Portland should play catch-up in the coming year

By BRIAN DUFF  |  December 26, 2012

OH, HOW WE CARE! Portland's first food truck, Love Cupcakes.

Each century remains mired in the past one for about a dozen years. It was around 1713 European nobility gave up on old-fashioned ideals of good lordship and surrendered to debauchery. It was about 1813 when elite Europeans and Americans stopped caring about liberty and democracy and focused on getting rich. Around 1913 the world surrendered notions of dignified conflict and prepared to gas and bomb each other. What will we give up on?

Most likely we'll stop caring about anything besides what we cram into our mouths. William Deresiewicz recently suggested "food now expresses the symbolic values and absorbs the spiritual energies of the educated class. It has become invested with the meaning of life. It is seen as the path to salvation, for the self and humanity both." David Halpern explained, "the passion my generation felt about poetry and fiction has gone into food, I think, into making pickles or chocolate or beer."

Okay then; this year let's fully surrender. Poems and religion do seem awfully old-fashioned. In 2013 I pledge to stop caring that we used to live for something more than eating. In a spat of bad timing, however, in 2013 Portland might need to give up its self-conception as a leading-edge food town and play some catch-up. The new developments incubating in Portland are well-established trends in other cities. For example this year we will see a proliferation of food trucks, thanks to new city regulations. If it means more good cheap lunches, then it will be much better late than never.

It also might finally be the year you can find some dim sum in this town, or at least something dim-summy. Encouraging developments include new brunch service at two restaurants adept at Asian flavors and techniques: Pai Men Miyake and Eventide Oyster Company. The terrific Tao in Brunswick is rumored to have been offering dim-sum dishes as bar snacks and appetizers. The new year will bring a dim sum pop-up restaurant called CHINESE LAUNDRY which promises to show up in "galleries, coffee shops, residences, First Fridays, and street corners."

In fact pop-up and underground restaurants are another national trend taking root in Portland. Two that got off to strong starts this past year were POCKET BRUNCH, from folks behind One-Fifty-Ate, and CLOAK AND DAGGER SUPPER CLUB (from Erika Joyce, the woman behind Chinese Laundry). Gorham has a new private-wine club, 91 SOUTH, with a very affordable "membership fee" and a dinner menu to go with your drink. Other new spots focused on drinking will include the BLUE LOBSTER WINERY on India Street, and the PORTLAND HUNT AND ALPINE CLUB, which will focus on cocktails designed by Andrew Volk, who used to run the bar at Oregon's Clyde Common, where I had one of my favorite meals last year.

In other ways 2013 will bring more of what we are used to: like expanding restaurant empires in the form of a seafood place from HARDING LEE SMITH, of the Corner/Front/Grill Rooms, and a barbecue joint from JAY VILLANI of Local 188 and Sonny's. And MASA MIYAKE's original Food Factory is rumored to be returning, bringing his total to three.

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Related: What the Miyake family eats, Review: Pai Men Miyake, Year-end second chances in Portland dining, More more >
  Topics: Food Features , Pai Men Miyake, Eventide Oyster Company, portyearahead2013
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