James Beard Foundation Taste America Comes Home To Portland

The James Beard Foundation continued its Taste America dinner tour with a stop in Portland, OR, this October 21st. The tour serves as a celebration of James Beard and his legacy, as well as a fundraiser for the James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit organization that serves to "celebrate, nurture, and honor America's diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire" (read more here). This stop on the tour was especially noteworthy as Portland was James Beard's native home, the bounty of Oregon being a great inspiration for his life as a chef.

The evening began at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail hour featuring eight chefs from Portland and abroad, as well as wineries, breweries, and distilleries. One of the most standout bites of the hour was a foie gras hum bao with hoisin caramel sauce from Sarah Pliner of Portland's Aviary, a perfectly fluffy steamed bun with a delicate mix of pork and foie gras inside. Other chefs included James Beard Award winner and educator Philippe Boulot, Chris Cosentino of Cockscomb in San Francisco, Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton and Greg Denton of Ox Restaurant, Gregory Gourdet of Departure Restaurant and Lounge, and Justin Woodward of Castagna. James Beard Award winner Hugh Acheson, who did not attend the event, provided the recipe for a dish that delighted us during the reception. During the cocktail hour, guests were invited to bid on silent auction items while they sampled wines, drinks, and hors d'oeuvre. 

At 8:00 p.m., guests were led to the main dining hall for dinner, a four course affair with wine pairings. Despite having to serve well over one hundred guests, the Hilton's staff was so exceptional that diners received their dish within minutes of each other. The first course was a cauliflower panna cotta with Oregon Dungeness crab, prosciutto, and chanterelles. This dish, crafted by Marissa Burback of HopCity Tavern + Market in the Hilton Hotel, was ambitious and beautifully constructed, with the light silkiness of the panna cotta balancing the boldness of the crab and prosciutto resting on top. A bright chardonnay from Stoller Family Estate in Dundee was nicely paired, the acidity playing off the richness of the dish.

Next was an exciting smoked sockeye salmon with chanterelles, pumpkin salad, and salmon caviar on top of sauce raifort by James Beard Award winner Greg Higgins of Higgins. The salmon approached tasting too peppery, but didn't quite cross the line, while the salad was fun and unexpected, with long crispy straws of pumpkin. A lighter red blend from Andrew Will Champoux was poured to accompany the dish.

The main course was prepared by the visiting Taste America All-Star, James Beard Award winner Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat in Chicago. It was a Thai-influenced coconut-braised short rib with mint, basil, and peppers, paired nicely with a cabernet sauvignon from Double Canyon Vineyard in Washington. Finally, James Beard Award winner Ken Forkish of Ken's Artisan Bakery, Ken's Artisan Pizza, and Trifecta Tavern delivered an understated autumnal treat: a delicious maple sugar croissant roulade with candied apple peels, apple–maple caramel, and chantilly cream paired with a crisp albariño from Maryhill Winery's proprietor's reserve. It was a delightful dish to end the evening. 

The evening was more was far than just the dinner, however. It was led by guest emcee Drew Carney from KGW, who educated the crowd on the foundation, introduced chefs and sponsors, and provided general guidance and entertainment for the meal. After the main course was served, an auction began with auctioneer Kelly Russel. Guests bid on an assortment of packages, from Seattle tours to a home-cooked dinner with Gregory Gourdet. Between this and the silent auction, the dinner raised more than $25,000 for the foundation. All in all, it was a meaningful and successful evening for the James Beard Foundation and the attendees.

Learn more about Taste America at jbftasteamerica.org and follow the tour at #JBFTasteAmerica on Twitter and Instagram.

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