Excellent chefs like Rachel Yang repped at last year's New Vintage event.

Image: Jannie Huang

The team behind Portland’s ultra legit food festival, is about to re-imagine Washington's mega wine soiree.

Not the grape-driven aspect; when Taste Washington returns March 19–22, the largest single-region wine event in the nation will still center on the grand tasting, a rare opportunity to wander CenturyLink Field and partake of Washington’s many red and white (and increasingly rose and sparkling) wares. 

However Carrie Welch and Mike Thelin, who launched Feast Portland in 2012, will rethink the event’s culinary persona, tweaking some existing aspects and debuting some big chef names and new soirees that sound every bit as promising as the events that draw so many people to Feast each September. 

“There’s just this very special energy to everything they touch,” says Ali Daniels, a senior vice president with Visit Seattle, which produces Taste in partnership with the Washington Wine Commission; she speaks of Thelin and Welch with an esteem others might reserve for K-pop celebrities or Meghan Markle. Last year, Daniels's group brought in the duo (who have a consulting company that’s separate from Feast) to handle Taste Washington's overall chef lineup and reimagine the Friday night New Vintage event, aimed at younger crowd. 

Now, she says, Team Feast will level up the chef presence across all of Taste Washington, to deliver a food program that’s just as unmissable as the wine. “Finally, we’re loving all our children the same.” 

The weekend’s evening parties, says Thelin, will exhibit the most immediate change. A new Friday night event, Pacific Standard, will celebrate our water-facing, port city status with a globe’s worth of seafood dishes—an obvious showcase for copious amounts of wine. The New Vintage moves to Saturday night, and to Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion and becomes “a skosh swanky,” in Thelin’s parlance: The sort of food and wine event that demands dressy attire, though he’s on heightened alert to avoid any semblance of adult prom. 

I’m especially interested in plans for Thursday night, a series of four or five collaboration dinners that will happen at “legendary Seattle restaurants” but weave in other local chefs, or big culinary names from elsewhere in the country (longer-term plans definitely include international chefs). Though all parties stress they’re not trying to replicate Feast, the event's success makes a clear case for a high-level chef presence, and these collabs could potentially harness the coolest aspect of the Portland festival: The singular magic that happens when a few likeminded chefs get to hang out and cook together.

Thelin and crew are off to a mighty impressive start. So far, they've locked down a staggering mix of culinary heavyhitters and younger chefs en route to luminary status: Brady Williams, Rachel Yang, Edouardo Jordan, Ethan Stowell, Homer's Logan Cox, Sawyer's Mitch Mayers, Brian Clevenger, Shota Nakajima, Melissa Miranda of Musang, and Elisabeth Kenyon of Rupee and Manolin will all be at Taste in some capacity.

The full chef and winemaker lineup gets released January 13 and tickets go on sale January 17. 

 

 

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