While it is rapidly becoming fashionable to question whether food carts (especially in Portland) have jumped the shark — ie, shed their hip, underground status and gone mainstream –, it’s hard to deny the energy, passion, and optimism of the food cart vendors and their hardcore patrons. Willamette Week’s Eat Mobile 2010 festival, packing 30 carts, a beer garden, and a stage into a two block stretch of Belmont under the Morrison Bridge concentrated that energy into one place on one night creating an effective counter-argument to the cynics who believe trends are only good insofar as they don’t become trendy or that something is only worth patronizing as long as it doesn’t become popular.
Mexico Lindo’s Posole
Cinco de Mayo is one of Portland’s better festivals. It has a character. It’s not just another county fair on the waterfront. In 2005 I lamented the event’s cultural decline compared with the wonderful 2004 Cinco de Mayo, my first. There were fewer real artists. There were more commercial promotions selling credit cards and the like. And basically, this year’s is the same. There were only four to six real artists selling Mexican crafts. The majority consisted of the crappier Saturday Market vendors — bad jewelry, cheap imports, and caricature artists.
That said, it’s still worth visiting. The latin musical entertainment is worth the admission price, especially the folklorico and mariachi. And then there’s the food…
God, I love dairy foods. I’ve always hated the filmy coating milk puts in my mouth and I stopped drinking it when I was about five and discovered a big black fly floating halfway up a tall glass of the white liquid. But cheese, yogurt, butter, and ice cream — drool… I went through a period in my life where I couldn’t handle acids. Soda, orange juice, chiles, and anything with lactic acid, especially melted cheese and ice cream, put the GI into fits. Of those, cheese and ice cream were what I missed most. When I went on my original diet and lost over 100 lbs, I probably went a year without eating either.
That’s all behind me now, and just to prove it, I went to lactose intolerant hell Saturday, the American Cheese Society’s Festival of Cheese, and then followed that up with the 3rd Annual Pix Ice Cream Social. I love you dairy foods. You weren’t mad at me for leaving you, were you? Quiet now, I won’t leave you again. That’s a good cheddar. Mmmmm. That’s right, ice cream, nothing can keep us apart now…
For nearly 100 years, the St. Stanislaus Catholic Church and the adjacent Polish Library on N. Interstate Avenue, has been the nucleus of the Polish community in Portland. The Overlook neighborhood has been many Polish family’s home for even longer than that.
For the past 12 years, the Polish Festival has been held on Failing Street between these two historical landmarks. The organizers expected nearly 20,000 visitors to the event this year, making it the largest Polish festival in the western United States. With free admission as incentive and needing something to curb my appetite before being tempted by a chocolate tasting later that day, I drove down Interstate Avenue eager to taste some authentic Easter Bloc eats.
Can you smell it?
In the 1800s, German immigrants settled the rolling pasture lands around Mt. Angel, now a little agricultural town just 15 minutes northeast of Salem. For the past fourty years, that heritage has been honored with the largest folk festival in Oregon, the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest.
Sure, it’s a bit of a caricature — like a scene from European Vacation with large-bellied fellas in funny hats slugging down steins of beer while oompah-driven accordian music blares over mammoth speakers. Is it a Disneyland rendition of Germany? Perhaps, but I was just there for the food anyway.
Even mediocre BBQ can look delicious. (Sampler plate from Wildcard BBQ.)
The colder weather has me anxiously clamoring to fit in as many summer activities as possible. Golfing: I got a hole in one the other day. Biking: I even rode across across town and over the Columbia. Gardening: Pruning up my tomatoes and chiles to get every last bit of fruit. Trips into the Gorge and down to Woodburn’s new plaza. And this last weekend, I went to a farmers market and three festivals: Belmont Street Fair, Bones and Brew, Hillsdale Farmers Market, and Vancouver Sausage Fest.
Pearl Bakery still sets the standard for great breads in Portland.
I love the Portland Farmer’s Market. Not only is it the biggest farmer’s market in the area, but it has the best combination of quality, quantity, and diversity of vendors and products. It also has some wonderful special events, of which, my favorites are the summer loaf and the berry festival. I visited both this year and took pictures.
Running, holding bottles, putting a finger in a drink — a few of the violations in the Waiter’s Race.
Beyond the typical French words and phrases — bonjour, au revoir, s’il vous plaît, merci, etc — I only know two: quoi d’neuf, docteur (what’s up, doc), which I learned from a rabid Bugs Bunny fan from Quebec, and ce restaurant n’est pas aussi bon que le Mc.Donalds’ (this restaurant isn’t as good as McDonald’s), which I am saving to retaliate for snobby service in France. Other than those, anything French in my mouth is food.
If Bastille Day — comparable to our Independence Day — gives French folks and francophiles in Portland a reason to offer me up tasty treats, I say Viva la France, let the heads roll, whatever needs to happen so I can get some buttery pastries, stinky cheese, and meat cooked in its own fat.
Magic with corn husks
I was ecstatic after last year’s Cinco de Mayo celebration. The food, the entertainment, the arts — all were wonderful and sent me back to my travels in Mexico and Guadalajara.
But this year’s fiesta has left me less than festive. As a food-lover, I first noticed the disappointing trend of pad-this and teriyaki-that replacing foods found south of the border (and in this hemisphere).
I also noticed the declining quality and quantity of Mexican artisans. There seemed to be as many or more South American goods as Mexican goods. But worse was the huge increase in typical county fair style peddlers. Thank you, but I can get my cheap sunglasses at Wal-Mart. If I want a clown-sized button with my photo on it, I’m sure any mall will do. And I have plenty of junk mail where I can get another credit card. I saw a vendor from last year who was browsing and asked them why they weren’t selling. The answer: prices for their spot doubled.
But it’s more the trend that I’m concerned about rather than the overall quality. There’s still the folklorico, which in itself is worth the six dollar admission. And there are still several quailty Mexican artisans and food stalls.
Following are some of the highlights.
When I told my wife about the Greek Festival, she asked, “Will there be lots of meat?” Following My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I responded, “Yes, but there’ll also be lamb.” And boy was there.
In its 53rd year and held on the grounds of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, the Greek Festival is the kind of cultural sharing I like. First and foremost, it’s about the food. There’s dancing. There’s music. There’s a tour of the beautiful church. You can even learn about iconography and buy some jewelry. But mostly, it’s about food. Following are a few highlights: