Feast Portland is the best food party anyone's ever been to, including notorious food-partier Val Kilmer. And you should start thinking now about going next year. This past weekend, 10,000 people flocked to the city that hates awesome, hilarious TV shows about itself, to taste everything from foie hot dogs to lobster pies and rabbit banh mi, while downing booze from dozens of distillers, brewers, and wineries. In just its second year, Feast Portland has managed to become the SXSW of food, a half-week eat-orgy that would give Caligula the meat sweats. It was a flurry of butchery, flip-cup, Brass Monkey 40s, piles of lamb, and fuzzy memories. This just might be the greatest food fest in the country, and its organizers say it's just getting started. Here's what went down.
This is the best food festival in the country
Things kicked off with the Widmer Brothers Sandwich Invitational, where a boozy crowd crammed into PDX's iconic Director Park to nab fistwiches from more than a dozen chefs from throughout the country. Top honors went to PDX's own Laurelhurst Market, which served up a smoked beef-tongue wrap, while PDX sandwich demigods Bunk Sandwiches did this above spicy pastor-style take on their signature pork belly...
... which also goes well with a side of mariachi.
Austin superstar Paul Qui scored huge points for this banh mi-style deconstruction of Rabbit Seven Ways. Ironically, the meat came courtesy of endless rabbit three-ways.
It's hard to tell whether this gal hocking stick-based masks from Tillamook Cheese intended to give our photographer the finger...
... which is something these cheesy waffle sandwiches definitely gave to your cardiovascular health.
One of PDX's top sandwich purveyors, the amazing Lardo, drew huge lines of people seeking to watch its chefs saw logs... of porchetta.
The Country Cat's Adam Sappington scored the People's Choice award for these gigantic lamb sliders.
Meanwhile, learning events took place throughout the weekend, but it was good learning: beer-science tasting panels, a beer vs. wine taste-off, and butcher classes where people learned to cut up whole hogs and do face butchery not involving Joan Rivers.
Day two brought the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting, where the masses avoided the rain that never happens in Portland -- so weird -- by populating a tent city in Pioneer Courthouse Square (aka Portland's Living Room) that was part beer & wine fest, part chef showcase.
Wild Game purveyor Nicky USA spent the day frying up these sausages made of elks that aren't those old dudes in funny hats.
Oregon's kind of like the Wisconsin of the West, minus the ridiculous accents but plus a huge bounty of cheese, here on display by the visitors' bureau.
Friday brought about the Night Market, where most chefs crafted up ultra-fancy versions of Asia- and Latin America-inspired street foods. Among those in the fray were Chris Cosentino of SF's Incanto, Michael Solomonov of Philly's Zahav, and Rick Ortiz of Chicago's Antique Taco, who proved to thankfully be a liar by serving up Mexican fare that was actually quite new.
PDX's Aviary took home the award for biggest hunk of meat with these ginormous grilled tenderloins wrapped in lettuce and served with a pan-Asian glaze.
The crew from NYC's Momofuku Milk Bar managed the evening's most decadent creations with these amazing Cake Balls, which have nothing to do with that one band but really went the distance with flavors like birthday cake and pretzel cake.
Queen of the PDX cart scene Nong Poonsukwattana and her crew got into the street-food spirit by serving up her signature Khao Man Gai chicken wrapped in paper, but only after taking time to jokingly bust the chops of each person in the long line.
Aaron Franklin of Austin's infamous Franklin BBQ felt right at home slicing up his fatty brisket. Just like in Austin, his was the longest line at the event, and just like in Austin, people didn't mind waiting for a taste.
PDX Top Chef Masters alum and Beast/ Expatriate owner Naomi Pomeroy managed the dual feat of making amazingly meaty sliders and bringing a staff that demonstrated that Newsies costumes look spectacular on pretty cooks.
Andy Ricker of the NY and PDX Thai Pok Pok empire specializes in obscure street food, and wasn't afraid to mussel up the grill.
Saturday marked a huge transition from street food with High Comfort at the posh Nines hotel, a champagne-soaked affair where people stopped spilling meat juice on their casual clothes and started spilling meat juice on their suits. Chef Michael Voltaggio of LA's caps-averse ink. was the crowd favorite as he sliced hunks of steak into a homemade pho. The line stretched to the back of the room, and conveniently past the glowing wine bar that was the centerpiece.
Portland's artisan ice cream kings Salt & Straw took the notion of going H.A.M. on diners literally with a smoked-pig ice cream served in a raspberry-dipped waffle cone.
Gigantic hunks of house-cured lamb-belly bacon served as the base of PDX's Little Bird's take on the BLT that, once eaten, completely changed the perception of the diner classic, but was sadly not served by an old lady who called everyone "Hon". Note for next year!
Andrew Carmellini of NYC's The Dutch brought his Big Apple cred in the form of hot dogs smothered in delicious foie gras, which people ironically force-fed to themselves.
Restaurant Urban Farmer got fancy with these pocket sandwiches stuffed with shaved elk.
Star NY chef April Bloomfield of Spotted Pig did wonders with fish sausage, while Seattle's Tom Douglas rocked the house with these amazing coils of house-made sausage.
Of course, you don't spend all day partying with renowned chefs without also spending the night after-partying with them, and each evening turned out to be a barn-burner full of more food, booze, and cocktails. The official party of sponsor Bon Appetit took over the unlikely venue of NE PDX Chinese dive bar Chopsticks, which ditched its trademark karaoke but kept the horrible dancing.
For their gigantic afterparty, the folks at Irving Street Kitchen ditched all their tables to make room for a huge crowd that was fueled by alcohol-spiked Otter Pops and watermelon cocktails...
... Irving Street also teamed up with American Lamb to offer an endless supply of meat that would have given Shari Lewis nightmares, including lamb bacon, charcuterie, and whole roasted baby sheep. This picture might as well be an X-ray of somebody's stomach after the shindig.
But it was ChefStable -- the restaurant group behind PDX faves like Lardo, Racion, Grassa, and pretty much everything else -- who proved that the best way to follow a weekend of upscale food and drink is with a chaser of awesome sandwiches and 40s of pre-mixed Brass Monkey, then a dance party to the Beasties until 3a.
... and, of course, an epic flip cup tourney (here pictured from the photographer's actual eyeball, apparently) pitting chefs from St. Jack, Pok Pok, Racion, Ox, and others -- plus a media team -- against each other in what, to an outsider, looked like a cockfight. Racion proved victorious after a final round where the antes were upped with tequila and toplessness. Then everyone stumbled home to nurse their bodies back to health before Feast makes its triumphant return next year. Oof.