Dozens of makers across the state are preparing to bring their tastiest innovations to the eighth annual Feast Portland (Sept. 12-15, 2019), arguably Oregon’s hippest food and drink festival. These tastemakers — chefs, butchers, farmers, ranchers, artisans, brewers, distillers and winemakers — are tasked with showcasing the bounty of Oregon at the festival’s large tasting events, spirited parties, intimate dinners, workshops and demonstrations, and more. Many of the dozens of events sell out quickly, but last-minute tickets remain, so make sure to snag those soon. Here are five celebrated Feast artisans to look for at the events and around town.
1. A Southern sensation
At a time when comfort food rules, Maya Lovelace has built an empire on tasty fried chicken. Her wildly successful Portland pop-up supper club, Mae, came from her roots as a chef in the American South. Awards piled up, including a 2018 semifinalist James Beard Award nomination. Then in 2019, Lovelace satisfied fans with a new location: Yonder, a casual fried-chicken counter that celebrates her three famous styles: dusted, dipped and hot. Traditional sides such as bacon-braised collard greens, biscuits, and baked pimento mac and cheese round out the menu. And it’s best washed down with a cold beer or a South-meets-Portland-inspired cocktail such as the Derby Hat, with bourbon and sparkling rose. Find Lovelace featured at Feast Portland’s East Coast vs. West Coast and the kid-friendly Melty Fest; also producing a buttermilk chocolate with Moonstruck Chocolate for a Feast Fab Collab.
2. Spanish traditions endure
Three years ago, Javier Canteras came off a stint as a personal chef to start Basque Supper Club, inspired by the Txoko — a type of secret gastronomic society popular in the Basque country of northern Spain. The Portland pop-up proved so popular that he opened Urdaneta, which turned three years old in July 2019. Urdaneta focuses on the tapas and wine from northern Spain, with Pacific Northwest inspirations and ingredients. For instance, the traditional grilled octopus and boiled potato dish, pulpo a la parrilla, is now grilled octopus with housemade tater tots, a nod to the Oregon-made classic. Canteras favors a more modern style, built on the flavors of the Old World. Many of his diners come in for one dish only, based on traditional flavors they crave — a pistachio emulsion with fennel and orange, a skewered lamb with Basque pepper stew, a stuffed pintxos pepper that is his mom’s original recipe. “Portland is one of those towns that are a chef’s dream,” says Canteras. “It’s full of really adventurous eaters. We can feel more creative and say, ‘Hey, let’s utilize some rabbit liver,’ and not be too afraid that Portland won’t give it a shot.” Try Canteras’ food at Feast Portland’s new Vaguely Spanish, a collaboration dinner with Portland’s other award-winning Spanish restaurant chefs including Jose Chesa of Ataula (focusing on Barcelona and Catalonia) and John Gorham of Toro Bravo (focusing on southern Spain).
3. A healthy beverage for all
Between craft beer, cider, cold-brew coffee and kombucha, Bend has always been a hot spot for craft beverages. Now there’s one more beverage making its way to tap rooms and grocery stores across the state. Since their startup in a small kitchen in Bend in 2016, Jacinda Swan has been working to launch and grow The Water Kefir People — a fermented water that is organic, sparkly, probiotic and fun to drink in playful flavors like dragon fruit mint, hibiscus rosehip and lavender blueberry. “We’re creating a category,” says Swan, a former preschool teacher and stay-at-home mom in Hawaii who moved her family to Bend to run the company. “I think we’re providing people with another alternative to kombucha,” as well as beer and soda, she says. “A lot of people love kombucha and naturally like water kefir, which is lighter, less acidic and more approachable.” Now with a partnership with Portland’s Soma Kombucha (which is taking over production), Swan and her husband, Bobby, the brewer, can focus on growing the company beyond farmers markets and community events in Bend. They’ll also have more time to paddle in the summer and snowboard in the winter with their three young children. You can taste their water kefir on tap many places in Bend; in Portland at two of the Soma Kombucha tasting rooms; and at The Big Feast during Feast Portland.
4. Using business to lift up women
With flavors like cinnamon snickerdoodle and almond mocha nut butter, Ground Up’s peanut-, soy- and dairy-free nut butters are undoubtedly tasty. But Carolyn Cesario and business partner Julie Sullivan wanted to use their skills to make people feel good inside and out. Since launching from their kitchen at The Redd in Portland in 2016, Ground Up has employed more than 20 women who’ve been overcoming adversity — either through homelessness, the sex industry, mental illness or other challenges. “We realized a lot of women just can’t commit to or find full-time work, and that a flexible, part-time schedule is a better fit,” Cesario says. “Many times they just lack the confidence, someone willing to believe and take a chance on them. The goal is to build them up, meet them where they’re at.” So the company provides part-time employment, on-the-job training and mentorship, and has moved several women into full-time and management positions now. They are also working with other employers, including New Seasons Market, who would like Ground Up to refer women their way. You can sample Ground Up flavors — such as their newest, walnut cashew with black pepper sea salt from Jacobsen Salt Co. — at The Big Feast; find them in grocery stores or farmers markets throughout Portland; and look for their new cookbook, “Nut Butter,” to be released in September 2019.
5. Pork and veggies to table
It’s all about the chase for chef Karl Holl — the chase for seasonal change of wild mushrooms, which he forages, and fresh vegetables, which he plucks and serves to happy diners. “There’s certain things you can’t teach; you have to feel,” he says. “Just being adaptable and connected with the menu is where cooking makes me happy.” Holl (who’s won great acclaim recently) works with his brother, Alex, running Spatzle and Speck, an events company that’s taken up permanent residence at Park Avenue Fine Wines (open to ages 21 and up) in downtown Portland. Here, Tuesday through Saturday evenings, they serve up elegant veggie-focused dishes as well as pasta and some farm-fresh pork and other protein with ingredients harvested from their leased community farm space in east Portland, Black Locust Farm. From summer berries and peaches to wild mushrooms year-round, Holl says he’s living the dream, taking full advantage of Oregon’s access to the ocean and mountains for foraging and play. Fans may find Spatzle and Speck at events around town; at Park Avenue for a flight and dinner (try their showstopping 100-layer lasagna, made with super-thin layers of porcini duxelle paste mixed with ricotta, fonduta cheese sauce and fresh parmesan); and at the Feast event “Vegetables: A Love Story, Continued.”