Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happily eating my way through Portland

One of Portland's greatest mysteries is how a city full of such amazing and wondrous food and drink also contains some of the skinniest hipsters I've ever seen. Maybe it's an optical illusion. Or heroin. If I lived in this town, there is no way I could bike or jog my way to not gaining 25 pounds. There is nothing you can't find in this town. Beer. Wine. Beer and Wine. Meat. Vegans. Meat and Vegans. Clouds. Sun. Clouds and Sun (but mostly clouds). Incredible. If you've never seen Portlandia, download this show, my friends, as it is shockingly truthful. Food aside, you can have all the fun in the world just people watching alone. Even the 10 year olds are decked out in retro-80's punk eclectic garb. Frump is even trendy around here. I feel right at home.

How did I find Portland? One night at the pub, our friends Allan and Jeanette indicated to us that they were going to Portland on July 4th holiday weekend on a whim. I joked that I was jealous, and Alan mentioned "well we have room in the back". For real?!? I think he was tipsy and didn't really mean it, but we nevertheless changed our schedule at the last minute and inserted ourselves to their trip, and can't be more thankful! What an adventure!

I've known for years that Portland is a foodie mecca, and having only been once before for a day, never really explored all that it had to offer. I have to admit that I became stressed out, and I stressed out my friends (sorry Alan and Jeanette for dragging you to opposite ends of the universe). I have a habit of "maximizing" as one of the things I fear most is regret. If you've never heard of maximizing, watch this TED talk. Basically the Psychologist Barry Schwartz identified that we are paralyzed by indecision on things that aren't that important when faced with too many similar choices. And I have a bad case of foodicus maximizitis. What to eat? Download ALL OF THE FOOD APPS! I triangulated, took scientific internet surveys, read the last 10 issues of Food and Wine and Bon Appetit, added "Portland food" to my RSS feed. And still I was not prepared. So enjoy this tour-de-force of my somewhat planned/somewhat random restaurant and brewery picks.

I've also inadvertently discovered the recipe for restaurant success. Take gorgeous skinny hipster culinary artisan in a plaid shirt (my lord, bearded hipsters in plaid are hot) + interesting and unique food ideas that involve some sort of a.) pork product and/or b.) organic and locally sourced ingredients + rustic digs and/or cutesy food cart + pickles = successful food enterprise. That's it. I'm quitting my job and opening up a food cart.


Voodoo Doughnut 22 SW 3rd Ave

You've probably heard of this place. Everyone has. In fact, the line was until next Tuesday. I suppose they have gotten some major television press over the years, and it has attracted a crowd. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't necessarily worth the line. I shouldn't say that, because our friends Drew and Ashley waited on line for us while we chomped down on sub-par calzones and subs next door at a place I won't bother summarizing (ok, Captain Ankeny's Well wasn't bad, it was just alright, their calzones had honey in the dough which was nice and interesting). They picked out a maple bacon, captain crunch, and bubble gum donut. And yes, I'm from NJ, they are donuts, not doughnuts, goddamit. Fascinating, tasty, and totally sinful, but not worth an hour line. Although if I had been there back in the days of NyQuil and Pepto-Bismol donuts, you might have had my attention (well, I would have gawked at the menu but wouldn't have purchased...).

Deschutes Brewery 210 NW 11th Ave

So it turns out that arriving on July 4th in the city meant that everything was shut down. I guess restaurant staff need a holiday, too. But where are some foodie adventurers to congregate? Deschutes Brewery of course! If you live in western America, you've probably  heard of them. A Bend-based brewery, and famous for their Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter, these guys know how to play up the gastropub concept as well, in a commercial sense. Ordered a Black Butte XXIII (there are apparently many) and a nice pork belly crostini with a craftily perched egg yolk over a velvety mustard sauce, which really hit the spot with whatever-my-husband-was-drinking. Oh, I remember now, it was the "Mussel Relaxer" Belgian Brown. Mussels were relaxed.

This isn't food, but it is some fireworks! Tasty. Alan takes some lovely photos. We were on the Broadway Bridge, a fine place to quietly view the fireworks. Until all the drunkards showed up. But they were cutesy hipster drunkards, so all is forgiven.

Broder 2508 SE Clinton St

Trendy brunch spots in Portland have a little secret. Open up at 9, and thereby force hungry breakfastgoers to congregate at your door just before 9 to beef up your line. Works like magic. Fortunately, it was worth the wait. We were lucky to get in line just in time to get the first seating, because this place is cozy. Gorgeous plaid-clad bearded hipsters await you with a fresh smile and a cup of hot coffee with warm milk (yes, it's wonderful) at this adorable Scandinavian-influenced eatery on SE Clinton - in an intensely cute little artsy street corner near the Hawthorne neighborhood.

I ordered the smoked trout "pytt i panna" (swedish hash), which was mostly tasty but could have used a boost. But I had some order envy at the husband who had some smoked salmon baked scrambled eggs, with what I thought was the most luscious dill potato pancakes ever (this was closer to what we consider "hash browns" whereas the hash are cubed potatoes). The Bloody Mary was amazing, and the first time I've had one with aquavit! I'm a convert.But the best part are these adorable mini iron skillets they used to make perfectly square fried eggs. Did I mention that the wait staff were as gorgeous as the food layout? Not to mention all the all-too-neat-to-be-authentic farmstead themed decor - still love it.

Oh, and check out what I discovered - a new hot sauce. Secret Aardvark! This habanero sauce packs quite a punch, and isn't too vinegary for my taste. It's everywhere too. Portlandians love their local things. Added this to my pytt i panna to give it some rocket power.

Waffle Window 3610 SE Hawthorne Blvd

What can I say about this hole in the wall - yes, its a brick building with a window. Those bastards stole my idea! On our trip to Belgium last year, I had discovered the Liege waffle - which is a richer and denser variety (almost like a doughy cake) made with sweet heavenly orbs of pearl sugar. They put Brussels waffles (the kind most Americans eat) to shame. None was better than the waffles at Waffle Time, a waffle hut (actually a train) nestled in the Haute Fagnes of eastern Belgium. Ok, I'm a little biased, this is a family-owned establishment. But when you are there (because I know now that you will go), you must try the rail bike too! Anyway, I was sad when I returned to the states and couldn't find Liege style waffles. Thought I might quit my job and open one up and try crazy things like adding savory ingredients to it. novel concept, I'm sure. Turns out Waffle Window beat me to it. These were amazing - had the Three B's - pepper bacon, brie, and fresh basil with peach jam. You can also order waffles with goat cheese, mushrooms, spinach, avocado, salsa (ok, yuck), and whatever these crazy people randomly come up with. After this place, I began seeing Liege style waffle huts all over Portland. This is how I know for a fact that Portland is indeed legit. Amen.

Hophouse 4111 SE Hawthorne Blvd

We stopped by this busy pub nicely hidden in a strip mall off of Hawthorne, drawn in by the fresh green sign with the cute hop symbol. We only intended to go there to beat the heat after walking around Mount Tabor, but ended up staying for beer and snacks instead. I had been on a porter obsession since I arrived, and ordered a Full Sail Brewery - Top Sail Imperial Porter - Bourbon Aged Barrel Aged Brewmaster Reserve, 2012 (they say my memory is a steel trap, you see). Oh, and we ordered some very tasty poutine and wasabi deviled eggs. The eggs were zingy, but not enough umami for my taste (I have high deviled egg standards these days). You can't go wrong with poutine. Not sure if it paired well with a porter (does anything?). Oh well.

Carte Blanche Food Cart (variable)

The cutest little food truck you will ever see. Portland isn't as much know for their food trucks as their "food carts", which are more permanent establishments and look like the back of a truck with a window cut out. So actual trucks, let alone awesome things like an Airstream RV, were tougher to find. We stumbled upon this food RV at the corner of Hawthorne and 33rd. Carte Blanche, with its stylistically fonted sign and religious adherence to OSL (organic, seasonal, and local - yes, I just came up with that acronym), had a short but intense menu of drool-worthy bowls and sandwiches. Their selection changes daily with creative names like "Juniper's Keynote Speech" (watermelon and cabbage salad), "Nebraskan Eggplant Folklore" (eggplant and tofu bowl), and the "Tricycle Apocalypse" (grilled salmon sandwich with pickles and sriracha mayo). There are many more ingredients in there, but I'm short on space, so check out the menu. Can you guess what I ordered? The Tricycle Apocalypse was a sweet and spicy explosion of crunchy flavor that really beat the heat. The cooks were also adorable and sweet. I have a crush on this food cart.

Skyline, fireworks and Voodoo sign photos courtesy of Allan Hise. Voodoo line courtesy of The Unworldly Travelers.

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