As editors for a food website, we get invited to a lot of events, including the occasional food fest. Festivals can be tricky to cover, because they're often hectic and crowded, making it hard to talk to chefs and take notes on what we ate. But one festival that consistently gets it right is Feast in Portland, Oregon, which starts this Thursday and runs through Sunday.
Feast is actually a huge event (more than 10,000 people attend over the course of the weekend), but it rarely feels overwhelming thanks to smart planning.
"We have a lot of events, and we keep them to a reasonable scale so they still feel intimate," says co-founder Mike Thelin. "We want everyone—chefs, producers, media and guests—to be able to have a good time."
For industry types, it's a chance to reconnect with far-flung pals, and for everyone else, the a la carte ticketing system (unusual in the age of all-inclusive passes) provides access to some of the country's best chefs and producers in easy-to-digest doses.
While many of the smaller programs are sold out, there are still two marquee tasting events with room for more: The Sandwich Invitational, the opening-night kickoff party celebrating all the culinary ambition that fits between two slices of bread featuring Hugh Acheson and Chris Cosentino, among others, and the two-day Grand Tasting, a giant outdoor smorgasbord of 50-plus Oregon-based artisans, winemakers, breweries, coffee roasters and more, including live culinary demos from smart people like the Lee Brothers and Naomi Pomeroy.
And though the big-name chefs will always draw the biggest crowds, the other thing we like about the Feast team is their willingness to showcase up-and-coming talent, too. "It's intentionally eclectic," says Thelin. "We have some celebrity types, but also some names you might not know yet." He's keeping an eye out for chef Philip Krajeck from Rolf and Daughters in Nashville and the Eggslut crew from Los Angeles this year, and seems particularly excited to see what out-of-towners create with their bounty of local Oregon products for the weekend.
"Our weekly farmers market is probably the best food festival in the country," he says. "We're a very regionally focused fest, because our region is incredible."
Stay tuned for more dispatches from Portland.