Portland Is for Foodies

Regional Spotlight, Williams-Sonoma Behind the Scenes

This post comes courtesy of Williams-Sonoma food buyer Allyson Holt.


We called it the Portland Food Inspiration trip, and it was every bit that and more.  A couple of weeks ago, Williams-Sonoma’s team of dedicated foodies trekked up to Portland, Oregon, to see what all the food fuss is about. Our mission: to connect with the next generation of artisanal food producers, chefs and mixologists who are staking their ground in Portland so we could feature their foods in our exclusive artisans’ market.


Okay, I already knew what it was about, or at least thought I did, having lived in the beautiful green state of Oregon for nine years. Yet even after almost a decade, I found myself constantly surprised and delighted by the food scene that has continued to blossom in this bustling town.


We spent five days feasting on jams, jellies, charcuterie, cheese, ice cream, sodas, scotch, Pinots, veal brains and Voodoo doughnuts. This extravaganza started on Tuesday with a spectacular meal at Paley’s Place and ended with a three-hour tour of Portland’s Farmer’s Market at PSU on Saturday, and every moment in between featured a new food discovery, trend or technique that was simply delicious — including the team’s hands-down favorite ham and cheese sandwich of all time.


During that first meal at Paley’s Place we ordered just about everything on the menu to share. The charcuterie created by Chef Vitaly Paley and team was artfully presented on large white platters: thinly sliced salumi, prosciutto and duck pastrami alongside thick slabs of country-style terrine and pickled radishes. The Wagyu beef tartare was meltingly tender, and the escargot and marrow bones — garlicky delicious! Don’t pass up the hand-cut fries and mustard aioli, or the beautifully prepared braised greens on the side. All of our entrées were spectacular, as were our desserts.


The next day, we were back at it bright and early, setting up our own artisans’ market in a community kitchen and event space. Working with Michkael Baker, Creative Director of Blue Voice Media, and Abby Farramtino of Abby’s Table, we invited more than 25 artisanal producers, farmers and chefs to an afternoon farmer’s market. Each producer provided information on their backgrounds and products and offered up delicious samples, everything from ice cream sandwiches to a complex hot sauce, salumi, hazelnuts, jams, jellies, cranberry juice and mint tea — a bounty of Oregon-made and -produced products from talented artisans.


And then we were off to lunch — Cubano and pulled pork sandwiches from Bunk. We snuck in just before closing and gathered up our dripping sandwiches and headed off to the Pearl District for more inspiration. Dinner that night was a six-course affair featuring pork, more pork, beef, one exquisite oyster and, of course, more charcuterie. Feeling even porkier than before, I vowed to eat less the next day — a vow I instantly broke upon our trip to Voodoo Doughnuts in the morning. After, of course, a drip-poured coffee at Public Domain, conveniently located just down from our hotel.


The feasting continued with lunch at Little Bird, where we tasted a sandwich so spectacular, we had to return at least one more time to taste it again. The baguette with Jambon de Paris, Gruyère and Dijon mustard was a symphony of flavors, tastes and textures. Dinner that night was another incredible evening at Ned Ludd with one of the largest pieces of pork belly ever presented on one plate. The charred greens were also outstanding and addictive, and I’m considering whether to invest in a brick pizza oven in my kitchen just so I can taste these again and again.


By Friday evening I thought I could taste no more . . . yet Saturday morning in Portland requires a pilgrimage to PSU’s Farmer’s Market, and we obliged. Of course, we were strangely hungry as we parked the car and headed toward the wafting aroma of biscuits and fried chicken. Pine State Biscuits‘ line was already 50 people deep and it was only 9:30 am. While one of us waited in line, the other (okay, me) went off to sample the delicious treasures of the market, including the freshly baked fruit and cream empanadas, more salumi and cheese, delicious and robust marionberry jam, Oregon black truffles, cookies, pastries, chocolates and more.


I returned to the biscuit line just in time to bite into a steaming biscuit with the crunchy fried chicken breast and melted cheddar cheese, dripping with honey. The perfect ending to a truly inspirational food trip.


About the author: My passion is to share with others great foods, recipes, and culinary inspirations. Today, in my role as food buyer for Williams-Sonoma, I travel the world seeking the best foods, ingredients, and artisanal producers. I then bring these same products to our stores to share with our customers. Prior to my experience at Williams-Sonoma, my husband and I launched a gourmet retail business in Ashland, Oregon. The most satisfying aspect of my previous role was the time that I spent teaching home chefs of all levels how to use the best ingredients to create memorable meals and dishes at home. I love to cook, entertain, and most of all, enjoy time spent creating food with love for friends and family.

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