What is wonderful about Bite of Bend, which came and went like a circus train this past weekend, is that it is a preview to an entire summer worth of eating. This is not some strange festival that pops up, teases you with an idea that life could be all about Ferris wheels and whirly-jigs, but it is a real-life experience of the menus of Bend's restaurants and food carts.
Wandering downtown with the intrepid Source Eating Team, I stumbled through the crowded streets as the smell of sweet, hot meat molested us at every turn. Below is a quick run through some of my notes about what we sampled—and suggestions for dishes to check out these upcoming months.
At Juno Sushi we tried the Columbia River salmon roll, which was deceptively simple with its fresh wild salmon and sweet sticky rice. The addition of a hint of mango gave it a tangy bite that helped more than hindered.
Shred Town Food Cart came correct with the Aloha Slider: incredibly tender pork belly with fat chunks of juicy pineapple smothered in a shred sauce that can only be described as the sexy bastard child of Sriracha and mayo.
Around this time my parents appeared. My mom called my belly a shelf, embarrassed me in front of my friends and disappeared as quickly as she arrived, taking my self-respect as collateral to visit more often.
After sliding over to the always-impressive Wild Rose Northern Thai cart, we tried the Neau Yang. These are flawlessly marinated beef short rib skewers that literally melt in your mouth. My meat juice covered notes say something about a party in my mouth where everyone was making out with each other. Good job, notes. Good job, delicious meat.
We hit up Taste of Thailand (also known as Thai Trailer on Greenwood and 6th Street to those in the know) for a massive slab of its phenomenal chicken satay soaked in a light peanut sauce and grilled to perfection. The slab of chicken was so large and impressive that I threw out the offer to see if someone wanted to Lady and the Tramp it with me. Naturally, the dude that I met five minutes earlier was game and we chewed that chicken toward each other's faces with gusto and panache (see the slideshow titled "Jared Eats Bite of Bend" for a glorious photo of the neat meat kiss at bendsource.com).
Next we tried Family Dogs Corndogs and it buffalo meat weenies wrapped in blue cornmeal seduction was the highlight of the entire festival for this roving reporter. I would pay serious money to fill a bathtub with those bad boys and leisurely eat my way out.
We finished off the bite train express at Da Kine Grindz which I'd never been to because their name made me angry, but the fact that they had a POG flavored snow cone topped with sweet cream made my chest pump joy and giggles. POG is my drink (Passion-Orange-Guava, duh) and to have it all ice chippy on a hot day was mana from Hawaiian heaven.
Thank you to all of the 2014 Central Oregon Top Chef competitors and a special congratulations to runner-up Nick Ragazzo from Dogwood Cocktail Cabin and to the winner of the 2014 Top Chef Competition, Sunriver Resort's Travis Taylor, who overtook the competition with a stunning yak tenderloin with fennel appetizer and a mushroom and yak tenderloin with mash potatoes and zucchini entre! Taylor has the opportunity to compete at Bite of Oregon in early August for the title of Iron Chef Oregon. Good luck, Chef Taylor! Represent!