Catching Up on Food News for March

Back from vacation to the Bay Area. A word to the wise; if you are driving down alone, the gas will cost 3x more than a plane ticket. I expected that, but still – $350, and my car is not a gas guzzler.

While there, I enjoyed the food at many places, Chez Panisse downstairs being the highlight. I’ve been thinking about the meal and its differences from Portland food ever since. A post is forthcoming.

Not surprisingly for this time of year, not much of interest has happened on the Portland food scene. Here’s a roundup of the items that jumped out at me.


I’m tired of the James Beard Awards; it seems like a month can’t go by without some sort of breathless promo material from them. Anyway, three Portland chefs made the finalist list: Naomi Pomeroy of Beast, Christopher Israel of Gruner, and Cathy Whims of Nostrana. Winners will be announced on May 4th and 7th.


Remember Marilyn Hagerty, the 85-year-old Grand Forks Herald food reviewer who became famous after an Olive Garden reeview? Anderson Cooper flew her to NYC for a chance to review Crown Restaurant. Cameras followed, and her experience is pretty entertaining.


Huge amounts of red meat and fats can damage your body(!) Frank Bruni who stepped down from the New York Times restaurant review position in 2001, has announced that he has gout. When I heard this, I had to look it up, as I thought it was an old disease that was beaten years ago. It wasn’t, and sounds pretty awful, especially for a man who loves food as much as Mr. Bruni. From the Times,

As it happens I dined there with the man who would succeed me in the critic’s job, Sam Sifton. And what we shared, once we had finished our martinis and white wine and had moved on to a bottle of red, was a côte de boeuf that easily weighed more than two pounds, had been basted in butter and was sliced in a fashion that allowed the interlacing of broad, glassy ribbons of seared foie gras between the thick, glistening dominoes of beef. To some of you, this may sound revolting in its bloat; to me, it was pure heaven. I remember thinking, “If I could get away with eating like this every night, I would.”

I can no longer get away with eating like that even a few times a month, and in fact haven’t eaten like that in a while. It’s unclear whether I’ll ever eat like that again. About four and a half months ago I was given a diagnosis of gout, whose triggers are believed to include a surfeit of alcohol, a plenitude of red meat and any and all organ meat, the category into which foie gras, which is liver, most definitely falls. My Ducasse meal amounts to a perfect storm of dietary no-no’s, a long swim in the Bermuda Triangle of gout, and a replica of it might land me in excruciating pain — and put me out of commission, in terms of my ability to walk — for 48 hours.

It is a pretty fascinating accounting of his experience – you can read the entire story here.


 

The Oregonian ran a piece today on the never-ending idea of a year round “Pike Place-style public market” as the west end of the Morrison bridge.

Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen announced a tentative deal with Melvin Mark Development Co. Friday to launch a Pike Place-style market at the west end of the Morrison Bridge.

Envisioned as an “iconic gateway” to downtown, the market would host 110 local vendors of food and food-related products and sit next to a new office tower on Southwest First Avenue. Together, the projects are expected to bring $10.4 million to the county’s fragile general fund, transforming an empty county-owned lot into a bustling tourist destination that would complement nearby Portland Saturday Market.

You all know that I am a shrinking violet when it comes to any sort of political comments or snarky opinion, but, in this rare instance, I have to speak out. Take a look at the above paragraph. Do you really believe this PR spin that says that it will bring $10.4 million to the county? What about it’s effect on the Portland Farmers Market; an institution that brings a TON of tourists to the park blocks. Are people likely to trudge to both the PFM and this new market? I doubt it. As I’ve said before, I also think it is a stupid location. The waterfront is doing just fun as a respite from city chaos. This market should be on the other side of the river – it needs a hell of a lot more of a boost. Put it where Tazo tea is vacating, right in the middle of all the produce suppliers. We’ve got a few restaurants down there now, but otherwise it is in major need of a boost, and I would hazard a guess, is cheaper real-estate. Speaking of cheap, where are all of these vendors and visitors going to park? It is already a nightmare during the day, and again any time the PFM is open. Everyone I talk to says that the parking meters drive them away from the downtown core. As I said, this is a stupid idea. You heard it here first. You can read more history about the PM here.

*It is possible the PFM is to be included in this plan, but even if this is the case, I stand by my opinion.


Seattle is planting the nation’s first edible forest. According to TakePart.com, the new park will be filled with edible plants and everything from pears to herbs will be free for the taking.

I love the idea; seven acres of land(!) for people to wander through. This is a great idea for the educational benefits alone. However…

So just who gets to harvest all that low-hanging fruit when the time comes?

“Anyone and everyone,” says Harrison. “There was major discussion about it. People worried, ‘What if someone comes and takes all the blueberries?’ That could very well happen, but maybe someone needed those blueberries. We look at it this way—if we have none at the end of blueberry season, then it means we’re successful.”

Sigh. Something tells me there will be a lot more fruit sellers on freeway entrances in Seattle, but I still like the idea. If it works in Seattle it would be fun to try in Portland, except that we don’t have any available acres of land. Maybe at the foot of the Morrison Bridge!


By the way, have you voted on the “Bartender” or “Mixologist” poll? Interestingly, when I ran the same poll a few years back, Mixologist won. This year it is a landslide in the other direction. I don’t know a single bartender in favor of a name dreamed up by a PR firm to pump sales.


That’s it! Nothing else has grabbed my attention. PS. That “nothing but positive reviews” thing was just a come on. Some people have no sense of humor.

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. L'epicier says

    I agree FD about the new public mkt. Like The Pike Place Mkt this won’t be a FARMER’s MKT, but a public mkt selling products from all over. There’s a pretty big distinction there; gourmet is not the same as local.

  2. mzee says

    I completely agree with you about the Pike Place Market style in Portland! I drove by the waterfront today and I was thinking exactly teh same thing? Where would people park, it’s not a good location at all.

  3. JD says

    Not sure about your math on the trip to Bay Area: “Back from vacation to the bay area. A word to the wise; if you are driving down alone, the gas will cost 3x more than a plane ticket. I expected that, but still – $350, and my car is not a gas guzzler.”

    If you drive a car that gets 30 miles per gallon, you will use just over 43 gallons of gas to do the round trip (650 miles each way, 1,300 round trip.) At about $4.00 per gallon (easy to do if you use Costco gas stations along I-5) you will be out about $173. Even if gas is 10 or 20 percent more, the price is equivalent or slightly less than a round trip ticket at today’s prices to SF, $200. If you drive with more than one person, it costs half as much. And if you need a car at your destination, you save even more. You do need to factor in wear and tear on the car, but even so, it should not be more expensive to drive. Just takes a long time!

  4. Gary O. says

    Hi Food Dude:

    In my mind, there are four restaurants in San Francisco (I am sure there are more) that are serving really “progressive” cuisine: Saison, Benu, Atelier Crenn, and Coi. I was wondering if you dined at any of these restaurants and what your thoughts are of these restaurants compared to Portland restaurants.

  5. The Guilty Carnivore says

    “Speaking of cheap, where are all of these vendors and visitors going to park? It is already a nightmare during the day, and again any time the PFM is open. Everyone I talk to says that the parking meters drive them away from the downtown core. As I said, this is a stupid idea.”

    “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” —Yogi Berra

  6. says

    Let me begin by disclaiming that I am at best ambivalent about the new market plans, but my objections arise more from questioning whether they’ll get the details right (right design, right vendors, etc.) than the idea itself. I also think a lot of the criticisms are mostly unfounded.

    First, as to the $10.4M figure, I have no doubt that this is the rosiest of projections, but the idea that the county could made a few million bucks off of four(ish) waterfront blocks that they OWN (even if they are awkwardly situated) doesn’t strike me as especially far-fetched.

    Next, whenever anything new happens downtown, naysayers ALWAYS say no one will ever go, because parking is too much hassle. I think the Yogi Berra quote above nicely skewers that absurd idea, but to elaborate:

    1) Parking near PSU is no better than anywhere else downtown (to address the PFM), at least on the weekends, and is further from the main transit hub.

    2) I have literally NEVER had any trouble finding parking downtown (caveat: I never drive downtown during Rose Festival or other massive events). Do I always find street parking within 100 feet of my destination? Of course not (well, actually yes, but that’s cuz I try to bike whenever possible). But I’ve literally NEVER been unable to find space in a garage or lot within five or so blocks of my destination.

    As for conflicts with PFM, it’s my understanding that this would be an every-day market. I think the vast majority of PFM vendors wouldn’t want to set up seven days a week even if they could. PFM will still have many of the great small vendors they do today, though a few of the bigger ones, would probably take advantage of the new space. Basically, you’d have two pretty different markets catering to two pretty different audiences. I mean, no one thinks Saturday Market conflicts with PFM despite a small amount of overlap in offerings. PFM would still have its same following of local chefs (home and professional), while attracting its share of tourists, and the new market would be all week, every week, and cater mostly to tourists and folks needing to pick up a few quick items on their lunch break for dinner that night.

    It’s funny to me that you would suggest the “east bank” as a possible alternative location. Man, talk about no parking (though obviously new parking could be constructed on the cheap). But what else would one do there? You’re looking at this as a destination that folks are planning their whole day around (“Hey kids, pack your bags, we’re going to the Market for the day!”). But I don’t think people work that way. The market will have appeal because it’s one of MANY things to do in the area. Pike Street works because it’s in the heart of Seattle with tons of shopping, eating, and other attractions nearby (not to mention, the waterfront). I somehow suspect it wouldn’t be nearly as popular if they had stuck in in an dingy old industrial neighborhood down south of the stadia.

    Having said all that, I have serious reservations about the actual execution of this idea. Last time this was being talked about, the idea of non-local chain vendors was being bandied about. Dunno if that’s still in the cards, but THAT’S something to be up in arms about. And I guess that’s why I find all the nay-saying at this point so discouraging. Because it’s people like you and me and your many other readers who can help provide the feedback to get this right. But if everyone who knows what needs to be done is already totally disengaged, we’ll end up with the same mass-market corporate monstrosity we always do when someone sees a good idea that evolved over time and try to replicate it whole cloth (in this case, Pike Place).

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