Portland Food Adventures

A wedding is always a great excuse to travel. And when your parents offer to take care of your son while you’re gone, you might as well make a six-day vacation out of it! Yay! Adult time! No more 7 PM curfew! This is a chronicle of our culinary journey through the wonderful city of Portland.

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Ahoy! To Portland! The city of cyclists, bridges, and deliciously caloric and locally-sourced foodstuffs! The land of breweries, flannel, tattooed sleeves and handlebar mustaches. The place where kale grows from every crack in the sidewalk! A promised land where the streets are lined with biscuits, heirloom tomatoes and salted caramel! Oh, dear Portlandia, where will we go, what will we see, and most importantly—what will we eat?

I’ve scored Portland’s foods in three categories:

MISS: From “meh” to “blech”

HIT: From “Ooh, not bad!” to “Yum!”

SUPER HIT: From “OMG yum!!!” to “HOLY CRAP THIS IS EFFING AMAZING”

 

Day 1: Arrival

Our friend David picked us up and took us straight to Bake Shop, where we got  a chocolate orange pecan pastry and a ham and cheese croissant.  The croissant was incredibly flaky, crispy, and buttery, with just the right amount of salt–one of the best I’ve EVER had!  As for the chocolate orange pastry, my husband devoured it before I could get a taste. “It was really good!” he said, as I shook my head with a menacing scowl.  We were off to a good start!

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SUPER HIT: Ham and cheese croissant from Bake Shop.

Then we checked into our awesome AirBnB accommodation.  Our room had a separate entrance surrounded by a beautiful garden where we could pick fresh tomatoes and blueberries.

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HIT: Fresh blueberries growing outside our AirBnB accommodation.

Before we knew it, our blood sugar had dropped and our livers needed another fat injection, so we lunched at Lardo.  This was the first of many examples of how Portland is a truly pig-obsessed city.IMG_1176

Nom nom nom… Meat meat meat…  The burger was good, but Maybe a sturdier bun or baguette would have held up better to the “Lardo sauce” they smothered on the meat.  I would definitely go back for the PBLT and the Bahn Mi!

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HIT: Pork meatball bahn mi, Lardo house fries.  MISS: Double burger with porkstrami  .

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HIT: (Half eaten) shaved zucchini with Caesar dressing, basil, parmesan, bread crumbs. I want to make this at home now.

As we finished up, we were so full that we could barely discuss what to eat for dinner.  That night David made us a fantastic quinoa dish complete with kale and tomatoes from his garden- just what our bodies were craving!  For dessert we had lavender-infused ice cream with plum and freshly picked blueberries.

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HIT: A home-cooked meal made with local, organic ingredients served alongside a cold glass Portland-made beer.

Day 2: More exploring and catching up with friends

Exploring New Seasons Market is like wandering through an episode of Portlandia.  We walked there from our place constantly for breakfast burritos, drinks, snacks and treats as we thought to ourselves, “Yeah, this is so much better than CORPORATE Whole Foods!”

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HIT: New Seasons makes a surprisingly delicious vegetarian breakfast burrito! Potato, egg, green chile, cheese and onion. It’s no Julioberto’s, but it did the trick!

After a breakfast burrito and a long walk downtown from our home base, we mapped out a course to our next meal.  A food pod!  For those of you who aren’t familiar, a food pod is a group of food trucks in a semi-permanent setting.  Food pods are all around the city, but we went to a big one near O’Bryant Square.

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One of Portland’s many glorifications of swine

If you’re indecisive about what to eat, avoid food pods.  There were Scottish fish and chips, gyros, crepes, Chinese food, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Ethiopian, and everything in between.  We saw a decent line in front of one of the gyro places, so we went for it.

As I shoveled the food into my mouth, I realized the line of people must have been mostly tourists who didn’t know that this food stall was in the “so-so” category.  My rice was super oily and my lamb wasn’t cut from a spit, but resembled processed meat fried up on a griddle.  Why, God? WHY?!?

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MISS: Food pod meal #1: Lamb gyro, lamb and rice plate with salad and tzaziki, stuffed grape leaves.

Our food coma was setting in, so we went in search of some coffee.  Destiny took us to Pearl Bakery, where I had an absolutely heavenly chocolate chip pecan cookie.  The brownie wasn’t bad either!

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SUPER HIT: Chocolate chip pecan cookie and walnut brownie from Pearl Bakery. I found $1.50 to be an absolute steal for a cookie of this caliber.

A nap and a shower later, we felt like new again and walked to Life of Pie.  We split a small pizza topped with caramelized onions, goat cheese and garlic along with a green salad and some beers.  Overall it was a great meal, but next time I will definitely go back before 6 PM for their famous happy hour specials: the $5 margherita pizza and $3 draft beers!

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HIT (despite the burnt spots): Wood-fired pizza from Life of Pie

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HIT: It’s hard to screw up a mixed green salad…

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HITS: Proletariat NW Red Ale and Na Zdravi Czech-style Pilsner

Later that night we met up with the brides, their family and the other out-of-towners at a local brewery.  There was food leftover from their rehearsal dinner, so I took the opportunity to stuff myself with undressed mixed greens by the plateful, providing myself a buffer of healthy fiber for all the deliciously naughty treats the weekend would hold.

Day Three: Wedding, Farmers market and Reception

The day had come! In a beautiful morning ceremony at Cathedral Park,  Our friends Kate and Shelly expressed their love to each other in front of a small group of joyous family and friends.

After the wedding the guests were encouraged to go out and enjoy everything Portland has to offer.  We made our way over to the most fantastic farmers market I have ever been to, where we were hypnotized by mounds of stunning produce and infinite jars of local cheeses, honeys and jam.  By the end of it, we were so spoiled by Portland’s local treasures that heirloom tomatoes seemed commonplace, albeit no less bedazzling.

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SUPER HIT: The product samples offered at the farmers market

“But what to have for lunch?  Ooh, how about that booth, Portland Curry! This is gonna be great! Local organic chicken tikka masala, chickpea malasa in a spiced sauce… Yummy!”

In hindsight, some might argue that you should avoid buying Indian food when the booth is staffed only by white people.  I reject that notion, as I feel even non-Indians can make great curry.  These people could not.  It was not great.  It was terrible.  It’s like they thought, “How can we make this as flavorless as possible and still call it curry?”  No amount of cilantro, yogurts and chutneys could make this stuff good.  And the “chicken tikka” was mostly big chunks of potatoes in an under-salted, under-spiced broth that left me wanting to thrust my bowl at their booth like an unsatisfied toddler.

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SUPER MISS: Under-salted, unde-rspiced, underwhleming Portland curry. That ain’t right.

But check out those tomatoes!

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The most exquisite raw chocolate peanut butter bar made up for any of life’s problems.

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SUPER HIT: Raw, vegan chocolate peanut butter bar from Eatin’ Alive.

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Kate and Shelly definitely did their research when planning the menu for their reception, because that Thai buffet was perfection.   Chicken satay, vegetable spring rolls, lemongrass chicken rolls, pad see ew (EFFING AMAZING), Panang curry, pineapple fried rice… Holy crap. I served myself seconds even though I was already pretty stuffed by my first plateful.

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SUPER HIT: Thai food at the wedding reception.

But oh, the pie!  I wouldn’t say s’mores are anything I crave, but this mini pie was calling me, and I’m so glad I chose him.

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These delectable miniature pies came from a place called the Pie Spot. I love that they served pie instead of cake.

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SUPER HIT: S’mores mini pie. I want some more.

 

Day Four: Recovery

The great thing about late nights of drinking and dancing is that you can always sleep it off the next day.  Unless you’re a dad whose circadian rhythm won’t let you sleep past 6:30, despite the fact that you consumed copious amounts of Patron the night before.  I’m speaking hypothetically, of course… Time for another breakfast burrito and a large can of rehydrating coconut water! My head still hurts…

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Electrolytes, please

Next came a mid-morning nap, then an outing for lunch with David while Simon slept off an incoming migraine.  We walked from our AirBnB to a deli where I had a house-made beef pastrami sandwich on rye.  It was much more thick-cut than I’m used to, and I was so glad to see it wasn’t piled ridiculously high like at so many delis.

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HIT: Beef pastrami on rye.

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Sunday afternoon we saw The Hundred Foot Journey, a feel-good movie about culinary passions dividing and uniting Indian immigrants and their French counterparts.  The movie was full of tantalizing sights of Indian and French cuisine, leaving us hungry for the spices of the Orient.  And no, not Portland Curry, please.

As we walked out of the theater toward the bus station, we heard Indian music playing nearby.  We crossed the street and suddenly we were in the midst of the annual Portland Indian Festival.

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The food looked amazing and we enjoyed the festival, but with no real place to sit and eat, we settled for a souvenir jar of local organic ghee and hopped on a bus to try out the restaurant Bollywood Theatre.

Holy cow, this place is so AMAZING!  It’s unlike any Indian restaurant I’ve been to.

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SUPER HIT: Beets roasted with coconut milk and curry leaves

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SUPER HIT: Vada Pav, a spicy potato dumpling dipped in chickpea batter and fried. Served on a roll with chutneys. The “Poor Man’s Burger” of Mumbai. The sweet and spiced coconut on the side was extraordinary.

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SUPER HIT: Some kind of paratha wrap with chicken and other delicious stuff (I didn’t write down the name and can’t seem to find it on the online menu). One of the awesome food highlights of the trip!

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HIT: Pork Vindaloo with saffron rice, sambar, dal (lentils), raita, paratha (tortilla-like deliciousness) and green chutney

After Bollywood, we waddled next door to one of Portland’s most famous ice cream shops, Salt and Straw.  The flavors are all slightly bizarre, including “bone marrow with smoked bourbon cherries,” which sounds repulsive to me.  I chose almond brittle with salted ganache and honey balsamic strawberry with cracked pepper, and Simon had the strawberry and coffee bourbon.

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HIT: Ice cream from Salt and Straw.

 

Day Five: Last call!

In our last full day in Portland, we had to check out Tasty n Sons, where the weekend brunch wait was over an hour.  We arrived promptly at their opening time of 9 AM and quickly realized why this place is so popular.  Wow.

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SUPER HIT: Potatoes Bravas with over-easy eggs and aioli. So simple, yet so great. And a generous serving for $7.

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SUPER HIT: Fried egg, bacon and cheese on a cheddar biscuit. This biscuit was the best I’ve ever eaten. Truly divine!

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MISS: Chocolate potato doughnut with crème anglaise. Sorry, Tasty n Sons, but your other amazing dishes made this one just “meh.”

For our last Portland lunch we felt we had to give the food pod another try, so this time we chose Korean.  It was a massive serving of delicious spicy pork, rice, noodles, salad and kimchi food for only $7.  YES!

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HIT: Spicy Korean pork, glass noodles, kimchi and salad with rice

After lunch we were powered up for a trek up to the Japanese Garden and International Rose Test Garden.

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SUPER HIT: Sriracha. And Portland’s world-famous Japanese garden.

For dinner Monday we asked David where he’d like to go to celebrate his birthday.  He chose Park Kitchen, a beautiful little restaurant near a park downtown.  We ordered a series of small plates to share.  Yum yum!

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HIT: Amuse bouche of heirloom tomatoes, beans and mustard vinaigrette.

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HIT: E.Z Orchards Hard Apple Cider, on the house in honor of the birthday boy!

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MISS: Salt cod fritters with malt vinegar. They were fine, but not enough to get a “hit” in my book.

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HIT: Ken’s bread, Park Kitchen crackers, and handmade butter.  Crackers were more like savory cookies though.

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MISS: Summer tomato salad with Genovese cured pork. This would have been fabulous if the dressing didn’t consist of melted (and later coagulated) pork fat. I prefer my pork fat be disguised in my food, thank you.

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HIT: Lamb meatballs, green peppers, cattle beans, and mint.

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MISS: Ayer’s Creek cornmeal pasta, braised pork shoulder, and zucchini. It was fine, but it had a slightly undercooked texture.

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HIT: Buttermilk panna cotta, Bairds peaches, bourbon, candied pecans.  This was almost a “miss” in my book, as the thick layer of clear gelatin on top was rather uncalled for.

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MISS: Summer berry bread pudding with house made ricotta. I am calling this a miss because it was not really bread pudding but a wet cake. And it needed more sugar to balance the tartness of everything going on.

Day Six: Home sweet home and reunited with our son!

I officially love Portland.  It’s a fabulous city with great character and awesome food, and Simon and I have decided we want to go back as often as we can afford to.  We highly recommend Bollywood Theater, Tasty n Sons, food pods and just exploring the city’s culinary treasures.  After a quick breakfast burrito and a heartfelt farewell to one of the coolest cities in the U.S., we made it to our plane and flew home, eagerly anticipating hugging our amazing son.  I have to add one culinary highlight, this little bag of mini graham crackers provided by Southwest Airlines, which I eagerly devoured as a seeing-eye dog nuzzled into my feet.  Life is good.

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4 comments

  1. Robbie, you’re killing me with all the food. I may be in a food coma from just reading! To top it off, you throw in the cute, snuggly seeing eye dog. Torture! 😉

  2. Now I see what you meant when we talked and you said you were in a food coma! Great photos and descriptions. I feel chubby just seeing this.

  3. Thanks Padre for the great piece on Portland!

    I am so glad to be able to give you guys a limited tour of Portlandia– so much more I would have loved to show you:

    – The Chinese Garden! – SE Portland and Division Street, home of Pok Pok and foodie heaven! – The Portland Aerial Tram (yes) from the South Waterfront (which has the new and almost completed pedestrian/bike/transit suspension bridge!) to the top of the West Hills! – Columbia River Gorge! – Multnomah Falls and numerous other waterfalls! – The list goes on….

    I went to more restaurants with you guys than I have done in many months. But my wonderful alternative is produce from my community garden plot and the bounty of local produce available to me nearby, though my apologies to *Portlandi*a I don’t know the farm the chicken came from, its mother, and if the chicken was happy….

    Come to Portland and I’ll give you a guided tour! Put a bird on it!

    David

    PS the TV show *Portlandia* is a parody of this town but so much if not all is based on true quirks of my town…..

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