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Portland wraps up bold year in food


COURTESY PHOTO - The SE Wine Collective helps elevate wine industry. Was it just us, or was it an unbelievable year in Portland food and drink?

Bread & Brew asked some of Portland’s top chefs, brewers and other artisan producers what they believed to be most relevant about this year’s scene.

Not surprisingly, they noted the exuberant ambition and adventurous spirit by Portland’s makers and consumers — the very qualities that continue to attract an onslaught of national and international attention.

Here’s what they had to say about 2015:

“I’m so freaking excited about this food hall trend! It’s like an indoor version of a food cart pod: a team of the best restauranteurs in the city getting together to specialize in what they do best; a format where chefs can take risks without a million dollar buildout looming over their heads; a chef-y congregation with everyone working together to bring an amazing experience to everyone who comes through the door. We’re opening this new ice cream space at the future Pine Street Market in winter and I’m already learning quite a bit from the chefs I get to work beside!”

— Tyler Malek, lead ice cream maker, Salt & Straw Ice Cream


“Portland chef/restaurant trends just keep accumulating. Two or three years ago it was chefs opening second restaurants. Now they’re becoming mini-restaurant groups. Last year it was the year of the cookbook. Those haven’t stopped, but now we see non-stop events and collaborations. When I started Portland Food Adventures in 2010, there were very few events — maybe some farm dinners and occasional wine dinners. Now there’s something every day, it seems. Plaza del Toro was built just to do events, private and public. We’re still selling out our unique monthly dinners, but I had to start taking my game overseas to stand out and grow.”

— Chris Angelus, founder of Portland Food Adventures and host of the Right at the Fork podcast


“The growing vibrancy in the downtown restaurant scene, and also how we are all eating healthier and lighter with more veggies on our menus and in our diets.”

— Vitaly Paley, chef/owner of Paley’s Place, Imperial and Portland Penny Diner


“The year 2015 was definitely a year of change. We’ve seen chefs either expanding their horizons by branching out, or heading in different directions. It is great to see chefs like Gabe Rucker and Justin Woodward switch over or give more attention to their casual places, and seeing chefs like Erik (Taylor Rail Works) and Matt Sigler (Renata) really crush the scene. It seems that all of the major players are expanding their empire (Nate Tilden, John Gorham, Gabby and Greg of Ox, Jose and Cristina of Ataula, etc.) and really paying homage to simple, soul-satisfying food and experiences. This coming year is going to be a great year of eating in Portland.”

— Carlo Lamagna, executive chef, Clyde Common


“Trends we’ve seen — and seen resonating with diners this past year and looking into to next year, include: offering more Pacific Northwest wines; more and better wines available by the glass (focusing on Oregon winemakers); and approachable, inventive food prepared using classic and modern techniques. We’ve also seen unpretentious, knowledgeable and flawless service, real dedication to the guests’ experience and elegant but casual modern interior design. When you go to Italy, you drink Italian wines and eat Italian food. This is Oregon wine country — one of the most important wine regions of the world. Our restaurant was created to celebrate local wines and local food.”

— Ron Acierto, owner, Muselet


“Hosting the Craft Brewing Convention was huge for the Portland beer world in 2015. It had been over a decade since the national conference was last held here, and all the visitors I spoke with about Portland said how impressed they were with the breadth and depth of our beer culture. In a time when craft beer is blowing up nationally, this event was a reminder to the rest of the country that we remain the leader as far as craft beer culture goes and demonstrated what other cities can aspire to in terms of the ubiquity of craft beer.”

— Ben Edmunds, brewmaster, Breakside Brewery


“The year 2015 is certainly marked by a staggering number of brewery openings and the growth of many existing ones. I think a good portion of that growth is in beer for export to other states or, as some people may be surprised to hear, across the globe. The international interest in our local beer sticks out to me as the most interesting and noteworthy development of the year, and we (local breweries and the city itself) can look forward to hosting even more tourists in the future because of it.”

— Alex Ganum, owner and lead brewer of Upright Brewing, Grain & Gristle and Old Salt Marketplace


“We have reached the tipping point in the IPA trend and now I am seeing a similar trend in sour beer (kettle soured, wild, barrel aged), sessionable styles, especially session IPAs, and lagers. I have noticed that today beer drinkers are more willing to explore beer styles that they aren’t already familiar with as opposed to even a few years ago where they might have been a little more reluctant.”

— Whitney Burnside, Portland Head Brewer, 10 Barrel Brewing Co.


“Portlanders are starting to embrace a more ambitious style of dining and have fallen in love with the tasting menu format, trusting the chef to curate their entire experience with restaurants such as Nodoguro, Nomad, Holdfast, Farm Spirit, Langbaan, and our own Le Pigeon. It’s a nice direction, and I am excited to see where it goes.”

— Gabriel Rucker, executive

chef and co-owner of Le Pigeon and Little Bird


“The way that Portland has continued to embrace and support pop-up restaurants has made this one of the more interesting cities in the U.S. to eat in. I am not trying to say that all pop-ups are good, but for so many people to have the opportunity to try out their concepts on the public makes the entire food scene more vital and exciting.”

— Sarah Pliner, chef/owner, Aviary


“What is most relevant to me is perhaps what is most obvious — the rise of so-called ‘ethnic’ cuisines and the corresponding emphasis on authenticity. Euro-centric dominance is a thing of the past, and we are all better off for having Langbaan, Kashka and so many other exemplars of skilled, delicious cooking that taste like nothing else I have tried.”

— Peter Platt, co-owner, Andina


“The Fruit Beer Fest is definitely our biggest event, and has been garnering a ton of national press for Oregon brewing scene. The Fruit Beer Fest is going into its sixth year and is the only beer festival in the U.S. devoted solely to fruit beers. From sours to stouts, Berliner Weisses to barrel aged, we regularly see the envelope pushed as to what the lineup of predominantly West Coast brewers can do.”

— Jay Gilbert, founder and co-owner, Burnside Brewing


“At Oregon Fruit Products, this was ‘the year of the beer’ for us. We saw unprecedented growth in demand for our fruit purees from local brewers who were looking for new flavors and ways to instill creativity into their brews. From sour beers to ciders to hoppy ales, we have been really impressed with the way Portland brewers like Ecliptic and Rogue have embraced the fruit beer trend this year.”

— Chris Sarles, chief executive officer, Oregon Fruit Products


“This year was our 25th anniversary. Looking at the Portland restaurant scene it is like a family tree with roots that were already established when I first started Nicky USA. Chefs like Phillipe Boulot, Vitaly Paley, Greg Higgins and Cory Schreiber mentored and nutured the next generation who made their own mark on the food community. Several branches later we have this amazingly strong, vibrant and beautiful family tree that showcases the connections and relationships that make Portland one of the world’s greatest food towns. Whether it’s the 1890s, 1990s or 2015, the bar continues to be raised!”

— Geoff Latham, president and founder of Nicky USA