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Feast Portland a foodie hit

Photo Credit: COURTESY OF FEAST PORTLAND - Food professionals and connoisseurs anxiously await the bevy of treats at Feast Portland, Sept. 18 to 21 at Pioneer Courthouse Square and elsewhere.If you ever wanted to learn how to butcher a pig, shuck an oyster, shake a cocktail, make a pie, or brew coffee like a pro, wait no more.

Put it on your calendar: Feast Portland, an annual food and drink festival set for Sept. 18 through 21, is a chance for foodies and the epicurious to live out their wildest artisinal dreams and celebrate Oregon’s bounty (feastportland.com).

There will be hands-on classes, tasting panels, dinner series and plenty of opportunity to party with some of the country’s biggest food and drink rock stars.

About 11,000 people attended last year, more than a third from out of state.

Now in its third year, the 31 events will happen at 13 locations across the city. There will be more chefs, more events, and bigger and better venues than years past, organizers say.

They’re also looking for ways to shorten the lines or, at least, make standing in line more fun.

With so much food and drink industry talent here and beyond, one of Feast’s biggest challenges is to balance the right mix of newcomers and old favorites.

“The challenge is, we have to continue to top ourselves,” says Carrie Welch, Feast co-founder and food PR maven with the Portland agency Little Green Pickle.

“We want it to feel fresh, new and exciting every year, while you’re getting the same events you love,” she says.

Prior to landing in Portland in 2011, Welch ran PR at “The Food Network” in New York for 10 years, coordinating events with Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray and Giada de Laurentiis, among others. Two of her celebrity chef buddies, Duff Goldman and Chris Cosentino, have been loyal Feast ambassadors and will attend again this year.

Co-founded by Mike Thelin, a local food event coordinator, Feast has been called “the best food festival in the country” by Thrillist National and lauded by others, including Zagat, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and Forbes.

In all, about 80 chefs will participate in this year’s Feast, 45 of them from Portland.

There will be 10 chefs’ collaborative dinner series, including local brewers, distillers and winemakers to whet the palate.

Tickets to the events range from about $55 to $65 for most of the tasting panels and hands-on classes, to $100 to $175 for most of the dinner series and main events. One of those is the inaugural Brunch Village, an ode to Portland’s favorite meal. A $530 package buys all-inclusive entree to the five marquee events.

It’s a charity event and a number of sponsors help fund the event, and all plateware and silverware is donated by VerTerra, a New York company that makes compostable plates and forks from fallen leaves.

Feast coordinates with Urban Gleaners to pick up leftover food and also donates some to local shelters.

To attract the best lineup of hosts for the four-day extravaganza, the Feast team spends all year researching and recruiting the participating chefs.

They eat and drink at places with great buzz and look for who’s up-and-coming, winning awards and landing on best-of lists.

“It’s a humongous puzzle,” Welch says. “The group goes through some knock-down, drag-out meetings. People end up making cases for people they feel passionate about.”

Some chefs have asked why they weren’t chosen, and Welch tells them they could be considered next year.

If Portland’s appetite continues to grow, something tells us Feast will have the demanding job of keeping us satiated for a long time to come.

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