Friday, July 20, 2012

For the Love of Food

I'm not sure if the trend started in Portland but I'm going to argue Portland now does it better than any other place in the country.

We have the naked bike riders who keep congregating under the Joan of Arc statue in my neighborhood, the yoga enthusiasts (count me in on that trend), the urban farmers whose chickens have resulted in urban coyotes on the urban hunt but most importantly we have our food carts.

Portland is a food lover's town. Which is lucky for me because I can be counted in on that trend too. I'm a food adventurist. If it's fresh and looks appetizing, it's for me.


Enter Portland's food carts.

I know PDX didn't invent the food cart. Carts in NYC selling unleaded coffee and doughnuts have long been a staple. And I learned the hard way to avoid street food in Southeast Asia. A side note here, it's always best to avoid unidentifiable meat on sticks purchased from carts lacking refrigeration.

But I digress, because the NYC and Southeast Asian carts have nothing on what we have in Portland. Encampments of gourmet carts have sprung up all over my hipster side of town.

Most of them are reliably stationary. I can bike over to Belmont Street any day of the week with Child #2 in tow, pick up his favorite macaroni and cheese, which is so good it should be illegal, and a fancy-ish salad with fresh figs, honey and goat cheese for me.

The PDX food carts raise the bar on the whole food scene. It's like the minor leagues of the culinary world. If you wander through the cart settlement camps you might just discover the next darling of the food world preparing homemade ice cream or pork belly sandwiches.

Last week I placed an order for a vegan Portand bowl. The man at the window took my name and told me to pick it up around the corner at the pick-up window. I complied and walked around the corner where the same man greeted me.

"Orders on the other side," he said.

"Right, I just did."

"Cool. Do you have a name."

"Johanna," I repeated, even though I was the only customer and had given him my name no less than thirty seconds ago.

"Awesome, that's right. I remember you now," he said as he handed me my food. "Peace. Enjoy."

It was the true flavor of Portland, in more ways than one.

18 comments:

Beylit said...

Every time you talk about Portland I can't help but to be reminded of Austin. Naked free loving hippies, hipsters, all natural everything, and food and music coming out your ears. I actually have a friend in Austin with a gluten free bakery food truck. Crazy kids and their healthy food being eaten out of the back of a truck.

Joshua said...

Maybe it's just because of where I work, but I don't think I've ever seen an actual food cart around Atlanta.

Carol Kilgore said...

San Antonio had a bit of a brouhaha with food trucks, but I think it's been worked out. I see them here and there, but so far haven't visited any. Maybe this weekend!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wish our area had more of those.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

This sounds great. I wish we had stuff like that in our area.

Rick Daley said...

I've seen some food carts highlighted on the Food Network, I think San Diego was the host city. I wish we had something like that here in Columbus...but even if we did, I'm pretty sure I would be hard pressed to leave my own kitchen. I used to cook for a living, and now I cook for pleasure, which is awesome because now I get to eat the food I prepare. When I worked in restaurants I would feed hundreds of people wonderful things like chicken cordon bleu and seafood fettuccine, then hit Rally's or Taco Bell on my way home at 1:00am once out kitchen was closed and clean.

Pk Hrezo said...

Love it! And hey I'll be there in October to tour around and then do a writers retreat outside Salem. You should check it out! The web is under Toad Hall Retreat and it's put on by Carol Riggs, fellow YA writer.
I've never been to Oregon before and super excited to check it out. :)

Johanna Garth said...

Beylit, Portland and Austin have a LOT in common.

Josh, really?? I feel like they are becoming more and more mainstream.

Carol, let me know how they are!

Alex and Rachel, I bet it's a trend that will spread. :)

Rick, it's so funny about chef's eating at Taco Bell, like MD's children going untreated.

Pk, let me know when you're in town!

Joshua said...

I supposed a food cart permit is cheaper than space rental for a physical restaurant.

Kristen Wixted said...

Viking Soul Food? I'm coming!
Really, really wish I had some of those places anywhere near here. We have some small business restaurants, but nothing like that.
So jealous.

M Pax said...

I love how he didn't remember you until you said your name. lol You have to use that in a story sometime.

Oregon is a great state. Food carts have begun coming to Bend. Probably not as great as Portland yet.

Barbara Watson said...

Great ending! :-)

There aren't too many food carts in Minneapolis...must have something to do with our winters.

Margo Berendsen said...

Gourmet food carts? Hmm, I need to visit Portland. Too bad they aren't forgetful enough to ask for money!

Misha Gericke said...

Wow that sounds so wonderful I'd love to experience something like you're described. :-)

Joanne said...

Apparently they're becoming quite popular. My son in law tells me about them in Cleveland (thumbs up from him) and I know they're popular in the parks in Akron. Great trend.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

Your post made me hungry, especially because most of the stuff I eat consists of school cafeteria food and frozen dinners.
Naked bike riding? I should think that would be painful, especially if they fell down.

Neurotic Workaholic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
naida said...

Your gourmet food carts sound good! I'm wary of buying food off carts myself, however those sound safe and yummy too.
When we visit Puerto Rico I can never resist stopping for all manner of fried goodies off carts like that. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it :)
In NYC however, we stuck to buying pretzels off the carts...lol.