On our way from the Willamette (see Part 1 – Wine and Weirdness), Portland, Oregon, here we come. Most people associate Portland with craft beer, weirdness, and hipsters. Well I’m here to say it ain’t just about craft beer…
We arrived at the Monaco Hotel, a Kimpton. If you haven’t ever stayed at a Kimpton, you need to. Daily free happy hour with wine, beer, and goldfish (crackers), it is pet-friendly so there are always dogs around, they have a free bike borrowing program, and of course you can request a fish (not a cracker) as a pet in your room should you feel lonely!
So we headed out to see the city. Apparently horn rim glasses were required wear here. We eventually found ourselves in the legendary Powell’s books, the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. You haven’t lived until you’ve been lost in Powell’s. But seriously, it was very impressive. We moved onto a quick bite at a food cart pod. What is that? Portland has over 700 food carts, which are like mini food trucks, more like food trailers. They have 60 surrounding a city block sized parking lot. I ate at Steak Your Claim, home of The Hammer, which is a new twist on a traditional cheesesteak, with ribeye, bacon, white truffle oil, provolone, and malt vinegar aioli. Hmmm, hmmm, heart attack! I didn’t make it to Grilled Cheese Grill that uses grilled cheese sandwiches instead of bread for their burgers. Artery clogging goodness, but who needs those later years anyway…
We signed up for a bicycle tour, because, (a) this is a bicycle city (20% of people cycle to work!), (b) we needed a way to get familiar with the city, and (c) we need to work off just a few calories from the Willamette and now the food carts. We signed up with Cycle Portland Bicycle Tours. Gareth greeted us and took three of us out for a two-hour tour all over the Pearl District, across the river via an amazing steel bridge, downtown, etc. He pointed out what he claimed to be the best burger in Portland, a place called Tilt, told us to get the small fries, as the large fries were the size of, well, we got the gesture of making your arms as wide as possible. So after the amazing tour ($40/head), we headed back to Tilt. We split “The Big Tilt”, which I highly recommend. We avoided the ridiculously amazing looking desserts, I had no idea why at this point. We headed back to the hotel for a nap, when a good friend texted me to say he and his wife could meet us at the Kimpton happy hour.
And here was where our trip got really non-weird. Shared a drink there, then headed to their favorite restaurant Biwa, a Japanese Izakaya. This guy is a foodie, so if it is the best restaurant in Portland it must be amazing. He did not lie. They were playing the full album Cold Fact by Rodriguez, the singer from the documentary Searching for Sugarman that, unbeknownst to him, became a sensation in South Africa. If you haven’t seen it yet, see it. But I digress. We sampled quite a few sakes, great appetizers of yakitori skewers and other morsels at the bar, with friendly, engaging cooks firing things right in front of you. Then onto an amazing dinner at Olympic Provisions, including a sampling of their famous Charcuterie (get the Nola). We had grand designs of going to hear live music at the Mississippi Studios or any one of the dozens of live music venues throughout town one could find on www.pc-pdx.com, but alas, it was late, we were tired and hit the hotel for much needed recharge.
And now, back to the weirdness…
We woke up in the morning and hit the FREE Secrets of Portlandia Tour led by the incomparable Eric. He was funny as he told us the history of Portland and showed us some of the interesting sites. It would not be Portland without a little rain, but the tour must go on. We saw the world’s smallest park (check Guinness), visited the famous Saturday Farmer’s market (one of many markets all over town), learned of the Portland Penny (flipped to determine name of the town back in ~1850), the solar powered recycling bins throughout the city, the 55 breweries within Portland city limits, and saw countless examples of street art and statues.
We headed out to Division street to check out the up and coming quirky shops/neighborhood and found ourselves for lunch at Pok Pok, Andy Ricker’s, James Beard Foundation recognized, a Thai restaurant with amazing wing bean salad (just order it), highly addictive Vietnamese wings (I know it is a Thai place, but again just order it), and the best thing, literally, was the red fire water spinach (again, just, well you know) Afterwards, we had some of the strangest, yet delicious, flavors of ice cream at Salt and Straw: “Stumptown Coffee and Bourbon” and “Honey Balsamic Strawberry with Cracked Pepper”. This stop is a must!!
We then headed to the International Rose Test Garden in the beautiful Washington Park, up in the hills surrounding of Portland. Not much to say other than to look at the amazing photo and realize it was just rows and rows of different varieties of roses as far as the eye could see and walked through and smelled along the way. Apparently there were more than red, yellow, and pink with red accents, who knew.
Next stop, world famous VooDoo Doughnuts to pick up a few dozen to bring back for colleagues Monday. This place had maple bacon bars, Wasabi filled doughnuts, and tons of other crazy flavors. They were famously shut down at one point for selling doughnuts filled with such things as Pepto Bismal and Nyquil. Apparently the FDA didn’t take kindly to selling drug filled sweets… Luckily for us they have since reopened. Tip: go to the one downtown to check out the funky, original building, but avoid the 1-2 hour line (no joke) by going 10 blocks away to the second outpost with NO line.
Were we full yet? No. We had a quick “dinner” near VooDoo before hitting the airport for our 9:30pm flight, at 24th and Meatballs. Great name right? It was on 24th as expected and they served a various types of, yes you guessed it, meatballs. Totally worth it!
As we sat in the airport and I thought about this article I was going to write, I was thinking that four days was not enough for this joint trip to the Willamette and Portland, but we did a lot and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. So grab an Alaska Air ticket and go experience the wine and the weirdness!