Welcome to Portland — eat, eat, eat!

May 12th, 2010 by veronica

I’m a lottle* late with my write-up about that hazy, crazy last week of April when it seemed the food universe was spinning around this little burg called Portland. It started off with the convergence of the IACP conference — that’s the International Association of Cooking Professionals. Though I certainly spend a lot of time in the kitchen, I can’t be called a professional so shelling out for the four-figure cost of registration seemed a tad…excessive… so I initially ignored much of the media surrounding the big event. Then just the week before the eat-erati were about to descend on the city, I found out that they were still looking for some volunteers. Hobnobbing with foodie royalty and chitchatting about all things edible for free? Hot dang!

Unfortunately I was a little late to the party and most of the sexier volunteer spots — like, oh, helping out (and eating) at the opening gala and, say, being Madhur Jaffrey’s kitchen assistant — were already taken. But there were still jobs to do — and for the chance to sit in on a few sessions I could stand to work a few hours at a less than glamorous job.

In looking at the website it didn’t look like I’d actually get to go to any sessions since they all seemed full, but in fact I got to attend two of them, plus the exposition and book fair. Really, I was only limited by my own schedule as they were incredibly generous about letting volunteers sit in. Then again, I didn’t try to crash the chocolate tasting or the Judith Jones talk.

I went to a rather heated panel discussion on “The Death of Recipes” — some people would like to see recipes wiped off the face of the earth; who knew? Michael Ruhlman went head-to-head with Karen Page (thanks to extramsg, the video of the exchange is here) about whether or not Americans are too busy to cook at home. The audience was on Ruhlman’s side (partly because Karen Page was being sort of insufferable) in large part for saying crowd pleasers like “It may be fundamental to our humanity to spend time everyday cooking for our families.” Amen, brother.

Speaking of fundamental humanity, my favorite event of the week was a talk by Bryant Terry and self-proclaimed “food justice activist” who seeks to reclaim our humanity by reclaiming food for the corporate grasp. He’s written two books: Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen and Vegan Soul Kitchen — though he pointed out that he didn’t pleaded with his publishers not to use the word “Vegan” in the cookbook title since he felt it pigeon-holed the book when what he really wanted to talk about was sustainable eating. But marketing shorthand won out and so “vegan” it is. His session was billed as a cooking demo, but what it really was was a food activist rally and inspirational speech. And I gotta say, I got no problem with that. Especially since at the very end, he made us all some citrus-spiked collard greens. Yum.

The culinary book fair and expo hall events the next day weren’t quite as thrilling as I’d hoped, though I did get to buddy up to bread-genius Peter Reinhard and watch Ruth Reichl try to figure out what kind of strange pre-packaged crunchy snack product she was eating. Oh, and see Michael Ruhlman and Karen Page glare at each other as they were seated perilously close together by virtue of alphabetical order.

That Saturday we celebrated Willy Week’s 3rd annual Eat Mobile fundraiser for Mercy Corps. We’ve been to all three and this was by far the best organized, easiest to navigate and most fun one yet. Congrats to you, Willy Week. It helped that C and I had PJ and Brendan in tow to help us cover more ground fast and try everything before they ran out of food. No small task when there were 30 carts and, what? 3000 people?

Highlights include porchetta from The People’s Pig, truffle sandwiches from Savor Soup, beignets (beignets!!) from Violetta and spicy thai grilled peanut butter sandwiches from PBJ’s.

Ummm… I don’t actually understand what “I Pentagram Food Carts” means… should I?

Gotta admire the chutzpah of lugging your own wood oven around. They were turning out some damn fine pizza, too.

Why, thank you!

thank the pig

Thank the pig.

And did I mention that the Portland Farmer’s Market season has just started in earnest, too? So in addition to IACP and Eat Mobile I’d been grazing my way through the markets. Hey, it’s local, right?

After all that socializing and fooding, I couldn’t convince myself to attend the granddaddy of all food tasting events, Taste of the Nation, a benefit event catered by the best and brightest of Portland’s food scene. It sounded like an amazing time with fabulous food, all for a good cause, but I’ll have to wait and hope that next year’s event doesn’t come at the end of a week of non-stop eating. Either that or hope that by this time next year, I will have figured out how to make my stomach as big as my hungry eyes.

*that started out as a typo, but I like it as a word meaning “a lot, but I want to pretend it’s just a little”

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One Response

  1. Dan

    nice pig pic!

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