Monday, December 23, 2013

Chowzter - North American Tastiest Fast Feasts Awards

Overeating is so easy to do during the holiday season. With holiday parties, seasonal favorites, and more cookies and cakes than necessary, it becomes hard to not partake in the food festivities. This year, it was even harder. The week prior to stuffing myself with family and friends for Thanksgiving, I spent two days stuffing myself with new friends and members of the North American foodblogging family while on a weekend food adventure in San Francisco...all thanks to the people behind Chowzter.

The three of us received word from Chowzter just weeks prior to the event. We were to submit our top seven food favorites for their North American Fast Feasts Awards ceremony which would be held at the SOMA Steatfood Park in San Francisco. Foodbloggers from major cities across the continent had done the same with the hopes that their top picks would be selected as part of the nation's Fifty Tastiest Fast Feasts.

It was a hard decision, but knowing that we could update the list monthly and that more awards would be given out again next year, we settled on our favorites. They are now posted for the world to see at Two of our Portland favorites made it into the top fifty for all of North America. Dove Vivi's Cornmeal Crust Pizza was listed at number 30 and the Beet Sliders at Huckleberry Pub were number 10. Beet Sliders might not sound like much when up against the California Burrito (#7), the Tipsy Texan (#2), or the No. 19 Pastrami Sandwich (which was really #1) from Langer's Delicatessen in Los Angeles, but these were the Beet Sliders that converted me from a hater to a lover of all things beets.

The awards ceremony was fantastic, but the best part of the weekend was being able to taste so much of what San Fransisco has to offer. I am thankful that my vegetarian status limited what I was able to try. I am not so sure how everyone was able to eat as much as they did.

We started with dinner at Crustacean, a well-known seafood restaurant in the bay area with secret recipes so guarded that there is a kitchen within the kitchen where only family members and a few chosen extras can enter.

I was only able to sample of small fraction of what they offered on the menu. Any seafood lover would have been in heaven. After starting with a number of plates off the appetizer menu, everyone at the table--except me--devoured an entire crab. Bibs were included, thankfully, and everyone's love of food made the mess-making less of a worry.

Crustacean Euro Asian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Following dinner, the majority of the crew climbed into cabs and headed to Bi-Rite for ice cream. They had plenty of creative concoctions to choose from--including honey graham and, everyone's favorite, salted caramel--available in a cup or cone. We were led to believe that the line would be a long one, but after having waited in much longer lines at Portland's Salt & Straw, this felt like nothing.

Bi-Rite Creamery on Urbanspoon

With a notable pizza joint just a few blocks down the road, a few of us went for post-dessert dinner. (Non-stop eating is totally acceptable when traveling with foodies.) We shared Delfina's Margherita pizza and I watched as the rest of the table sampled what were said to be the BEST meatballs.

Pizzeria Delfina on Urbanspoon

Breakfast the next morning was on my own, so I met up with a friend (after running a few miles to make space for another day of non-stop eating) at Blue Bottle Coffee. This place does coffee like I've never seen before. It looked more like a chemistry lab. I was fascinated with the process but probably didn't appreciate the coffee as much as I should have. I'm not the type to dilute my coffee with flavored creamers, but I need a little half-and-half in my cup.

Blue Bottle has a number of pastries and typical coffeehouse treats, but since it was the weekend we were able to order something more. Without having much time to study the menu, I opted for the first meat-free item I found. The Popeye Eggs were the gourmet version of Eggs in a Basket--something my mom made for us all the time as kids. The crusty bread went well with the eggs and even better with the whipped maple butter.

Blue Bottle Cafe on Urbanspoon

Not too long after breakfast, we set out with the other foodbloggers for a lunch tour of San Francisco's Mission District. We started at Lung Shan Restaurant--more commonly known as Mission Chinese.

We were told that we MUST try both the Chongquing Chicken Wings and the Mapo Tofu. Rather than just order those two items, we ordered two--and sometimes three--of just about everything on the menu. The table filled up quickly before the last of what we ordered had arrived. To make due, we kept the plates moving and did our best to finish all that we could.

Mission Chinese Food on Urbanspoon

With only a short walk to the next location we were unable to build up much of an appetite and were forced to split five burritos at El Farolito. There are nine locations total and they are sure to all be as busy as this one. Service is fast, though, and the food is well worth the wait in line.

El Farolito Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Our third stop was La Taqueria. The sign claims that they have The Best Tacos in the World. Burritos, too. We were fortunate to share a table with a local artist who had been in the neighborhood since this place first opened. He claimed that the line has never really ended. I didn't sample any of their burritos, but the tacos are honestly the best I've ever had. The crispy crunchy fried tortilla layered inside a soft shell and topped with a slice of cheese creates the base ready for beans or meat or a little of both. All that and it's topped with the most delicious guacamole. I have been wanting another one ever since.

La Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Following the food tour, the group split up to try out more of San Fransisco's best. A small group headed to Humphry Slocombe for ice cream. More were off to Tartine for pastries. The two of us, however, were off to find happy hour.

The awards ceremony took place later that same night at the SOMA Streat Food Park. With space available for large parties, the Park made a perfect place for the main event. We had the big yellow school bus all to ourselves and enough food options to please any crowd. I opted for the falafel sliders and a cup of white truffle mac and cheese at Oui Chef.

The awards ceremony gave us a glimpse into food favorites across all of North America. It was great to see the pictures and hear more about what's trending across other major cities. Awards were given out for the top seven Tastiest Fast Feasts. None of our favorites made the cut but we didn't walk away empty handed. Ours was the last award to be presented. It was an honor to accept the award on behalf of the city of Portland. We've known all along that Portland was the foodiest city, but now it's official. Chowzter has named Portland, Oregon North America's Foodiest City. We are so proud of our city.

Before leaving the Food Park, we shared an order of Greek Loukomades--or, as I like to call them, honey balls--from the ladies at Me Meli. I've only ever had them before at the Annual Greek Festival in Portland. These were just as fresh and made even better with a drizzle of nutella.

Soma Streat Food Park on Urbanspoon

The trip to San Fransisco was an amazing opportunity that allowed us to do more than just eat. We made fabulous connections with foodbloggers from New York, Texas, Vancouver, Toronto, Philadelphia and more. We tasted food favorites from all over the Mission District. And we learned how an argument between brothers about who makes the best tacos could turn into an app, a website, and a newsletter that spans the globe. We are ecstatic about our role as Portland's Chief Chowzter and hope that next year more of our top picks make it onto the list of Tastiest Fast Feasts.


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