Eating My Way Through Portland

4 Jun

Double S and I recently went to Portland.  It rained a lot, so mainly we ate and drank.  As I’ve said, I never travel without spending some serious time online checking out the local favorites (Garsh, I sound like someone’s square dad) and seeking out some sweet recommendations from pals.  The effort has not disappointed us yet, and this trip was no different.  I consulted the previously mentioned 100 Things to Eat/Drink in Portland list, Yelp, and some local chums who frequent Portland (Hey TinTin!).  Good news!  We hardly ate a thing that we didn’t love!  It was a beautiful thing, friends!  Here’s the first song on the roadtrippin’ mixtape I made for Double S–the trip was her birthday gift, you see.

Loretta! And a pitcher to go!

Portland is a great city.  Seattle may arguably be more beautiful, what with mountains and water pretty much everywhere the eye can see, but Portland has a smaller city neighborhood vibe that is really alluring.  It always seems to feel like you could make a go of it when you’re in Portland.  We spent most of our time in the Southeast area.

We had just arrived in Portland, and boy were our arms tired, when we huddled under the roof at Pok Pok, and ate an amazing lunch while being sheltered from a sudden torrential downpour.  Pok Pok was probably the most recommended place we went, and we were not disappointed.  We shared a papaya salad, because we can’t eat Thai food without eating a papaya salad, and Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce chicken wings, which are marinated in fish sauce, garlic and sugar before they are fried and then tossed with carmelized fish sauce and garlic.  Now chicken wings are something I’ve never liked and definitely never ordered at a restaurant of my own free will.  Too much hair and gristle and bone.  Oh and too much bone sucking.  Eww.  But these were awesome!  Spicy, and not too greasy.  Delicious.  And highly recommended.  Double S and I almost didn’t order these puppies because of aforementioned aversion to wings.  Do not EVEN hesitate!

Pok Pok's fish sauce wings, served with a little palate cleansing salad on the side.

We also got our drink on (dated slang alert!).  It’s a long boring drive between Seattle and Portland.  Double S had a house infused g and t, and I had a Thai Bloody Mary.  But the star of the drink menu is the drinking vinegar.  I had the plum drinking vinegar, as I had missed the sign with the drinking vinegar specials—where they had such seasonal drinking vinegar infused flavors as rhubarb.  D’oh!  But the plum was great.  Definitely one of my 5 favorite things I ate/drank on the trip.  I would have drank about 5 more of these vinegars if I wouldn’t have had such a long eating/drinking itinerary for the weekend.  Why yes, it is hard to be me.  I like kombucha, but drinking vinegar is like kombucha, if kombucha was really, really good.

Do enjoy a drinking vinegar, and sit out at Pok Pok's outdoor seating area!

That night we headed to Ken’s Artisan Pizza, which I read was the best pizza in town.  I’m a pizza whore, so I had to check it out.  The wait time was bananas, y’all.  Over an hour, standing room only, basically lined up down a hallway!  But we were in good moods, and we got a little corner standing table, so we drank wine and oogled the food and drink of our fellow patrons.  Finally, we were offered a spot at the bar, which we took because people were eating mad slow, yo!  The fennel sausage pizza was highly recommended, and Double S and I are on a fennel kick, so we got it, and a prosciutto pie with a side of arugula, because we f’ing love arugula.  The pizzas were delicious!

Ken's fennel sausage pizza. Peppers are offered for the side. Say yes!

The prosciutto pie--thanks to the fine single gentleman next to us for the idea!

The crust was perfectly chewy and salty and bubbly.  They had an open kitchen.  They have an extensive wine list, and even offer half bottles.  But who are we kidding?  Get a full bottle!  Don’t make the mistake we did!

They cook everything in their wood fired oven, which was fun to watch.  This pizza was on par with Veraci in Seattle, which is a good thing.

Ken's open kitchen.

The loaves of bread that came with some meals looked amazing, and we vowed to hit up Ken’s Artisan Bakery (That Ken!  He is an artisan!) before we headed back to Sea-town.  Highly recommended!

Even later that night we stumbled upon the The Victory Bar.  Holy balls did they have good drinks!  I used to be a straight up beer drinker, but lately I can’t get enough cocktails, particularly gin based ones.  If you’re in the same boat, or if you have a hankering for bourbon–their specialty, head to the Victory Bar.

A night cap at the Victory. Ooh la la!

Plus, the super nice waitress offered us a free Bourbon Ginger, saying that they had an extra.  I guess that an order was messed up or something, but it was a happy accident, because this was the best of what we drank.  It had bourbon ginger ale with fresh ginger, orange and cardamom, which was a taste sensation.  Service was great, and so was the ambiance.  Perfect for a late night.

After sleeping off all that eating and rain and walking, we got up and hightailed it to Pine State Biscuits.  I first discovered Pine State a few years back, when going with Double S to Portland for the first time.  This was back in 2007, when Pine State was but a booth at the amazing farmer’s market at Portland State University (more about that later).  At the time, after eating my sausage biscuit with egg and cheese, I lamented the fact that, 1) I have to lawyer and not make biscuits and open up a biscuit stand exactly like Pine State, and 2) That Seattle has no such biscuit awesomeness.  Sad day.  But finally, and it was an event 3 years in the making, I made it to Pine State’s cute-ass store front.  And I was not disappointed.  Well, except in our over-ordering.  Our eyes were way bigger than our stomachs, friends, and this made it so we couldn’t nosh (New York!) that day as much as I would have preferred.

Get used to it. You'll be outside for awhile if you come to Pine State on a Saturday or Sunday morn.

So when you get there, if it’s the weekend, you’ll be waiting in line outside.  The place is small.  And it has rules, which I love, because when they are unspoken, people break them and it makes me pissed. Not here.  Everyone waits their turn, and it works out perfectly.

The chalkboard menu and the rules, at Pine State.

Double S and I got a table, and so did the group in front of and behind us, and there are only like 5-6 tables.  If you don’t get a table, don’t fret my pet.  The bar next door lets you eat there, and they have Bloody Marys!  Based on the 100 Things list mentioned above, we got the McIsley–which was fried chicken, mustard, pickles, with a drizzle of honey.  Pine State can fry itself some chicken, I do declare.  This sandwich was awesome.  Double S loved it, particularly the honey drizzle.  And based on what I ate back in ’07, and because it’s classic, we also got the sausage, egg and cheese biscuit.

The amazing McIsley. Fried chicken, mustard and pickles. With honey. You won't regret it.

A simple classic. It all comes together perfectly. Even if you have an annoying mom next to you speaking in baby talk to her exasperated husband and her equally exasperated child. Young moms: Stop with the baby talk. Nobody wins.

Both were truly superb.  I hope you don’t have plans to eat for the next 8 hours.  You won’t be able to.  Tip: Skip the sides, they were fine but nothing to write home about.  They do have Columbia Gorge fresh squeezed organic OJ for cheap.  That is some good OJ.

Next, we headed to the truly amazing farmer’s market at Portland State University.  Now, as you know, I love farmer’s markets, and Seattle has some great ones.  And I go to them whenever possible.  So when I say this is probably the best market I’ve been to in the Pac NW, there’s some research behind that statement, danielsons.  It’s huge, and I guess the fact that it’s 3.5 hours or so south of Seattle make a difference.  We saw a lot more produce than we saw even weeks later in Seattle.

Of course we treated ourselves to some strawberries. The first good ones of the season!

Double S got me hooked on greens 5 years ago. So we got our fix of kale, collards and chard. Did you know all of the above are great raw in salads? Just dress it a bit early, so the dressing can soak in.

The highlights of the market, besides the amazing produce, were some out of this world butter from Jacob’s Creamery.  I’m serious.  This stuff was off the hook.  It’s like you’ve never had butter before.  Smear it on a good baguette and taste the amazing undertones that you never knew you could find in butter.  The second highlight was hard cider from Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, coming to you straight out of Salem, Oregon.  This was the best cider I’ve ever had.  And I drink a lot of hard cider.  The dude gives out lots of free samples.  Do stop in; he’ll give you a deal.  We left with two bottles that didn’t last too long here at the homestead. We had the 2007 semi dry and the Wanderlust.  Forget everything you thought you know about cider (so long, Woodchuck!) and check out this booth.  Can I get this stuff in Seattle???

Later that day, when I was finally able to ingest more foodstuffs (and drinkstuffs),  and after browsing the Pearl district and hitting up Powell’s, where we picked up a few cool little (no relation!) books, I had just enough room in my stomach to try vac pot coffee.

Double S waiting pateitnly for me to document my $9 vac pot coffe.  If you like coffee, it's worth a try.

Double S waiting patiently for me to document my vac pot coffee experience. If you like coffee, it's worth a try.

The  the people at Barista were friendly.  The barista at Barista explained the whole vac pot process step by step.  Coffee used to be made this way, you see, until the 50s rolled around and food/drink got gradually shittier and quicker. Water is heated in a lower vessel until the expansion of the water forces said water into an upper vessel containing coffee grounds. We were given our choice of local or non locally roasted coffee, and were told of hints of berries and other substances that made it seem more like a wine or tea tasting.  When the lower vessel has emptied itself, the heat is decreased and the the vacuum that is created draws the now coffee back into the lower chamber. Or something.  Try it for yourself!  This isn’t science hour!

The coffee brewing station. Just ask and they'll tell you how it's done.

The coffee was crisp and clean, and to me didn’t need any added milk or sugar.  It was an experience, and it pepped me up for the remainder of the day.  Ah, coffee.

When we were finally able to eat again, we hit up another food cart, of which Portland has like a zillon.  This time we went to Bombay Chaat House for some chaat.  And free chai!

Not to be confused with the India Chaat House, which is right next door. It was closed at the time, or else we would have had a chaat from each!

Saucy, salty, cheap and delicious!

We ate it on the street and were hungry for more, but we had to save our appetite.  Dinner time was coming.

For said dinner, after much debate, we headed to Nuestro Cocina.  And we were glad we did.  Holy crap!  This place was awesome.  We started with margs which they gladly told us how they made (fresh citrus!), and moved on to their antojitos, which were all we ordered, and that was a good decision.  We had the soup (sopa de lima con pollo), which was so limey and delicious, and with salty and perfectly crispy tortilla strips on top.  We also had the queso fundido.  Yowza! This was no crappy cheesy dip from your local strip mall Mexican place (Azteca, I’m looking at you!).  This was Oaxacan cheese cooked to perfection.  From the recommendation on the 100 things list, we had the sopes.  These had a really subtle sweetness akin to mole that made you come back for more, and the sopes themselves were more bready than deep fried, as I’d previously had.  But back to the soup.  The soup was so good that we ordered a SECOND soup.  Yep, that good.  And it had another open kitchen  We sat at the bar there, drank margs, and watched the magic.

The effin' amazing soup.

What was left of the delicious sopes. They didn't last much longer.

The next morning we were raring to go again.  First, as promised we went to Ken’s Artisan Bakery for some pastries and (Stumptown–simply the best!) lattes.  Kind of a perfect Sunday morning, no?

Two lattes, an Oregon croissant (with blackberries) and a rhubarb tartlet with awesomely tart rhubarb and a delicious flaky crust. Can every Sunday be like this? Please?

After another amazing experience with Ken, and getting a pain rustique and a baguette for the road, we headed to the Mississippi Avenue area to walk around. I had wanted to go to Pastaworks, and I wasn’t disappointed.  This place was the shit, duders!

The Pastaworks cheese counter. Do pay attention to their monthly specials on their chalkboard overhead, and don't be afraid to ask for samples before you buy. The staff is friendly!

We got pickles (because I cannot see a pickle without buying it) and local cheeses (Oregonzola from the Rogue Creamery and Willamette Valley’s Brindisi Fontina which was as good with a baguette as it was topping our fresh pasta later in the week).  We got some Humboldt Fog to round out our order, which I’d never tried.  Humboldt Fog is a classic amongst cheese people, and we both really liked it.  Tangy and light with just a hint of acid.  Perfect with crackers!    We also got the housemade rigatoni, was just blew regular dried pastas out of the water, and was a bargain to boot.

After Pastaworks, we headed to The Meadow, which I saw mentioned on 101 Cookbooks as a veritable salt emporium, and thus I couldn’t pass it up!  I bought more salt that I probably need, and I loved it!

This is just a piece if the salt wall at The Meadow. Salt everywhere! And you can sample every kind!

We got lemon flake finishing salt, some Kala Namak/black salt, truffle salt (which I cannot wait to use on fries and potato salad), and some Halen Mon Gold finishing salt, which I intend to put over some fancy vanilla ice cream, amongst other things.  We also got some chocolates and some salt caramels which were to die for.  There were a wall of these too.  Come prepared to spend some time, browsing and sampling.

Finally, after browsing a cute nursery with a city chickens class in progress and purchasing a few asparagus crowns and an olive tree (exciting!), we went to Moxie Rx, which just might be the cutest place on the planet.

Need I say more?

All we had was a juice and a Meyer lemon dessert to take home, which we devoured that evening back at the homestead.  The juice had grapefruit and basil and and homemade seltzer, and it was a keeper–exhilarating and refreshing. It was kinda pricey for a drink, but worth it!

Even the menu is cute.

Finally, as the rain was getting worse and the trip was coming to an end, we hit up one more food cart, and lordy, was it a highlight.  We went to Garden State, for Italian street food.

Portland has a food cart culture that you kind of have to see to believe. You name it, there's a cart for it. Garden State, menu shown here, was one of the best we tried all weekend.

Holy crap!  If you’re in Portland, run, don’t walk to Garden State.  We had the recommended meatball sub, and Double S’s choice, the Alaskan cod sandwich, which was possibly my favorite thing I ate all weekend.  The Alaskan cod sandwich, which doesn’t seem to be a regular on the menu, had good olive oil, spicy greens, red potato (which were a surprise and were well-placed), nice tart and acidic oranges, and was sitting on a tasty chewy, QUALITY roll.  This sandwich was a delight, and almost two weeks later…I’m still thinking about it.  Mmm, an open faced club sand wedge.  I mean, Alaskan cod sandwich.

The Alaskan cod sandwich. Note all the greens. They (and the high quality olive oil) really made the sandwich.

The meatball sandwich was delicious too.  It just had to compete with a sandwich that kinda brought me to a new understanding of what a fish sandwich could be.  But it had good qualityethical meat, creamy mozz, and a tangy marinara.  Delicious!

The meatball sandwich, as held by Double S, who may have a future as a hand model. This sub was one of her favorite eats of the weekend!

Portland!

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One Response to “Eating My Way Through Portland”

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  1. 101 Things to Eat/Drink in Seattle: 11-15! « oh, briggsy… - June 30, 2010

    […] in Portland, eating some amazing food–a lot of it out of food trucks. You know all about it, I hope.   Food trucks in Seattle are not as numerous or as awesome as a whole as the trucks in […]

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