This year’s TBA will be tastier than ever, thanks to the hard work of the inimitable Lola Milholland and her co-workers at Ecotrust and Edible Portland She’s arranged a series of nightly chefs, snacks, and blind tasting games under the banner of TBA EATS. Here, Lola writes about what she’s excited to eat at the Festival. 

Scene from the beer garden at TBA:10. Photo: Wayne Bund.

Earlier this week, I was sitting on the Ecotrust roof with chefs Jason French (Ned Ludd), Naoko Tamura (Chef Naoko’s Bento Café), and a co-worker, watching them pick up small cups that I’d filled with different bite-sized leftovers from dinner the night before—buckwheat crepe, quick pickled cucumber, romano beans with shiso, and an aprium (apricot-plum)—and, with their eyes closed, shoot them back. They opened their eyes and searched small bingo boards looking for the ingredients they thought they’d tasted.

This was our trial run of Blind-Tasting Bingo, a game that Jason, Naoko, and Johanna Ware of Smallwares will each host during TBA:12. Each chef will prepare 15 “one-bite wonders,” as Jason has been calling them. Under the lights of the TBA beer garden, the 25 people who sign up will taste their way through, eyes closed, searching within their tongues and noses for clues to what in the world these chefs have concocted.

Blind-Tasting Bingo is one of several food experiences that PICA has added to the TBA WORKS this year. The most involved is a kitchen, built onsite, where a different chef will cook each night. Many visionary, talented Portland chefs have stepped up to prepare the kind of food you’d want to eat in the late-night TBA frenzy, featuring late-summer Oregon produce. (Full schedule below! Gosh it’s going to be good.) If you haven’t made it out to their brick and mortar restaurants, do not miss this chance to eat their food for beer garden prices. It would be a shame if you ate before coming–save room!

Gnocchi from Artigiano. They’ll be sharing local Italian tastes on Sunday the 9th.

I work for the non-profit Ecotrust, where we publish Edible Portland magazine. We worked with PICA to curate the blind-tastings, chefs, and even a Snack Office in the school’s principal’s office, where we are living out our school vending machine fantasies. (Ecotrust works with school districts, preschools, and child care centers to transform the ways students experience food—how cafeterias source ingredients, how teachers involve gardens and experiences on farms, and more.)

Food is a medium that engages all of our senses at once. Like art, it can be a way to weasel into and examine really complicated things, including the culture in which we live. We hope the food at TBA this year gives everyone an excuse to spend more time together, enjoying each other’s company, processing the things they’ve witnessed or been part of, and getting closer to the care and imagination that Portland’s chefs and farmers bring to our city.

Kristan Kennedy, PICA’s Visual Art Curator, summed it up nicely:

“We know that all good parties wind up in the kitchen, so it feels fitting that for our tenth year of TBA we would build a communal space for people to celebrate, share, hang out, and eat! Chefs are time-based artists: they work in the moment to create something new, or elevated, or sustaining, or sculptural, or painterly, or performative, or surprising. But like every good performance or show, the magic only happens when the audience is present and participating, so my hope is the tables are full, the tastings are full, and we all get full on art.”

Please join us! Get something to eat.

September 6, 10pm–2am: Boke Bowl
September 7, 7:30pm–2am: Grüner
September 8, 7:30pm–2am: The Woodsman Tavern
September 9, 10pm–2am: Artigiano
September 10–12, 7:30pm–2am: Via Tribunali
September 13, 10pm–2am: Portobello
September 14, 7:30pm–2am: Bunk Sandwiches
September 15, 7:30pm–2am: Nong’s Khao Man Gai

Entry to the TBA Biergarten is FREE and open to the public. Food and bars are CASH ONLY (ATMs on-site). Make time before the performances, or stay late (kitchen open nightly until 2 am).

September 11, 8:30pm: Jason French (Ned Ludd)
September 12, 8:30pm: Naoko Tamura (Chef Naoko’s Bento Café)
September 14, 8:30pm: Johanna Ware (Smallwares)
Tickets: $25 (online or at the TBA Central Box Office at WHS)

Nightly, 10pm – midnight: Abby’s Table and Fifty Licks

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