Oregon is known for its craft beers (reigning Beer Capital of the World, thank you very much) and its world class wines, but there is a growing craft distillery industry that continues to innovate and impress.
On March 7th, distilleries from all over the world converged at the Left Bank Annex building in Portland, Oregon for the Fifth Annual Toast: a celebration of artisan spirits, with a definite heavy influence from Oregon-based spirits.
Approximately 40 distillers and producers brought their best of the best, and attendees were able to sample from 120 different spirits.
Here are a few of my favorites, and really, there were a lot... watch for full posts on my top picks from TOAST and full features on the people behind the distilleries later on, throughout the year!
The Bitter Housewife - small batch, handcrafted cocktail bitters
Krupnik by JVR Spirits - I fell in love with this spiced honey liqueur and cannot wait to use it in some recipes!
Indio Spirits - This local company has a tasting room in Tigard, where you can sample their large line of vodkas, whiskeys, gin, and rum. My favorite of the ones I sampled was the Blood Orange flavored vodka.
Hard Times Distillery - a small family-owned distillery in the tiny town of Monroe, Oregon. Using ingredients like spicy wasabi (say what?) and sweet apple in their spirits, I like that Hard Times Distillery doesn't try to be like everyone else and they don't try to be too out there, either.
Stone Barn Brandyworks - focused on fruit brandies and rye whiskey, the spirits from Stone Barn Brandyworks are straightforward and delicious.
I also loved revisiting some old favorites, which you can read about in my pre-TOAST event blog post.
Five local chefs, including some of my faves like Johanna Ware from Smallwares, provided tasty nourishment to help attendees soak up the spirits. Wares and her crew served up an amazing chicken and dumplings dish, which I clearly was too busy devouring to take a photo of it (rats! But know that it was good, just like all of her food at Smallwares!).
Olympic Provisions offered up their classic charcuterie boards, which I really believe should be a mainstay at every single event in Portland. All of them. Every event. (Pretty please??).
Olympic Provisions also had samples of their new Pepperettes, which are available in three different flavors: Petite Pierre - Juniper & Sea Salt; Kline Swine - Caraway & Coriander; and Flaco Paco - Paprika, Oregano & Garlic.
They come in packs of three little meat sticks that don't require any refrigeration, making them perfect for camping, road trips, or in my case, eating in two seconds. I think I've found my new meat addiction in these smokey little Pepperettes. Seriously: I can't stop thinking about these.
If I had to choose one favorite food offering at TOAST 2015, it would be difficult, since everything was delicious, but I was most blown away by the toast bites from The Bent Brick: bacon cheeseburger hot dog toast bites, to be specific. Oh my. I had two, but I really wanted to grab the side tray full of extras and run. These were SO insanely delicious.
TOAST is a really fun, vibrant, social event that allows you to sample so many different types of spirits in one place -- and to do so safely. I loved that they had free rides home from Broadway cabs, and it made me happy to see people using them after the event.