Decadent, indulgent, and over-the-top are adjectives that come to mind when reflecting on Feast Portland. 2018 marked the annual food and drink festival’s seventh year and it lived up to its reputation of four days packed with food, drinks, celebrity chefs, more food, more drinks, and general excess. This year Feast also proved itself as perhaps the food festival all others should aspire to. While the high cost of events makes it more of an event geared towards the rich, that cost is also able to guarantee that all events are all-inclusive and not overcrowded, which are the two biggest pitfalls of most food and drink festivals. It’s also one hell of a good time.
One of the coolest parts about Feast is the way it shines the spotlight on chefs, presenting a sort of Bonnaroo of food with a packed roster of top-tier talent from Portland and beyond. This is a beer blog and there was certainly plenty of beer at Feast, but this year it really came down to the chefs. These are the chefs that stood out for this writer. By no means does this include everyone who blew my mind, but this is what I remember dammit! It’s also worth acknowledging that these chefs would be nothing without their teams, and at Feast their teams crushed it.
Melissa McMillan of Sammich (at Sunday Tailgate and 80s vs. 90s)
Melissa McMillan was omnipresent at Feast, a true chef of the people who could be found standing in line, sipping drinks, and chomping down throughout the weekend. She was clearly having a blast, and at the same she managed to serve up a truly delicious (and adorably small) riff on the McRib at 80s vs. 90s only to return with an extravagant but humble take on a Chicago style hot dog (with heirloom tomatoes) at the Sunday tailgate.
Mason Hereford of Turkey and the Wolf (80s vs. 90s)
Perhaps one of the few chefs that actually embraces the whimsy of the 80s and 90s at his New Orleans sandwich shop, Hereford and his team had stiff competition stacked up next to Austin titans Tyson Cole (Uchi) and Aaron Franklin (Franklin BBQ). He seemed to be aware of this as he served up his smoky, bacon cube-covered Bagel Bites to the people waiting in their line. But, just like his restaurant, Hereford has a gift for reminding you of the best thing you never knew you missed from childhood. His elevated take on Bagel Bites were a meaty bite of nostalgia and in this writer’s opinion he blew the hot shots from Austin out of the water.
Miguel Vidal of Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ (Smoked!)
Sure, Aaron Franklin is usually the first mentioned these days when the media talks about Texas barbecue, but Miguel Vidal has created his own subculture of taco barbecue in Austin. At Smoked!, Miguel sliced into a freshly smoked and perfectly tender brisket and laid it onto a mini version of his signature homemade tortillas. The whole time he did it with a smile, as if he knew he was enlightening the people of Feast to what real Texas brisket is about.
Angie Mar of The Beatrice Inn (Smoked!)
Devoted meat purveyor Angie Mar and her swanky West Village joint have garnered a lot of buzz these days. Her 90-day dry aged steak didn’t last long, but those that got a taste were grateful for a melt-in-your mouth piece of straight up red meat complemented by a creamy shrimp butter. Everyone else had to bow down to her alter of flames and meat.
Maya Loveless of Yonder (80s vs. 90s)
Loveless is a rising star in the Portland food scene with her inventive approach to downhome Southern cooking and at the 80s vs. 90s event she may have taken best in show with her unbelievably good pimento cheese, smoked ham and broccoli Hot Pocket drizzled with sundried tomato ranch. No microwave needed.
Tyler Malek of Salt and Straw(80s vs. 90s)
There’s been more than enough praise bestowed on Salt and Straw, but let’s be honest, they kind of deserve it. Malek and his team served what was perhaps the sluttiest dish of the 80s vs. 90s event with their stuffed crust waffle cones with candied fig and honey ice cream. The sweet kiss of the ice cream melted into the cheesy, pastry-esque waffle cone and the best way to eat it was to fold it like a taco and let it all drip down your chin.
Rick Gencarelli of Lardo (Night Market and Sunday Tailgate)
Portland is killing the sandwich game these days and the head honcho of one of its favorite locales brought the goods not once but twice. At the Night Market Gencarelli and his team served up a buttery and spicy fajita cheesesteak that blew minds and brought lines. On Sunday he kept the East Coast vibes going at the Tailgate with his lobster roll pop-up Kingpin, serving up lobster from Portland, ME that was warm and buttery sandwiched in soft bun with homemade potato chips.
Adam Sappington of Country Cat (Sunday Tailgate)
If there’s one thing Portland lacks sometimes it’s proper Southern hospitality. Luckily for us, one of the city’s finest Southern chefs was in damn fine spirits as he praised his crew working the grill, praised the bacon tomahawk pork chop he offered, and praised the Alabama white sauce he dipped it in. Sappington rallied the crowd, who eagerly lined up to gnaw on delectably fatty pork dripping with creamy goodness.
John Gorham of Toro Bravo (Night Market)
Grill smoke wafted across the entire festival grounds at the Night Market, beckoning lovers of grilled beef to the corner booth with an appropriately massive lane. Upon reaching the front of the line we were greeted by a carnival atmosphere as Gorham and his team barked out their offerings: “Burgers! 3 ways!” Yes indeed, the crowd was able to pick from a grilled burger, lamb slider, or classic diner flat top, and if you were up for it you could get all three. Maybe Gorham wanted people to only have room for what we was serving up as he dished out half burgers and bulbous sliders, but it was impossible to resist and well worth taking up real estate in the belly.
Andrew Le of Pig and the Lady (Night Market)
The decorated chef from Hawaii definitely delivered one of the highlights of the Night Market with his Korean fried chicken, watermelon nuoc cham, roasted strawberries and sesame aromatic herbs. The strawberries and watermelon offered a delightfully saccharine balance with the lightly fried and perfectly seasoned chicken, all of which was cut by a refreshing burst of mint leaves. For a tiny plate this dish had boatloads of complexity.