Disclosure: This experience was sponsored, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.
I was lucky enough to be invited to an awesome food crawl that was being organized by Little Green Pickle. For $40, the Little Green Pickle food crawl (heretofore dubbed LGP Food Crawl) included 4 stops of small plates and cocktails, and a karaoke bus to transport us between those 4 destinations!
I was actually a bit pleased to see that this was something with a ticket price- so although LGP organized and sponsored this event, it felt more like being with peers with the LGP ladies because I was a contributing party and not being fully hosted. If you do the math it’s only $10 a stop that includes food and a beverage at each stop, so still a real steal and still sponsored, thus still needing disclosures.
I took this as a great opportunity to be able to try new food, be it at new restaurants that I hadn’t made it to yet, or even ones I had visited but perhaps with new dishes to sample. I was not disappointed.
There were 12 of us on this little journey, with 9 of us being food bloggers, several who have already covered with fantastic photos the food we enjoyed at each of our destinations at their blogs, and I think everyone has stuff posted on Twitter and Instagram under the hashtag #LGPFoodCrawl.
So I wanted to focus more on is how YOU can put together one of these events!
You want to have enough people so that you can share several dishes and get 3-4 bites. At the same time, you don’t want so large of a group that the various restaurants cannot easily accommodate you. I would recommend 6, 8, at the max 12.
The larger the group, the sooner you want to get this on everyone’s calendar and the RSVPs set so you can plan knowing how many you have on board. LGP signed us up 3 weeks ahead of the food crawl date!
Ask those signing up to tell you food restrictions because of allergies or preferences upfront now so they can be accounted for in the planning stage.
Remember- you only need a few bites of each dish- otherwise you won’t have the capacity to keep eating for the full Food Crawl! One alcoholic drink per place is probably best too- you don’t want to ruin your palate before you’ve gotten to all the stops. What you do at the last stop is up to you.
Don’t feel like everyone has to already know each other- one of the great aspects of a food crawl like this is that you will not be seated in place for the entire meal. You will be moving from place to place, which provides an opportunity to change up who is sitting with who, so you can rotate through multiple conversations with guests.
And, because each location is a short stop, and everyone is trying out new food, you already have something in common to start the conversation and you will surely not run out of conversational material before the next rotation! Probably similar to me, you may feel that you wish you had MORE time to chat with the various other guests even though you just spend 4 hours at this event together!
You want to select 3 or 4 restaurants. You don’t want to do more than 4 because you will get pretty full even on sampling over the evening.
The first restaurant is for appetizers.
If you pick 4 restaurants then the second location is for small plates, if you pick 3 restaurants then this location is for mains (if you pick 4 restaurants, then the next location is mains instead).
Finally, the last restaurant is is for dessert.
Ideally, the restaurants would be in walking distance of each other- so pick a neighborhood. You can do this with restaurants that are farther away if you have set transportation.
For instance, for the LGP Food Crawl, we utilized the excellent karaoke bus Old School PDX, which gamely chauffeured us to our destinations while also providing us the opportunity to sing along our merry way! As a plus, with a designated driver, we were able to also enjoy Hawks View Cellars Wine as we were singing!
You want to spend about 45 minutes at each restaurant, giving you 10-15 minutes in between to travel to the next (thus the desire to make restaurants either walkable or use designated driver transport so you don’t have to sweat over finding parking spots!). So as you can see, this is a 3-4 hour party!
Make reservations for your party based on this schedule. Weeknights or a Sunday are clearly better because the restaurants can be more accommodating in quickly getting you in and out with your food if they aren’t in the weeds.
Let them know what you are doing as well- being upfront means they can plan and execute accordingly. You might choose to pre-select all your food ahead of time- or work with the restaurants to figure out a budget for the number of people/course you’ll be having there and let them surprise you.
You need to make sure the following roles are taken care of by someone in your Food Crawl party- it can be 1 person, or taken care of by 3 lovely LGP ladies extraordinaire as well…
- One person who is the people wrangler- getting all the people committed to the date and time and location. They will need to have everyone’s contact information to make sure everyone is reachable in case someone gets stuck in traffic or gets lost between restaurants (thankfully this did not happen to us on our food crawl, but I was very aware there was someone taking care of counting us to make sure we were all there, no one is left behind!)
- One person should also have the address/directions and phone number of each destination to help navigate the party to each stop, and if things are running 5-10 minutes late give the next destination a heads up with a phone call. This person is likely the restaurant wrangler- the one who helps each restaurant know what the plan for the Food Crawl is and which course they are to make sure seating and food will be ready for the stop.One thing that could entice restaurants to help you is if you provide an opportunity for them to market themselves- be it examples of the menu, having a manager or chef talk about what they are trying to do, or giving a cheat sheet of all the social media tags!
- One person needs to be the official timekeeper, to make sure that everyone sticks to this schedule by watching the time and giving the 10 and 5 minute warning and ushering everyone out to the next destination. This person will likely be the one making sure the check is paid- and make sure to include tax (although this isn’t applicable here in Portland, yay) and TIP!
Now in our Food Crawl, the drinks were included. But, I’ve also heard of ones where all the food is pre-selected and included, but drinks are on your own. In that case, you have to make sure the restaurant knows ahead of time and see if they would agree to separate checks… or perhaps everyone can agree to split evenly and 1 drink each.
Try to not get caught in the nightmare of trying to calculate each person’s portion individually from a group check! I know there are check splitting apps out there Billr.me and Clever Bill Splitter on Android, maybe there are better out there), but it interrupts the fun when you have to do it several times because you are going to multiple destinations. The easiest, fastest options are separate checks are even split.
Now let’s see the stops that were put together for the LGP Food Crawl…
Stop 1: Oso Market + Bar
We started out with Stop #1, Oso Market + Bar at 726 SE Grand. This was the only destination I knew of ahead of time, and was only told 1 week ahead of time! The other 3 stops, LGP kept secret as a surprise until we met up at that first location! This seems like an optional step in planning your Food Crawl- it was certainly fun to be surprised with where we were going! And, by not knowing ahead of time there was no peeking ahead at the menus to guess what we might have- instead we just enjoyed what we received.
I was excited to finally step foot into Oso, as I had passed by it many times and adored the big bear but never been in. I’ll definitely be back to try more here. Oso is a mixed-use space that is bottle shop, specialty market with some enticing grocery selections, and neighborhood bar (they have sustainable and biodynamic wines and well as handcrafted beer and ciders that represent local and international breweries). They had pushed together two long tables for us so that we could all sit in a big square table all facing each other, though that meant we had to really reach across the tablespace to pass the platters around.
Here, we had the perfect example of just small appetizer nibbles to get us started as we were doing our introductions to each other and meeting the Food Crawl crew for the evening. We had
- Tails & Trotters Chorizo Stuffed Dates wrapped in bacon with cumin honey and sage oil. Seriously I could have eaten that whole plate by myself, and I’ll definitely make sure that is on the table for every future visit.
- Baked Mortadella Montadito with tarragon mustard, peperoncini, and micro greens served on Little T focaccia
- Bresaola Montadito with tomato-mint jam, Parmesan and basil served on Little T focaccia
- Cremeux Montadito with fig, honey, arugula and balsamic reduction served on Little T focaccia
- Ratatouille atop crispy polenta
Notice how each of these are very small bites just to whet your appetite.
At the same time, I think this showcases some of the best of what Oso has to offer, which is great small plates to nibble on that take inspiration from local and global foods as you taste their excellent selection of wines by the glass. They also have sandwiches, salads, and charcuterie and some heartier dinner plates like wild boar bratwurst or steamed mussels with chorizo or bison shepherd’s pie, but this small sample captures their use of quality local purveyors to put together what is a simple appetizer concept (bacon wrapped dates, montadito/yummy stuff on bread) but yet create complex flavors. I can easily imagine how fun this would be to try with different wines to see how they compliment and contrast with different profiles in the wine.
Stop 2: Levant
Stop #2 was Levant, which offers French-Arabesque Mediterranean food. and located at 2448 E Burnside St that has an open kitchen with open hearth and a floor to ceiling L shaped bar with a library ladder. This is another restaurant that has been on my wishlist, but I had not made it to yet. We started out with being able to select one cocktail from their menu- any cocktail we wanted! I don’t know how the bartender whipped these up so quickly for us, hope his elbow is ok!
I went with the Cocktail of Root Down Daisy- Cognac, Ginger Liqueur, Carrot Reduction, Lemon, Egg White, Vanilla Salt. They had really cool individual kinds of glasses depending on what kind of cocktail you ordered. A couple others also ordered the same thing, and a few had a glass that looked like mine, others had a glass that was the same shape but had gold wheat etched instead.
We were all in the private back room, which usually seats 8 while being surrounded by racks of cabinets of wine, but in a pinch was an easy cocktail location for our group standing up. This can work out well if it is for small plates only, and since the stop is only 45 minutes- something to consider when thinking about whether a restaurant you are thinking of can accommodate you.
Even on a weekday night Levant was hopping with diners and it would have been difficult to talk with the noise level in the main dining room, so it was nice that we had a space to just our group for this stop. Since this was a longer rectangular table, the group essentially split up into conversations based on the half of the room.
Here, we shared 3 items from their Sharing Plates section and 1 item from their Hot Starters section of their menu, almost buffet style since we each got one piece of everything from a serving platter. My photos from my phone do not do justice to how beautifully plated these dishes are- several of my bloggers were carrying the heavy artillery of DSLRs and got closeups with better lighting that will make you want to eat your screen.
- Fried Halloumi with honey and walnuts. I think I actually said “get out of my way, there’s cheese here!”
- Fava Bean Falafel with zhoug (a hot chili paste- though I didn’t detect any fire but maybe that’s just me) and tahini
- Feta and Armenian Cheese ‘Cigars’ with dried mint, garlic, lemon zest and Aleppo chili – again, I don’t remember it being spicy so no worries for you there if you are worried
- Grilled Beef Kofta with barberries, pine nuts, herb relish and Sumac yogurt… wait, now that I think about it, I don’t remember getting a sample of this. Which one of you ate two?!
So win with two cheese dishes! My cheese loving soul thanks you so much Levant. I think this is a perfect example of how with just a couple dishes, you can get an idea of a restaurant’s perspective, and I left still curious and wanting to know more.
Stop 3: Bent Brick
Bent Brick, a German style tavern with an American twist at 1639 NW Marshall St was where we had the main portion of our dinner. I had been here before, but only 1 dish was repeated so I was still able to experience Bent Brick in a new way.
We each ordered a cocktail off the menu- and the Bent Brick has fabulous cocktails it was hard for all of us to choose just one! The Fall Back cocktail sounded very alluring with its butternut squash whiskey, root, herbal liquor, and spiced syrup combination. That’s right, butternut squash whiskey. There was also a cocktail called l.g.p. with lettuce, ebb & flow gin, parsley oil- how curious?!
Then there is this lovely cocktail below on the right, the Smoke n’ Herb with rosemary, tito’s vokda, lavender, lemon, smoked Jacobsen’s sea salt. The one on the left wasn’t mine, but notice the cool herb ice there too: it’s the Bucket List cocktail, with vodka, cranberry-thyme shrub, and soda.
We sat at two different rectangular tables here, essentially two groups of six. We dined family style here where 3 dishes were shared among every 3-4 people.
- Meat Board featuring house made country pate, house made coppa rillette, wigwam and Finchville country ham with pickled vegetables
- Deep Fried Beef Cheek with fried egg aioli
- Rye Sourdough Spaetzle pan fried with mushrooms and caramelized onion, topped with Tabasco pickled shallots.
You may be intimidated by the sound of deep fried beef cheek, but let me assure you that it was tasty and rich. This was a case that I’m not sure anyone in the party would have ordered it off the menu, but because Bent Brick sent out what they wished (I assume for let’s say a set price limit), it pushed us to explore outside our regular boundaries. This item isn’t normally on their menu, but they do have a braised beef cheek in horseradish cream with sauerkraut and beets. This is typical of the Bent Brick, which celebrates locally raised meats and seafood served in unconventional ways.
It does bring up a good question though- should you order ahead of time specific dishes? Or, when you let the restaurant know ahead of time with reservations, and that you are doing a food crawl, if they could recommend/pick for you what to serve your group of xx people that fit within your visit time frame?
Ordering when you get there probably works ok for small dishes like appetizers that are usually fast anyway if the restaurant isn’t swamped, but when it comes to dishes that take longer to fire like mains it’s definitely something to consider.
Stop 4: Urban Farmer
We finished with amazing desserts at the modern steakhouse Urban Farmer. I’ve been to Urban Farmer before, but always filled up on starters, mains, and sides. It wasn’t until this visit with the Food Crawl that I tried dessert. I had no idea Urban Farmer and Pastry Chef Carrie Merrill were producing such exquisite desserts- I have already been back to Urban Farmer since this Food Crawl in fact to have dinner and a dessert experience where I didn’t have to share!
At the other locations, you probably noticed there was a main serving platter that everyone then served themselves a portion onto a small plate. For dessert, hopefully you have all become good friends with everyone as you will probably be digging into the same plate with your spoons!
We ended with a cocktail here as well, but you might also consider ordering coffee, tea, maybe Irish Coffee…
- Elixir Bianco cocktail, concocted with Pinnacle vodka, Calisaya, Cocchi Americano aged thirty days in oak barrels at/by Urban Farmer, and served up with a lemon twist. The Calisaya may look and taste like an imported Italian liquor, but is actually Oregon-made from Eugene although it is based on cinchona calisaya, a tree bark that actually made its way from Peru to Italy.
- Butterscotch Sundae with warm brown butter blondie, cherries, praline and toffee chip ice cream. This alone already had me planning to return before I even left Urban Farmer that evening.
- Honeycrisp Apple Doughnuts with apple butter and rosemary ice cream
- Woodblock Chocolate Pate with dried fruit compote and olive oil ice cream
- Seville Orange Souffle for Two with creme fraîche chocolate sauce. I didn’t catch the dramatic pouring of the chocolate sauce onto the souffle, but Erin from Bakery Bingo did!
- Candy Cap Crème Caramel with citrus, tamarind with candied candy cap mushrooms
- Carmella Affogato with cremeux and Hairbender Stumptown espresso
Here are links to the other bloggers that were part of this adventure and that you should check out their recaps and their lovely photos!
- Erin of Bakery Bingo: Karaoke, Food, Wine, LGP and Bloggers: A Recipe for Success
- Jane of In the Pink and Green: Little Green Pickle Food Crawl
- Tiffany and Andrew of Thyme of Taste: PDX Food Crawl, Bloggers and A Karaoke Bus
- Rachel of love, Rachel: Little Green Pickle Blogger Food Crawl
- Rebekah of PDX Food Love
- Michelle of Hummingbird High
- Renee of The Good Hearted Woman
Disclosure: This meal was sponsored, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.
What neighborhood or what restaurants do you want to see put in a food crawl that you would participate in?