Travel : Portland [PDX]
Portland, OR is a gem of the United States. Located 2 hrs from the Oregon coast line and about an hour or more from mountains, the city is a young and vibrant place…especially for food, wine, and beer lovers like ourselves. Earlier this summer, we took a trip down to Portland knowing that our typical “bi-annual” trip from Seattle is likely to cease once we move to St. Louis this fall (more on that in a future post). Our trips to Portland would be overwhelming to some [see our last “PDX Food Rampage”, at our friend’s Dawn and Eric’s blog: WrightAngle], but they are simply fantastic adventures for the palette. We drink and eat so much variety, experience such creativity, that we can’t stop going back. And what’s more, PDX is much cheaper than its West Coast counterpart heavy weights like Seattle, San Fran, and LA. Here we will attempt to summarize the highlights from our 3 day trip this past July, but it by no means will include all of our adventures.
Olympic Provisions | Our first stop in PDX was Olympic Provisions, which came recommended by our friends Eric and Kye. Located in an industrial part of southeast PDX, Olympic Provisions is housed in a restored cereal mill. The spot was created with intent to highlight European and North African styled charcuterie and to showcase local ingredients from farms and producers in the area. We went for lunch and selected 2 dishes.
The first was the “tea sandwich”, made with a well seasoned paste of summer English peas, sprouts, red onions, and ricotta salata on fluffy white bread with no crust. This was the perfect summer sandwich. It reminded me of the deliciously light cucumber tea sandwiches my mother and our neighbors would often make for me when I lived in England. We also ordered the charcuterie plate, which really highlights the masterful qualities of Olympic Provisions. It came with a house made chorizo that was very true to the art of this sausage variety….robust spices, chewy texture, and beautiful color. The charcuterie plate also came with house made sopresetta and pork pâté which were also well made and authentic. We each had a Double Mountain Brewery, Kolsch alongside our lunch. Olympic Provisions has a large selection, and one could really fill up on lunch or dinner here, but even for an afternoon snack, it is worth a short visit. Olympic Provision’s charcuturie is now becoming more widely available throughout PDX and can be purchased at select stores.
107 Southeast Washington Street
Portland, OR 97214-2103
Apizza Scholls | Really good pizza is hard to come by in the northwest, but Seattle and Portland do have some great spots among the many rather pedestrian slices. We’ve been hearing about Apizza Scholls in PDX for several years from our Seattle friends. Some call it the “gold standard” in all of pizza, anywhere. Anthony Bordain considers it among the nation’s very best (top 2 or 3). Could the hype be true? Could a pizza joint outside NYC really be that outstanding? We arrived sharply at the 5pm opening time and the line was already 15-20 people deep…the pizzas are rather large, so you can only really order 1 between 2 people. This makes for a very difficult situation because the all choices are enticing. We were advised that the best pizza on the menu is called the “Brooklyn”, a simple pizza with spicy capicola ham, fresh basil, and mozzarella. We ordered some beer from their small but solid beer selection, and waited in anticipation!
The pizza arrived as a beautiful site in its own right. The crust was simply outstanding…it has a remarkably crunchy, yet chewy texture. It is like that first bite of toast, but great toast-on great bread. It makes the perfect sound in your mouth with each bite. The bottom of the crust is slightly blackened, but not burnt and the sauce is tangy with that little hint of sweetness one looks for. The spicy capicola topping with fresh basil was simple yet elegant. It was exactly the way capicola should taste…it was actually quite spicy and salty, and the fresh basil complemented and balanced the pizza. This pizza is excellent, better than any pizza slice we’ve had in quite some time, possibly ever. If you are in PDX, it is an absolute MUST!
4741 SE Hawkthorne
Tasty n’ Sons | PDXers love to go to brunch. The city has a wide array of choices…from diner- style greasy spoons to more upscale offerings. Tasty n’ Sons from the folks of ToroBravo is a wonderful new addition to Portland’s long list of brunch offerings. The menu is quite extensive and for only 2 people it was hard to narrow down the choices. If you get an opportunity to go, I’d recommend a larger group so you can try more things. In any case, we ordered three dishes. To start we had the jam with toast, which comes with chunky-tart cherry and strawberry jam and melted brie, on two thick slabs of toast. We also ordered two mains, a pork BBQ hash, and the Shakshuka w/ Merguez sausage.
The pork BBQ hash was topped with a fried egg to provide the oozy yoke to mix with the smoky and spicy mixture of grilled peppers and potatoes. The shakshuka was the highlight dish of the brunch. It reminded me of an African dish we make a home called “bus-station kefta” (KEEF-TAH), yet the Shakshuka had some of its own unique qualities. The tomato based sauce with the oozing egg yokes (cooked gently) had a subtle sweetness that contrasted perfectly with the spiced merguez sausage. The dish comes with char-grilled toast which makes for a delightful dippin’ experience. Tasty n’ Son’s was packed when we arrived at the opening, and it is no surprise that the loyal PDX brunch crowd have stamped it with their approval.
3808 N. Willians, Suite C
Whiffie’s Fried Pies | After going here the last time we were in PDX with the larger group, and missing them when they came to Seattle for the mobile chowdown, there was no way in hell I was about to miss out on Whiffie Pies on this trip. A small food cart situated among a group at the corner of SE Hawthorne and 12th, they take the Hostess pie’s of your childhood to a whole new dimension.
They offer pies in the sweet and savory variety. Since it was a post-lunch snack, Robin and I decided to get two sweet varieties: A double chocolate cream and strawberry-rhubarb. Whiffies was yet again a joy, and I feel like a child full of glee whenever I get them…there is something quite special about a hot handheld pie filled with sugary goodness.
Whiffies Fried Pies
SE 12th Ave & SE Hawthorne Blvd
A few Portland Breweries | A trip to Portland is wasted if it doesn’t include multiple outings to some of the city’s many local micro (or even nano) breweries. One of my very favorite’s is Deschutes, which is originally based out of Bend, OR. They offer an excellent array of beers that one can only find at the brew pub itself. Including their black IPA (think cross between porter and IPA), which was only very recently bottled and released in a limited offering.
HopWorks Urban Brewery [HUB] is one that we found the last time we visited PDX, and a great discovery, before its more recent peak. This brewing group prides itself on sustainable brewing methods, recycling, and using renewable power to operate. The beer here is very well crafted, especially the hoppiest varieties, such as their classic IPA, and double IPA. The freshness of clean/bitter hops comes through in the head, and the chewy bite of hops in the mouth feel makes this pub a must stop on a PDX visit. I was elated the other night when walking home, via QFC-Broadway to pick up some beer, to find the HopWorks IPA in the bottle on the shelf. I’ve been back twice since to buy more.
Upright Brewing Company is a newer addition to PDXs brewing scene. They specialize in German and Belgian (old world) beer styles with some slight twists and a fair amount of fun experimentation. They offer several seasonal styles which change frequently, and they have a very small, but quaint tasting room in a basement. Using old world yeasts, malts, and hops helps them to produce arguably some of PDXs very best beer in this genre. A visit to their tasting room is highly recommended. The #5 and #6 are my favorite of their typical offerings, and if they are offering a sour beer when you arrive, we’d both suggest trying it!
Tanuki PDX | This isn’t a restaurant, in any sense of the word according to Janis Martin, of TanukiPDX…it is in fact, a Sake BAR (Izakaya to be more accurate) that just so happens to serve outstanding – wonderfully creative fare. Meals at this establishment can’t be really be written about at length to do them justice…so much happens, so many wonderful flavors to jot them all down. And the experience isn’t the same without letting go for the ride.
The last time our Tanuki experience was with a large group, and so Robin and I were quite excited to try Tanuki in a smaller more intimate setting. We ordered, as anyone who wants to full experience should, the Omakase menu, and we sat for several hours drinking and eating a cacophony of flavors. We gave her a heads up a few days before, and she promised us some special treats. We probably had about 15-20 courses in all…some smaller bites, some larger offerings. They just kept bringing them out one-by-one. Some of which included: oysters with shaved kimchi-a Tanuki classic, a wild mushroom salad-soup served in a ceder sake cup, fresh uni (Sea Urchin), albacore w/ fresh Japanese mustard and Japanese salt, eel salad w/ miso dressing, and unagi (eel) burger….and finally grilled hamachi (yellowtail tuna) collar (which was absolutely sensational) and my favorite dish of the night. The best part being that we were already stuffed silly, and then she brought out the hamachi collar and we had a whole new second wind. The Sake pairings were very interesting, with the “Yuho Junmai” being one of our favorites, made by the only female Sake brewer in all of Japan [Miho Fujia]. We stayed very late into the evening, drinking and chatting like we were at a pub, but stuffed silly like we had just finished thanksgiving dinner. One thing that I just love about this place, is that Janis’ passion for living and for her work comes through in the entire Tanuki experience! Since being introduced to Tanuki by Eric and Kye a trip to PDX will be incomplete without a visit to Tanuki. Be prepared for a whirlwind adventure of food, drink, and conversation!
413 NW 21st Ave
Our Portland trip was another huge success…and I didn’t even mention all of the fun places we visit. If you are looking for a getaway weekend filled with food and drink adventures, go to Portland. It won’t destroy your wallet, and the creative variety is incredible. While we are in fact moving away to St. Louis, we still plan on making special trips to Portland to fill our cravings. We will both miss being 3 hours from such a wonderfully adventurous city…
A few other places we visited that are also worth checking out if you are in the area:
BEAST PDX – an elegant James Beard nominated restaurant by serving multicourse wine dinners and a wonderful 4 course brunch also w/ wine pairings. We’ve been several times, and it was excellent on each occasion.
House Spirits-a local PDX distillery offering house made Ouzo, whiskies, Aviation gin, and more
Tear Drop- a creative cocktail bar in the heart of the Pearl District