On the flight to Auckland I watched a few episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. My bf Harriet, like Anthony, is willing to try any food and appreciates provocative taste combinations. A few weeks ago we met up for a girl’s weekend in Portland, Oregon. Harriet drove up from Humboldt County in time for Friday night dinner. Portland is a haven for foodies and we did our best to eat our way through town.
I arrived by plane earlier in the day and enjoyed the convenience of catching the light rail from the airport to downtown. Immediately I picked up on the Portland vibe where all the men have beards and even the women wear plaid. We were seeking: the Portlandia experience with the hipster dialed down just a bit.
Hetta and I like to stay at the Mark Spencer Hotel in the Pearl District because of its close proximity to the places we love most. It also allows pets and we keep promising ourselves to one day travel with Bill the cat or Radar the dog. I checked in and appreciated the updates to the rooms; for the same value they are seriously spruced up! And the front desk honored my return visit discount card (though the website did not when I made my reservations).
It was mid-afternoon and I was feeling peckish so I went across the street to Kenny and Zuke’s Deli and ordered the plate of all things pickled. It was tasty and a great way to wade into Portland cuisine—just up to my ankles.
While I may be a plodder when it comes to eating, I have a flair for shopping. I dropped in to a couple of my favorites in Portland. First Knit Purl, a yarn shop that has inspiring window displays and a terrific website. I found a Scandinavian knitting design book that will help me when I tackle my Norwegian pattern, and the most recent issue of Debbie Bliss’ magazine. I was tempted by the Shibui Knits yarn, but resisted. The weekend was just starting and I had plans to buy a bike. On the same block is Josephine’s Dry Goods fabric store. My stomach dropped when I saw the “We’re Closing” sale sign. The owner is retiring and she has every right to, but this was one of the few places I could count on finding terrific cotton prints, including Liberty of London. It is the anti-Joanne’s and next time in Portland it will not be there. (heavy sigh)For the weeks prior to my Portland weekend I researched the Brompton foldable bike. I fell in love with Brompton’s in a deluxe bike shop in Paris. On the website I discovered there were no dealers near where I live and there are two in Portland. Why not buy it in a place with no sales tax? The first shop on my list is across the street from our hotel. The Westend bike shop has a great selection of bikes and a coffee bar (of course). They only had a couple of Brompton’s in stock and I was able to take one for a test drive. It was very comfortable to ride and I was convinced that this was going to be my next bike purchase. I decided not to pull the trigger until Harriet arrived and we had a chance to go the second shop.
Hetta and I have been friends since second grade and we bonded over children’s books. Her mom would take us to the library each week and we would both check out the limit, read them quickly and then trade before the week was up. We still share books, so of course part of the Pearl District’s allure is that it hosts the Powell’s Books flagship store. We always spent a considerable amount of time at Powell’s.
The plan for dinner on Friday was to drive to the Alberta neighborhood to meet up with my friend Lisa and her partner Meg and walk to Pok Pok Noi. Added bonus, this is the neighborhood that inspired Beverly Cleary’s books (Henry Huggins, Ramona and Beezus). I found Pok Pok on Urban Spoon and then Lisa and Meg confirmed that it was inspired Thai food. The menu is not typical thai. We started with the amazing chicken wings and ate all kinds of other terrific dishes with sticky rice. We walked back via Alberta Street and managed to work up enough appetite for Meg’s truly amazing blueberry and mascarpone tart.
On Saturday we started our day with breakfast at Tasty n Alder. Harriet went for the Korean egg dish–it finished cooking at the table and had yummy, spicy, crunchy bits.
Lisa joined us later in the morning and we walked to Portland State University for the Saturday market. On the way we passed at least 3 parking lots full of food trucks. Portland embraced permissive zoning and as a result it is much easier for creative chefs to get a start. Many of them have crossed over to brick and mortar restaurants. The Saturday Market is also chock a block with food stalls. Even though we were not hungry, we tried a delicious lamb dish.The walking helped, but while I was watching Anthony Bourdain, I had a flashback to the feeling in Portland—too much rich and wonderful food in too short a time. My stomach felt queasy watching Anthony eat so much black truffle, cheesy and saucy dishes in Quebec.
We parted with Lisa after hugs all around, and continued the shopping adventure. We drove to Hawthorne Boulevard to Clever Cycles to complete my quest for a foldable bike. Eureka! This shop has a huge selection and a real Brompton enthusiast in Todd. I purchased the bike that I now call “Black Beauty” with Harriet’s full approval. We drove back via Reed College.
We decided to scale back with dinner and walked to Lardo, one of Portland’s food truck success stories. I scaled back my order, but I still found room to try Ruby Jewel for a scoop of ice cream. The next morning we eased into the day with a walk to Mother’s Bistro and Bar for a full breakfast. It was decadent and delicious. Oh boy, my tummy was reaching “tilt”.
Harriet had a long drive ahead and left shortly after breakfast. I planned to write all day until my late evening flight. It was raining on and off so I kept one eye for a break in the weather to test drive my new bike. Getting a little exercise helped to balance out a high calorie, high friendship weekend.