Just this past weekend I thoroughly enjoyed frolicking in Portland, whose ample cuteness and affordable delights further cement the West Coast as the best coast. Though I did not enjoy the schizophrenic weather. Seriously! It rained, it snowed. Occasionally the sun peeked through the carpet of gray clouds overhead, but then it would promptly resume raining/snowing.
If you haven’t been, Portland has a cozy feel that is akin in spirit to San Francisco. It’s a land of mist and year-round layering and boots. And its residents seem to be as nuts about bicycles, hipsters, coffee, and food (the slow/local/organic movements have a strong foothold) as any self-respecting SF Missionite. Divided into quadrants stuffed full of lively neighborhoods and what feels like a microbrewery a block, there’s no lack of things to do, see, drink, and eat.
As I was staying in the heart of gorgeous Willamette Valley about 45 minutes outside the city, I only made it to Portland a few times, and I wandered primarily in NE, where a good friend of mine lives. If you’re only going to experience one quadrant of Portland, NE is not a bad place to be. Its main commercial corridors definitely remind me of home-sweet-home (The Mission), perhaps because North Mississippi Avenue has its very own Paxton Gate, along with heaps of other quirky shops, including one that specializes in salt, chocolate, wine and bitters, and cut flowers (aka: life’s happy frivolities), and plenty of places to grab a quick or more involved bite. As a matter of fact, I dodged a downpour by hiding out in Pix Patisserie for a good few hours, people watching; the barista charmingly offered to hijack an umbrella for me, which reinforced my impression that Portland service folk are much friendlier than SF service folk, who oftentimes seem to resent your very existence. Everywhere I went (the sample is admittedly small), I was met with easy-going banter that the Midwesterner in me liked very much.
A definite food highlight was dinner out at Tasty n Sons, whose legendary brunch (biscuits!) makes it a real destination. My party shared a series of small plates, including a standout arugula salad with blood orange, fennel, beets, hazelnuts, and chevre, as well as the meat and cheese board, which arrived with a tiny pot of raspberry preserves swirled with hot mustard–nice touch. For a main course I enjoyed breakfast for dinner in the form of a warming red pepper and tomato stew with baked eggs and fragrant merguez sausage: a perfect antidote to Portland’s perpetual rain.
Other highlights include wine tasting in Willamette Valley, where pinot noir flourishes in its cool climate. Called “a minx of a grape,” fickle pinot noir is a pain to cultivate, yet yields wonderfully delicate wine, hence its cultish following. Oregon pinot noir differs significantly from California offerings, and it’s an ongoing debate as to which is superior. I would like to have an Oregon vs. California pinot noir party and weigh the differences. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Finally, because I don’t mind tooting my own horn from time to time, my friend Meg and I threw together delicious Asian appetizers for a small gathering, which gave us cause to rove the aisles of Filipino groceries. Fun! I spear-headed fresh Thai spring rolls and Meg masterfully whipped up Filipino siopao stuffed with chicken adobo. After the guests arrived, all proceeded to nibble, imbibe, and lean into an evening of food, friends, and Oregon wine.
Special thanks to my parents for the Christmas generosity that enabled this trip, Meg and Peter for being such gracious hosts, and Megan for generally being a goddess.