When spending 72 hours in a food mecca like Portland, it's necessary to plan carefully and choose your dining mates wisely. If you do so, or if you follow my suggestions below, you will be able to both eat well and enjoy the food sights of this Pacific Northwest food town.
Thursday, 7:00 pm
My trip started off on a perfect note when I had dinner with some of my favorite Portland bloggers: the fashionable urban homesteaders Patrick and Holly of Letter from Hen Waller and the adorable Jocelyn and her "sweets" from Brownie Points. After some back and forth via e-mail, we all decided on Navarre; a small tapas and wine restaurant near 28th and East Burnside.
Walking into Navarre, you know that this is a different type of restaurant. Shelves are full of preserved tomatoes, pickles, and other canned items. One wall is adorned with dried chili peppers with a rope pulley system to allow the chef to pull down supply whenever it is needed. And this is not all for decoration. The chef is a member of the 47th Avenue CSA -- the same CSA that Holly and Patrick belong to -- and he uses these seasonal items in his dishes and cans items that he can't use right away.
All of this focus on seasonality and local products would be for naught if the food wasn't good, but it's great. When fellow Bay Area Bites author Shuna went to Navarre, she wrote: "At the top of its game Navarre's individual dishes are rich in flavor and history, transporting you from one ancient Mediterranean culture to another, but magically meld well on a share plate."
It's a comfortable, fun restaurant to meet friends and I was lucky to have gone there.
Friday, 1:30 pm
When I had Friday afternoon free to myself, I decided to check out Wildwood Restaurant. Wildwood is consistently listed on "Best of" lists about Portland, and I was excited to check it out. Chef Cory Schreiber uses his menu to show off the best of Pacific Northwest ingredients, and uses food from local farms, dairies, and wineries to make up his varied and delicious menu.
I started my lunch with a cream of asparagus soup. "I can give you half a bowl if you'd like," my server gently suggested. Such a nice way to say "you may have ordered too much food for one person, how about if we make it a little less." I was thrilled with the suggestion, and when the soup arrived it was the perfect amount. Served with a dollop of mushroom duxelles in the middle, it was perfectly flavored with the duxelles mixed in to add an additional dimension.
The lunch continued with a very good trout dish served with roasted root vegetables, and I left my lunch happy and perfectly sated.
Friday, 6:00 pm
My Friday evening with long-time friends Jeff and Molly began at Mint in North Portland just off Interstate Avenue. Mint is a fashionable bar that takes its cocktails seriously, and it was nice to enjoy a drink and some company there. The best of our drink lot was the Ad Lib, described as "Crater Lake Vodka muddled with cilantro and lemon lime juice, served up in a sugared martini glass". The cilantro added a surprising flavor to the cocktail that was enjoyed by all.
Friday, 8:00 pm
Ken's Artisan Pizza was the highlight of my trip, hands down. Ken's serves the kind of pizzas I dream about. When Monday pizza nights became wildly popular at Ken's Bakery on 21st Ave, the folks at Ken's decided to spin off a pizza restaurant and they have done so with great success. The pizza is thin with a blistered, burned (in a good way) crust, and is topped with delicious, carefully chosen ingredients. Between three of us, we shared a mushroom pizza with several varieties of mushrooms and a margherita pizza topped with a large pile of fresh arugula.
Friday, 10:00 pm
Our evening finished at Noble Rot, a small wine bar that serves dessert and has an ample dessert wine list. While Jeff and Molly shared dessert, I tucked into a delicious glass of port, and we wound down our evening.
Saturday, 10:00 am
A good friend laughs about choosing her retirement home with her husband based on the proximity of an excellent farmers' market. The Portland PSU Farmers' Market makes me want to move to Portland as soon as possible. It has the vibe, it has the variety, and it has the community flavor that I am constantly seeking in my farmers' market exploration. In addition to the presence of stellar farmers and vendors, the market features one of my absolute favorite prepared food vendors anywhere: Tastebud Farm with their wood-fired oven that they bring to the market. My breakfast this trip was a pita filled with delicious garbanzo beans, lamb, and other goodies.
Saturday, 2:00 pm
Saturday afternoon we took a ride in the country to Erath Winery and Sokol Blosser Winery. It was an amazing day to check out wineries with large billowy clouds adding a magnificent touch to landscape photos. As we drove past nut orchards and fields of mustard, it was a great time to take in the beauty of this countryside.
Sunday, 12:00 noon
On Sunday, we explored the North Mississippi avenue area, with a leisurely lunch at the friendly Mississippi Station, a restaurant with great fries and a nice beer selection, and then a trip to The Meadow: a store that sells chocolate, wine, flowers, salt and pepper. I immediately gravitated to the salt area and spent a good twenty minutes exploring the world of salt. The owner and employees are very knowledgable about the ins and outs of finishing salts, and I left with some fun selections.
Sunday, 3:00 pm
Even though we were late to get to the airport, Molly insisted that we stop at Grand Central Bakery where she ran into to buy me a large, springy and delicious ciabatta to take home. I thoroughly enjoyed it when I arrived home with a chunk of Rogue Creamery cheddar cheese while I reflected on how great 72 hours can be.
Locations and Links
10 NE 28th Ave
1221 NW 21st Avenue
816 North Russell
Ken's Artisan Pizza
304 SE 28th
2724 SE Ankeny
Portland PSU Farmers' Market
8:30 am - 2:00 pm on the campus of PSU
in the South Park Blocks between SW Mongtomery and Harrison
9410 NE Worden Hill Road
Sokol Blosser Winery
5000 Sokol Blosser Lane
3943 N. Mississippi Avenue