As expected, the food and liquid assets keep stockpiling in Portland, which is not only referred to by Time magazine as America’s “food Eden,” but also the birthplace of the coveted James Beard culinary awards.
A confluence of culinary trends—locavorism, the new naturalism, farm loop foraging, food trucks and carts, and most recently, a deep dive into the city’s maker culture—make the porridge just right for all attendee tastes. Steve Faulstick, chief sales officer for Travel Portland adds that it’s the little things that are taking a big bite out of the city’s culinary scene.
“Micro-restaurants are huge! With last year’s opening of Pine Street Market in the Old Town’s historic Carriage and Baggage building and the Portland Food Hall this year, not to mention the proliferation of tiny restaurants across the city, the micro-restaurant trend is expected to keep going strong.”
Here are few of the latest culinary must-dos for the city:
Making a Big Impact With Micro-Restaurants
In true Portland fashion, meeting and incentive groups should expect a few fun twists on this back-to-basics vibe. RiverPlace in the South Waterfront opened the 7,000-sf CartLab last year, offering five micro-restaurants. “In our city where food carts and fast-casual restaurants draw foodies from around the globe, micro-restaurants are an easy decision for talented chefs looking to make their mark in Portland,” Faulstick says. “Many micro-restaurant projects have also created great community spaces where locals and visitors can gather around a table or fire pit and break bread together.”
Draft Teas on Tap & Other Tea Twists
These are hot at Steven Smith Teamaker’s original tasting room, where groups of up to 12 sip on concoctions from within the charming ambience of a former blacksmith’s shop. On the opposite side of the city in the Industrial District, a new 13,000-sf venue, twice the size of the original, is now open to groups of up to 50 for tastings, offering a more innovative tea experience to groups via a tea lab and tea garden for sommelier-led flight tastings (beginning with light and ending with dark teas) and a Maker’s Series, or creative fusions between Smith’s head tea master and a local maker. Russian tea service in the historic Heathman Hotel’s revamped Tea Court Lounge was a recent result, though the collaborative blends are also available on-site. Tea-based spirits and digestifs are on the menu at Townshend’s Tea Company, which also offers a new botanical twist on traditional Italian Fernet by integrating Douglas fir, birch bark and Willamette hops, among other things.
“In our city where food carts and fast-casual restaurants draw foodies from around the globe, micro-restaurants are an easy decision for talented chefs looking to make their mark in Portland.”
Spirited Coffee & Confections
Portland’s strong maker culture ensures that collaboration between all of the city’s sectors is always in the works. On the culinary front, coffee and spirit blends are the latest trend, while artisan confectioners are also adding new secrets to the sauce. Alma Chocolate is one case in point: its whiskey caramel sauce has been given a healthy dose of local House Spirits Distillery whiskey and a lavender version floated into the mix thanks to Salem’s Sundance Lavender Farm.
Transformational F&B Venues
When it comes to architecting impactful F&B the role of the venue cannot be underestimated and the Portland Japanese Garden’s new Cultural Village delivers. The village offers three new LEED Gold-certified buildings for groups. After walking through a mystic gate that emulates Japan’s monzenmachi, the gates that surround sacred shrines and temples—complete with an authentic medieval castle wall designed by a 15th-generation Japanese master stonemason—attendees can partake in horticultural classes, traditional Japanese tea and music demonstrations and peruse art installations.
The addition of a new, 600-room Hyatt Regency hotel is expected to boost the city’s convention business while also offering more F&B venue options to planners. You can read more about that here.