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THE NEW FACE OF AMERICAN FOOD Unpretentious Portland is showing the rest of the USA – and the world – how local cooking should really be done. As Rosie Birkett discovers, the city has something for everyone

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Voodoo Doughnut’s Tex-Ass Challenge is 6 times the regular size

Food writer Rosie Birkett makes a culinary pilgrimage Portland to find out why it’s got a reputation as the USA’s most exciting food city >>


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07 SE Washington Street, please,” I holler as we bundle our way out of the autumnal Oregon drizzle and into the warm embrace of the cab. “Why d’you wanna go there?” barks the taxi driver in a way that makes me feel as though I’ve asked to go to Mars rather than to Portland’s hip south-eastern district. “We’ve got a table at a charcuterie restaurant there for brunch,” I say, choosing not to mention that Olympic Provisions was recommended by a colleague and national food critic. “Pah! You want charcuterie, you should go to Higgins,” he says. “He’s been making charcuterie for years, not like some of these pretentious food kids. They grew up on Happy Meals! It’s like someone buying their first tuxedo and pretending that they’ve been with the Rat Pack for four years. “I come from San Francisco, where we actually have five-star restaurants. I don’t want a skateboarder making my sushi!” And that’s precisely why I’ve come to Portland – for a food scene that’s so deliciously different, daring and non-conformist that everyone has an opinion about it, even the city’s grouchiest taxi drivers (on this visit we also met a cabbie who doubled as a mushroom forager and could name the city’s hottest dishes). While it might rile the odd cynic or two, Portland’s relatively young, DIYminded, locavore-driven food scene is generally held up as a cause for celebration. Despite (or perhaps because of) not being a financial or industrial hub like other top food US cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco, ‘Stumptown’ and its low rents have spawned a clutch of award-winning chefs and restaurants, coffee roasters, microbrewers, bars, urban wineries, cookbooks and even a food festival – Feast – which happily coincides with my visit. It’s a fresh, creative food scene that zooms in on innovation and skips formality, which means two things: 1) You will eat well here, and 2) You may well have to queue in order to do so.

An artisan’s approach The queue at Olympic Provisions is out of the door, and as we make our way along >>


BLUE STAR DONUTS 1237 SW Washington St, +1 503 265 8410, Not as touristy as popular local chain Voodoo Doughnut but just as crazily delicious, with in-house inventions including the fried chicken donut and the caramel pear fritter.

TASTY N SONS 3808 N Williams Ave, +1 503 621 1400, A laid-back local restaurant with North African-inflected dishes and some of the meanest brunch eggs in town. Try the deceptively light potato and chocolate donuts.

Hopworks claims to be the city’s first eco-brewpub


NONG’S KHAO MAN GAI 3808 N Williams Ave, +1 503 621 1400, Khao Man Gai, the sole dish at this beloved street-food trader, is a butcher paperwrapped Thai staple of poached chicken with jasmine rice and a ginger-and-garlic fermented soybean sauce – and it’s a real showstopper.

LE PIGEON 738 E Burnside St, +1 503 546 8796, L’enfant terrible chef Gabriel Rucker’s intimate, hugely creative meat-centric restaurant is what happens when Portland does fine dining. A must-visit.

NEDD LUDD 3925 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd +1 503 288 6900, A wood-fired oven is the crucial centrepiece of this kooky American country kitchen. Don’t miss the shaved bacon side.

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With more than 50 breweries, Portland is known as ‘Beervana’



Drink Graffigna responsibly


>> YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A DIE-HARD FOODIE TO SNIFF IT OUT BEAST 5425 NE 30th Ave, +1 503 841 6968, Chef Naomi Pomeroy’s cosy supper club packs serious culinary clout, with Frenchinspired dishes (we loved the rosebraised pork) and a kick-ass wine list.

AVA GENE’S/ ROMAN CANDLE 3377 SE Division St, +1 971 229 0571, Photograph (Ava Genes) by Jamie Francis

Everyone’s talking about Stumptown Coffee Roasters founder Duane Sorenson’s second restaurant, Italian trattoria Ava Gene’s – Bon Appetit’s fifth-best new US restaurant – thanks to chef Joshua McFadden’s green-fingered cooking. If you can’t get a table, head next door to the newly-opened Roman Candle (, which now has an evening pizza menu – not to mention more than a few of McFadden’s cracking veg dishes.

Portland’s food markets are the stuff of foodie legend

>> it, I’m relieved to see that (despite our driver’s rant) this is not just a food-hipster hangout. The bare wooden tables heave with people of all ages: families, couples, and – sure – kids who’ve come to enjoy hearty brunches of the European-delimeets-American-diner fare, set to a chirpy soundtrack of 50s rock’n’roll. Many of them are feasting on the handsome ‘American charcuterie’, which salumist and owner Elias Cairo has been carefully crafting here since 2009. His regional Europeaninspired cured meats and salamis are made with local

ingredients and spices that are ground daily. We sample two of the beloved charcuterie boards: the Whole Hog ($18) – melty coppa, lomo, ham and pancetta; and the French ($18) – black pepper-flecked saucisson sec, silky, savoury, dangerously addictive pork rillettes, and grilled garlic sausage. It’s some of the most perfect charcuterie I’ve eaten, in or outside Europe – and, as our taxi driver had pointed out, local charcuterie is nothing new to Portland. Greg Higgins has been serving it since his restaurant opened in 1994. This kind of locally-focused, artisan food production is as much a part of the city as the Willamette River that runs through it.

Vibrant and varied

THE JUPITER HOTEL 800 E Burnside St, +1 503 230 9200, This revamped motel has fun, individually retro-styled rooms, an on-site bar and a live music venue, the Doug Fir. It also has rental bikes and an excellent location in the terribly hip East Burnside neighbourhood. You’ll find it just minutes from downtown Portland proper.

The brilliant thing is that you don’t have to be a die-hard foodie to sniff it out – you simply can’t miss it. At any given moment, you can find yourself tucking in at one of the 700-plus food carts that line the city’s wide avenues in colourful, shanty-like clusters or ‘pods’, sampling anything and everything from fried chicken and waffles to Vietnamese soup to tacos. You can stumble upon a specialist food shop like chocolate retailer Cacao, where we taste handmade cayenne-spiced ‘Picasso’ Cocanú chocolate made by Ecuadorian chocolatier Sebastian Cisneros, an adopted Portlander. This vibrancy owes plenty to Portland’s geographical position in Oregon’s agricultural hub – the temperate, fertile Willamette Valley, which inspires legions of farm-to-table cooks with seasonal produce >> and supplies many of the



Surfsand is 70 miles from Portland, and next to Haystack Rock

SURF BREAK FROM THE CITY Fans of one ‘80s cult classic film should take a trip to the Oregon coast It’s definitely worth making the scenic, windy 90-minute drive north-west of downtown Portland to take in some of the most stunning coastline the US has to offer. Children of the 80s will delight in Canon Beach, the hazy, vast white expanses that house Haystack Rock – the looming rocky edifice and bird sanctuary that was the setting for the pirate ship cave in The Goonies. Stay at Surfsand Resort (, right on the beach, and enjoy the views over the rock from your soaker tub.

Photograph (Wine Times) by Janis Miglavs


>> vendors for the city’s famous farmers’ markets. Every Saturday, 17,000 people head down to Portland’s leafy university campus for a north-western bounty whose delights include organic heirloom vegetables, artisan breads, heritage breed, hazelnut-fed pork and freshly-picked mushrooms.

Getting around There are plenty of food tours around to give you a good introduction to this delicious landscape, and I’d recommend any from Pedal Bike Tours (; $69) – cycling is one of the best ways to get around Portland, rated the bike capital of the US. We cycle (through the rain – remember what I said about Oregon’s ‘temperate’ climate) to Ned Ludd, an eccentric open kitchen/restaurant strung with chandeliers and stacked to the rafters with retro country curiosities such as ceramic cockerels, and adore our plates of confit tuna and tomatoes on sourdough toast with hardboiled eggs shaved over. Later on, with bottles of beer in hand, we savour the divinely sticky, umamipacked fish sauce chicken wings, among other fiery delights, at the fairy light-draped Pok Pok. Andy Ricker’s flagship Thai eatery started as a shack in his front garden and now has siblings throughout Portland and in New York City. We also watch and taste in amazement as the city’s top chefs, along with visiting talent from across the US, come together and throw their culinary flair into sandwich-making – yes, sandwich-

making – at Feast’s Sandwich Invitational. My favourite is an ensemble from lauded European-style tavern Clyde Common: a fresh, fragrant mix of Dungeness crab and spring onion, pickled fennel and aioli. That Portland’s best chefs can turn their imaginations so persuasively to elevating the humble sandwich reflects one of the key characteristics of the city’s food scene – its rejection of culinary elitism. For, as Karen Brooks, the critic and author of The Mighty Gastropolis: Portland: A Journey Through the Centre of America’s New Food Revolution – points out in a Feast panel discussion: “There’s a democracy of eating here that’s creative, not commercial. We have some of the best ingredients in the world and everyone gets the great stuff because of the farmers’ markets. Sandwich shops have the good stuff. We’re not in the fine-dining conversation, but this is fine craft cooking for the masses in a way that no other city has imagined.” I never did make it to the famed Higgins (or meet any skateboarding sushi chefs). I’ll save that for next time – and there will be a next time. e

WINE TIMES Discover a ‘locapour’ paradise in Oregon’s fertile wine country Oregon is the USA’s third-largest wine region behind Washington and California, and while many Portland restaurants stock local wines it would be a shame to miss the chance to explore the state’s rolling vineyards while you’re there. Make the Black Walnut Inn (blackwalnut-inn. com) your base from which to explore the Dundee Hills wineries, sampling everything from organic pinot noir at Sokol Blosser ( to sparkling wines at Argyle Winery ( Then dine at Dundee Bistro (dundeebistro. com), where you’ll find top Oregonian bounty transformed into generous, delicious plates like fresh Pacific mussels with white wine, garlic and oregano.



3 HAPPY HOUR Bring the bar into your home with four cocktails for sophisticates. Or, if you’re lazy, get the pros to mix them for you…


AN ARTY MEAL Food and art are a match made in gastronomic heaven, as these examples show…


ME Hotel, Madrid, Spain

This new restaurant blends the traditional and the off-thewall, as well as an exhibition by photographer Luis Baylón.

2. L A C OL OM B E D’O R St-Paul-de-Vence, France

La Colombe d’Or, near Nice, was a meeting place for painters such as Matisse, Picasso and Miró, and many important paintings still hang there.

3. M E GAR O BAR London, UK

New King’s Cross haunt Megaro Bar combines photography from up-andcoming artists with an homage to the history of cinema, alongside a modest but creative menu and great drinks.

▼ V Chilli Martini, Voltaire Bar

▼ Ol’ Blue Eyes, Savoy Beaufort Bar

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10ml Dry Martini, 50ml Tanqueray 10 10ml Sugar syrup 10ml Fresh lime juice Fresh chilli and parsley

Muddle two slices of chilli and parsley in a shaker and combine with the remaining ingredients. Shake briefly, strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with chilli.

40ml Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select 10ml Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao 10ml Cocchi Americano 5ml Benedictine Two dashes orange bitters

Serve over ice in a 1950s whisky glass and garnish with a flamed orange peel (vinyl and Jack Daniel’s barrel chip in an envelope optional).



1. HULA H ULA Hvar, Croatia

Hula Hula, on the island of Hvar, draws a young crowd to dance and chill on the beach as the sun’s going down.

BARS ON THE BEACH Health and safety? Pah! We all know drinks + sea = good times

2. M A I TA I BA R Honolulu, Hawaii

Whether you’re in for casual afternoon drinks or the legendary happy hour, there’s nowhere better to look out on to the Pacific with a cocktail in your hand.

3. CATC H BEACH CLUB Phuket, Thailand

Catch Beach Bar is one of the best bars on the Phuket strip. Known for being chilled out in the day, it gets going in the evening, with seafood on spits, cocktails, neon lights and fireworks.


▼ Monroe Three Five One, Megaro Bar

▼ Claridge’s Regal, Claridge’s

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25ml Absolut Blue 10ml NPU Amontillado 10ml Barrel-aged Gomme syrup 100ml Perrier Jouet

Combine the ingredients in a shaker and shake five to six times. Double strain into a champagne flute and top up with Perrier Jouet. (Dress prone to getting caught in the wind optional.)

50ml Chivas 12 20ml Gancia Bianco 2 orange and 2 lemon segments One passion fruit; handful of mint

Muddle the orange and lemon in a glass with a spoon, then add half the mint and the passion fruit. Top with crushed ice and add the Chivas 12 and the Gancia Bianco. Garnish with a sprig of mint.





Alexis De Naray, head chef at Battersea’s Bunga Bunga Pizza is most effective when it’s simple: fresh ingredients, proven dough, and, of course, a great pizza sauce. Alexis De Naray, head chef at Bunga Bunga, tells foodism that although pizza sauce is simple in its construction, the seasoning has a huge effect. “Be careful when seasoning your tomato sauce – not too sweet or salty. Always use fresh basil or oregano, garlic (not too much!), salt, pepper, sugar and a splash of good quality extra virgin olive oil.”

Give your cooking an international edge with these top tips from some of London’s best chefs…


Dehydration sounds scientific, but it’s easy to do at home

Scott Hallsworth, head chef at Chelsea pop-up Kurobuta “We make a bright green dressing by pureeing green chillies, and after it’s made we keep it in a light-proof bottle. This helps it keep a bright colour as light contributes to rapid discoloration.” “If you want to make cool seasonings or salts, dehydrate something tasty. We dehydrate a yuzu pepper paste until it’s dry enough to grind up with some salt, but you could do it with anything. Home dehydrators are well priced and have plenty of other applications, like making ultra-crunchy veg crisps!”

3. GIVE YOUR MEAT AN EDGE Kurobuta has opened as a pop-up before launching this year

Ross Shonhan, head chef and founder of Flesh & Buns When roasting, grilling or barbecuing meat, a good marinade or rub can make a great deal of difference to its taste. Ross Shonhan from Japanese-infuenced izakaya restaurant Flesh & Buns provides this simple tip for a rub you might not have thought of using. “Instead of using olive oil and salt, try using miso paste – a Japanese staple for centuries – to rub into meat before grilling. It’s delicious.”

Flesh & Buns’ Sea bass makes great use of miso paste



A catch on top makes the grater sturdy when opened out

WEAPONS OF CHOICE Feel the need, the need for cheese? Good, because we’ve got just the gear for you and your kitchen…

A GRATE DEAL The pot and lid are made of Le Creuset’s famous cast iron

MELTING POT Le Creuset Gourmand Fondue, £105 Le Creuset busts the myth that no one has used a fondue set since 1979 with this sexy cast iron number in volcanic orange. It comes with six forks and is sturdy enough to avoid giving you an unexpected chestful of molten gruyère. Huge glasses and stone-washed flares are not included, though.

BY THE BOARD Roullier White Cheese Board, £30 If you’re looking to brush up on your pretentious dinner party chat, what could be better than a cheese board adorned with a map showing the locations of all of France’s major cheeses? Interesting concept, nice design and a slick pair of knives included – and it’ll make improving your geography that bit more palatable.


Never confuse Camembert and Coulommiers again

Joseph Joseph Fold Flat Grater, £30 It took a while for someone to be sufficiently annoyed by the shape of the humble cheese grater to design one that folds away flat in a drawer, but it’s finally here. Available in bright green (naturally), it also comes with a protective plastic cover to prevent those wince-inducing scrapes to the knuckles.

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Foodism Section - 2  

Foodism Section in Issue 5 Escapism Magazine

Foodism Section - 2  

Foodism Section in Issue 5 Escapism Magazine