In southeast Portland, a Latin American public market and kitchen spreads the aroma of locally grown and made smoked meats, pressed masa and fresh herbs and pulls you in. Brightly colored food carts in the open-air plaza tempt you to stop for a taste, while the food market welcomes you to try out the produce, ice cream and more. A colorful mural invites you in to shop and eat at the many businesses inside. These are the sensory delights of Portland Mercado.
“You can sip locally roasted coffee featuring beans that come directly from the owner’s farm in Nicaragua, or lounge at BARRIO – neighborhood in Spanish – which features house Willamette Valley red and white wines, amidst a Latin-inspired menu,” says Jamie Melton, Portland Mercado marketing and outreach coordinator. Along with Manuel Marin-Foucher, general manager of development, the two work to bring the area a taste of Latin America.
A Local Taste of Latin America
Portland Mercado, a project by locally based Hacienda CDC, a nonprofit that focuses on Latino development, features nine food carts as of June 2016, and there are plans to add more, according to Melton. Overall, there are 19 full-time businesses and more than 30 temporary vendors at the mercado. Carts feature freshly made food using locally sourced products for dishes from El Salvador, Mexico, Colombia and more. Inside the public market, merchants sell both locally made fresh and packaged products.
“The meat counter features locally made chorizos. A Colombian bakery leads back to the commissary kitchen that supports over 30 businesses making and selling packaged products and prepared foods from organic, fresh ramen noodles to salsas,” Melton says.
Not only does Portland Mercado give Portland a taste of Latin American agriculture and food, but it helps bridge cultures as well, connecting the merchants with consumers through its public market, café, bar and other shops.
“Portland Mercado has given the Latino community a voice and a place to feel safe and to celebrate the diversity within their cultural heritage,” Melton says. “Many Latinos originally came to Oregon to improve opportunities for their families by working in the agricultural sector. They are now able to use that experience to make great food and great products. The conversation for entrepreneurs here and for the community at large involves a greater understanding that our Latin American community consists of not only hard workers, but successful business owners who are an integral part of the Oregon culinary and cultural experience.”
Satisfyingly Fresh Seafood
Further south in Newport on the Central Oregon coast, Local Ocean Seafoods is fishing for the best locally sourced seafood experience it can offer. The market- style restaurant features open-air grilling and floor-to-ceiling windows so customers can watch nearby fishing boats in the harbor.
Local Ocean was founded when Laura Anderson and a local fisherman developed a fish market and restaurant on the Newport Bayfront that could showcase Oregon seafood and provide a premium price to fishermen.
“Going local is more than just a wistful environmental plea,” Anderson says. “It’s really about food security. As uncertainty grows in the global economy and food marketplace, having local access to fresh, clean, fair, sustainable food is not just good business sense, it’s a survival strategy.”
Local Ocean’s coastal market offers up crab, shrimp, oysters, salmon and seasonal fish from Oregon, showcasing a variety of fresh seafood from along the West Coast and supplied by more than 50 local fishermen.
“In our fish market we label each seafood item, who harvested it, where it was caught and how it was caught,” Anderson says. “The value of this information is different for each person. For some it helps them make more informed choices, for others it adds ‘story’ to the products, and for the fishermen it’s a source of pride to see their high-quality product in our showcase.”
And it’s no secret that seafood is rich in health benefits, Anderson says.
“But that is not unique to Local Ocean’s seafood. We definitely have a quality advantage on any grocery chain as our product comes direct from the boat, so it is fresher and generally much better quality. Also, the story and fisherman behind the seafood helps build a relationship between the harvester and consumer.”
And if seafood isn’t your menu choice? “We have worked with a handful of other Oregon producers directly,” Anderson says. “Our ground beef for our famous burger comes from McKay Ranch in Corvallis. We buy locally foraged chanterelles in the fall. And we often purchase from the farmers’ market suppliers in the summer.”