IT'S AN UNDERTAKING, trying to encapsulate the Portland food scene in a single book. Food writer Liz Crain (who also co-wrote the Toro Bravo cookbook) tackles the topic by focusing on producers and purveyors rather than restaurants. It makes for a focused (and interesting) book, especially as there are already plenty of places telling you where to eat in town.
This is the second edition of Crain's guide, updating the 2010 release with 150 new businesses and 30-plus listings, reflecting what's opened and closed in that time (more on that in a moment). It's aimed at locals and visitors alike; there's some hand-holding in the section intros ("Portlanders are adamant about local, seasonal produce..."), but a newcomer is likely to be overwhelmed by the volume of entries. However, that's also what makes it a great resource for locals: There's real depth to the book, and residents will be better equipped to know whether a visit to Otto's Sausage Kitchen in Woodstock is practical.
For a guide like this to work the reader has to trust and, in a sense, "like" the author. Fortunately, Crain's enthusiasm for her city and its food is evident on every page, and she's an amiable guide. The sidebars are fun and informative—I learned a bunch of stuff about bison, cranberries, and crabbing—and I liked the resources section with info about community-supported agriculture and advice about growing your own food. She has also wisely co-opted local expert Brett Burmeister to cover food carts and blogger/Mi Mero Mole owner Nick Zukin to write the Latino/Mexican section.
There are two problems facing any guidebook: space (you can't fit everything in there) and time (places come and go). Anyone with an interest in the city's food scene will probably find omissions and complain that their favorites aren't included. My particular quibble is with the cheese section, which omits Cyril's, Oso Market (which really should be somewhere in the book), and Blackbird, which is in the wine section but doesn't get a nod for its great cheese counter. There's also the problem of places that have closed—there's a number already in this edition—but then, I guess, that's what the internet is for; check online if making a special trip.
Overall, this is a great resource for food lovers—even those who think they know the city inside out will enjoy digging around to discover new places and finding that there's still plenty to learn.