Last week I visited Portland, Oregon, for the first time. Of all the city’s appealing characteristics that had been highlighted to me by every person who was familiar with the region, it was its reputation among foodies that attracted me the most. Terms such as local, fresh, organic, vegan, preservative-free, all-natural, etc, are featured on every menu, advertisement and in word-of-mouth recommendations.
Our first impromptu stop on the Monday was a Summer Farmers’s Market in Pioneer Square. After tasting spicy goat cheeses, fresh cured meats and more homemade jams than I could fit in my refrigerator, we planned our day at the tourist information center. Most of the information the Portland transplant — New York native, go figure — shared was about the best places to eat and drink, outlining where we wouldn’t find “industrial food.”
Industrial food? My brother looked at me puzzled. It was a new phrase to both of us but I was on board.
We put her claim to the test… and found that she was right. Every menu we checked out and every place we ate featured organic ingredients and flavorful vegan options, even the cafe at the Oregon Health & Science University and the countless food trucks that decorate a full city block had something for everyone.
Still, it wasn’t till I left the Pacific Northwest that it hit me how engrained fresh cooking was in the regional culture. I was in Sec-Tac airport when hunger desperation led me over to the take-out counter of an Italian pizza restaurant and I found myself mindlessly appeasing my stomach and ordering a pie.
As I stepped aside to wait for it, I noticed the chef behind the counter reach for some pizza dough and begin piecing my order together before sliding it into a brick oven.
Fresh pizza? In the airport? I think I’m in love with this place!
Hot. Steamy. And cheesy. The pizza was delish…
and that’s coming from a New Yorker.