Fuhgeddabout the Bite. Dump Taste of the Nation and definitely nix Oktoberfest. I have just experienced the ultimate Portland foodie event. It's Provvista Specialty Foods biyearly open house. They're a local food wholesaler and they throw open their doors to local food retailers and restaurants for an over-the-top all-you-can-eat extravaganza featuring many of the meats, cheeses, oils, vegetables and fruits they carry, handed out by their vendors from all over the country and, from the Italian, Spanish and French accents I heard, all around the world.
They also had a live band, the smoked pizza guy from the Portland Farmers' Market (with smoker!) and some very nice Spanish folks with giant pans of paella. The vendors are lined up and down the aisles of Provvista's new warehouse, with table after table of wonderful things to eat and drink. Oh, did I forget to mention the beer, wine, espresso, eau de vie and bottled waters?
There were also several opportunities for foodie celebrity-spotting. My personal high point was meeting (and photographing) the founder of Cypress Grove Chevre, Mary Keehn, talking cheese with Peggy Smith of Cowgirl Creamery. I mean, their cheeses are fantastic, but getting to meet these two progenitors of the artisanal cheese movement in this country was a true moment of grace. Together they moved small-production owner-operated dairy products to the forefront of Americans' consciousness, not to mention to the front of our dairy cases.
And that was only slightly cooler than meeting Paul Bertolli of Fra'Mani Handcrafted Salumi and having him personally slice me some of his amazing Salame Gentile because "it's so much more moist when it's freshly sliced." It was all I could do not to bite it right out of his hand! While we loved Armandino Batali's Salumi in Seattle, with his unusual spicing of traditional meats, Fra'Mani has perfected the art of bringing out the richness and full flavor of the meat itself. When it's sliced so thinly that it's translucent, it practically melts on your tongue and fills your mouth with it's salty, meaty flavor.
OK, enough with the food porn...we came away with great ideas and new products to try. You can get many of the cheeses and Fra'Mani meats at our neighborhood patisserie, Foster & Dobbs, and many of the packaged products at New Seasons and Pastaworks. And you have two whole years to figure out how to get into the food business so you can go. It's like I imagine heaven might be, only there you'll never get full or gain weight. And, even on this earth, that's an experience not to be missed!