I spent Sunday down in Oregon and up on Mount Hood, judging a Seattle versus Portland chef smackdown at upscale meat distributor Nicky USA’s annual Wild About Game.
The event itself is technically an industry gathering for those who sell, cook, prepare, or consume protein. But it’s open to the public and while it’s doesn’t yet garner a lot of buzz in Seattle, tickets are available to the public and the Sunday event was a slightly surreal carnival of foie gras s’mores, cheese samples, cured meat, chocolate chicharrones, Oregon breweries, plentiful pinot noir and breathtaking views from Timberline Lodge (why yes, I do know that The Shining was filmed there).
But I was there as one of four judges evaluating four cookoffs between Portland and Seattle chefs, each pairing working with a specific type of game. Nathan Lockwood of Altura, for example, faced off against Gregory Gourdet of Portland’s Departure with elk, and fellow Food and Wine Best New Chefs Cormac Mahoney of Madison Park Conservatory and Jenn Louis of Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern served quail wood-roasted atop corn, pancetta and lobster mushrooms (him) and in a hearty banh mi (her).
I grew up in Portland, and still do my fair share of eating there. I’m awfully partial to the city, and hopefully awfully impartial in judging, but I couldn’t help but notice that I gave the nod to Seattle chefs in three out of the four heats, as did fellow Seattle judge Amy Pennington. Is it possible to be truly impartial when judging your own city against others?
Fortunately our fellow judges from Portland seemed to agree, as Lockwood, Mahoney, and Spinasse’s Carrie Mashaney, emerged the victors in their various rounds. Portland chef Chris Israel of Gruner narrowly bested Lark chef Johnathan Sundstrom in the final faceoff—rabbit. Lockwood won the overall judges' choice award (people's choice went to his competition, Gourdet), and while I did see some Seattle faces milling about, it was basically an Oregonian crowd.
Our sibling mag, Portland Monthly, has photos aplenty.