Thursday, February 23, 2012
Portland of Bust
I recently took a trip up the beautiful west coast to visit a friend in Portland, Oregon. I'm embarrassed to say that it was my first time significantly north of the San Francisco Bay Area, much less California state border. What a beautiful part of the country I've been missing out on!
Portland was a terrific city. It's young and off-beat, studded with food carts, hip bars, and bougie stationary stores. The art and music scenes are vibrant and the most of the people I met were down to earth, genuine and friendly. But for all Portland has to offer, it's no wonder my friend was most excited about showing me the food scene. The food in Portland was dynamic, decadent, and delicious. It spanned the low-brow high-brow divide with grace, ranging from grilled cheese food carts eaten inside of a reclaimed old school bus, to lovely and unique finer dinning. Below are a few of my highlights. Can't wait to go back to continue exploring!
Pine State Biscuits
Hands down my favorite meal in Portland, Pine State Biscuits seems to be something of an institution. They're known for their breakfast sandwiches, which are not for the faint of heart: their classic, the Reggie, is a thick, juicy piece of fried chicken, crispy bacon, cheddar cheese, and a savory, salty gravy piled high between to glorious halves of the most buttery, flaky biscuit you'll ever sink your teeth into. I got mine with a side of apple butter to play off the saltiness of the sandwich. It was fantastic. If fried chicken's not your thing, there's pulled pork or steak sandwiches as well. Whatever sandwich filling or topping you decide, it's hard to go wrong when it's served inside the most perfect biscuit imaginable.
Winter Farmer's Market
Beautiful market filled with root vegetables and all your favorite dark winter greens. Saw some great local butchers and dairies as well. Plus, excellent free samples!
Portland takes coffee very seriously, and Stumptown Coffee played a heavy hand in fostering that culture. Stumptown pioneered the micro-roasting movement that's taken off in the Pacific Northwest, and buys their beans directly from the farmer. The coffee was excellent.
Little Big Burger
I love the idea behind this place. The burgers are the perfect size: they fill you up juuuust enough without overdoing it. With fries and a beer, it's a perfect meal. They also use locally source ingredients, make their burgers with naturally raised beef, and drizzle truffle oil on their fries. What's not to love?
The Woodsman Tavern
This restaurant is new to Portland but already seems to have quite a presence. It's cozy rustic interior is decorated like hunting lodge, with scenic paintings scattering the walls, and it's menu features what it's website describes as European style American fare using local and artisanal ingredients. The cocktails were lovely, very well balanced (I loved the Kentucky Special I got a second round: 12-year old bourbon, black tea infusion, cherry liquer, and Angostura bitters. Bliss!). The starters were unique and refreshing, the mains sophisticated and elegant, yet filling. My friend and I shared a fabulous seared cod dish, with pork belly, clams and mussels, and a broth so delectably rich and creamy, I could have eaten an entire bowlful. The desserts shone as well; we shared a warm brown butter almond cake with blood orange caramel, and a not-too-sweet maple pot de creme with shortbread. It was heaven.
Pok Pok is something of a Portland legend. It's known for it's epic waits and thoughtfully prepared Thai food. The menu features small plates that are best shared amongst a small group of two or three. Everything we tried was great. The famous hot wings were addictively spicy, the skirt steak salad savory and flavorful, and the crisp root vegetable salad refreshing and herby. My tamarind whiskey sour was fantastic as well. My only complaint would be that it's slightly overpriced for the meager portion sizes. We shared three plates but could have easily had a fourth. And the rice? Not included, which was a bummer. Definitely worth the trip though, it was truly lovely Thai-inspired food.
Other Notable Eateries and Bars
Salt and Straw: amaaaazing ice cream! Coffee cocoa nib was my favorite, but I also loved the blue cheese and pear.
Breakside Brewery: Try the gin-barrel aged IPA if they have it.
Migration Brewing: Loved their coffee IPA. Truly unique.
The Kennedy School: Local elementary school that's been converted into a hotel and features 4 different bars and it's own movie theater? Yes please!