Summer Street Fare Fest
By Kerry Newberry
Four years ago on a sultry summer night, I had my first sublime street food experience on the waterfront in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Street vendors churned sweet juice from fresh sugar cane stalks. Artists peddled vibrantly stroked paintings. Traditional Dhow fishing boats skimmed sunlit waters. Tourists snapped photos of acrobatic youths flipping off rustic docks into the Indian Ocean's lapping waves. Rhythmic drumming set the beat to the spoken word of Zanzibari men practicing English with any willing visitor. The market was colorful, chaotic and alive. Then there was the glorious food.
Lantern-lit stalls set a feast for the senses. Piles of grilled prawns and lobsters, kebabs of beef and kingfish, fried chicken and cassava, and octopus and shark beckoned from the tables. The experience was intoxicating. The food was oh-so satisfying. Since then, I've found nothing more enticing than street fare alfresco on a hot summer night.
Which is why when I heard about this summer's Counter Culture: A Celebration of Urban Street Food and International Wines, I immediately called to find a ticket. Good thing I acted fast because tickets are sold out, and, honestly, it's no wonder.
Set at Anne Amie Vineyards in Carlton on July 22, the pre-International Pinot Noir Celebration event promises delicious street fare from a selection of the best restaurants and food carts in Portland. With the food, organizers have paired the dishes with world-class wines from Oregon, California, Italy, Canada and New Zealand.
"We wanted to do something a little different this year," said Kim McLeod, director of sales and marketing for Anne Amie. "I remember when the food cart phenomenon first took off years ago; I've been wanting to plan a dinner around food carts at the winery ever since."
Now is the time. Portland food carts are the current media darlings of the city and have been featured in Gourmet, Bon Appetit, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, as well as on The Splendid Table and Travel Channel.
"Portland has really elevated street food; and there is no reason why you can't pair amazing wines with street food items," McLeod said.
Though the food carts offer "fast food," it is often gourmet. The popular cart Violetta demonstrates this thinking in its self-description: Portland's fastest slow food. The menu offers made-from-scratch "fast" foods that utilize only premium ingredients: Northwest-sourced meats; local, farm-fresh vegetables; and dairy and bread products that have been raised, grown or produced with care and respect for organic and sustainable practices.
This is a standard mantra for many of the popular food carts around town. The carts and restaurants participating in Counter Culture are a collection of winery staff favorites that range from the hot spot in town for Texas-style barbecue to the hub for Japanese pub food.
"Once we started mentioning it to our friends in the food world, everyone was on board," McLeod said.
Savory bites (confirmed as of June 15, my edit-in deadline) include: grilled skewers of shishito pepper and tuna from Biwa; mini bánh mì (Vietnamese baguette sandwiches) from Olympic Provisions; crawfish pies from Swampshack; white truffle fries from Violetta; an indulgent taco creation by ¿Por Qué No?; and dessert à la Lovely's 50-50.
Ping - named No. 4 to GQ Magazine's "Top Ten Best New Restaurants in the Country"- will be dishing khao kha moo (pork leg stew on rice); while Laurelhurst Market will serve a meaty creation. The collaboration between Brian Spangler from Apizza Scholls and Rodney Muirhead from Podnah's Pit is rumored to be Texas jalapeño hot links.
The participating wineries in the event include six from Oregon: Anne Amie Vineyards, Boedecker Cellars, Patton Valley Vineyards, Raptor Ridge Winery, Roots Wine Co. and Soter Vineyards. From California, Calera Wine Co., Flowers Winery, Navarro Vineyards and Talley Vineyards will pour, as well as Pegasus Bay Vineyards from New Zealand, Tawse Vineyards from Canada and J. Hofstätter from Italy.
"The overall theme is about collaborating and showcasing the food and the wine and just having a really good time," McLeod said. "The night will be fun and festive and green."
Just as Anne Amie's estate vineyards are certified by Salmon-Safe and LIVE (Low-input Viticulture and Enology), the event also will integrate sustainable efforts in standard and innovative ways. McLeod is intent on a rolling out a "green carpet" for guests to walk. The sod-in-a-roll will wind to a "step and repeat" backdrop for photos, all to the beat of a world music DJ from Portland.
"We want guests to feel like they are transported somewhere else," McLeod said. "Like an outdoor street market in Asia - lively, exotic and with cuisine from all over the world paired with phenomenal wines."
A sun-soaked day in the Willamette Valley, followed by a starlit street food celebration, sounds like the perfect summer escape. I'll be there indulging in world-inspired cuisine, overlooking the sun-kissed vineyards and practicing my wine speak with any visitors willing to listen.
For more about Counter Culture 2010, please visit www.anneamie.com.
Kerry Newberry is a Pinot-sipping, vineyard-hopping wine and food writer. She resides in Portland.
Location: Anne Amie Vineyards
Address: 6580 NW Mineral Springs Rd., Carlton
Date/Time: July 22, 6-10 p.m.