Monday, August 11, 2014

Portland Adventure aka Foodie Journey

This past weekend, Mike and I went up to Portland for an adventure just the two of us. It was wonderful. If you have ever heard anyone say "You'll just eat your way through that city" they must have been talking about Portland. The food is just incredible. 

Over the two nights and three days in Portland we traveled approximately 55,095 steps. Mike did the math and that equates to about 27.5 miles. Needless to say, we packed in a lot. I'll do my best to summarize the highlights. 

Hotel: The Nines in Downtown 

Perfect location. It is directly across the street from the MAX light rail stop which runs to the airport and many of the main attractions of the city. The hotel is modern, hip and the rooms are nicely decorated. Typical of any city hotel, not totally spacious, but plenty of room for two adults. 

After checking in, our first stop was a well known food cart. They only serve one thing... poached chicken and rice with a spicy ginger dipping sauce. The line tells the story. The food is simple yet crave worthy. a little more about Nong's Khao Man Gai and other great food cards in Portland here

After lunch, we headed straight over the Powell's City of Books. It feels just like that, its own city. The place is an entire city block and they have approximately 1 million books available to purchase. Plus another million books in the process of being evaluated for sale. They have every book you can imagine. Some new and some used. Really cool place to explore, slow down a bit and find something new to tickle your fancy. In my case, I picked up something old, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. The book seller accurately fulfilled my request for a lighthearted easy summer read that is written well. 

Next stop, the bike shop. We went to Pedal Bike Tours and rented bikes to really get out and see Portland the way the locals do, on a bike. 

They gave us a great tip to ride the Sweetwater Trail through the Oaks Bottom Wild Refuge. It was beautiful. We happened to see this fawn on the side of the trail with her mamma just a few feet away. They were happily grazing as we admired. Then we passed by a small lake surrounded by beautiful purple flowers. 

After our bike ride... which ended up being about 5 or 6 miles, we went over to a small little neighborhood on the South East side of the city. There we had a great meal at Ava Gene's. This place is another notable Portland foodie haven. It is called "Italian" but the combinations of flavors used are usual and surprisingly delicious. For example, the waitress suggested a celery salad and said it was her favorite. Really, celery? We came all the way here for celery? Well, let me tell you, that was the best celery I have ever tasted! It was paired with dates, almonds and Parmesan cheese. The dressing must have been some magic maker, because I have no idea what was in it... but it rocked my world. That was just the salad. I would definitely go back if I was a local. Great food. 

I'm sure dessert at Ava Gene's would have been fantastic. But I was told by more than one friend and more than one foodie website a must do is Salt & Straw. Salt & Straw just happens to be right next door to Ava Gene's so we went there. Well, first we waited in line. For a long time. It was worth it. I went back to this ice cream wonderland every day of our trip.  They are known for small batch unique ice cream flavors. They let you try as many as you like before you pick your scoop. Yum. Yum and Yum. 

Day 2 started with food again. Yep. We just kept eating. Mike went to a coffee shop called Heart while I slept in. Then we headed over to Tasty n Alder for brunch. I got a very simple breakfast: eggs, bacon and a biscuit. Let me be clear. That biscuit was the best I have ever tasted. Then they gave me this honey butter that made it even better. If you talk biscuits in Portland, everyone will tell you to go to Pine State Biscuits. I tried those too... good but not like the Tasty n Alder biscuits. The Pine State Biscuits are only really the vehicle to serve their amazing gravy. When we were there, I got the mushroom gravy and it was a good reason to get an okay biscuit. Just my opinion. 

After brunch we rented a car and headed out to see the Columbia Gorge. We went to Multnomah Falls for a hike. The falls have a view deck at the top, about a mile up a lot of switch backs, that is worth the climb. 


After our hike, we rode bikes down to NW 23rd Avenue. This is a charming little street with local and mainstream shopping mixed in. My favorite shop, The Meadows, sold salt, chocolates and bitters. A shop like this could only survive in a city like Portland or on the web. They do remote orders, so if you are a salt lover, check them out.   

My purchases. 

That night we went to Expatriate for cocktails and Beast for dinner. Expatriate was one of Mike's favorites. The passion in this place is alive. The owner is an ex-bartender who now is the DJ. he is also married to the chef at Beast. The bartenders shake cocktails with purpose. The walls are black and the noodle dishes smell delicious. A rainy night in this place would be just right. 

Beast is a culinary prize. Chef Naomi Pomeroy was awarded the James Beard Best Chef Northwest in 2014. She is also a mom of three which is pretty freak'n rad. Beast is a restaurant with a set menu of six courses and wine pairings. You know what you are getting, but you really have no idea what you are getting. Each course heightened my senses. While the food is pretty remarkable, for us, the highlight -- it is all communal dinning. It is so warm to be at a large table with wonderful food, wine and company interested in meeting new people. Definitely a unique and special evening.

Day 3 was intended to be lower key, slower pace. We succeeded. The morning kicked off with a nice long walk to the Portland Farmer's Market at Portland State University.  The market is huge and has a great variety of produce, flowers, people and of course food. We meandered through the market, got light breakfast bites and then we headed to the coffee shop. 

Fresh lavender bundled. 

Mushrooms, all sorts. 

Tomatoes so colorful with a sweet smell.  

The biscuit place with the great gravy. 

The lemon ginger shortbread cookie didn't last until the picture happened. 

After relaxing, reading and stopping at Salt & Straw for the third time, we went to Washington Park. When we got there, everyone was hopping onto a bus to get to the Rose Garden. It was packed to the brim and really was not appealing at all. So we asked, can we walk there? Sure thing. It is a short two mile walk downhill. Perfect. So we walked. We enjoyed the trees. The sunlight sneaking in. Lovely. 

The Rose Garden was lovely too. We both preferred the forest walk but the roses were a nice destination. Many people told us they prefer the Japanese Gardens over the roses, but we just couldn't do it all. Maybe next time. 

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