I've attended the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference for years. Julia Child suggested I become a member, I followed her advice, and I've made great friends and contacts through the organization and always enjoy the local gastronomic scene in the host city. This year's conference was in Portland, Oregon, a city I love.
Bruce Aidells (writer, meat expert, great friend, and my constant IACP companion and conspirator) and I coordinate our meals and IACP sessions, and this year we decided on a new strategy, since most of the workshops looked like those we'd attended in the past. We stayed at the Vintage Plaza Hotel, close to the official conference hotel, but more importantly, near Andrea Spella's (master obsessive coffee roaster) new location—perfect espresso and cappuccino to start the morning. We skip all official meals (they're always horrible), opting instead for the city's restaurants and food artisans, focusing on meat. Bruce needs to be fed.
We signed up for the opening day only, with three workshops (digital photography for non-professionals, social networking and a Clear Creek Distillery tasting), lunch at Kenny & Zukes delicatessen (mind-boggling pastrami sandwich), and the IACP opening reception (the best event!) to sample tastings from Portland's restaurants, wineries, breweries, and food artisans—a most interesting overview of local food and beverage. We showed restraint, since we had dinner plans at Metrovino, but managed a few bites, from Nostrana, Paley's Place, Clyde Common, a sandwich from Bunk, a few Kumumoto oysters from Kate Rowley at Taylor Shellfish, Morgan Brownlow's Tails & Trotters pork, and cheese from Rogue Creamery. I drank Oregon Pinot Noir; Bruce drank beer. Our dinner was wonderful, although portions, even appetizers, were way too big.
Next day: Spella cappuccino and a chocolate-covered caramel from Alma Chocolate, a visit with Portland quality meat purveyor Nicky's meats, followed by a fantastic lunch with homemade salumi at Olympic Provisions (impressive wine selection). We skipped the IACP cookbook awards ceremony and hosted our own party after the event at Nostrana, my favorite restaurant in the city. I contributed Rosso di Montalcino from Col d'Orcia and Brunello di Montalcino from Mastroianni, hung Dario Cecchini ornaments in the entrance (see photo), helped prepare food for the party, and loved spending time with chef-owner Cathy Whims in her kitchen. See the award winners here.
We breakfasted the next morning at Kenny & Zukes (pastrami bacon, terrific bagels), perused the almost endless cookbook shelves at Powell's Books (too many—reminded me not to write another cookbook), went to for a delicious Indian lunch at East India Co, stopped in at the IACP information fair—do I want the home model of the Sous Vide Supreme? Maybe. We chatted with authors at the book signing, strolled back to the hotel, went to a party at Clyde Common hosted by Chronicle Books, and met friends for dinner at Laurelhurst Market, a meat market-restaurant. Meat and artisanal salumi are certainly back with a vengeance.
After a quick morning stroll at the enormous and wonderful farmers' market and a taste of nettle custard and fiddlehead stir-fry from Catherine Yoemans's vegetable demo at the Springwater farm stand, I took off for Eugene, Oregon, to teach a class at Cooks, Pots & Tabletops. Back to Portland, in time for brunch at Beast, where the food was not for my palate—sugar in every course, and the wine list was strange: wines listed by cultivar, with prices but without producer's name or vintage. Dinner, with Wendy Lane and fellow wine geek Lisa Hall at Paley's Place, was lovely, all seasonal and local.
I caught a crack-of-dawn flight to New York. I had to visit Jim Lahey's Sullivan Street Bakery—I'm crazy about his vision of bread. He told me about his plans for a bread baking school, and I sampled his pizza at Co., as unique as Jim and his baked goods. I sipped a Negroni at the bar of SD 26, snacked on mini mortadella sandwiches (on pizza bianca), visited with Tony and Marisa May, and got a tour of their most impressive restaurant.
My final meal in New York was, as usual, at The Four Seasons, my very favorite restaurant in the U.S. The dining rooms are the most beautiful, service is faultless, owners Julian (Tuscan, high-spirited) and Alex (Swiss, droll) are the most amazing hosts, and I was curious about chefs Pecko Zantilaveen and Larry Finn. Classics were perfect, and new dishes (like octopus terrine with spicy pomegranate juice dressing) were extraordinary. I had a seat in the Grill Room with a view—Liz Smith, Carly Simon, industrial titans. I adored Julian's special bottling of "extra naughty olive oil" from Tuscany. After lunch I stopped in the kitchen to congratulate the chefs&mdmash;and bumped into Henry Kissinger, who was getting a tour. What a trip!