Feast Portland, Day 2: Imperial, Tastings and A Party at Lardo

Day 2 of Feast began for me at 8am, an hour I don’t typically engage with unless it involves getting on a plane. However, this is Feast after all so an 8am presence must involve something incredibly delicious.

And delicious it was…

I started off my Friday morning at the Feast Portland Media Breakfast, which took place at Imperial at the Hotel Lucia. The buffet selection was a delicious spread full of Imperial’s signature brunch items (think fry bread, corn cakes and fantastic pastries) as well as Bloody Mary’s and Irish Coffees (which I resisted considering it was…err…8am).

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Apres Imperial, I had intended to chill out with a cup of Stumptown and blog at the Urbanspoon Media Lounge, however this thing called ‘needing a nap’ got in the way, so I rushed home for a two hour power snooze before heading back downtown for the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting at Pioneer Square.

The gist of the Alaska Airlines sponsored Tasting (which spanned over both Friday and Saturday) was that a tent was set up featuring Oregonian vendors and artisans providing samples of their fare. The majority of vendors were regional wineries and craft breweries, but there were also local bakeries, restaurants and local artisans such as Jacobsen’s Sea Salt, Bee Local, and Masala Pop (think tamarind masala popcorn snacks and the like). There was also a KitchenAid stage where celebrity chefs showcased cooking demos, a Whole Foods booth where you can get free printed tote bags, and a Bon Appetit Magazine tent that featured the famous Olympic Provisions Meat Spread.

After gorging myself on samples of breads, wine, cheese, and chocolates (rough life, I know); I headed home for yet another nap. I know, Feast is exhausting.

I ended up going out to a light dinner with Anne at Interurban since I didn’t get tickets to the Night Market, which was the main event du jour (or du soir rather) for Feast.

Afterwards however, we headed down to Lardo West at the Indigo for a Chefstable Feast after party…and boy was it fun. I do admit though I regret having skipped the party right before, a soiree at Irving Street Kitchen that included a FULL ON CAVIAR BAR. Oh well…at least we made it to this one.

When reaching there, Anne and I met up with Adam, one of our friends who runs his own professional knife shop (talk about the perfect kind of afterparties to network at). As three of Chefstable’s restaurants, Racion, Grassa and Lardo are all interconnected at the bottom floor of the Indigo, all were opened up to accommodate the massive amount of people who showed up to this party. There were chefs, famous food writers, judges, other industry workers, bartenders, event sponsors, media/blogger peeps and everyone else lucky enough to be ‘in the know’ about such a fantastic party.

Plus, as can be expected from such a party, the food and booze is something to write home about. We’re talking Aviation Gin and Juice kegs in one room, 40s of Olde English mixed with OJ, sangria jello shots and champagne otter pops. Oh yeah, and the game of Flip Cup that took up half of Grassa…so in other words we were at a very high class frat party.

At around 1am or so, I headed home- there was yet another full day of Feasting left and I needed nothing more than a good night’s rest and a couple of bottles of Acqua Panna. If you think day 2 of Feast looks awesome, wait until I show you what Day 3 was like!

For more information on the Friday Oregon Grand Bounty Tasting (and the vendors who were present), check out this link:

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Macaroni & Negronis: A Preview of Grassa

One of the coolest things about being a so-called ‘food blogger’ is that you never know who is going to read your posts, relate to your words, and reach out.

Yeah, I love to dine out and write about it later for fun, but of course it is always exciting to be contacted by the Portland community with opportunities and invitations to attend events and try new establishments/products.

My post a couple of weeks back regarding my ‘final lunch break’ pre-unemployment at Lardo ended up receiving the attention of a very kind and prolific Portland foodie who asked Chris Angelus of Portland Food Adventures to contact me with an invitation to an event at Hokusei, a renown sushi/omakase establishment on June 11th as a very generous gesture to brighten up my day due to my recent job lay-off situation. Of course, I accepted because who am I to turn down an opportunity to have a six course Omakase supper and beverage event prepared by Chef Kaoru Ishii?

In addition to that, Chris from PFA also invited me himself to an experiential Pasta-making and dining event last night at Grassa, a restaurant slated to open next Wednesday at the Indigo building sandwiched between Lardo and Racion.

Menu for the evening
Menu for the evening

Chris’ best chef friend is Rick Gencarelli, the mastermind behind Lardo who in the past year has transformed it from a simple sandwich food cart into two brick and mortar establishments and is now opening his third dine-in restaurant, Grassa venturing into the territory of fresh pasta (which they also intend to sell retail along with some of their house made sauces).

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Anitpasti Salad: Olympic Provisions Meats, Mama's Lil Peppers, White Beans, Oregano, Red Wine Vinaigrette
Anitpasti Salad: Olympic Provisions Meats, Mama’s Lil Peppers, White Beans, Oregano, Red Wine Vinaigrette

There were approximately thirty attendants at the event and we were seated at two communal tables placed between the Open Kitchen and the ceiling-floor length windows facing SW Washington Street. Pre-pasta making we were all supplied with delicious Negronis, Bicyclettes, and a couple of appetisers to hold our appetite for the next hour. And of course, everything was served family style and in great abundance.

Fritto Misto: Calamari, Fennel Lemon, Calabrian Chiles
Fritto Misto: Calamari, Fennel Lemon, Calabrian Chiles

I admit I am normally not a fan of octopus, but this fritto misto was delectable, especially with the tad of fire from the calabrian chiles and the two un-pictured dipping remoulades.

Pasta Making
Pasta Making

My mum would be so proud of me, I got to put on an apron and stuff little Mezzaluna pastas with a ricotta/parmesan filling…yes, my first few were deformed but then again this was my very first time attempting to stuff pasta.

Super Awesome Pasta Making Machine
Super Awesome Pasta Making Machine
View of the Open Kitchen
View of the Open Kitchen
Mezzaluna filled with ricotta and tossed with brown butter and sage
Mezzaluna filled with ricotta and tossed with brown butter and sage

This was hands down my favourite dish! The sage was fried in the same method that Lardo next door does with their herbs on their French Fries and the brown butter and parmesan with the pasta was delightful in the simplest of manners. I could probably eat this every day and never get bored.

Squid Ink Chitara: Chorizo Butter, Charred Octopus, Preserved Lemon
Squid Ink Chitara: Chorizo Butter, Charred Octopus, Preserved Lemon

And here I was once again faced with chunks of charred octopus, and quite frankly it was fantastic and not slimy in the least; I’m beginning to think I need to give the tentacled creature another chance in every day ordering…

Radiatore with tomato braised chicken, crisp skin, ricotta, basil
Radiatore with tomato braised chicken, crisp skin, ricotta, basil

Being a fiend for anything with chicken and ricotta, this was another fantastic yet simple dish; a very slightly fancified version of pasta with tomato sauce.

Tiramisu
Tiramisu
The Radiatore and container of fresh Marinara I got to take home
Take-Aways

At the end of the night, Rick had a table set up with all the various pasta shapes and a choice of Marinara or Bolognese sauce for us to take home. Being a fan of the ‘radiator’ shaped radiatore, I selected that one along with a tub of fresh marinara.

While I was definitely the youngest person at the Grassa PFA, I had a great time meeting and commiserating with my fellow attendees over a delicious meal. I admit I still sometimes get a little nervous about going to events where I know I will not know anyone, but with a communal seating arrangement and unlimited negroni flow you’re guaranteed to start a conversation with your neighbour and have a grand old time (which I most certainly did).

Thanks again to Chris from PFA for the gracious invitation, for Chef Gencarelli for providing us with such a fantastic hands-on dining experience, and to the lovely staff at Grassa for keeping us well-fed and hydrated. If you’re looking for the next Italian hotspot on the Westside, be sure to check out Grassa when it opens next week!

You can also stay in the loop on all Grassa new through their Twitter and Facebook pages!