Gotta Getta Goetta at TOTN
I wasn’t happy when Portland’s annual Taste of the Nation moved from the Portland Center for the Performing Arts in 2006 to the gigantic airport lounge that is the Oregon Convention Center.
The Performing Arts Center, with its curving staircases, soaring atrium, and tiers of cherry-stained balconies, was an eminently worthy setting for the glamorous fare that Oregon’s top chefs have always brought to Taste of the Nation. The Convention Center is just a big empty box with carpeting.
However. The ultimate purpose of TOTN is not to please moi but to sell the tickets that raise the money that helps fund local food banks--not just in Portland but in cities all over North America. As this year’s Portland chairwoman, Gina Fleschner, asks, “Any other local venues you know of that can hold 1,300-plus?”
Okay, I’m done kvetching. This was TOTN’s 20th anniversary year in Portland, the crowds came hungry, and the vendors outdid themselves. Here are some of our staff’s favorite tastes, in no particular order:
Asparagus panna cotta with marinated crab and Meyer lemon foam from Chef Tyler Williams at Genoa
Garlicky mushroom caps from Chef John Newman at Newman’s at 988 in Cannon Beach, OR
Slow-roasted Oregon Country Natural beef with marionberry-chipotle ketchup, from Chef Dale Rasmussen at The Resort at the Mountain
Australia’s Roaring 40s blue cheese with New Zealand honey, served by Foster & Dobbs
Cameron Winery’s 2005 Pinot Noir
Salmon tartare on scallion pancakes from Chef John Eisenhart at Pazzo Ristorante
Brandied chicken liver mousse from Chef Brad Root of Roots Restaurant in Camas, WA
Douglas fir and Pinot Noir granita from Chef Leif Eric Benson of Timberline Lodge
Gianduia milkshakes from chefs Kevin Gibson and Gavin Russell of Castagna
Inox Chardonnay (unoaked) from Chehalem winery
Just when I thought I’d get through the evening without tasting anything I’d never heard of, I stumbled on the Simpatica Dining Hall table, where chefs Dave Kreifels and Jason Owen were presenting their housemade goetta topped with chow-chow and served on a little buttermilk biscuit.
Goetta turns out to be a lot like scrapple. It’s a pork-and-beef sausage with cooked oatmeal as a binder. If I’d grown up in Cincinnati, Ohio, I’d have heard of it for sure. Apparently goetta is to Cincinnatians (especially Cincinnatians of German extraction) what beignets and chicory coffee are to the citizens of New Orleans. So says Wikipedia. The chow-chow--a tart and spicy relish--gave this little tidbit some needed character. The biscuit gave it soul. So say I.
I can’t sign off without once more thanking all the hospitality folks who give their time so generously to Taste of the Nation Portland year after year. This year, thanks to urging by Michael Slocum, TOTN Portland’s longtime restaurant coordinator, Northwest Palate agreed to throw TOTN’s first-ever official afterparty. You might say it was a joint 20th anniversary bash. Brand new Bay 13 Restaurant in the Pearl District served as the locale, and Bay 13’s Joe Moreau was a most gracious host. The party was elbow-to-elbow and I haven’t seen that many tats since my last visit to Oddball Studios. Awesome!