Highlights from International Culinary Conference in PDX

May 1, 2010

In a culinary sense, Portland has recently become known as one of the United States’ most cutting-edge cities. Of course, we Northwesterners have known that all along.

In late April, our neighbors to the south proved their expertise to the rest of the world when they pulled out all their food, wine, and hospitality stops as they welcomed the International Association of Culinary Professionals 32nd Annual Conference.

Bud Break in the Willamette Valley, 4/10

Among many memorable moments was a tour of biodynamic and sustainable vineyards in the Willamette Valley. The vines were just undergoing bud break (pictured above) and the air was full of fresh scent of the earth reawakening after a long winter.

Biodynamic Wines in the Willamette

The wines we sampled–Oregon’s famed Pinot Gris, Blanc, and Noir, as well as Dijon-clone Chardonnay–were all drinking exceptionally well even in spite of negative early-on reports by national wine writers about the 2007 vintage. The photo above shows the dried herbs (such as stinging nettle and valerian) as well as the cow’s horns filled with compost that biodynamic farmers plant in the fields during certain times of the year (depending on the moon’s cycles) to create healthy soil.

In addition to outstanding wines from Soter Vineyards, Montinore Estate, and Anne Amie Vineyards, we were treated to a “snout-to-tail lunch” offered up by Thistle restaurant located in nearby McMinnville. This ├╝ber-local “Modern American resto” (which sources most everything it serves from within a 35-mile radius and changes its menu daily) was a delight for some, while somewhat of a nightmare for non-pork eaters in the crowd (including yours truly).

Pig\'s Head

Here is the poor animal’s head just waiting to be devoured.

Pig\'s Heart

And here’s its heart, blithely draped over the most beautiful farm-fresh local eggs (I ate two of those sans the pork!).

Luckily, in addition to the carefully coddled eggs, there were slabs of a nummy triple-cream cheese on the table, as well as a perfectly dressed salad of baby greens and a platter of pickled veggies and cornichons, so the more faint of heart of us among didn’t go hungry.

Pig\'s Lunch Table

Here’s a shot of the complete groaning board, which one of the hosts described as a spread “like something from King Henry the VIII’s table.” You can see all my fellow foodies scurrying around the table trying to find the best camera angles. No doubt some of them, like Spencer, had been in Delores Custer’s food-styling class earlier in the week.

Pig\'s Lunch Dessert

Dessert was the coup de grace for all to enjoy. . .a dense almond polenta cake with a crown of unsweetened whipped cream. Wish I’d saved enough room for two slices of that.

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