meatballs Mama). You’ll be cooking and learning how to snap that perfect shot.
PM: Time for a drink. If you were at Cook and Capture (at Jacobsen Salt Co.) you’re just steps away from Distillery Row. Stick around this micro neighborhood to discover this concentration of eight small-batch, craft distilleries. Begin your tasting crawl at Eastside Distilling which started almost a decade ago and is now the largest craft distiller in Oregon with, we might add, the only female master distiller west of the Mississippi. After a few samples of spirits like their Below Deck Rum head over to Rolling River. A craft distillery in every way being founded on the Rickard family recipes. Their aromatic hooch like their aquavit, vodka and gin which is infused with botanicals highlighted by juniper, star anise, cardamom, coriander lemon and orange peel. Next stop, New Deal Distillery and Tasting Room. Their craft spirits include gin and specialty vodka like their Mud Puddle Bitter Chocolate made with cocoa nibs from Theo’s in Seattle. We can’t get enough of their New Deal Coffee Liqueur made from custom blended beans from Water Avenue Coffee. This stuff is good straight up. New Deal also offers hands-on whiskey classes and tours, a reason to extend your stay or make a return trip. Note: the distilleries are only open for drop-in visits, no reservations necessary and most hours run weekends noon – 5 p.m, with the exception of New Deal which is open until 6 p.m. Definitely the one to end your tour.
Eve: The evening is another eating extravaganza and thankfully this one is of the barbecue variety. This backyard cookout of our dreams gathers 22 chefs (read the list here) will be held at The Fields in the Pearl District.
If you’ve not quite had your fill of fun there’s something that isn’t listed on the Feast website: the after hours parties. If you talk to the right people you may find yourself enjoying a cocktail with your favorite chef or bartender. But don’t stay out too late, tomorrow’s a big day.
Day 4: Sunday
Cheatsheet: Tasty N Alder, Brunch Village, Stumptown…goodbye Portland!
AM: While the debauchery from Saturday night may have some sleeping in this Sunday morning, no weekend in Portland would be complete without brunch. The place that’s worth getting out of bed for is Tasty N Alder. Doors open at 9 a.m. though no matter when you arrive, there will always a queue. While you watch the plates of patatas bravas propping up an over easy eggs, crispy fried chicken egg and cheese sandwiches and skillets of steak and Cheddar eggs with cornmeal pancakes whisk by, order a chocolate potato donut hole from the bartender.
After digesting, head over to Brunch Village at Pioneer Courthouse Square to cap off your day of brunching with sweets and more booze. Before you depart, there’s one more cup of coffee to be had—Stumptown. We recommend signing up for a tasting if they are running any on Sunday check the website and if that’s not possible, then stop into any of their locations around town or you can even grab that last cup at the airport outpost.
Dates: Thursday, September 14 – Sunday, September 17
Cost: Package Pass, $570 per person includes (1) pass Friday and Saturday Grand Tasting; (1) pass Sandwich Invitational; (1) Pass Night Market; (1) Pass Smoked!; (1) Pass Brunch Village
A la carte tickets begin at $75, with the main events $85 and up
Like Portland itself Feast has an independent spirit that you won’t find at the typical mass-market festivals around the country. From the large scale chef-driven events to the intimate hands-on classes to the expert food panels and collaborative dinners, Feast is a must-go festival in a must-eat city.