Bread & Brew: Annual all-day, meat-fueled event is at height of its game
Geoff Latham loved wild game way before it was cool.
Way before whole-animal butchery was a thing, way before celebrity chef Chris Cosentino (winner of "Top Chef Masters" and an "Iron Chef" contender) brought his game-focused restaurant, Jackrabbit, to downtown Portland this past spring.
Owner of Nicky USA, a Southeast Portland purveyor of wild game like rabbit, duck, venison and more, Latham has for the past 17 years celebrated his passion with a festival called Wild About Game.
The daylong event at The Resort at the Mountain, near Timberline Lodge, pits some of Portland's top chefs against Seattle's top chefs in a contest to see who can best use the meaty products.
This year's Portland all-star lineup includes chefs Phil Oswalt (Multnomah Athletic Club), Sarah Schafer (Irving St. Kitchen), Matt Sigler (Renata) and Jose Chesa (Ataula).
They'll face a team of Seattle chefs including Paul Osher (Porkchop & Co.), Andrew Gregory & Ricardo Valdes (The London Plane), Chris Lobkovich (Quinn's Pub) and Jason Stratton (Mbar).
Tickets are now on sale for the event. But in a sea full of food happenings in Portland, why go to this? Here are six things I love about Wild About Game:
1. You might like game.
2. It's not just meat. Last year there were fresh oysters on the grill, Umi Organic noodles, Alma Chocolates, Salt & Straw, and a really amazing Japanese knife sharpener. They all show off their wares indoors and outdoors (weather permitting) at what's called the Artisan Marketplace, offering tastes included in the ticket price. This year there are more than 40 booths.
3. Beer, wine and booze. Did we mention the beverages? Yes, alcohol pairs great with meat — and that means cocktails, beer and wine. What pairs best? That's for you to find out. There are many more spirits than you can possibly throw down in a few hours, all included in the price of your ticket. This year's local drink vendors include: Block 15 Brewery, Bull Run Distillery, Clear Creek Distillery, Ecliptic Brewing, Gilgamesh Brewing, Grochau Cellars Winery, Reverend Nat's Cider and SakeOne, among others.
Just remember to arrange a designated driver or other transportation if you plan to imbibe, or book a night at The Resort at the Mountain and stumble up to your room.
4. Star sightings galore. If you've ever had a celebrity chef crush (who hasn't?), here's your chance to get up close and personal, even watch them in action as they cook. I got to see Gregory Gourdet steam little pouches of meat in ti leaves last year and exchange a few words with him. Portland chefs are known for their incredible accessibility, thanks to events like this and Feast Portland, which just wrapped up. Don't miss out.
5. Meat with a view. Part of this event takes place inside The Resort at the Mountain, in Welches (an hour east of Portland) but my favorite thing to do is to grab a table outside, at the Artisan Marketplace, and soak up the sweeping views of the electric-green valley. It's a great excuse to get out of town, especially when it's so easy to stay in town and find everything you need in the food and drink world.
6. Supporting local chefs and artisans. As has been the trend in recent years, Portland has lost several beloved dining spots, as experienced restaurateurs say they simply haven't been able to sustain the business over the dry spells, like this past winter's extended snowstorm.
If you crave the food Jose Chesa prepares, go eat at Ataula, the revered neighborhood tapas joint on Northwest 23rd Place.
If you fall in love with Matt Sigler's sumptous style, go to Renata, one of Portland's hottest spots in the inner east side. Make your fall dining bucket list, and stick to it.
• If you'd like to get your head and carnivorous tastebuds warmed up before Wild About Game, visit the new Jackrabbit restaurant, located at the Duniway Hotel in downtown Portland.
You might find some intimidating-but-delicious fare such as lamb spleen bruschetta, tripe and lobster, hangtown fry burger, marinated beef tendons, rabbit bits a la moutard, tuna heart pasta, and calves brains and chanterelles on toast.
There's also plenty of familiar fare: steak, oysters, trout and vegetables, prepared divinely. On my recent visit, even a vegan diner left me extremely satisfied.
As it happens, Cosentino is releasing his second cookbook this month, a resource for exploring and mastering how we cook with animals.
"Offal Good: Cooking from the Heart, With Guts," co-produced by writer/photographer Michael Harlan Turkell, is now available for purchase at Jackrabbit.
For more, see the restaurant's website at gojackrabbitgo.com.
Check it out:
What: 17th annual Wild About Game
When: 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8
Where: The Resort at the Mountain,68010 E. Fairway Ave., Welches
Cost: $69 per person advance; $79 at the door