Those of you who are over 60 will probably remember Sunset Magazine from your youth – that’s how old it is. Now, desperate for attention in the days of the internet, the doddering Mrs. Sunset has stirred up trouble by comparing cities to each other. First was San Francisco against Los Angeles – I won’t still your heart by giving away the winner. Now they have thrown Portland and Seattle into the ring, and according to their final score, Seattle has CRUSHED Portland.
Our side was argued by Ivy Manning, noted author and champion of our food scene. Jess Thomson, the writer of some cookbook you’ve never heard of, argued Seattle’s side, starting with a left hook that no-one saw coming –
Of all cities, Seattle knows it doesn’t pay to be popular in high school. You might be pretty now, Portland, but when the food-truck fire fizzles, The New York Times isn’t going to be thick enough to keep your flame burning. Go ahead: Make your farm-to-table roots look deeper by snuggling closer to your beloved animals. We’ll keep making great food from a more diverse culinary background, using ingredients from the best artisanal markets in the country, created by chefs who have a knack for winning awards. And then we’ll shift into high gear.
Well!! I thought I was snarky!
Sunset hits hard on the “Smug factor” too –
Portlanders say it’s the media that brings an air of hipsterdom and preciousness to its micro-everything culture and urban-farming craze. Well, up to a point. This city doesn’t stand on ceremony—no one bats an eye if you wear jeans to a 7-course meal—but it can feel like you’re not a real local unless you own a chicken coop or make beer in your bathtub. And you can’t ignore Portland’s one-upmanship when it comes to the “greenness” of the food or its ultra-hard-core vegan community.
For the record, I’ve never made beer in my bathtub. Gin, yes, but not beer.
A few of the reasons behind their choice –
- “Pop-up” restaurants. Please. That’s a scene that came and died in six months. Portland’s moved on.
- Salumi Cured meats. Ok, I like Salumi. I also like Olympic Provisions, Chop, Tails & Trotters, etc., all which we have here. If we want to, we can buy Salumi products at stores that still carry them. Usually in the bottom corner of a meat case. Gathering dust. Cough.
- Melrose Market. I can’t argue this one. Melrose is the market that Portland wishes it had.
- Cafe Besalu. I haven’t been to their much-vaunted Cafe, but I daresay that it can’t be any better than St. Jacks ambrosial pastries.
They fail to mention things like the godawful Seattle traffic which makes it impossible to go to restaurants, the weather that is even worse than ours and did I mention the traffic?
We know magazines are all about ways to get the largest advertising exposure these days, so they spread the outcome over 20 freaking pages. However, if you have the patience to plow through them all, feel free to comment here about this OUTRAGE! I spit on each page as I read it. Promise you will ignore their advertisements and then use it to line a birdcage.
Ivy Manning put up a great fight, but was beaten by the editorial sway of a city with more potential readers than Portland. Humph. I’d cancel my subscription to Sunset, but don’t have one – I thought they had folded back in the 70’s.
Interestingly the one point they didn’t make was one I think we’d have to conceed. It’s hard to go more than a few blocks in Seattle without finding somebody serving up some pretty good (maybe even great!) seafood, Portland…not so much.
Hey if it wasn’t for Sunset magazine we would be stuck with only Portland Monthly to read in the check out line and I don’t think anybody wants that to happen!
Having just moved to Portland from Seattle recently, I agree that Sunset has it wrong! The food is SO much better here.
I do think its interesting that everyone comments on Seattle traffic – i think it is much worse here, with the exception of game days in Seattle. When I get stuck in traffic there, I’m in traffic for maybe 10 minutes… here I have to plan an hour ahead if I need to go somewhere between 3 and 5!
Food Dude says
Funny, I rarely hit traffic in PDX, but have had nightmares in Seattle while driving to Vancouver. I guess it’s all about knowing the timing in your city.
what? dude, no, please no, you do not take mass transit. tell me this…
do you dine at home, with Schwan’s and Thai delivery
augmented by the kid next door that works at the 7-11? are all of your dining companions on line?
Traffic, it’s not just cars on the road. It’s trying to get a table, a drink, meet with people that are fighting their own traffic hell, kid’s, other commitments, jobs, significant others, dietary fads and fixations, is this the restaurant of the week or is this last weeks hot spot? Where is that drink?
There is no shame in hitting the drive thru with your dog claiming shotgun, he’ll have what your having, and you have that fifth of jack, an ice chest
and some odwalla limeaid where lesser souls might keep a spare tire…best dinner ever, coming up.
knowing the city as we do; me and meatdog head over to tacotime on interstate… oh meatdog, it’s tacos and Frisbee at the park before most people put on a going to dinner shirt…
oh holy breakfast burrito meatdog. look at this line…traffic these days…
sunnybeach…who’s that three cars up with the Canadian quarters?
(dude, you should post this. what’s the worst could happen?)
Food Dude, you’ll always be the most awesome and snarky-est of them all. Thanks for the outrage!
Food Dude says
Why thank you Matt. I practice daily on my friends.
Er… friend. When he takes my call.
Good Food For Me says
Has anyone noticed that chefs that fail in Portland move to Seattle? Hmm. … I guess that says it all. Hawktwo!
Food Dude says
Patrick Magee says
Sunset – the magazine for wine drinkers. Too many of the stories and ads have been wine-based in the last few years and I can no longer drink wine for medical reasons. I used to like the travel articles in Sunset but they have become half-baked and nothing more than advertisements.
I find it telling that Portland was leading on most areas but then lost major points due to the “smug factor”. I have to say I think Sunset got it completely right with that one.
I actually find Portland’s dining scene more diverse than Seattle’s. For a city so much larger than Portland I think Seattle does less with its advantages in size and economic scale than one would expect. Yes, there are larger restaurants than in Portland (Wild Ginger as an example) and certainly a more sustained presence in the pure “fish/seafood” category than Portland but other than that I don’t know that Seattle has anything on Portland that I can think of.
The whole “Portland is smug” thing is also very tired. Surely certain waiters may come off that way but the heart of the food and dining industry in this area is so far from smug it is laughable to call it that.
I wasn’t even thinking of the restaurant staff or restaurateurs when I read the smug part. I hardly ever find waitstaff to be smug, or anything like it. It’s more regular people I tend to encounter who are smug. People who have chickens in their yard so they think they’re experts on local and organic foods all of a sudden. People who assume that because the berry booth at their farmer’s market isn’t certified organic then they have bad produce. People who have “shop local” stickers on their cars but buy all of their groceries at Fred Meyer. The chefs, food artisans and vendors I know who actually know a lot about food, especially locally are not the smug ones.
Sounds like you need neew friends and acquaintances. I have a friend/employee who has chickens in his backyard and tattoos of food on his arm but he’s as far from smug or lacking in actual food knowledge as is possible. The folks I know who have local food oriented gear/promo stuff do shop locally, go to farmers’ markets, etc. Far from being smug the everyday people I know and encounter around here are so flipping thankful and amazed that they live in a part of the world so blessed with access to great products, people and venues. I find smug to be gratuitously absent. Maybe I just am lucky or have managed to shelter myself from the jackasses.
I think it’s more that I need new neighbors. And that you’re good at steering clear of jackasses, of which there are a surprising amount to be found lately. :)
or just perhaps it’s hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes?
even a lamb starts smelling funny if he hangs out with the pigs too long.
Mary Ellen Harris says
Don’t be too quick to diss Freddy’s; they stock a lot of local foods wherever they are. In Anchorage I could get local produce and plants at Fred’s for less than at Farmer’s Markets or local nurseries.
I’m not dissing freddy’s at all. I shop there regularly. Just dissing the people who claim to shop only locally then spend their grocery money at a defacto Krogers. Freddy’s hasn’t been local for a long time.
Um ... No says
Pot meet kettle?
I remember that magazine waiting for the pediatrician, when some bully stole the High-Lights and there was nothing else to read.
I remember all sorts of ads to send your kids to military school.
I remember hiding the magazine from my mom. Didn’t want to give her ideas.
Jeff Shultz says
What I find is interesting is that, had Sunset stayed true to it’s roots, Seattle wouldn’t have even been under consideration.
Sunset was begun by the Southern Pacific Transportation Co. (aka the Southern Pacific RR) to lure people to travel (by [Southern Pacific] train!) out west. Seattle was never served by the Southern Pacific.
Oh – it’s even older than you think. It started in 1898 per Wikipedia.
I’m not going to stick up for Sunset’s city vs. city thing they’ve been doing recently but have you guys been reading it recently? They’ve made a lot of changes and are obviously going after the 30-something DIY crowd who like to camp, drink, spruce up their homes and may or may not have kids. It’s totally not my mom’s magazine anymore and I actually like it. Yes, it’s more geared toward wine but why is that bad? It just sounds like from a lot of these comments that people haven’t looked at it for awhile. Just my 2 cents.
Besalu is amazingly good. But otherwise Portland has it over Seattle (a much larger area) in spades.
Portland and Seattle both have wonderful restaurants. But why compare?
2 different cities, 2 different feel, greatness everywhere!
The only difference I can speak of if that Seattle has a “big city” feel and Portland more of of “small city” feel. And I like that small city feel as it has all the advantages of a big city: a thriving and original art scene such as Ballet, Opera, Symphony, multiple incredible theaters, and so forth.
Traffic is never too crazy (I lived in Paris!). I personally don’t like Seattle too much, but eh… that’s why I live in Portland! It’s a matter of choice and I don’t knock out folks who prefer Seattle. If Salumi was a pioneer in Artisan meat curing, I do prefer the quality of OP, Chop and T&T.
The fact is: live where you prefer to live, make your choice and that’s it! No need to compare.
if we did not compare, contrast, agree and/or dis-agree, there wouldn’t be much need for sites like this. Or life.
There would be one food, (soylent green is people? eh, who am i to judge?) one drink (48 OZ) and ranch dressing for all!
I’ve been told not to have judgements…
Can’t dis-agree with that… no sir…
Cathy Thompson says
I like Jess Thomson–she has/had a very good food blog that I never read anymore and she’s a stringer for a few food pubs. Here she beats Ivy on style points with those zingers, envy soaked as they may be. But she needs a fact checker: you don’t make beer in a bathtub. Gin, maybe.
I’m SO glad you posted a rebuttal, Food Dude! I read that article and was fuming. Seems like a silly feature given that you will piss off at least half of who’s reading it.
That said, I”m on winegrrl on the actual merits of Sunset as a magazine. In fact, let’s just out with it, I’m 29 and it’s my favorite magazine. Make fun as you will, but I freaking love it.
Meant to say “with winegrrl” not “on.” Oops!
Mike Thelin says
A silly article but also harmless. We’re lucky to live in such a great town for food, and fortunate to be three hours away from another great food town. My only true beef with this was Seattle’s edging out Portland in the caffeine category–Seattle may have been the innovator and early adopter in that category, but Portland’s micro-roasting and cafe scene is really without equal in the country. In the end, Seattle wins in Sunset. Portland still gets more attention nation-wide.
Personally, I think Portland is the better dining city with one exception – vegetarian restaurants.
Susan S. Bradley says
! spend about equal time between Seattle and Portland and have become increasingly dismayed by the overhype by food journalists on the merits of Seattle restaurants. When someone asks me for dining recommendations for Seattle, I end up stuttering.
We hit a hot new place in Madison Park this past week and all dishes we tried, except the soup, were mediocre AT BEST. Desserts suffered from poor execution, in addition to pedestrian concepts. The place was packed. The last meal I truly enjoyed in a Seattle restaurant was at Mistral, and it was superb. But that one meal can’t offset the dozens of dismal meals we have eaten at top restaurants in Seattle this past year.
Based on what I read from food journalists these days, I am beginning to wonder if anyone actually TASTES the food. Or are they simply creating exciting stories? Because my experience is often radically different than the reviewers.
1) Sunset‘s actually a quite lovely magazine, with nice travel tips, recipes and decorating ideas.
2) I overall vastly prefer Portland to Seattle (even though there IS waaaaay more to do there), BUT Seattle’s food really IS better.
That said, neither city is really all that–and never was, food-wise. Plus Seattle might be better, but their restaurants are around 30%-40% more expensive. Both Victoria and Vancouver, BC completely blow either city out of the water.
Victoria on its own blows away Pdx and Sea? Really!? Based on what?
Umm, the food I ate there. BTW, I’m originally from NYC, where I worked in NY times 2 and 3 star restaurants (nothing here, would even garner half a star)—and yes, I still work in the biz, here too. Portland restaurants are vastly overrated, Seattle’s (like San Francisco’s) are overpriced and you can find many a great, cheap meal in Victoria and Vancouver.
Umm, that wasn’t a very helpful response. You could take my incredulity two ways: (1) Bullshit, you’re wrong! or (2) Really? Tell me more! You clearly assumed (1) and not (2).
So let’s start this over:
Really? Tell me more! My past visits to Victoria, while over a decade ago, have not give me the impression that it is the culinary destination you make it out to be.
Ten years ago is a lifetime in the food and beverage industry. You may have to go back and see what’s cookin’ these days .
Can’t give a real opinion w/o going back.
Let’s see: 1) how the food tastes really IS the only true indicator of good or bad, not PR spin and endless insistance of “we’ve decided we’re a food mecca, so we are”.
2) Working in the business, at nationally and internationally acclaimed establishments does give me some insight.
3) NYC is consistently ranked as not just a top 5 national food city, but a top 5 international food city, so yeah, sorry, it’s better. This isn’t to say I dislike PDX (cause I’ve lived here 13 years, now), just our food isn’t even remotely what it thinks it is.
P.S. I didn’t say Victoria and Vancouver, BC are “culinary destinations”, but they ARE both significantly better than we are.
fwiw, using “I am from NYC” as a basis for knowledge or refined taste is basically a food version of Godwin’s law.
I’m from NYC too, but I let that one slide. And I’ve given the guy two chances to provide supporting evidence (like, I dunno, the name of a single restaurant or type of cuisine?) that is an example of what has happened in Victoria since I was last there that has elevated the scene, but instead he just keeps piling on the bluster. I give up.
I’m sorry… work in the industry of not, I’ll have to call BS on your comment about Victoria anyway (can’t speak to Vancouver). Just got back from a few days there and while we had some great meals and loved the city, I would not characterize the food scene any even close to what’s happening here. All a matter of opinion, I guess, but you are WAY offbase IMHO.
Oh and the sunset magazine has an even younger audience, say 25 year olds talking over a coffee and sharing ideas from food, gardening and handy home improvements. They are appealing to a younger audience and we seem to be liking it. I mean Cosmo is so lame……we want more out of our magazines than how to find you ‘secret spot’…..just sayin…….
give me a handy travel tip.
Y’know… You support the local economy, try and minimize your carbon footprint, grow some veggies, raise some chickens; somebody’s gotta come along and call ya smug. You conduct yourself in a civil manner that doesn’t involve getting in everybody’s face all the time; somebody’s gotta come along and call ya passive aggressive. You have decent taste in music, art, culture, etc.; somebody’s gotta come along and call ya a hipster d-bag. You live in a city with a great food scene; somebody’s gotta come along and tell ya the next town up the road is doing it better. Seems like ya just can’t win for losing sometimes…
While I generally support all of that—we aren’t anywhere nearly as green as we think we are. Most Portlanders I meet are stunned that my family opts for one car and our daughter walked 6 blocks to and from school every day. Which is weird, because for a city our size, we have an excellent public transportation system.
Both our arts and music scene are fine for what we are, a small city, but far from the awesome cutting edge level we think we are. If we should be “smug” about anything, it’s our amazing summers and glorious waterfall hikes.
Who’s this “we”? Can I opt out?
judge zussie, you have my permission to “opt out”.
man, you must feel chastened.
question the hive mentality and get stung. yeah,
really bugging you isn’t it….
oh hell. you’re gonna have another night of pairing the automobile to the restaurant aren’t you?
French? le Citroen of course,
take the caddy if it’s the Texas chainsaw steakhouse.
you and your washed servers,
bathrooms with sinks…
you just don’t belong here, do you?