Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Bite of Oregon

I spent a warm sunny Friday, July 10th, at The Bite of Oregon in Portland's Water Front Park. The annual event is an opportunity for local restaurants to showcase their fare while raising money for Special Olympics.

Eager eaters pay $5.00 at the gate, then pay between $2.00 & $10.00 for samples, or complete meals, from the restaurant owned food booths.  In addition to these booths, the event features a Chef's Table offering bites from a rotating list of chefs though out the day, various gourmet food vendors, a south end Wine Pavilion, a north end Craft Beer Garden, and a few live entertainment stages.

This was my first time attending The Bite; while I had no hope of tasting everything the event had to offer, I was looking forward to sampling a good bit of top notch food.  There were, sure enough, plenty of Grade A morsels to be had, yet I found myself surprised by just how many of the restaurants dropped the proverbial ball, at least in part.

Perhaps the most surprising was Crepe Tyme's Ham & Cheese Crepe w/ Mushrooms & Green Onions which was severely under done when I received it.  Rather than delivering the texture of a thin pancake, the crepe itself was a thick raw dough.  Plus, the cheese inside was still cold & shredded, rather than melted & gooey.

The BBQ beef on Adam's Ribs Smokehouse's Tri-Tip Slider was rubbed with a deliciously  savory spice blend, but was tough and notably hard to chew.   Their Pulled Pork Slider though, was nice and tender, featured an equally delicious spice rub, and was a pleasure to eat with or without the optional squirt of sweet BBQ sauce.

Chef Shyam Dausoa of Chez Dodo made a Mushroom Curry w/ Lentil Fritters served with Chutney & Pickled Vegetables for the Chef's Table.  I like Indian food, I really do.  That being said, the fritter had an incredibly unpleasant mushy texture, and the entire dish was spicey hot with no other underlying flavor.

Chef Kevin Kennedy of Brix Tavern contributed skewers of "Smoked" Grilled Local Salmon, an Heirloom Tomato (which looked and tasted like a grape tomato to me), and a Fresh Mozzarella Ball, all in a Pesto Sauce to the same shift of the Chef's Table.  The salmon was grilled beautifully, and all the components were quite tasty.  However, when salmon is labelled as having been "smoked," I expect a smokey flavor which simply wasn't present.

Still, there were plenty of culinary gems to be found. The Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Prosciutto w/ a Balsamic Vinegar Reduction, from Thirst Wine Bar & Bistro's Chef Leslie Palmer, were a welcome addition to the Chef's Table.  The sweetness of the date worked perfectly against the saltiness of the blue cheese & Prosciutto while the Balsamic vinegar reduction added a nice tang for balance.  Likewise, Palmer's Swedish Meatballs were well-seasoned, delivering a salty initial flavor followed by a pleasant mushroomy finish.

As much as I like to promote myself as being a gourmet food enthusiast, I have to come clean and confess that one of my all time favorite things to eat is a good hot dog.  Thus, when I saw that Rogue Brewery was offering a  Kobe Haute Dog w/ Oregon Blue Cheese & Caramelized Onions I couldn't wait to order one.  Now, I'm not going to get into the "was it Kobe, wasn't it Kobe (Tajima-gyu beef)" thing, simply because there's no way for me to know for certain.  All I do know for sure is that it was a dang good hot dog.  The sausage itself was juicy, seasoned nicely, and the skin SNAPPED when I bit into it.  The caramelized onions added a welcome sweetness, while the blue cheese, which melted under the warm sausage, gave the sandwich a wonderful salty creaminess.  Pairing this puppy with beer and a good ball game is a sure fire way to make most men, and a hefty portion of women, happy.

As I said, the south end of the park contained the Wine Pavilion with products from 32 wineries and cellars.  Most of the wines looked to be of good quality, but since the outdoor temperature was well over 90 degrees, wine didn't strike me as being appetizing at that particular moment.  I was about to leave the pavilion when the booth for 2 Towns Ciderhouse from Corvallis, Oregon caught my eye.  Among the products to be sampled was their PEARadise Cider.  It was crisp and cold with a good pear taste & a quite noticeable alcoholic bite.  In fact, the few slugs I chugged gave me a solid 15 minute buzz, which I don't get from beer or most wines.

Once my buzz had settled, and my head was clear, I still wanted a full glass of something cold.  Thus, I made my way to the Craft Beer Garden at the other end of the park.  From the 32 beers on tap, I chose a 16oz commemorative glass full of Quick Wit Beer from Fort George Brewing out of Astoria, Oregon.  The cloudy pale Belgian Style beer tasted of wheat, spice, and lemongrass with very little, if any, bitterness.  I took my time to sip and enjoy the beverage as I listened to Big Vinyl cover; She Blinded Me With Science, Walk This Way, and other hits from my high school days; on the lottery's Garden Stage.

The occasional epicurean SNAFU aside, I enjoyed my time a The Bite.  I met people from as far away as Wisconsin, as well as hordes of locals, who were there simply to enjoy the food, beer, wine, music, and the gorgeous summer weather.  It's important to remember too, that those who were cooking were doing so in non-air conditioned booths during extremely hot weather.  Thus, just because a particular restaurant staff may not have brought their "A Game" to the event, it doesn't mean they don't have one on their home turf.

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