Heading into Feast Portland 2018, Portland’s buzzy, sprawling food festival, Willamette Week published a tapestry of years past’s debauchery, from secret Portugal the Man concerts to the general gnawing on pig heads. Perhaps Feast 2018 was tamer than years prior, but Portland still got pretty dang rowdy.
— Thursday begins with the ‘80s vs. ‘90s event, which offered arguably the weekend’s most buck-wild treats, with some more successful than others. Yes, there were octopus corn dogs, Ecto coolers, and Frito pies eaten directly out of the bag, but no one will forget Mae chef Maya Lovelace’s beautiful pimento cheese and ham hot pocket, drizzled with some sundried tomato ranch. “When I was a kid, I didn’t eat junk food,” Lovelace explained. “So when my mom was out of town, my dad would get us hot pockets, and ham and cheese was my favorite.” Other notable bites: Salt & Straw’s stuffed waffle cone and Departure’s Choco Taco.
— At the Thursday night official after-party, a pumpin’ carnival hidden in the graffiti-covered parking garage by Stacked Sandwiches, local chefs jumped at the chance to dunk Oregonian critic Michael Russell in a dunk tank. He took it like a champ, falling twice before calling it quits and jumping out of there. There were also some super saccharine cocktails — per the theme — which made some of Portland’s restaurant folk roll over to Ok Omens for natural wine and beignets. The tiny wine bar was fully packed; you’d think it were a different animal altogether.
— Bright and early Friday, folks crawled out of bed and dragged their hangover-poisoned bodies to the Friday Grand Tasting, where they were greeted with more booze and sugar. Bon Appetit’s Adam Rapaport talked Filipino food with Eggslut’s Alvin Cailan, while trawling diners swirled glasses of wine and stuffed faces with cupcakes. The most compelling bite had to be the not-so-laced edibles from Woodblock Chocolate and bougie dispensary Serra: The chocolatier collaborated with big-name Portland chefs like Beast’s Naomi Pomeroy, Bullard’s Doug Adams, and Ava Gene’s Joshua McFadden for super cheffy weed chocolates, though the samples were 100 percent cannabis-free.
— Friday was all about the big-deal dinners and fun-sized events, from a taste of Michelin-starred San Fran restaurant Mister Jiu’s at Big Feast in Little China, to the tear-jerker Zero-Proof dinner. The surprise hit at Big Feast was likely the cheeseburger fried rice from Chicago’s Fat Rice, quickly followed by XLB’s shrimp-topped turnip cake. Still, local Chinese counterpart Danwei Canting drew massive lines frying chicken to order. My guess is they’re not big caterers.
— Over at Night Market, which was Pacific-Rim-themed, the greatest success stories came from the islands or Hawaii-born chefs, which was to be expected. Gary Okazaki, aka professional eater Gary the Foodie, named his best bite as Ravi Kapur’s Liholiho Yacht Dog, with spam katsu, kimchi, and wasabi mayo. Big props also go to Andrew Le of the Pig and the Lady in Honolulu, who made Korean fried chicken with watermelon and roasted strawberries.
— Chris Cosentino’s meaty restaurant Jackrabbit played host to yet another after-party, with CBD-infused beers, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and Cosentino himself launching boxer-briefs out of a cannon. He told Eater PDX earlier, “I wore them. I wore all of them.” He was definitely joking though… we hope.
— Aaron Franklin certainly knows how to draw a crowd. At his Franklin & Friends lunch, the line trailed through Wayfinder beer bar’s l-shaped space, across the wooden deck and its meat-and-three-style tables, and down the disability ramp past an ice cream sandwich cart. It was nowhere near the famous pitmaster’s wait at the original Franklin Barbecue in Austin, and guests were certainly rewarded for their patience: Maya Lovelace’s better-than-grandma’s greens and super creamy mac-and-cheese stood up well to Franklin’s no-joke brisket, and Matt Vicedomini of Matt’s BBQ held his own with an unforgettable chorizo-ish sausage. Good show, gang. Good show.
— Of course, you must follow up barbecue with more barbecue. Smoked this year seemed a little lower energy, but certified Portland Good Boy Doug Adams pumped up the crowd by handing out Flintstone-sized beef ribs to gnaw with glee. Shockingly, the best bite of the event was probably a vegetable. Nina Compton, the James Beard winner behind New Orleans’ Compère Lapin, made a jerk corn with chicken skin that packed a serious, wow-inducing punch. The underdog of the night was likely Urdaneta, a restaurant with a loyal following but not a ton of national buzz; still, its pickled and grilled beef tongue with romesco was pretty dang hard to beat.
— After-parties galore defined Saturday night, from even more barbecue from Aaron Franklin at Bunk Sandwiches, to a late-night instant ramen pop-up at Han Oak. The latter seems like it was the place to be, with Instagram posts filming chefs tossing noodles as late as 4 a.m. But of course, wine nerds jumped at the chance to hang with Bon Appetit darling Marissa Ross, who was spotted at Dana Frank’s Bar Norman chugging a bottle of wine, possibly standing on the bar. This practice is affectionally called the “Ross Test;” it’s her brand, y’all.
— Brunch Village often makes seasoned Feasters cringe, who dread the super-long lines and occasional 86; plus, let’s be real, the folks who were eating ramen until 3 a.m. probably slept through it. Still, Brunch Village this year had a star-studded cast, from Eggslut’s Alvin Cailan to Junebaby’s Edouardo Jordan. The latter’s biscuit sandwich with sweet coppa, egg, and pimento cheese, was likely the crowd favorite, garnering a rave Tweet from Portland Monthly critic Karen Brooks. “Biscuit sandwiches holding what tastes like egg custard, doused with house sauce. MERCY,” she writes. “Can you open a place in Portland? Just asking for a friend.”
Pechluck Laskey and Alexander Frane contributed to reporting.