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.
Marionberry Banana Pancakes
These are pancakes that you would stand in line for except better, because you don’t have to. You can stay locked into those pajama pants while enjoying them. In Season 2, social circles form a line spearing from the front door of a hyped-up restaurant flipping marionberry pancakes. The berries are essentially blackberries, but longer and a hybrid of two varieties. Fun product fact: The marionberry is native to Oregon where they were bred by the USDA ARS with Oregon State University, which must explain why they have matured into being the pride of a Pacific Northwest griddle breakfast. Of course, if you have no access to this produce, take note of the moral of Brunch Village’s story: The blueberry pancakes next door are definitely just as good. Meaning, feel free to use blueberries.
Ingredients (yields 14 pancakes):
- 1 ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 3 tbsp maple sugar
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 medium overripe banana, mashed
- 1 cup almond milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup marionberries or blackberries
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, maple sugar, and salt.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the melted butter with the mashed banana, almond milk, and eggs. Whisk together until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, one-third at a time. Be careful not to overmix! The batter is ready to go when it’s thick and few lumps remain.
Heat a cast-iron skillet or pan over medium-high heat and grease it with either butter or coconut oil, pour one-quarter cup dollops of batter into the pan, making sure not to overcrowd. Cook on one side until the batter begins to bubble and a golden brown halo crisps the outer edge of the pancake, about 1 ½ minutes. Flip and let the other side cook, about 1 to 2 minutes more. Make sure not to press down on the pancakes! Let those babies rise. Repeat with the remaining batter.
NOTE: When flipping your second batch of pancakes, reduce the stovetop heat to low and re-grease your pan. If you’re using a cast-iron skillet, the pan will already be scorching, and if you don’t reduce the heat, you’ll essentially sear the pancake, leaving it undone in the middle.