Another year, another visit to Portlandia!
Actually, it was more like, I had expiring hotel points and Portland was the cheapest airfare for the one weekend this summer Aaron said he didn’t have a race. Booked it!
Flew into town Saturday morning and hopped on TriMet to the hotel. I love how easy this is here.
As it turned out, we rolled right into the annual Rose Parade. Strolled a couple blocks and encountered a passing troupe playing wooden wind instruments that wound into the air like upside down charmed snakes. I have no idea what this instrument is called.
Walked another couple blocks and across Director Park, where we stopped to take in a youth production of pirates and princesses and rodents performing an aerials silks routine.
Onward, to Case Study Coffee! The gentleman behind the counter was super friendly and explained their offerings: “Everything we sell here is local. We make our own syrups. All the pastries are local as well; the top shelf is all vegan and gluten free.”
As we enjoyed our coffee, we looked out the window at a pack of red-nosed suit-clad clowns towing a three foot long wooden slug down the sidewalk. They stopped at the TriMet fare machine to buy tickets.
A pair of Rosie the Riveter twins passed behind them.
My toasted hazelnut latte was delicious.
We had arrived.
Properly caffeinated. To the Alder Street Food Cart Pod! Nommed on some pan fried dumplings and a jalapeño grilled cheese. Overheard a passing local talk about moving northeast of the city because of the rising cost of living.
Popped into Billy Galaxy, where they had a Trypticon in a box!!! The store employee was having a heck of a time finishing a Star Trek puzzle, so I asked if Aaron and I could help/play. Success! Yeah, teamwork!
Wandered some more. Stumbled across Wailua Shave Ice. Ate some. Because of course we did.
It was Saturday, so we visited the Portland Saturday Market. Sampled CBD fruit leathers, ate local caramels, tried crazy spicy jerky. Restrained myself from buying all the cool shirts.
Finished up at the market, came across American Panda, a liege waffle / Vietnamese sandwich cart. The lady running it was super nice. Ate a S’mores liege waffle sandwich and got to sample their durian ice cream. It was totally legit.
Next, Ground Kontrol, a retro video game arcade. Played Tetris, DDR Extreme, Mortal Kombat II, plus a couple super classics like Arkanoid and Tempest. They had a CBD soda on tap. Tried one because it was novel… and because everything else was beer.
After that, Powell’s City of Books! Came away with a book and a list of books.
I was surprised to encounter the latest edition of The Art of Electronics, a text book I hauled around when little high school me took a night class at Harvard. Looking at the book again, I realized the author was my instructor.
Not far from this book…
Aaron, to me: I need to find a book on time series.
Nearby patron: Did you say you were looking for a book on time series?
20 minutes and two patrons’ worth of discussions later Aaron had a bunch of tips on things to look into. They both left him with, “Good luck.”
Finally, dinner! I’d been looking forward to visiting Grassa again. Their food is super solid like Flour + Water in SF, but without the formality, impossible reservations, and prices. I had radiatore with clams, Chinese sausage, Thai spices, and fermented black beans. What??? It worked.
Saturday, fin. What a jam packed day.
Woke up Sunday and headed straight for Coco Donuts. Their cake donuts are so good! We followed this up with a latte at Heart Coffee.
Then it was off to the International Rose Test Garden. So many scents and colors! I sniffed until I couldn’t sniff anymore.
After that, a visit to the adjacent Japanese Garden. Admission wasn’t cheap, but wow it was beautiful. I quite enjoyed the fluffy maple trees bouncing in the wind, bouncing from single raindrops, housing entire ecosystems under their fluff.
The garden garden grounds were expansive, thoughtfully arranged, and meticulously maintained.
All that gardening made us hungry, so we headed to AFURI for yuzu shio ramen. Their broth was super unique, very citrusey, and quite good.
After ramen, Division Street. Came across the following quote in a storefront as we walked by, in the rain:
Some people walk in the rain. Others just get wet.
Thanks to the rain, we stood in a very reasonable 40 minute line at Salt & Straw. Their June Guest Chef Collaboration Series flavors were totally worth the wait. Aaron and I both got a flight of four flavors. My favorite? Duck Crackling with Cherry Preserves: A rich ice cream made with duck fat, molasses, and salted custard, swirled with tart cherry preserve, candied duck skin brittle, and a local honey gastrique. What a mouthful!
We left Salt & Straw full of ice cream, on top of being full of ramen. One block later, we came across Townshend’s Teahouse. I love love love this place. What better way to digest than with some hot tea? I enjoyed a cup of white tea and left with a bag of milk oolong tea leaves. If you like tea and have never tried milk oolong, do! And make sure you give a leaves a good sniff before you brew. This tea smells like none other.
Walked over to Hawthorne Boulevard. A few blocks in, saw a sign for Rachel’s Ginger Beer. As in, the entire store served ginger beer. Their pink guava flavor was delish.
Returned to the hotel stuffed, but then realized we wouldn’t get to visit Chizu if we didn’t go right then. So we went, and had an a super delicious omakse cheese plate. Our cheesemonger told us origin stories of all the cheeses we ate. It was so fascinating and tasty I didn’t even realize I was full.
Post-cheese, a visit to Breakside. Because beer, or something.
Monday! Another day, another coffee shop. Went with a Portland classic this time, Stumptown. Then it was off to Screen Door for more eating. Cheddar and bacon hush puppies! For the first time since my initial exposure to hush puppies in North Carolina, I was not disappointed. Screen Door’s hush puppies finally allowed me to appreciate and enjoy a different style of fried corn lumps.
Back across the river to see if we might want to visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden. This required walking through Chinatown, where I once again felt like the token Chinese person. That feeling didn’t change upon reaching the garden, and ultimately we decided against going in. I felt vindicated when we stopped in the gift shop and found Japanese items for sale.
Never mix China and Japan. Never ever Ever.
We wandered back toward the Pearl District and stumbled across Nola Donuts. Beignets??! Beignets!! It didn’t matter that we were still stuffed from Screen Door. We ate beignets.
Then it was time to visit Keller Fountain Park. I’ve really enjoyed all the gathering spaces like this sprinkled across the city. The water is soothing to the ears and the kids have a blast.
Post-fountain-waterfall, Aaron got his slice of Sizzle Pie and we headed to the airport. Our Portland experience continued there, with a few local shorts at the in-concourse mini Hollywood Theatre.
Then it was really time to go. Portland vs. San Francisco (not a head-to-head, just using SF as my point of reference)? There are just as many homeless people, fewer dogs, and way less street poop. We only encountered a single street poop, and a kind passerby alerted me to it as I approached. People are nicer here. I hope Portland manages to stay this way as they grow. And they are growing. Cranes and construction everywhere. Just like in SF.