Saturday, June 11, 2011

Portland Extravaganza

Thomas has encouraged me for YEARS to take a vacation without him. He goes on a camping trip every year with some guys and thought I should plan something similar, except without all of camping, or the guys, or the spray batter in a can. This year an advertisement to a craft fair in Portland caught my eye. Visiting Portland has been a little dream of mine for a few years. The craft fair just happened to be the weekend Thomas finished school, and Mother's day, and a friend was miraculously interested and able to join me. I threw all caution and good sense to the wind and planned a 5 day vacation May 5-May 10 that was all about slow food and handmade shopping.

I can honestly say this was one of the best decisions I've made and mere memories of the trip might be enough to refresh me for years to come (which will be helpful because it's a once in 5 years experience).

Here's a rundown of the vacation: (oh, and be warned, I'm about to talk about food, A LOT)

There are unfortunately no photos of the first Portland encounter. After leaving the airport around 11pm Thursday night, we headed to Voodoo Doughnut to grab a late night snack, a punk rock 24 hr doughnut shop. I'm still craving another Grape Ape- one of the best yeast doughnuts I've had with vanilla frosting and a mixture of purple topping that I can only guess was grape koolaid, pixie sticks, pretzels, and dippin' stix mix.
We then checked in to our "La Quinta" (aka scary motel) and proceeded 1 hour later (around 2am) to call the front desk and cancel the rest of our nights.

Friday morning we started with breakfast at Tasty N Sons on N Williams. My breakfast (2) was a Spring Muffin with pickled beets, butter lettuce, red onion, beechers cheddar & a fried egg.

After breakfast we headed to Mississippi Ave nearby for some more browsing. We hit up Mr Green Beans, a DIY coffee roasting shop that also sold equipment for making your own cheese. We also visited The Meadow (1) a flower / bitter and wine (2) / salt (3) / chocolate (4) shop. Oh, and they also had tiny watercolor portraits that made you feel like you lived in France. This salted chocolate was recommended to me and I brought some home to Thomas. We just finished the last square yesterday and it's my favorite of all time.

Pistills Nursery is also on Mississippi, and though I obviously needed nothing from there that I could bring  home, their chicken coop (1) and baby chicks (2)(3) were really cute.

After browsing a few indie clothing stores we had lunch at Mississippi Ave's food cart court (1). I got the Chickpea Sandwich from Garden State (Crisp fried garbanzo cake, lettuces, lemon aioli, roasted butternut squash on a ciabatta roll) YUMM and some carrot and pear juice.

Next we headed downtown, which was just across the river from our shopping adventure and met up with our guide for a Portland Walking Chocolate Decadence Tour. We started out at the Heathman Hotel where we received a brief history of chocolate (1- cacao nibs) and visited  Cacao (2) on their first floor, a chocolate boutique specializing in drinking chocolate (3). I had this treat for the first time on our honeymoon in Italy and am thrilled that it's picking back up in the US. Our next stop was Benessere Oil and Vinegars (4) where we sampled dark chocolate balsamic vinegar with walnut oil. Drinking it straight seemed odd, but it turned out delicious and I'm pretty sure would be spectacular on a brownie. Teuscher: Chocolates of Switzerland (5) was next. Their Champagne Truffles are flown in from Switzerland and you can still fill the bubbles pop on your tongue. I got Eden a little crowned frog box (6) with a piece of hazelnut chocolate. She had asked  me to bring her a frog back from Portland ;).

Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe (1) was next. Apparently it's highly endorsed by Oprah and a bit fancy. I brought back a bar of their Fortunato No 4 and it's been highly enjoyable. Then onto Leonidas (2), a Belgium chocolate boutique, where we had the only white chocolate I've ever enjoyed. After that was some random nice hotel lobby for a chocolate martini (3). Are you getting tired of chocolate by now? I think I was too :). Next to last on our hotel was Mio Gelato (4) for some tasty, very standard gelato. And last, we visited Cacao's larger cafe and had a tasting of 6 single origin chocolates with a bit more information about the process of cacao harvesting. After that we headed to our new hotel, got checked in, freshened up and headed to dinner.

We had dinner reservations at Simpatica Dining Hall, a slow food restaurant open Friday, Saturday & Sunday with a fixed menu. This is exactly what I expected out of Portland. The chef came out and talked to us before dinner about where our food came from- basically everything but the fishes' names. Dinner was simple, elegant and delicious and it was really fun watching the food being prepared (we had the closest seats to the kitchen). It was my first experience with Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, and it's now my favorite.

Saturday morning we got up and walked to the farmer's market. The weather was not participating so it would have been better without the once a 10 minute downpour of cold rain, but what a fun market! I can see why Portland can do sustainable so well. It's seems as though they can grow everything (1). I had cute pastries for breakfast (2), ate local honey with fresh biscuits from Pine State Biscuits (best biscuits I've ever had), bought local hazelnuts, perused cute pies peddled by a burly teddy bear of a man, and drank a honey cardamom latte.

After wandering around downtown a bit we headed to Crafty Wonderland. I have no pictures, mostly because vendors at crafts fairs don't really want you taking pictures for copyright reasons. But it was super fun and here are some my favorite vendors you should check out if you like that sort of thing:
Moss Handmade: Jewelry
LaLa Laurie: handcrafted fancies, delightful paper flower boutonnieres
Vintage Child Modern: vintage inspired clothing for the modern child
Polly Danger: Sweet Accessories
Rachel Austin: Paintings
Chet and Dot: Sweet Accessories (plants and animals) (robot candy)
Burdy Fly Away: Modern Appliqued Clothing
Mary Kate McDevitt: Illustration
Take Fibers: Crewel Embroidery Kits
Allisa Jacobs: Handmade bags
Jigsaw Graphics: A letterpress studio
Willow Baus: Handmade toys
Man's Face Stuff: Mustache wax, etc

Upon a recommendation we checked out The Original Dinerant for dinner. It was a very hip diner with modernized dishes that was surprisingly some of the most delicious food on the trip. I had roasted asparagus and radicchio smoked ricotta gnudi, crème fraîche remoulade, almonds (1), pork ‘n’ beans braised pork shank, corona beans, pickled peppers, preserved lemon and parsley salad (2), strawberry icebox pie with graham cracker crust (3), and ginger mint soda. The restaurant was wonderfully located near Powell's Books (4)(5)  so we spent the remainder of our evening there. It's the largest bookstore in the world- taking up an entire city block. It has its own iPhone GPS apps, sells new and used books, and is decked out with personal reviews written by customers on postcards taped to shelves.

Sunday morning, Mother's Day, we had brunch at another slow food, sustainable restaurant called Beast. It's owned by twins and has a fun French vibe (1). The chef was rocking out to Michael Jackson as she prepared our meal in front of us (2). I was nerdily impressed by receiving french pressed coffee (I got my own tiny press because I drink decaf). We ate poached plum clafoutis: with soft whipped cream and maple-glazed bacon (4), Beast Hash: cornish game hen confit with market potatoes, morel mushrooms, spring onions, rapini, green garlic, poached duck egg, and hollandaise (5), a selection of cheese from Cheese Bar, gathering together spring greens, and aged red wine vinaigrette (6), and Chocolate Truffle Cake with black pepper shortbread and vanilla whipped cream. A snapped a picture of their favorite local restaurants written on their wall in case I'm ever lucky enough to return (8).

We walked off brunch with more shopping of course. We hit up a few shops on N Williams we saw at breakfast on Friday that were not open at the time, including Head to Tow (1) a double decker bus full of vintage dresses, and Ink and Peat (2) a home and floral store with amazing books (3). Then we headed to Noun: A Person's Place for Things on Belmont which happily shared a storefront with Saint Cupcake, cute display and delicious treats. After that it was time to take Michelle to the airport.

I planned to have my meal alone be a cooking class at  Hip Cooks. We learned to make (1) seared squid bruschetta, two types of paella, red wine soaked oranges (4) and natillas (5). YUM. Our teacher was a lot of fun (2) and the setup was pretty neat. She had actually done some culinary training in Spain and spoke with authority and lots of cheesy accents. I made my favorite of the two paellas, chicken & chorizo (3), for our housegroup and they deemed my trip a success.

Monday was my day all to myself. I planned on spending ridiculous amounts of time in fabric and art stores. It Was Awesome. I had breakfast at Helser's on Alberta (1), pear and Havarti pie with crème fraiche, fresh fruit, a toasted crumpet and carrot juice (2). I regretted my full stomach when I got a latte from Random Order Coffeehouse and saw their stunning pies. My first shopping stop was Grasshopper, a children's boutique, where I got the phone call that the triplets were on their way :). This cute little bookstore (4) was not open, but looked like it had a great selection. I also stopped by Collage and got sharpies in really fun colors, shrinky dink materials, and necklace making supplies. It was a tiny shop, but I think had more worthwhile supplies than all of hobby lobby. It really had a great selection of catch all art materials. I left Alberta and headed toward Hawthorne, but stopped two places on the way. One was SewPo- which again was tiny but had a spectacular selection of fabrics. They carried several cotton voiles and knits that I can't find in Chicago and I got some dress materials for Eden. They had sewing machines and a punch card hour system. If I had one more day I would have loved to start and finish a project while people watching the customers. The other stop was Scrap (5), a non profit that collects, cleans, and reuses/resells materials. I was so excited when I got the call the triplets had made it safe and sound I forgot to check out their sculpture gallery.

When I made it to Hawthorne, I first spent 1.5 hours in Cool Cottons hands down the best quilt fabric store I've ever been to. Their selection was amazing- tons of Japanese imports and designer fabrics and cute local patterns. The owner was super nice and very helpful. Lunch was crab bruschetta at Bread and Ink. Then I just meandered until dinnertime, looked at quirky houses (3), and  found another Powell's Books, this one dedicated to arts and food (4).

For dinner I snagged pizza from Dove Vivi (1) with cornbread crust, my favorite was the balsamic red onion and sweet corn (2), and mini cupcakes from Saint Cupcakes (4) larger store (3). I ate in my hotel, while watching a chick flick, it was pretty awesome :).

Thomas says I like to vacation places I can envision myself living, and I suppose that's true (although I can probably see myself living in Italy, Scotland, etc.). Portland was so lush (1), relaxing, friendly. It had the amenities of a big city, but driving in it (especially all the awesome free parking) made it feel more like a large college town. There was a trail that ran along the river (2-as seen from our downtown hotel window) and people were constantly outside.

This was more a memory book for me than all the detail I felt you needed to know, thanks for sifting through that extremely long post!


  1. Lovely post! And definitely a successful trip! I hope I DO get to come with you on your next big adventure ( even if its in five years! Hahaha!)...for it looks like we have similar priorities when it comes to travel ;-)

    P.S. Glad you enjoyed my suggestions! And it made me homesick for the Northwest...

  2. Awesome trip!! Alberta is where I spent all of my time in Portland - with several trips to Random Order and couple to collages. :)

    Thankfully it looks like it didn't rain quite as much for you as it had for me. So glad you guys had fun, and that it was just the trip you needed to rejuvenate!

  3. wow, i'm impressed! i live in portland and i don't think i've visited that many cool places in the last several years! glad you had fun here :)