Tokyo’s UNU Farmer’s Market: Bringing Portland to Japan

Portland Tokyo Fest 2015

Portland Tokyo Fest 2015

Over the past few weeks I have been writing about the adventures my husband and I had in Japan last month, but have yet to elaborate on the reason we were there in the first place: the Portland Tokyo Fest. We helped comprise the Portland element of the festival, along with two other local chefs (one who also runs several farms in Portland), a winemaker, a coffee roaster and a brewer.

The focus of the event was to highlight urban farming and the farm-to-table cooking that is so common in Portland. In order to do this we had two cooking demonstrations at the United Nations University Farmer’s Market in Shibuya and we also hosted a dinner party for 100 guests, where each chef served several snacks to be paired with Portland wine, beer and cocktails.

To prepare for these events, we spent our third day in Japan touring local urban farms. A bus took our group from the bustling Tokyo to the much quieter area of Narita, about an hour away, where there are many small, family run farms. Besides getting to see the properties and talk to the farmers, we were also shopping for the produce we would use at the upcoming events.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when we got to our first stop, the Chef’s Garden Farm, but it certainly wasn’t the small, white-haired Japanese man sporting a hat with a skull on it and a massive belt buckle who greeted us. He spoke very little English but happily pulled up all kinds of vegetables for us to inspect. I can honestly say our entire group was stunned by his farm — he had the usual suspects (carrots, radishes) but also yuzu, peanuts, and wasabi. At the request a local chef, he even grows saffron.

This guy was awesome!

This guy was awesome!

Harvesting saffron

Harvesting saffron

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Gluttony in Portland: The Best Bites of FEAST 2014

Awesome after party ice cube

Awesome after party ice cube

A few posts ago I talked about Feast, a huge culinary celebration held here in Portland. Every year it brings big names in the food industry (the likes of Chris Cosentino, Paul Qui, Edward Lee, Brad Farmerie) to our town for four days of non-stop chaos. There are seminars, special dinners and tastings being held all over the city, followed by after-parties and after hours after-parties.

Since the company I work for is a sponsor, we get in to a lot of the events for free. Which meant food, food and more tasty, fabulous food, all washed down with local brews, wine and liquor. Let the good times roll!

First up, Friday Night: Night Market. I love the Night Market. The setting is gorgeous and the food is crazy good.

Night Market 2014, Zidell Yards, FEAST

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State Fairs and a crazy chaotic state of affairs

What I have not been doing enough of!

This summer I have not been doing enough of this.

September is slowly killing me. I have been so busy I’m surprised I have found time to breath! The weekend of Labor Day my husband and I went on a romantic retreat, the following weekend was Wild About Game, last weekend I went to Tacoma to see my family (and go to the fair which is an annual tradition!) and this weekend is Feast.

Every day this week there are pre-Feast parties for those of us involved in the event. Wednesday night I attended one where Chef Paul Qui served up Albacore tuna and grilled pork. Last night I went to a party called Pork of Ages where there were more than 20 roasted pig heads lined up (seriously!) and I got to meet author Ruth Reichl (yay!).

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Wild About Game: A weekend of meat, booze and high jinks

It's so serious we have knives engraved!

It’s so serious we have knives engraved!

We have a saying about WAG: What happens on the mountain, stays on the mountain. So I can’t show you any of the truly ridiculous pictures from last Sunday but I can show you lots of fancy food porn and I know that’s really what you’re here for.

First though, we must start at the beginning:

Welcome to the Mountain!

The view from Timberline Lodge is incredible in the summer. I hate snow, ice and the cold so I can’t speak to what it looks like in the winter, but seriously, in the summer, it’s breathtaking — even when you’re up way too early after not enough sleep!

View from Timberline Lodge

View from Timberline Lodge

Meet the Meat:

Next up is the food. At Wild About Game, the focus is on game meats. So there is everything from elk and quail to Oregon-raised water buffalo and rabbit available for sampling. We also include lots of bonus meats: locally made charcuterie, Kobe beef, hazelnut-fed pork and non-meats: cheeses, pickled quail eggs, Oregon sea salt.  And it’s all there for the eating…even the ice cream made with cherries and bone marrow!

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My apologies for being absent, I was busy eating foie gras…

Foie gras

A chunk off of a 3-pound foie gras terrine…Just a little WAG party snack.

To many people the word wag is a verb, often referring to the movement of a dog’s tail. For me (and my co-workers), WAG means Wild About Game, a huge meat-fest that our company hosts every fall on Mt. Hood in Oregon.

We invite a bunch of chefs from the Pacific Northwest, head to the mountain and basically eat and drink for an entire weekend. Though the event itself is hard to organize, it is amazingly fun and a great opportunity to actually hang out with many of our customers in a non-work environment, something that’s pretty hard to come by in the food industry!

WAG has become so infamous in the PNW that it’s one of the events that everyone in the culinary field wants to attend. It could be due to the high-end snacking (foie gras, Iberico ham, freshly shucked oysters) or to the booze (free beer, gin, whiskey and wine). And that’s just the day event — the afterparty is where people really let loose.

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Scenes from an Urban Garden Dinner Party: Part II

DSC_6542

Last week, I showed you the appetizers that I helped put together for a dinner benefiting the Portland Fruit Tree Project. My husband, the chef for the event, didn’t just stop at creative snacks. He prepared a five-course dinner as well, one that was so delicious we converted a 10-year vegetarian into a carnivore for the evening. I’d call that a massive success!

Here’s what we served after the passed appetizers were done.

Course 1: Salad of roasted beets, plums, goat cheese, mung bean sprouts and crispy quinoa.

Course 1: Beets, plums, goat cheese, mung bean sprouts and crispy quinoa

The beets were roasted, the plums firm but juicy, the cheesy was tangy and the fried quinoa added a happy crunchy texture.

Course 2: Homemade tomato leaf strozzapreti with Connie’s tomatoes and fresh basil in a  Parmesan brodo.

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