Driving into the city of Portland, Oregon, a bold font glowed in the spotlight. “LOCAL,” it preached across a billboard, like it could’ve been Justin Bieber’s abs selling jeans for Calvin Klein. It’s clear that in this city the value of eating within miles of your location is not a trend destined to wither, like the fading dye of a rainbow bagel, but an actual, intentioned lifestyle.
Once inside the Rose City’s border of bridges, I meet a friend for dinner at Quaintrelle in the Mississippi district, a hip stretch of vintage delights, taxidermy retail, and bars with expansive outdoor seating. Portraits of radish tops blushed a purple-red hue while cabbage heads peacocked their pink speckled green leaves as if posing for Annie Leibowitz. Before I could nestle into my plush seat and inhale the roasting tomatillos wafting from the open kitchen, my friend leaned over to observe that this place was “very Portlandia.”
Scanning the seasonal menu offerings, including a handful of pickled items, it became apparent that, over the course of seven seasons, Portlandia has matured into more than a comedy series. It has become an adjective.
Asking for a chicken’s name before selecting it as an entree has now nearly become a mainstream restaurant rhetoric. When I ask what farms Quanitrelle sources from, I am served a list of producers scribbled by the back of house staff along with my fried zucchini flowers like the ripped journal paper was a side of its own. Seemingly straight from a sketch, these idiosyncrasies are not exclusive to the consciousness of Portland’s population.
When the show first aired in 2011, location scout Janet Weiss, who we can thank (read: bow down to with deep gratitude) for the series (she introduced Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein to one another), noted that in smaller cities where you once couldn’t find a decent cup of joe, there are now rows of artisanal roasters. With a constant wave of trends infusing themselves into our culture, by way of creative chefs and Instagram feeds, Portlandia recognizes the quirks of our general eating habits and makes us laugh about it—regardless if you’re watching from Oregon or rural Virginia—until home-brewed sour beer splashes out of our nostrils.
Portlandia recognized the obsession with pickles and asked, “What’s next? Your coat button that fell off?” And let’s be real, yes, if the button were edible, you’d toss it in some brine and throw it in between bread because pickles are a sandwich’s vehicle to heaven. Portlandia witnessed our resilience, as die-hard diners, to stand on our actual feet on the weekend in a line that spans the entire city for marionberry pancakes when blueberry pancakes, just as good, are right next. And artisanal snacks, some cacao-drizzled, solar-popped heritage corn concoction, might be delicious but ask if it’s necessary to receive Eleven Madison Park-level service during a 90-minute romantic comedy.
While we wait to see what’s in store for Season 8, here are some recipes, inspired by some of Portlandia’s best food sketches, that you should know before the final season airs January 18 on IFC.
For “very Portlandia” results, buy local produce and put a bird on it.