Portland Oregon, Foodie Town USA
Over the last few years I kept hearing bits and pieces about the food scene in Portland, and decided to go investigate for a day. It had been about ten years since I last visited Portland and that was just for an afternoon before flying out. That was not enough to really get to know Portland. This trip however brief(one day) was just to explore the food scene. I arrived the night before and stayed at an airport hotel with the plan of catching the new Max light rail train to downtown the next morning bright and early. I caught the light rail from the airport to the convention center at about 6 am heading for Petite Provence Bakery and Restaurant. They have four locations in Portland including the airport, but I chose the Alberta St location.I had read the reviews on Yelp for the best breakfast place in town and even though Petite Provence was rated #5 on the list I had a feeling it was the best for what I was looking for. I wanted a place that had extraordinary food with a local flair and found it here. Many reviewers raved about the salmon hash, a dish I would probably like, but I had just cooked up some of my Alaska salmon the day before and wasn’t craving it. What caught my eye was the Risotto Cakes with home fried potatoes and butternut squash. Here’s the description from their menu:
Risotto Cakes & Eggs*
Slow simmered risotto rice with sautéed bacon, asparagus, mushrooms, red onions, and fresh basil, gently formed into patties, lightly breaded and grilled to perfection. Topped with two poached eggs. Served with Provençal Potatoes & Butternut Squash. 8.95
This was one yummy breakfast meal, and even though I didn’t have the eggs it was plenty for me since I ordered a croissant on the side. The risotto cakes were cooked perfectly and the red onions carried a slight taste of red wine. It was one of the best breakfast meals I have had anywhere in the US! The croissant was as good as most I have had in Paris which is rare indeed. It was flakey, fresh, buttery, and served with a little bit of raspberry jam. The other bakery goods there looked great, but I resisted the urge to buy and bite as I had miles to go yet.
As I worked my way back towards downtown by bus I saw a gluten free bakery and decided to pop in and check it out. Tula gluten free bakery has the usual goods you would expect in a bakery. I looked it over and decided to try the Cranberry Pecan Bread. It was good, and I never would have guessed it was gluten free in a blind taste test.
Next on my list was to walk downtown to get oriented on this fine fall day that was forecasted to be sunny and around 70 degrees. Not your average fall weather in rainy Portland. I hopped the light rail again and got off downtown close to Pioneer Square. I had three hours to walk around before lunch and saw they have a lovely riverfront park and walkway on both sides of the Willamette River. I walked the downtown side of the trail for about a mile before heading into the downtown area. It’s hard to beat a nice river walk and this is one of the best I have found in the US. There are many sculptures, benches, fountains etc to this a special place.
At my next foodie stop I was looking forward to eating at a well known Peruvian Restaurant that is highly rated on Tripadvisor.com. The head chef and the owner of Adina travelled to Peru to learn from local chefs authentic Peruvian cooking techniques to further the quality of Adina’s menu. I was interested in eating a vegetarian lunch here as one of the staff at Petite Provence who is a vegetarian recommended it. I ordered the
Hongos Saltados, which if my Spanish is correct means “Jumping Mushrooms”. It was very good and something not found on any restaurant menu I have ever been to. It was presented nicely, and steamy hot. I would love to go back and try some of the squash dishes, and other vegetarian options next time I’m in town as they looked great.
Next up on the list was ride the light rail’s smaller cousin called the “street car” which is just a smaller route, same train style. I hadn’t got far when I spied Powell’s City of Books, and in I went. This is probably the biggest book store I have ever been in, and they say they have over a million books here! It was laid out well with color coded rooms for easy traveling and staffed quite well too. I love to support book stores and this one had the biggest selection of cookbooks I have ever seen, with a special vintage cookbook section. If you are in the area they have six locations including one at the airport.
Next on the list was kill time by hopping a light rail train just to see where it went. I rode the yellow line towards the Expo Center and spied a cool looking grocery store after 20 minutes of riding. Off I went like a moth to a flame into the Arbor Lodge location of New Seasons Market. I noticed two things that I liked right away. One was they had a great supply of fresh mushrooms, both wild and cultivated. The other thing was they had grass fed or grass fed and grain finished beef advertised at their meat department. If you are going to eat beef you would do well to eat the 100% grass fed beef that is becoming more common in grocery stores. I bought an organic apple for my log plane ride home the next day and set off for my final foodie stop the Portland City Grill. This was touted to me by a passenger on the plane to Portland who said go there for the view and the Kung Pao Calamari at happy hour. Portland City Grill is rated #22 out of over 3,000 restaurants in Portland, and is Asian/Pacific Rim type cuisine. Since it was a fine blue sky day it seemed to be a good choice. Most restaurants that have a big view suffer from food quality issues, but this place was pretty good. I ordered the calamari and a glass of Willamette Pinot Noir and settled back to enjoy the view of Mt Hood of in the distance. The calamari was good but had a bit too much batter that was easily peeled of. The flavor however was excellent and calamari goes well with spice and peanuts. I also ordered the Cesar Salad which was pretty good even though it had a bit too much dressing on it. Next time I’m in town I’d consider going back to try dinner if it’s on a clear day in the summer as the view is magnificent.
If you are looking for a totally cool place to visit I recommend Portland for many reasons other than the food. It’s close to the Pacific Ocean, Mt Hood and the Cascades, as well as the Columbia River. I look forward to my next trip to Portland with my wife someday in the future when I can share the experience with her, and taste what she orders too thus doubling the fun!