Portable in Portland

What makes a meal memorable?  The atmosphere, the flavors, the presentation?  For me all of these things, but what is most important is the people you share the meal with.  The stories behind the chefs or purveyors dishing up the food are fascinating to me, as they are often as unusual and varied as the meals themselves. 

Recently, I was at the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conference in the beautiful city of Portland, a city that reminds me of my current home city of Austin, Texas in many ways.  The city was laid back, environmentally friendly, full of great restaurants and supports the local community strongly.  This was my first time attending the IACP conference, and the educational sessions, the local flavor, and the city all left me impressed. 

One day we did a tour of the local street food vendors.  Portland has a large community of street food carts, arranged in “pods” in various parts of the city.  The variety of foods offered was staggering.  In just a few hours, we sampled Thai spring rolls, Bosnian pitas, Korean tacos, Poutine (French fries topped with cheese curds and smothered in gravy), and a delicious Italian porchetta (slow roasted pork) sandwich.  The owner at Ziba’s Pita (Bosnian style pitas) had a story that would be repeated several times during the day trip. 

After moving to this country, the owner found her lack of English skills prohibited her from working in her past financial profession, so she pursued what she knew and loved, cooking.  Her cart serves up stuffed Bosnian style pitas piping hot and delicious, while being wholesome, portable, and affordable. 

Another memorable sandwich was at the Brunchbox, which served up a hamburger served between two grilled cheese sandwiches.  Really.  They should be served up with paddles to shock your heart back into rhythm after consuming that much fat in one sitting, but we were on our own.  All of us managed to survive and enjoyed a great burger! 

My favorite food of the day had to go to The People’s Pig cart – the menu was small, but it was tough to choose!  They are well known for the porchetta sandwich, so I dug in and hoped for a great meal.  I was not disappointed; the pork is locally sourced and slow roasted, sliced and served with pickled spicy giardiniera – a heavenly combination. The only thing that could’ve made it better would’ve been an ice cold beer!  They were also offering an egg salad sandwich with pork fat aioli (mayonnaise), cracklins and bacon.  How could that combination be bad?  I wish I had saved room to sample it.  

After I recovered from all the food I consumed on my first outing in street food paradise, the next day I was ready to hit more food carts.  We ventured off to Pyro Pizza, a food trailer with a wood fired oven inside that gave off the most intoxicating aroma of a real wood fire blended with the smell of freshly baked bread. 

 

The pizzas were gourmet and tasty, with a chewy, blistered crust.   I tried the caramelized onion with Gorgonzola, Parmigiana Reggiano and pistachios.  They were fantastic.

While waiting for the pizzas to cook, we sauntered over to Whiffies, to taste test the homemade pocket pies.  They were as good as the gossip I’d heard about them, flaky outside and filled with your choice of fruit filling.  Just like Hostess used to make, only served warm, full of flavor, freshly cooked and homemade!  As I left the airport, vowing not to eat for at least a week, I realized it was all worth it and began plotting my next trip Whiffies, and Pyro Pizza, and Ziba’s Pitas, and…

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