Monday, September 21, 2015
thoughts on portland, oregon.
As an overenthusiastic foodie, I've had a desire for several years now to visit the Pacific Northwest. Besides San Francisco, no city seemed more populated with Farmers Markets, restaurants and doughnut shops then Portland and Seattle; for that reason I had to go.
Portland was the first stop on our trip and while it's a great city, it's not one I could live in. Mostly because I had a hard time figuring out what anyone actually does besides drink really good coffee and compost. It just doesn't feel like a city. It feels like a college town or maybe a place where people live after they made their millions in New York (because that's the only way one could afford such fancy coffee and beer). It's a little crunchy (I've never seen one store sell so many types of kombucha). Not necessarily a bad thing but perhaps not the thing for me (though I do love me some kombucha).
I barely made a dent in the food scene. There was only so much time and stomach space. But we did eat some pretty epic things and below is the list of my favorites. This is in no way a definite list, just the things I actually got a chance to eat and loved.
The Portland Farmers Market is the farmer's market of my dreams (it's Saturdays at PSU which is near the Pearl District). I probably love it as much as I do because it was the first thing we did in Portland on a day with near perfect weather. It's a good combination of farmers market and food hall and it's HUGE. I refrained from spending all my money on peaches, apples, kombucha, and fish, because as Tyler reminded me, it would not survive the trip home.
Blue Star Doughnuts are pretty darn good. We sampled a variety over the course of two trips and my favorites were the hard cider fritter and the classic buttermilk. I preferred the buttermilk based doughnuts to the yeasted variety but that may be personal preference. All are phenomenal.
Apizza Schools. I realize as a born and raised New Yorker, that the idea of eating pizza on the west coast is absurd (we have enough good pizza in New York!), but I did just that. I had read a lot about this place from the guys over at Serious Eats and I figured I had to try it. It was really good and well worth the meal (half Margharita/half Diablo Blanco is the way to go). The pizza is New York style and it's surprisingly light. Not in the sense that you feel as if you were cheated on toppings, but it's graceful (is it weird to call pizza graceful?). Also, their antipasta veggie plate is a phenomenal way to start your meal.
Ava Gene's and I have a love hate relationship. We ate some really incredible things there (the corn and chicken liver crostini was most notable) but the service was awful - the server clearly forgot to put in our order so it took a very long time to get our food. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt, but the service thing really bugs me. Especially since the server knew we were waiting forever (the table next to us got all of their food before us and ordered after us) and didn't try and make it up to us in anyway. But the crostini was so good, I'm keeping them on here.
Nong's Khao Man Gai is the place everyone tells you to visit in Portland. The abridged story is that the owner came over to Portland penniless and started a foodcart that everyone loved. Eventually she was able to open another cart and then a small store front. Feel free to Google the name for more details (Google can tell you more then I can). I almost cried because I thought we weren't going to get the chance to try it but lucky for me everything worked out. The menu is short and sweet. The food is simple and satisfying. I got the chicken with peanut sauce and loved it because what is there not to love about peanut sauce. While there I saw one of the contestants from Top Chef and totally kept my cool.
New Seasons Market is the supermarket of my dreams. It's like a Whole Foods and specialty food store wrapped in one. They were selling 20+ types of local hot sauce when we were there. That my friends is my kind of supermarket. I wouldn't call this a must hit, but if you are near one, definitely peruse!