Forest Park Benefit Picnic

All the time in Portland there are these great events to raise money for this or that involving a few top chefs and great beer and wine. We've wanted to attend one, but they are usually pretty expensive - $50/person and up - and it's hard to justify the costs without really having any idea what you get. (Yes, sure, we could go for the charity aspect, but I fully admit I rarely give that kind of money. For anything.)

However, Portland Monthly Magazine put on an event this past Sunday called A Picnic for Forest Park to raise money for the park. Food was from the chefs at Ned Ludd, Simpatica and Boke Bowl; drinks from Widmer, Ninkasi, Henry Weinhard's, Wine by Joe, Torii Mor, and Archery Summit; and treats from Petunia's Bakery, Oregon Ice Works and Sol Pops.

We like the park - we take Misaki hiking there sometimes - and the lineup of food sounded great, but the best part was the price: $17 advance tickets. That couldn't be bad, right?

It most surely was not.


We arrived just before opening (via Max - more on that later) near the entrance of Portland's World Forestry Center across the parking lot from the Oregon Zoo. The charcoal grills were already going, so we took some pictures. (As always, click on the pic to get a larger version.)

The cooks - from bottom to top, Ned Ludd, Simpatica, Boke Bowl.

Close up of Ned Ludd's grill.

Simpatica's grill, with Boke Bowl's in the background.

Our first dish came from Boke Bowl. Wifey and I hit up this pop-up restaurant - planning a brick and mortar location soon - when they took over Yakuza in Northeast Portland a couple months ago and had some outstanding ramen and other food. No ramen today, but plenty of other good stuff.

In the picture below from the 12:00 position going clockwise is: miso butterscotch "twinkie", green onion grilled rice cake, grilled char siu pork belly with pickled mustard sauce, grilled smoked tofu with ginger soy, pickled cucumbers/carrots/red peppers, kim chee, and warm asparagus/mango/cauliflower/arugula/tofu croutons with a Thai vinaigrette in a sno-cone.

Sampling from Boke Bowl

All of it was excellent - we went back for seconds on the twinkie, pork belly, rice cake and tofu. Miso butterscotch may sound a little odd, but it's fantastic.

Next up a sample from Ned Ludd and Simpatica, while we waited for Simpatica to cook up more chicken.

Wrap from Ned Ludd, the rest from Simpatica.

Simpatica's (one of our favorite restaurants) offering included grilled chicken thighs (flavored with paprika, marjoram and lemon), baked beans with pork and green chiles, and roasted corn on the cob tossed in chili basil butter. The beans were outstanding and the corn had great flavor, though since it's not quite corn season in the Northwest it could be better. In the glass in the picture below is Widmer's Citra Blonde Summer Brew, which was just okay - very citrusy. (We also tried wines from all three wineries and didn't really like any of them, but that doesn't mean anything. We aren't experts by any means.)

Sampling from Simpatica

Ned Ludd's chef offered up chili-rubbed grilled skirt steak, summer salad, slow cooked black beans with pulled pork, and toasted tortillas. All of this is very good, which only confirms in my own mind that we really need to visit Ned Ludd for dinner at some point.

Ned Ludd samples.

We also tried all sorts of treats. The picture below shows samples of Strawberry and Lemon from Oregon Ice Works. They are Italian ices, which are different from sorbets in some subtle way I'm not real clear on. They were solid, but I don't think I'd go out of my way for them. We also tried the Vanilla Coconut, which we both enjoyed but agreed it was an ice cream tease.

Oregon Ice Works.

From Sol Pops we tried the Stumptown Coffee and the Mango Lime, both of which were good but shouldn't be tasted together. Just saying. Somewhere along the way I ended up with a glass of Ninkasi's Radiant Ale, a very hoppy brew that didn't go very well with any of the food.

And lastly, we tried almost everything Petunia's Bakery had to offer (and nommed it all before remembering I had the camera in my pocket). Cowgirl cookies, peanut butter crispy bars, peach vanilla hazelnut babycakes (mini cupcakes - frozen bit of peach inside!), and chocolate banana peanut butter babycakes. All of these were absolutely fantastic which surprised me, honestly. Why?

They were all vegan (and gluten-free). We have avoided vegan baked goods like the plague on principal, but each and every one of these was absolutely excellent. I won't say we are converts, but definitely more open to the possibilities.


For some reason I'm really not clear on, there was a petting zoo. Maybe just to keep the kids busy? All of them were so patient with the kids yanking on them and petting (smacking) them. This alpaca here wins an award. Some kid piled cedar chips on his head and the alpaca just sat there quietly. Someone tried to brush them off, but they were still stuck in his fur.

And goats!

And a donkey!

Okay, so the donkey didn't look all that thrilled.


Overall it seemed like a well-run event and everyone seemed quite pleased with the food. Some were also overly pleased with the beer and wine.

Very, very, very satisfied. So satisfied in fact that even though we left, stuffed, just before two in the afternoon we didn't eat again until breakfast Monday morning. That's not good nutrition, but whatever.

We'd absolutely do it again next year. For the amount and quality of the food, $17 is a great deal. Plus, yay Forest Park!


I have to rant just a tiny, tiny bit here. Since the event was up by the zoo and started at noon, parking there wasn't even an option. On any weekend, even with bad weather, you have to get to the Oregon Zoo before it opens to count on a parking spot up there, and Sunday was a fantastic weather day, clear with temperatures in the mid-eighties.

So, being good Portlanders, we decided to take MAX from out in Beaverton. Normally we drive everywhere because I'm not a fan of public transportation (see, normally bad Portlanders...), but this seemed like a good time to use the service. The train was fine, the people were fine, but I have one little complaint: the cost.

For the two of us to travel about six-seven miles down the line to the Oregon Zoo stop and back (for all-day tickets since we were there over two hours), it cost $9.50. Now, perhaps that's the true cost of the service, which is fine, but why should I use this service when it's almost the price of three gallons of gas? That gets me 75 miles of driving or so, in any direction I choose.

So why exactly would I use public transportation? Yes, sure, with the all-day ticket I could ride from Gresham to Hillsboro to the airport to Clackamas Town Center if I chose, but why would I? To me public transportation only has value if the cost at least comparable to driving my own car. If it's not, why would I choose it when the options it offers are limited? (No matter what anyone tells you, Tri-Met in Portland does NOT go everywhere. Many places, but not everywhere.)

I'll keep my car, thanks.

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