Our last morning started just like the previous one did. The Missus slept in a bit and I took a walk, much shorter this time, and no donuts. We would be grabbing breakfast before checking out and heading to the airport. The Missus really wanted to go back to Tasty N Alder yet again. However, they didn't open until 9, which would be cutting things a bit too close.
So instead we walked one block over to Cheryl's on 12th which opens at 8am on Sundays.
The space reminded me a bit of the London Plane, not as fancy or hip, but this was part market, bakery, deli, as well as restaurant.
We were greeted with a bright smile and led to a nice little table.
Ordering for me was quite easy, though the Missus needed a bit of time.
Meanwhile, our coffee arrived along with some very light, warm, beignets.
The Missus went with the Wild Mushroom Omelete ($9):
While it kind of looked like a hot mess, the flavors were good, sweetness from the caramelized onions and the milky-salty feta cheese balancing out the earthy mushroom flavor. The potatoes were mediocre, bland, greasy, and without color or and crispness.
Minus the avocado and this could have easily been served at, say, Like Like Drive-In, or some other local spot on Oahu. There was a generous portion of sliced and nicely sautéed sausage, decent flavor, nicely spiced, lot's of sausage in the fried rice as well, though the rice was much too hard and needed some shoyu to kick it up a bit. Still, the Missus poached a good amount of the sausage (and the avocado), and this was well worth ten bucks.
Cheryl’s On 12th 1135 SW Washington St Portland, OR 97205 Hours: Mon - Sat 7am - 8pm Sunday 8am - 4pm
In retrospect, we could have easily spent a few more days in PDX. As it was, we missed a few places we had on our list....unfinished business as it were.
It was actually a nice walk. The sky was overcast, but it never rained.
We crossed the Willamette on the Burnside Bridge and passed the iconic Portland White Stag sign.
Traffic looked pretty heavy along Burnside.
You could tell spring was approaching as the Cherry Blossoms were starting to bloom. It was quite a lovely sight.
Our destination was a restaurant named Davenport, which I had read used local ingredients in simple dishes, with excellent and refined technique. The idea is to let the ingredients shine. The Chef Kevin Gibson is a semi-finalist for the James Beard; Best Chef: Northwest category.
There area couple of interesting things about the place, there's no large sign, you have to find 2215 East Burnside, then look for the "red door". Also, the phone conversation for making reservations was, well, interesting.....a woman picked up the phone with simply "hello"...... I had to ask if this was Davenport. At the end of the process, I noticed they hadn't asked for a phone number, so I inquired if they needed one. The answer, "no....if you show up, you show up...if you don't, you don't." Ok.... Well, we did show up.
The menu is ever changing.....in fact, it changes almost everyday.
We loved the menu and it was quite easy to choose our courses.
We had heard that Co-owner Kurt Heilemann curates an amazing wine list. So we asked our server, who was just perfect, efficient, professional, but not stuffy if he would select a glass to pair with each dish.
I will say, that even though I'm not an oenophile, I really enjoyed the pairings. I'm not going to go into detail about the wine, though I will say, the first glass...that Riesling, pared with the foie gras mousse was just perfect. It was without a doubt the best pairing of the evening. When I mentioned how beautiful the stemware was, our server told us it's hand-blown Zalto stemware.
The foie gras mousse was nice, smooth, rich, all you could ever want.
The pate was good, quite refined, balanced in flavor.....perhaps a bit too perfect. Loved the bits of hazelnut which gave it a nice contrasting texture.
For us, it was the pickled sunchokes that really got our attention, great crunch, perfect flavor. The salad was my least favorite....it tasted like it had been dressed with plain white vinegar, as it was way too sour; the pomegranate seeds didn't help adding another layer of tart and tannic flavor to everything.
The rapini, which was beautifully charred, bitterness subdued, smokey flavor enhanced was wonderful.
The addition of the breadcrumbs which added more crunch, only to be balanced with the boiled egg white and richness of the egg yolk just elevated the dish in my opinion. The anchovy was a bit too strong for the dish as just a squeeze of lemon was perfect.
We finished with the grilled lamb shoulder.
Slightly toothsome, but still tender enough considering it was shoulder. The lamb flavor made the perfect, "yes, you are eating lamb" statement. It was perfectly seasoned, a bit too rare for the Missus, but I loved it. The salsa verde really didn'y play into the flavors for me.
Overall, a very nice meal. In terms of service and timing, things were just perfect for us. While we enjoyed our meal, which was good, nothing really extended it into the "great" territory for us. Now the prices, well the food only came out to $60! The wine at $45 almost matched the price of the food. We weren't complaining though as in terms of cost, we thought this to be a reasonably priced meal.
Next time, I think something more along the lines of Le Pigeon would be the Missus's cup of tea.
Davenport 2215 East Burnside Portland, OR 97214
Of course, we weren't quite ready to call it a night. Candice had recommended that we stop in at Belmont Station. So the Missus decided we needed to work off at least a portion of our dinner....so add another mile-and-a-half to the tab. The streets looked rather dark on SE Stark Street and Belmont Station shone like a pearl in the night.
Basically an amazing bottle shop, with a huge 1200+ bottle list. Connected to the shop is the "Biercafe" which has a nice selection of items on tap.
Our "beertender" was a very nice...cool guy. The Missus got a sour and I ordered something that looked quite interesting - the New Belgium Cocoa Mole Spiced Strong Dark Ale. I was asked if I like "interesting flavors" and said yes. The guy behind the bar said, "folks here either love it or instantly dislike it". Me, I loved it....
Like a pseudo porter, with a pronounced chili-chocolate aroma. Since I love chili beers, I really enjoyed this. Mild spice that very slowly intensified, but never really got too hot. The flavor was quite complex. Even the Missus, who is not a big fan of porters really enjoyed this one.
It was a nice way to end our evening.
Belmont Station 4500 SE Stark St Portland, OR 97215
By this time, the Missus had figured I'd done enough walking for the day and decided we could catch the bus back. She did have a change of heart as we crossed the Belmont Bridge and decided to ring for a stop. But after all the walking I had done that day. The stroll back to the hotel was nothing.
Such is a typical day for us when travelling...lots of walking and lots of good food....and drinks!
Funny the difference one trip can make. In Belgium, the Missus discovered that She really loved beer after all. And now, after all these years, I have a beer buddy....my wife! Anyway, the Missus loves Her sours and our good friend Candice, strongly recommended a visit to Cascade Brewing's Barrel House. We'd had some of the Cascade's Sours before, some of which a ridiculously pricey, that we thought this would be a fun visit.....and of course, we needed to walk off lunch. So if you're keeping score, add another half mile to our walk.
Even though it was just after noon, the place was pretty busy.
We decided to head on up to the bar and have a seat.
The list was just absolutely huge.....it was the "Tart Fruit Festival". The Missus was caught in the clutches of analysis paralysis and just couldn't make a decision.
We decided to do tasters, but while I kept searching for styles the Missus would enjoy, basically anything like a Flemish Red, She kept ordering some pretty strange stuff.
So in case you want to see what we tried.....
Our favorite by far was the Sang Noir(far right), fruity, tart, with nice body, but missing that deep almost prune-vinegar sour richness of a Flemish Red. We were told that Cascade uses Lactobacillus which gives it a nice tartness, but not wild yeast which is crazy hard to control. The Missus was obviously missing Cantillon. Still that sang Noir was quite good.
The Missus did enjoy the Cheri D'Amour (left), while I was surprised that I enjoyed the Gingersnap (to the right).
All of this stuff has a pretty high ABV, so we pretty much stopped here. The Missus is still a bit of a lightweight. Still, this was fun and I'd gladly go again.
Cascade Brewing Barrel House 939 SE Belmont St Portland, OR 97214
Still, the Missus wanted one more Brewery stop. We'd been thinking of Upright, but they didn't open until 430pm. So we decided to head back (another half mile) to Hair of the Dog Brewery which was close to the Morrison Bridge which we had to cross anyway.
This nice little bar with the sliding industrial doors was doing pretty good business as well.
I loved the names of the beer. The Missus had two tasters; a "Little Dog" and "Greg", which She really enjoyed; made with winter squash and no hops tasting fairly grassy to me.
I had a "Fred", which I enjoyed, slightly sweet, perfect amount of hops, mild booziness. I would gladly have another.....
and since this was Hair of the Dog (which donates a percentage to Guide Dogs for the Blind), you know there had to be a dog, right? This faithful sweetheart was left on the porch faithfully waiting for her master. Whom she obviously adored. You can read her body language....
Oh, he's getting up and walking this way!
Yay, here he comes....we're going for a nice walk home! Maybe I'll get a treat!
Bummer....he was just going to the restroom.....
Hair of the Dog Brewery and Tasting Room 61 SE Yamhill St Portland, OR 97214
The one thing I wish I took a photo, actually a video of, was the young, thin, well dressed hipster, wearing a Viking helmet who was dancing while doing the edge of the curb "tightrope walk" on the Morrison Bridge. Great hand movement, decent pirouettes, and sadly, we were both too stunned, and entertained to think about taking a photo. Though I can't help but wonder what tune was playing in his head? "You stay weird Portland!"
We took the nice mile and half walk back to the hotel, for a well deserved nap. After all, we'd be walking back this way (sort of) for dinner!
After Donuts and then a Tasty N Alder stop, we were in dire need of some exercise. I took the Missus back through The Pearl and we stopped for caffeine at Barista. No pour over or anything like that available at this location. The Missus had a small coffee and I had an iced coffee while we went over our plans for the rest of the day.
Barista 539 NW 13th Ave Portland, OR 97217
The Missus had seen a couple of shops She wanted to stop into.
Filson is a well known brand, selling some really good outdoor wear. We took a look at some of the bags and luggage, but ended up not purchasing anything. Still, it was fun to browse.
Right across the street is Keen's Headquarters and a large shop called the Keen Garage which we checked out.
By now caffeine had kicked in and we were ready to head to our next spot. I'd already walked about 2 miles or so that morning. Then we walked up The Pearl.
Our next leg would take us about a mile and three-quarters, all the way down Alder and over the Morrison Bridge. You could tell that spring was on it's way as the Cherry Blossoms were starting to bud. All the "SW" avenues, became "SE" as we headed up SE 2nd Avenue and found our "light" lunch stop Olympia Provisions.
Regardless, they still have one of my favorite signs......
This shop tucked away in a restored warehouse-industrial building was recommended to us by a number of folks. And since the Missus is really into Her charcuterie/salumi it became a must visit for us.
We decided on the French Board, since the Missus loves Her rillettes and pates. The pork rillette is nicely made, decent salt, not overly seasoned, and quite porky. The pate was the Missus's favorite.
I actually enjoyed the saucisson, which we much more tender than I usually find around these parts. The flavors, while nicely seasoned and spice, just didn't seem overly salty. The garlic sausage was fine if a bit bland.
Seeing pickled egg on the menu; well, you know me, I had to order it. This was a mighty fine pickled egg, just the right amount of sourness with a nice pickling spice. Great flavor and texture.
The Missus wanted to try a cheese. We decided to get something from Oregon. The only choice was Opal Springs from Ancient Heritage Dairy. Made from raw cow and sheep milk, I was told that this is aged 60 days and the rind is brine washed. It was quite smooth and very mild for a washed rind cheese.
This was very easy to eat, though the mild flavors were wiped out when eaten after the cured meats.
Overall, we really enjoyed this meal. Wish this was in our neck of the woods. We'll be sure to drop by again next time we're in Portland.
Olympic Olympia Provisions 107 SE Washington St Portland, OR 97214 Hours: Monday 11am - 3pm Tues - Thurs 11am - 10pm Friday 10am - 10pm Saturday 10am - 10pm Sunday 10am - 9pm
Bellies happy, we headed off to our next stop....it was time for a beer!
The Missus had worked quite hard in the weeks up to our trip to Portland. I'm a terminal early riser, so I decided to let the Missus get some additional shut-eye, while I took a morning walk.
Much like Seattle, Portland seems to rise late.....it was still a bit dark when I started my walk at the Paramount Hotel.
I headed out for The Pearl, we'd walked around the area a bit the day before and really enjoyed ourselves, and were probably headed here later in the morning, so I thought why not? Though I'd been up this way before, I'd never been up NW 13th Avenue.
A former street full of former warehouses, turned into restaurants, shops, and businesses....I really liked the transformation.
For some reason, the area seems much more developed than when I last visited.
Walking down Burnside past the North Park Blocks, I descended on the area known as Old Town and Chinatown. Things seemed to have changed a bit since my last visit; it's much cleaner, less (though still a bit) gritty....there seemed to be quite a few bars and art galleries, so I'm certain that additional gentrification might be coming up.
Looking up NW 6th Avenue; I was surprised to see Union Station was a few blocks away! On previous visits; Union Station just seemed much farther away.
Perhaps all those "death marches" with the Missus (I calculated I walked 9 miles on this day...stay tuned) has changed how I calculate distance?
Anyway, walking into Chinatown, I saw that The House of Louie was still there!
And of course, one of my favorite signs....... Hung Far Low. The restaurant, once the oldest restaurant in Chinatown (opened in 1928), is long gone. But I guess there's something, well, unique and special about the sign....it is without a doubt a landmark, and the sign has been preserved. I understand that the city even contributed to making sure that Hung Far Low kept on hanging, high and proud in Chinatown.
Walking past the Chinatown gate, I received a text from the Missus. She was up and about, so I headed back......not directly mind you, there was one stop on the way.
I do wish some of the food carts on 10th and Alder were open for a substantial breakfast....but like their customer base, they seem to wake much later as well.
Seeing food carts in Portland always brings me back to this wonderful post from which Portland Food Carts site was established in 2007. Lizzy Gaston is no longer involved with the little empire that is Portland Food Carts, but I will never forget.
Heading down Washington Street, I came across the SW Portland location of Blue Star Donuts. The Missus isn't a big fan of Voodoo Donuts, so I thought I'd get something from here as a wake up treat for Her.
This was the most folks I saw in one place at this time of the morning in Portland!
The artisan donuts here use a brioche base.
I bought three for the Missus. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but thought the cinnamon and vanilla sugar was the best; the Missus agreed. The raspberry filled with peanut butter powder was our least favorite.
You can read about the North Portland location of Blue Star in Mary's post.
Blue Star Donuts 1237 SW Washington St Portland, OR 97205
So after some donuts, the Missus decided where She wanted to eat Her breakfast.......it was Tasty N Alder again!
So we waited until just before 9am and walked the couple blocks up to Tasty N Alder.
Our Server was the same......so wonderful. She welcomed us back and we explained that we came back for the Radicchio Salad. In a very nice touch, she brought us some coffee cake, telling us, "this is on the house....welcome back...and thanks!" Wow, really?
And so the Missus got Her Radicchio Salad.......half portion ($6)
Of course the Missus loves eggs.....so I decided to order the Cast Iron Frittata ($10).
Good sized....not too big, loved the nettles, the caramelization helped to smooth out the bitterness and develop the sugars, the caramelized onion brought some sweetness, and the asparagus was present in a restrained amount. A nice, light, frittata.
And $16 for a breakfast for 2? And that coffee cake? Priceless......
After a short nap, we awoke...well a bit groggy. So we figured it was time for a walk and maybe some coffee.
We passed all those familiar places...well, at least to me. The Missus really didn't remember much about Portland, other than "Pod", how much she didn't care for Voodoo Donuts, stuff like that.
She did remember the Pioneer Square area and the really nice and friendly Police Officer we met there. That's kind of how travel is; most times, the sites are great, but it's the people that you remember.
Last time we were in Portland, we stayed at the Embassy Suites, which is right across the street from Stumptown Coffee Roasters. I thought it would be nice to drop by again.
The place looks the same. I'm not sure if it's just me; but the baristas here always seem a bit detached, jaded, and "too cool" for us customers. Maybe if I grew a beard, had tats on my arms, and pierced various parts of my anatomy? Fat chance on that though.....
This visit was more for the Missus. She's kind of become one of those pseudo "Third Wave" snobs. Remember those posts on Haraaz Red Maraqaha beans that are Her favorite? Or the cups of Panama Geisha from Bird Rock? She thought a visit here would be interesting to see how Her tastes have changed. And they've changed a lot and so have mine. I'm not a coffee snob, though I know what the Missus enjoys, so I instantly knew upon tasting the cold brew that it wasn't going to cut it; I like nitro cold brew and this Kenya was decent, but I've actually had better at Dark Horse.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters 128 Sw 3rd Ave Portland, OR 97204
It was still too early for our dinner reservations; so we decided to take a walk around a bit. One of my favorite buildings in Portland is the Dekum Building. The red brick, very German, Romanesque styling make this structure; built in 1891 by Frank Dekum really stand out. Even more entertaining is the story that during the building of this structure, the masons drank beer every morning instead of coffee. The magic of hops; the place is still standing and looking as beautiful as ever.
We headed to downtown proper; past the Thompson Elk Fountain, which made me realize, for some reason, I really hadn't taken many photos during my visits in Portland. So heck, I needed at least one of Portlandia (the statue, not the show).
The Missus was starting to get hungry, so we decided to walk over to our dinner destination. In the beginning, I started with a list, than pared it down based on the Missus's eating habits and preferences. Le Pigeon was on that list, but I thought visiting Gabriel Rucker's other restaurant, the more bistro like Little Bird would be more relaxed. I recall calling and making a reservation, the young lady on the line asked me, "will you be celebrating a special occasion with us? Is there anything special we can do?"
We had arrived early, the place was empty except for one table. The young lady manning the hostess stand was relaxed and friendly. She offered us several tables. I ended up asking her to make the choice for us. So, we ended up getting "her favorite table" on the mezzanine. "Half the fun is watching the place come alive" she said.
I couldn't agree more. Much like The London Plane, having a bird's eye view was worth the price of admission.
The young man who was our Server was quite nice, friendly, but not too friendly, efficient, but not in your face, just perfect for our temperament. When I presented our plan; Chalkboard Special items, to be shared family style, rather than the usual appetizer-entrée service, he was all for it. He told us, "this is going to be great. I was a customer here for two years before working here."
At this point, I'm sorry to say, the photos aren't going to be up to standard. We didn't bring our huge DSLR with us....and in all honesty, I would have felt quite uncomfortable busting the beast out in a situation like this. It just doesn't seem right.
So we march onward. The Charcuterie Board ($25), was solid, if not outstanding.
We're used to charcuterie that makes a statement. Many of the items offered, like the pork rillettes were quite mild, almost lost without accoutrements, in that case, the pickled onions were a must. The texture of the pate was so decadent, but the flavor just needed that "umph". The one item that was full of flavor was the Smoked Pork Mousseline, in this case, not a forcemeat, but a flavorful smoked pork tenderloin. The scotch egg was great, drippy and oozy, the breading balancing out the books.
Next up is what I think is the best thing I've had since our dinner at Suzunari in Tokyo. The Seared Foie Gras, Shaved Oregon Winter Truffle, Foie Gras Sausage (we were told 3 parts chicken - 1 part foie), porcini puree (more like a porcini-butter mousse). Oh, just kill me now.....
Without getting too wordy....I didn't even mention the balsamic glaze, I have to say all of these strong flavors and amazing textures really played well together. The porcini puree was a great example; it was so assertive solo, but together with the foie gras, things balanced out. When eating products like this, I want the true flavor to come through....and then the combination of items which can take the dish a bit higher, perhaps transform and balance the textures, richness, and flavor. This was it for us. Worth every penny ($26).
The Roasted Marrow Bones ($21) were also quite good. The pairing of marrow bones with escargot - "ants on a log" is a classic one. In this case, it included snail sausage, which I thought was quite good.
It was served with some delicious rapini, a nice, thick parmesan vinaigrette, which added an acid-milky component to the dish. The bone marrow was perfectly prepared; in San Diego, I've encountered unrendered product. The naan like flatbread was kind of an afterthought for us.
Our evening had gone quite well, until the wait for our last dish, which took nearly 20 minutes, the Anchovy Cured Pork Belly ($15).
I gotta say, that cauliflower puree was great, just the right amount of seasoning and butter; the texture sublime. The Missus was ok with this, but I thought it was really salty. On the menu it says "crispy boquerones", which were really much too salty fried anchovies. A bit too heavy in terms of sodium. Nice textures, if a bit over-the-top for me.
We didn't go with any wine with dinner, so the damage turned out to be $87....no tax in PDX....which the Missus made sure to tell me after having recently spent over a hundred bucks for a mediocre meal at the Smoking Goat.
Little Bird Bistro 219 SW 6th Ave Portland, OR 97204
So now he Missus wants to make sure we visit Le Pigeon next time! I think She's ready for it.
After dinner, we headed around the block to Bailey's Taproom for a nightcap. I loved the display which showed the status of every keg and what was lined up.
Loved the half pours, 10 ounces was enough for me after all the rich food. A bit too many hipsters, but we enjoyed the place.
Here's what it looks like in daylight as I walked by the next morning. Great selection....
Bailey’s Taproom 213 SW Broadway Portland, OR 97205
Ever since we've been doing a good amount of travel internationally, the Missus really hasn't been too keen travelling much in the US, other than heading "home" to visit Her parents and such. But, we had such a great time on our recent visit to Seattle, a city we used to visit almost yearly, that the Missus asked me if I'd like to take a belated birthday trip to Portland. I'd heard that the food scene in PDX has really taken off in the last couple years and it had been over 7 years since our last visit. In other words, we were overdue. I always enjoyed the city, folks are very nice, almost borderline too friendly at times....even the street kids are often quite polite. We did notice a few changes since our last visit immediately; many, many, more hipsters.....man, I don't think they sell many razors in PDX anymore. Folks seemed even more eccentric....some of the outfits wouldn't be out of place in Shibuya! Loved the gal who walked out of one of the business high rises; briefcase in tow, rockin' shiny tap dance shoes featuring bright red bows, a polka dot mini skirt, and a mouse-ear barrette! Keep Portland Weird indeed....or were the folks just doing a reverse satire of Portlandia?
Did I mention the easy $2.50 Max Red Line from the airport to downtown. That, added to being able to check in at 945am at the Paramount, and things were starting out well.
We were of course starving....and downtown Portland is a very easy walking town. Tasty N Alder had been on my list for a while and the Missus and I enjoy family style......
The place was quite full when we arrived....mid-morning and all. Our Server was the most amazingly cheerful and friendly woman. I wish I got her name....friendly, efficient, did a great job talking to us about the menu. She made our visit so pleasant and pleasurable.
always on the look-out for veggies, we started with the Radicchio ($6), which turned out to be the Missus's favorite dish of the trip. In fact, She requested a return visit just for this supposedly simple looking salad.
This dish was just so subtly excellent, from the nice crisp thick cut bacon lardons, to the ice cold radicchio, prepped perfectly, without any of the bitter bite. Topped with crumbled egg...you know how much the Missus loves Her eggs, right. The manchego cheese was shredded so fine that I asked if it was done using a microplane (it is). The cheese melted into the wonderful dressing thickening it....I also think there's some bacon fat in the dressing as well. It was thick and rich in a pleasant way......almost like the best possible Caesar dressing. Wonderful!
Curious, we ordered the "Saigon Brussel Sprouts". Actually, the flavor is more Thai influenced.
The Missus took one bite and said, "I know this flavor....you know this flavor....you make stuff using these flavors". This indeed had the Palm Sugar-Fish Sauce-Garlic flavor I use for making my Thai Garlic Shrimp. Though this is much more sweet and is glazed. I loved the idea and knew I'd be making this after we returned home.
The Smoke Trout Board ($10) was our least favorite item of the day. The trout was decently smoked, but nothing special, the 6 minute egg was over done, though the pickled beets are really great with a nice, balanced flavor.
I was fascinated with the Patatas Bravas, which turned out to be a huge portion for $7. And to make the Missus even more happy it was topped with....you guessed it, two more easy over eggs. That make about five eggs if you're counting.
The garlic aioli had a wonderful "punch", the potatoes had the great texture of spuds that had been twice fried as the interior was fairly creamy. It was a bit too salty and the sauce seemed a bit heavy handed with regards to paprika, but you can't say it was bland.
So this with coffee....what do you think this would cost in San Diego? Here it was $33.......almost a shocking bargain for us. Plus no sales tax. I'd forgotten how reasonably priced things were in Portland.
Like I mentioned before, the woman who waited on us was just a joy. While the Missus went to the restroom, she stopped by and we had a nice chat about the food scene in the city. She told me that the last 3-4 years have been quite amazing for the city. Man, I was looking forward to the rest of our trip.
After brunch we headed off to see some familiar sites and to make one important stop....Powell's Books. To quote something from an earlier post that included Powell's; "yes, it's all true; the bookstore takes up an entire city block. And yes, you do need a map to get around. And yes.....used books are mixed in with the new. And yes, I think there are people living in Powell's, that may have not left in years" I managed to pull myself away from Powell's.......
Powell's Books 1005 W Burnside Portland, OR 97209 USA
I really enjoyed the "Pearl" district on my previous visits so we walked on over....man, it's gotten even more upscale since our last visit. Lots of development. The Missus couldn't resist dropping by the Whole Foods to take a peek and even bought some goji berries which were $7/lb cheaper than in San Diego.
The beer selection was pretty darn good as well. This looked like a nice Whole Foods.
We walked a bit more, then headed back to the hotel for a nap. We both woke a 4am to catch our flight, so a nap was in order......
Before our recent trip to Portland, there was not enough good things I could say about Pok Pok. And as time went by I became even more excited. You see, from the little "shed that could", the Whiskey Soda Lounge had evolved, with a more interesting and diverse menu(no worries...Pok Pok "to go" is still there). I could hardly wait. As I noted in my previous post, this was mainly a trip for my In-Laws, but the Missus and I made plans for at least one meal in each city just for us. And for us, this meant catching the #4 bus, and getting off on SE Division.
Knowing that the Whiskey Soda Lounge didn't accept reservations, we made sure to get there as early as possible. We saw the sign, and the path that traveled down a short cement path to the basement and the Whiskey Soda Lounge. It was quite interesting, the last time I visited this was just a ditch!
The tall gentleman met us at the little portable metal desk, and said simply, "this way", and walked us into the Whiskey Soda Lounge.
I liked the dark and "divey" interior which does play on the imagination, I could almost imagine being in a foreign land.
This is where we hit a bump in the road. I can understand the close proximity of the tables in the WSL. I mean, it is a basement. When we arrived, only 3 tables were occupied, and there were several booths against the back wall, each unoccupied. We were taken to what must be the second tiniest table in the restaurant, right in front of the window where you could see some of the cooking done in the yard. Because the booths were empty, the Missus asked if we could have one of the booths. The tall gentleman looked down at us, and crossing his hands said, "no, absolutely not, the booths are for parties of 3 or more." Which was fine by us...EXCEPT, that not 5 minutes later a couple walked in, and was seated. They asked to sit at the very booth that we had been denied, and the host told them, "ok, no problem!" Go figure.....the Missus, a bit perturbed told me, "okay, you got your restaurant...we're going to eat, and leave, A-S-A-P!" She obviously felt slighted, and didn't appreciate the Host's somewhat gruff attitude.
So off to the food. Of course we started with the Papaya "Pok Pok" and requested Blue Crab...oops, correction, we were told Salted Black Crab($7.50 + $2.50):
As good as I remembered, very balanced in flavor, a nice refreshing salty-sweet-sour in flavor. Still one of my favorite versions of this classic dish.
The Kung Op Woon Sen($14.00). We could watch this clay pot dish cooking over charcoal through the window.
A nice dish, at the bottom of this clay pot was a layer of pork belly, nice and slightly charred, and several very large shrimp, though very mild in flavor, cooked to perfection. The flavor of soy came through quite well.
I was very excited to see Cha Ca "La Vong" ($14.00)on the menu. This dish is one of those, "to have before I die dishes." Of course it would have to be at Cha Ca La Vong in Hanoi.
In retrospect, I should have probably ordered something else, perhaps the Pork Ribs or Chicken Wings. I did enjoy the dill and all the herbs, but I found the "tumeric scented" catfish to be very dry, and the version of nuoc mam cham tasted very weak. I had expected some Mam Tom - fermented shrimp paste to be provided, but should have known better. Some friends recently had their Mom make some Cha Ca for the Missus and I, and it is an amazingly good dish. I did notice that the Cha Ca is no longer on the menu at Pok Pok WSL.
Would I return to Pok Pok? Of course, I think the food here is quite good. Though it'll probably be a solo visit. It seems that Andy Ricker's hard work has paid off, I found out courtesy of Guilty Carnivore, that The Oregonian has named Pok Pok it's restaurant of the year.
You know, I think that what happened to us at Pok Pok was magnified, simply because of how nice people were in Portland. Case in point, we were waiting for our cab to Union Station from the Embassy Suites. It was raining pretty hard, and we had been waiting for about 15 minutes. Before you knew it, the Shuttle Van for the Embassy Suites pulls up, and the nice Bellman comes out and tells me, "we're going to take you to Union Station, your cab is taking too long!" Talk about service!
For people who don't like to eat in restaurants, the In-Laws sure did enjoy the breakfast buffets at the Embassy Suites. I on the other had other things in mind. And though several people mentioned that the location of the Embassy Suites in Downtown Portland was right on the "edge" of the more "scary" part of Downtown Portland, we had no problems. In fact I loved that we were just a block away from two of my favorite places in Portland.
This small and dark little doughnut shop with the edgy-punk look makes up some pretty good doughnuts.
And though there are many "fun" and offbeat names....stuff like the "Triple Chocolate Penetration", the "Arnold Palmer", and the ah..ahem, "Cock-n-Balls", being the unhip and boring Guy that I am...I just order the Old Fashioned Glazed. Now the Missus needs to undergo some serious Krispy Kreme deprogramming, She found the doughnut too light and fluffy, and gasp".... old fashioned", but not so bad that She was able to hold off taking a bite until I took a photo.
As you can see it is good stuff! Reminds me of the doughnuts we used to get at this little renegade doughnut shop in Honolulu Chinatown. The shop located in a tiny doorway would only open from midnight to about 6 am, and made some great doughnuts.
Voodoo Doughnut 22 Sw 3rd Ave Portland, OR 97204
It was my plan to take my doughnut down the street and grab a cup o' joe from my favorite coffee shop in Portland(the doughnut never made it):
Now from what I understand Stumptown hand roasts all their own coffee beans in small batches. Just watching the Baristas hard at work, you can tell they're pros.
And though the crew is rather "detached" and the room cavernous(better for the afternoon DJ, I guess) and loud. The coffee is always rich and smooth. All three cups I had there were excellent. The Missus even thought the coffee was "too smooth", and lacked character....sounds like She needs some Starbucks deprogramming as well!
Stumptown Coffee Roasters 128 Sw 3rd Ave Portland, OR 97204
Now the In-Laws are not big on lunch, so I managed to sneak in a "snack" from this booth:
I ordered some Pierogies($4.75). You know me and dumplings! A friend's Mom used to always make us fresh pierogies when she visited, and boy did I love them! These however, were not that good.
The toppings were much better than the pierogies. The potatoes were really dry. But still this was more than enough carbs to keep me going.
You see, the day was just beginning. With the help of FOY ("friend of yoso") Guilty Carnivore(thanks, man!), I was able to plan our day to the last detail. Some timing was involved, you see, even though the Max Light Rail ran every few minutes to Washington Park, the Washington Park Shuttle wasn't beginning service until later in the month. So we had to coordinate our arrival with Route 63, or wait up to an hour between buses. As it happened we did well, and made to our destination.....first
The International Rose Test Garden.
And though we were a bit early in the season, and many of the roses weren't in bloom, we still enjoyed the beauty of it all.
When I asked my In-Laws where they wanted to visit on this trip to the Mainland, they said Seattle. They also said they wanted to go by train....... Which was no problem really, I've taken Amtrak's Coast Starlight several times, though my trips have always been from Seattle to LA. So what we did was send off the In-Laws on Amtrak, and leave on a flight the next morning since the Coast Starlight takes about 36 hours to reach Portland. We arrived a bit early, and got to our hotel at about 1pm. Since the standard check-in time is 3pm, I thought we'd check our luggage, get a bite to eat, and stretch our legs a bit. When we arrived I went to the Bellman and asked to check my bags. In the typical Portland manner, he told me, "that would be fine, but why don't you just check at the front desk, your room might be ready." And to my surprise our 2 bedroom suite was ready. Seems like my lucky day. After freshening up a bit, we were starved, and just wanted something quick to eat...and I knew just the place!
Yep, we headed to the food carts that line SW 5th Avenue. Now I had told the Missus about these food carts, and she saw my photos and my previous post, but there's nothing quite like being there yourself. The only problem was deciding what to get.....
The Missus settled on some Indian Food, not from the New Taste of India...
But from the "Real" Taste of India a few carts down. Talk about competition!
Now this food cart had a 9th anniversary special going on....some chicken-something or other, but the Missus was in the mood for lamb, and ordered the Lamb Saagwala, cubes of lamb cooked in a spinach, garlic, and ginger sauce/stew($7.00).
The portion size was quite large, and we weren't able to finish it. There was an abundance of well prepared and moist lamb. Didn't quite know what to expect, and this was better than what I had anticipated. I thought that the pieces of ginger were too large and disrupted my tastebuds at inopportune times, but the Missus loved it! In fact, She told me it was Her best meal in Portland....She was kidding....I think.......
In the midst of ordering paralysis, I decided to grab something from this Food Cart, called Thai Sky(????):
Since we had plans for a nice dinner, I decided on the Daily Special, Pad Kee Mao(Drunken Noodles) with Tofu($5.00):
I ordered this at medium heat, and it was a bit hotter than what I consider medium. The noodles were done well, they where a nice al dente. The flavor was interesting, I'm used to Pad Kee Mao that's had a bit of a sweet flavor, this version just had a mild soy(not fish sauce) flavor. Still, it did the job, which was to hold me over until dinner.
There's a ton of construction on 5th and 6th avenues for a new Max rail line called Green Line which will connect Portland State University to Union Station. So signs like the one on the right are on Evey corner listing the businesses. Did I mention that I love the public transportation system in Portland?
At about this time the Missus got a call from Her Mom telling Her that their train had been delayed about 2 hours. so we decided to take a walk around Portland. And after doing a bit of window shopping, the Missus told me that She needed "something sweet". Which was no problem since we were just up the street from Mio Gelato.
This coffeeshopish looking Gelato joint had always been full everytime I passed it on my last trip to Portland, so I figured it must be worth a try. The Missus did the ordering, so we don't remember the prices. But She got one scoop of Grapefruit, and one scoop of Mango.
Not being much of a "sweets" person, I found the Grapefruit to be very much to my liking ( all credit to the Missus here). Refreshing and palate cleansing, it was very nice. Both the Missus (who has a sweet tooth) and I found the mango gelato to be overly sweet and rich, which overpowered any mango flavor.
Still, I can see why this place is very popular.
Mio Gelato 25 NW 11th Ave Portland, OR 97209
As we made our way back to the hotel, the Missus received another call from Her Mom saying that the train is further delayed...bummer! And though the Missus's Parents were not as late as we thought, by the time we got them settled, and something to eat (they have an aversion to eating in restaurants), we were very tired. So with some reluctance we crossed Biwa off our list, and walked on over to Kell's 2 blocks away.
Having been to Kell's in Seattle, I knew more or less what to expect, and really won't go into details here. Though as always, the Missus asked if they had some rice for Her Irish Stew(maybe one of these days they will) which was pretty good. And She enjoyed the soda bread.
Everyone was ordering sandwiches and burgers, but I ordered the Fish and Chips which were pretty bad. The fish dry and flavorless, and the chips are basic "industrial" fries.
Still, that draft Boddington's was nice, not overly chilled, but a perfect "cool", nice and mildly creamy, with a sweet finish. After a sip, the Missus decided that She wanted the Boddington's, so I ordered a Harp, which I thought would be too bitter for Her, but after a sip She decided that "this" was Her beer. So I finished with a draft Guinness, which I know the Missus won't touch. Strangely, it tasted over carbonated and very dull in flavor. Oh well, we were still in Portland, and had another whole day ahead of us!
You know, I've written about the sincere kindness of the people of Portland before. But still, I'm always surprised.......
We were taking a break at Pioneer Courthouse Square, just having a seat to rest our feet a bit. And we noticed amongst all the construction, there seemed to be a major "to do" being set-up.
We were wondering what this event was. Just about that time, a Police Officer happened to walk past, and the Missus decided to ask him. Now usually we'd get a gruff "I don't know", or some distracted answer.... But this Gentleman replied; "I'm just on duty, so let me find out, I'll be right back..." Which made me feel really bad, I didn't want to be taking up His time. A few minutes later, He's walking back to us, and is talking on a cellphone. As he walks up to us, we can overhear that he's asking someone our question! Now, I'm really feeling guilty, since I'm sure he has more important things to do..... By the time he reached us, I could tell that he'd made a few calls, and he explained to us, what this was. Funny thing is, neither the Missus nor I can remember what event this was. But we sure remember that police officer! As I tried to mutter an apology for taking up his precious time, he smiled and told me, "well, you may be the first person who asks me what is going on here, but you probably won't be the last. So I better know what's happening." As he left, he introduced Himself and shook our hands..... So here's to you Officer Thompson! You're a great ambassador for the City of Portland!