Bon Appetit magazine is my holy grail for soaking up new foodie knowledge, know how’s, and go to’s, and recently one of their features took two editors on a Big Fat Weekend. Essentially defining the continuous consumption of up and coming restaurant and chefs for loyal readers, I imagined the rich tastebud treatment from their experiences. But then I came to Portland and worked through my own trail of hipster heaven. Now this is living. Bursting with endorphins courtesy of T25 Cardio, the Hilton Garden Inn sufficiently provided pre-Portland energy with their hearty buffet.
Once well fueled for the day, our party piled into the Ford once more to embark on the adventure. Having discovered the ‘it’ spots of Portland’s happening neighborhoods on travelportland.com, our expectations for the following hours were at a very high standard. Luckily, casually perusing the International Rose Test Garden didn’t take much to please. Blooming in the face of a warm sun, you haven’t really smelled the roses until visiting what coined the nickname ‘City of Roses’.
It’s no joke these floral celebrities are one of a kind, but in this neighborhood, they come in all color variations ranging from dusted mauve purple, to deep velvet red hues. Not to mention the gradual gradients filling the beautiful petals and the vast diversity of those visiting the park.
Next on the agenda was the original Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Downtown originating as a single roastery in 1999 and further expanding to other Portland locations , New York and Seattle. The coffeehouse is actually quite spacious[presumably for the large crowds of locals flocking to their convenient spot] almost expectedly reserving staff that fit the hipster profile. A regular cup of coffee is self serve, making a quick grab n go possible, perfect for grabbing a nearby treat. Conveniently located just a block from another highly regarded eatery, I’d assume locals and visitors alike pair their coffee with one of VooDoo Donut’s creative pastries.
Hopping into what one of the employees claimed a ‘short’ line, I worked on my tomato hued back lining up along the provided pink line dividers.
After a quick fifteen minutes, we found ourselves on the side closest to the building noting the ‘sprinkle’ covered brick architecture and soon to be chocolatey drowned VooDoo shaped donuts.
To be honest, I had no intention to actually eat one, but once making our way inside, that delectably overwhelming smell certainly is persuasive.
Perusing their long list of recognized varieties, Cap’n Crunch covered puffy goodness, vegan Chico-stick[think butterfinger], and their well known Maple Bacon bar[among many others], it truly is impossible to come out of there without at least four or five. At 95 cents a donut? Just no way. Feast your eyes on these glories. Since we didn’t immediately scarf these down, I am happy to note my car still harbors this sweet experience; here’s to hoping the smell lingers a while.
By this point in the day, our late lunch grind was at prime time and destined to be a true culinary adventure. Featured in several well known publications ranging from Bon Appetit to just about every ‘Best Resturants in Portland’ page you can find, there’s a clear reason why head chef Andy Ricker won Best Chef Northwest 2011. Located in the hipster approved Division ST neighborhood, pok pok’s stand alone restaurant exudes a contemporary feel, from the stepped logo to the hut like wood paneling. With balmy patio seating, we opted for the cool climate of their dim lit indoors seated in a cushioned booth. Once provided with the menu of Thai language dishes, we quickly discovered the bringing people together over food vibe went a step further.
Pok pok is all about family style serving, assuming that you are willing to share your decided dish with company. Although the servings are quite small in comparison to exuberant American eateries, I actually found this quite refreshing; you eat what you get, and enjoy every rationed bite. Also noting the presence of dotted thai chiles throughout our chosen finds, I don’t think my system could have handled much more than we received. There’s no doubt this is unAmericanized thai cuisine sending your tastebuds through the authentic flavor profiles of this country. Oh yes, your tongue will be on fire.
My mentality for this trip has been ‘Do as the Locals do’, and after researching my trusted sites to fulfill this hope, we were excited to dive into their popular specialties.
I’m taking my parent’s word that the fish sauce wings lived up to their hype deep fried and carmelized in Phu Quoo sauce, but I can attest to bold and bright flavors springing through the Yam Tuna, a thai-style tuna salad with ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and tomatoes slathered in a spicy lime and fish sauce dressing, as well as the Northeastern Thai hand-minced spicy charcoal roasted catfish salad(say that ten times fast!) building more acidic taste from shallots, lemongrass, mint, cilantro, and toasted rice powder. The winner for me however was Khao Phot Ping; essentially a fresh ear of chargrilled corn but ladled heavily in salted coconut cream, absolutely perfect for the ever nearing Summer. To top it off with a final sip from my White Sangria[lemongrass, mint, & pam sugar], I found myself in yet another food coma. I think I need to start recording these…
Just down the way, one of my many nicknames was being beckoned by Townshend’s Tea & Kombucha. Although I didn’t end up ordering a [Annie]‘Green Tea’, smelling the accessible 80+ loose teas included a few.
After spending a fair amount of time wowing at the intoxicating blends, I finally settled on their most popular chai variety, the Pumpkin Pie chai. Taking that first sip melded with coconut milk, I was transferred into a cozy Snow Lodge, bundled in a cabled grandma sweater cuddling with a dapper fellow. Visions of cinnamon fairies, ginger flies, vanilla sparkles, and nutmeg mounds swirled through my head as we left for yet another ‘have to’ of Portland’s Division neighborhood.
The fact that my purchased shirt still smells like waffle cones is a good sign. Like the Abercrombie & Fitch of ice cream shops, the nose is hit hard with the sweet aroma several stores down from the out the door line.Given good reviews from a trusted Portland resident, and blinded by the swirls and curls of their spectacular logo sign, there was no ‘we’ll come back’ to this shop.
Salt & Straw’s ‘classics’ menu include flavors like Strawberry honey balsamic vinegar with cracked pepper, and Pear & Bleu cheese, but seeing that I remained inhabited in my chai fantasy, Cinnamon Snickerdoodle was the scoop.
If I had even more room in my stuffed system, I would have been all over their Cocktail series. Crafted from the minds of local mixologists, the thick, creamy ice cream is buzzed with different alcohol varieities. I mean Rhubarb & Saffron in Champagne? How much more innovative can you get?
Apparently much more. After wandering the vintage thrift shops of Belmont, and picking up a few of Powell’s books reads on food[seriously just read the below excerpt],
we found ourselves at the original Deschutes Brewery. I most certainly am not known for downing microbrews, or oogling over a hoppy IPA, but being in the brewery that birthed the Black Butte Porter and since has done so well in California, I figured why not. I think I need to figure why not more often.The ‘Peach Slap’ is really something else. The top notes of the Belgian ale are quite sweet echoing the peach in the name, but the real kick of the drink is the two seconds following a swallow. A subtle yet still blatant heat lingers on the back of the throat courtesy of the peach and habernero syrup rounding out this refreshingly light beer. No longer in tea nirvana; I was in my own blooming beer garden sharing a cold glass with our attractive waiter. I am wishing on every star that they will permanently put this on their brew menu. Now several food comas down and out of this world imaginations later, I can say I am not done with you Portland. Not even close.