We were again fortunate to spend the day with Thomas Pisha-Duffly, Mariah Duffly, and the rest of the ever-expanding Family Feast crew on Memorial Day. Where the last Family Feast event was an ode to the Indonesian cooking that Pisha-Duffly grew up with and was inspired by, this one, a barbecue, was inspired by the substantial, sprawling cookouts that he loved as a kid. The fare was still inspired by Pisha-Duffly's youth, but with the help of super bartender John R. Myers, pastry chef Briana Holt, and brewmaster Chresten Sorensen (the event was held at Bunker Brewing Co. + Tandem Coffee Roasters), a plenitude of other flavors and inspirations found their way into the mix.
The following is a synthesis of the various conversations we had with the various Family Feast cast members during the first hour or so of the event.
Warning: As this entire conversation was fueled by mescal and beer, there is some brusk language ahead.
Thomas Pisha-Duffly: head chef, co-mastermind
Mariah Pisha-Duffly: head of logistics, co-mastermind
Chresten Sorensen: co-owner and brewmaster, Bunker Brewing Co.
John R. Myers: bar manager, Eventide Oyster Co.
Briana Holt: pastry chef, Tandem Coffee Roasters
Mosart Nunez: DJ
Chresten: We like events where everyone is involved and doing their thing. Mo is a DJ and he'll do that and the cooks will cook and we'll serve beer. It kind of all comes together like that. That's what Portland is about. Having it be a little under the radar is nice so that all of these people—so many people here are in the service industry—will get a chance to relax before they're busy for months straight. The onslaught of Summer is upon us. In three weeks no one could do this because everyone would be so fucking busy. Look around. People are into it.
Mosart: You have to look out into the crowd and see if people are feeling it. Maybe they're just hanging out and then its cool to play some chill tunes. But if they're standing around and wondering what's going on, you can amp it up a bit. Right now, I think people are just settling in. You have to get people into it, get them to realize that it's not going to rain. It's going to be cool. I am trying to pick tunes that are not super hyper because that's not where we're at right now, you know? But I don't want to put anyone to sleep. We're not trying to throw a dance party. Yet.
Knack Factory: How is the event shaping up thus far, Tom?
Thomas: Well, we've got Ken [Burkett] here from Grace and John from Eventide has the snow cone machine going.
John: There are a bunch of different flavors. One of them has rhubarb, thyme, lime juice and mescal and tequila. There is one that has coconut cream and some mango puree with overproof rum, dark rum and Pandan, which is this Indonesian leaf that is bright green. The syrup looks like Slimer cum.
Knack Factory: I think that Slimer is asexual.
John: Do you? That dude loves to fuck.
Knack Factory: Well, he's got that appetite.
John: It's voracious. Voracious. Next up, we have one made with Tandem coffee syrup, sweetened condensed milk and Allen's Coffee Brandy, which is a little homage to Maine. Then we've got one for the kids, which has decaf tea and ginger lemonade, so it is like an Asian Arnold Palmer. I am ready. I have a ton of enthusiasm. And a ton of booze. What I lack in enthusiasm, I will make up for that in alcohol.
Thomas: We got off to a little bit of a late start, but its okay because Facebook kept changing the time of the event from Noon to 3 pm (from Noon) for whatever reason. It's becoming self aware and it wants to ruin everything.
Mariah: We got a little bit of a late start, yes, but we're ready. The biggest anxiety that I have about these is that they're all so different. When you go into work at a restaurant every day, you know exactly what is going to happen so you can prepare for it. With these, especially with this once since we didn't sell tickets in advance, I have no idea what it is going to be like. It has been shared a lot online, the event invitation, so that made me a little anxious! I am pumped that a ton of people are going to come and I am nervous. There was that Facebook blip, which was maybe a Facebook miracle because we weren't ready at Noon. Maybe it was a gift from Facebook. That's how I am choosing to look at it now.
Thomas: The space looks dope. Chresten got this all manicured the other day and it is starting to look like a party. We just need some drunk people in the bouncy fun castle and we can call it a day.
Mariah: And we've got these great stamps based on the poster that Jessie designed. The stamp people said they didn't think it would work as a stamp, but I think it looks great.
Jessie: I went to a couple family feast events, the first one I went to was the event hosted at Nosh which was amazing to me because it was really one of the only pop-up events I have been to for a while that left me overstuffed and overjoyed on top of the fact that it had an unusually reasonable—too reasonable?—ticket price. I should mention that all this can be blamed on Jason Loring, he has been a force of great collaboration not just for me with some projects here and there, but in the creative and food scene in Portland. He seems to be unmatched in getting people connected and making things happen. Thomas and Mariah wanted to know who was the designer that Jay had been working with on the Nosh menus and the Slab menus and logo, and so Jay invited [my boyfriend] Michael [Leonard] and I to an event at Hugo’s where we all met over delicious food. Michael and Thomas really connected because they were huge Grateful Dead fans, which play a bit into the inspiration for the poster.
Knack Factory: Ah, the Dead! Tom talked about that in his Shift Drinks interview.
Jessie: Thomas and Mariah are a designers dream. They gave me an idea of the feel, the atmosphere and a general direction and then let me do my thing. All our meetings took place at Hunt & Alpine partly because it is centrally located and partly because the drinks are great and Andrew seems to be cool with me spreading out my notebooks, tablet and other implements of business while we geeked-out over design. For the poster, we started with “70’s rock poster plus communal dining” as a direction and from that we looked at a bunch of Stanley Mouse’s iconic work, which has an obvious Art Nouveau meets shrooms vibe. This excited Michael who kept sending me Grateful Dead poster graphics until I told him to stop. I didn’t want to work backwards though, for example: going from 70s rock poster and giving it an Art Nouveau style plus food… instead I started with an Art Nouveau look, studying Alphonse Mucha who was the influence for Stanley Mouse’s work. I loved the look of the ethereal, confident women in Alphonse’s work—coincidentally, when I was a child, I was rather obsessed with drawing fairies with long hair and long dresses, turns out the images I was using as a starting point were Alphonse Mucha and I just added wings. All I had to do was throw in a large hunk of meat to that idea. Once that general concept was built, I added the elements that were common themes in the psychedelic rock posters: flowers, sun bursts and very warped lettering.
Thomas: I never wanted to be pegged as the Grateful Dead guy but here I am.
Knack Factory: So what's on the menu?
Thomas: Straying from the straight Indonesian theme, we have allowed ourselves to take some more liberties. There are lots of fermented foods. There is kimchi, which is Korean but eaten throughout the world. There are some really traditional cold vegetable platters. There is gado-gado, which is something I always eat at family barbecues. It is basically cold vegetables and peanut sauce. There are eggs cooked in sambal and raw sprouts. We are warming the peanut sauce right now. There is also traditional Indonesian. There is sambal oelek, which is your traditional sambal.
Knack Factory: What's on the grill?
Thomas: We're doing grilled pigtails, which are going to blow people's minds. We're doing my dad's traditional chicken wings which are bumped up with smokey bacon fats. Those are going to be rad. We're doing beef tongue sandwiches with green onion. We're doing some whole trout, which we're throwing on the grill, and we're going to make some sandwiches out of that. I also bought a quarter cow from a local farm, and we're going to char cuts of that rare and put them out. Oh! And Briana made a shitload of pies!
Briana: I made rhubarb pies with some nutmeg and plum bitters. I made blueberry pies, which has some brown-sugary streusel—streusel is a German word for yummy and crunchy. I also made a coconut custard pie with a macaroon crust and dark chocolate, Coco Lopez whipped cream.
Knack Factory: How long have you been making pies?
Briana: I have been baking for a long time—like 15 years—but honestly the first successes I had with making pies was when I started working at Pies and Thighs in Brooklyn.
Knack Factory: Pies and Thighs?
Briana: Yeah, it is this pie and chicken place in Williamsburg. It was kind of like my first experience getting down and dirty with pies.
Knack Factory: Have you ever seen Waitress [in which the protagonist, played by Kerri Russell, makes pies as a form of therapy]?
Briana: Yes! I have! I actually tried to make the pie with ham and brie cheese she makes in that movie. I think she calls it the "Bad Baby Pie" or something. I tried to make that pie and it came out pretty good.
Knack Factory: What draws you to pie in particular?
Briana: Pies are pretty cool because they started off as this way to preserve fruit. You would use lard and flour and that makes this dough which serves as a sealant. It can seal everything in and then it can sit there in an old fashioned pie case for days and days and be fine. That's kind of interesting. And then everyone in every culture has their own signature pie. And you can put anything you want in it. You kind of can't... fuck it up?
I don't know if you've ever heard of Chess Pie, but it is one of my favorites. It is a super old fashioned Southern recipe where it is just sugar and eggs and anything you have around the house. They called it that because in the Winter when you wouldn't have fruit left and all of the stuff in the root cellar was gone... they'd make this and call it "just pie." But because of the Southern drawl, it was like, "Jess pie," and it eventually became Chess Pie. It's one of my favorites because it's like candy. Sugar, eggs, lemon, vinegar, or maple or something like that.
Knack Factory: Are pies necessarily oppositional to cake?
Briana: Yes! I think pies are like the cool girl who wears cutoff jeans and sneakers to the party, and cake is like the girl who spends ten minutes getting ready before the party, worrying about how her hair looks.
Knack Factory: Cakes are sort of like pies and dogs are sort of like cats.
Briana: So which one is more high maintenance?
Knack Factory: Well, dogs are sort of eager to please while cats are just like, "Fuck you if you don't like it. This is what I am."
Briana: You're right. Pies are the felines of the pastry world.
Knack Factory: How are you feeling right now, Tom?
Thomas: We're pretty good to go. Let's do it.