Monday, May 22, 2006

Two New Foodish Publications Coming Out of Portland

There are two new magazines out this month emanating from Portland publishers and/or editors, both surrounding the topic of food. One is mostly about food, but is also about being local and sustainable, and is a very granola, small-scale pub while still being part of a national chain. The other comes from here but is a national play, complete with major bookseller chain shelf space and nationally recognized authors--although it's not about food at all, but beverages. One I've read, one I've read of, but both look like great additions and representations of Portland as a growing culinary destination and touchpoint. (Notwithstanding the Hebberoy implosion that's leaving closed examples of high Portland cuisine in its wake...!)

Food culture here is quickly reaching world-renowned status (at least as long as local/sustainable stays hot as a food fashion). The Willamette has always been known for its bounty of produce, particularly fruits. Hops grew as a boutique item when the microbrew revolution hit, and now Portland is one of the world epicenters of beer. The gourmet mushroom craze made the famously fungus-fometing climate a happy place for shroomers. Oregon country beef has gained market as hormone-free cows become sought after, and in perhaps the most curious example of serendipity, the buzz for Pinot Noir wine after its paen in the movie Sideways has dovetailed perfectly with the growth in Oregon acreage planted with the delicate varietal.

But it's the new fashion in fresh, local, sustainable ingredients that has fused all those elements together and made Portland cuisine suddenly recognizable--it has a style now. Embracing the small-scale, handcrafted and artisan values and putting them to work in a diversely positive way has made observers stand up and take notice.

In this climate, both magazines have a chance to flourish. Edible Portland is the local affair, and like its subject and intended audience is low-key, politely but ideologically driven, and ultimately celebratory about the wealth of good things afforded to those of us living close enough nearby to enjoy them. Which is not to say it's printed on hemp (I don't think!) or is printed on corner-stapled sheets from failing inkjet toner. It looks more like an admissions brochure from Reed--four color and all, impeccably laid out...but non-threatening rather than slick. Ecotrust backs the publication, which has already appeared in cities like San Francisco, Cape Cod and Phoenix.

The inaugural issue takes up the pinot boom, in an article about Valley growers enjoying the boost but recognizing that the charm is in staying well-scaled. Other articles include the logistics of bringing fresh wild salmon fast from the coast, foraging and recipe help seeking the tasty morel mushroom (told you), and a theoretical piece on how eating habits affect metropolitain agriculture. I wish you could read some of these articles online, and the website promised they'd be there, but they are not. It's free though, available at all New Season's Markets and by subscription.

The other magazine is devoted entirely to beverages, which according to editor Karen Foley would make it the first ever to focus on drinks as a cuisine topic worth of its own monthly. It appears she's right, and Imbibe is a smashing entry into an untapped field. This one isn't really as much about Portland, although it has its hints of it and certainly appeals to the Portland drinker. As noted, beer and wine are awfully big here, and so is the other member of the Even Portland distilleries are beginning to make their mark. Once again you can't read anything online, but click on the link above for a really great applet that lets you physically flip through pages of the mag with a mouse, showing you key pages. I have only read reviews from the industry and the forum chatter (which actually features two employees of the magazine in the comments), but the response seems to have been positive. It seems like the properly sophisticated yet ultimately immature subject (drinking stuff to look cool) to get the pseudoelites hooked on it, and lord knows advertisers love pseudoelites almost as much as the real kind. Good luck to both; they do the town up well.