Biker! Biker rights! BIKER!
Ah Portland. Home to my heart. If I’ve been fairly absent this past week it’s because I love this city too much, love my friends who are always only a phone call or text message away from good times, love the new faces I meet, the food I fill my belly with, the crazy wonderful awesome Portlanders that make this town, perhaps, my favourite in the world. So I’m sure you’ll forgive my temporary silence and come with me on a journey through the wonderful world of Portlandia – you should try ‘er out some time; she’ll welcome you with open arms, too.
Was karaoke instrumental (ha) to me falling in love with Portland? Partially. I am a karaoke fiend and Portland sure lets me indulge. My first night in Portland this trip and I did three of my favourite things: eat at two of my favourite places and hit up The Ambassador in NE Portland for five straight hours of karaoke with a wonderful group of new friends.
The Ambassador has a fantastic selection of songs (both old and brand-spanking-new), two awesome KJs who are always down for a good time, great bar staff, a disco ball on the ceiling, mini stage, smoke machine and bubble machine. Who wouldn’t want to karaoke here, is what I ask?! Exactly. ‘Nuff said.
4744 NE Sandy Blvd
When I lived at Reed a favourite spot of mine was a coffee shop about ten minutes away from my dorm, up on Woodstock Boulevard. It was a welcome wander away from campus, close enough to be a lazy jaunt, far away enough to feel like you were being a sophisticated coffee drinker with a book or laptop to keep you entertained for an hour or two. My favourite was always the chai latte with soy milk, hot or cold, and a bagel with cream cheese (mhmm, bagel) and I spent many a day here, rain or shine (and this is Portland, so more often the former than latter).
My old roommate Lucy has now adopted the coffee shop as her own, and the coffees and chai lattes are still as good as ever. Great to catch up and relax, even better to settle down with a hot mug of chai in a sunny spot on their porch.
First Cup Coffee House
4103 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Cha Manao: Thai iced tea with lime; Papaya Pok Pok: spicy green papaya salad with tomatoes, long beans, Thai chili, lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, palm sugar, dried shrimp & peanuts; Kaeng Hung Leh: Northern Thai sweet pork belly and pork shoulder curry with ginger, palm sugar, turmeric, tamarind, Burmese curry powder and pickled garlic; Yam Wun Sen: spicy and sour glass noodle salad with naem, a house-made sour pork sausage, ground pork, Chinese celery, pickled garlic, Thai chillies, shallots and carrot. Lime, fish sauce, garlic oil dressing; sticky rice; decor inside.
I first went to this little Thai joint two years ago. As an international student I had been assigned two host parents to help me “integrate into American life” – pretty funny idea for a girl from the UK, right? Well my host parents were (and are) lovely, and so for our first outing together, they took me to Pok Pok (a pok pok is a thai cooking utensil that is basically a giant mortar and pestle. I’ve never actually used one, but I have seen them in action. Good fun and helps bash the flavour into the food!).
The food here was so good I spent the rest of the year raving about it, but for some strange reason never went back. I’m not sure why. I knew I had to remedy this so planned a dinner date with a good friend for my second evening in town, ate our fill in Thai food and yes, it was as good as I remembered. There was also a lot more food than I remembered and we only ordered three things to share! At roughly $15 per head it was pretty good value for money, too.
3226 SE Division St
I am not a sweets person. I know, shocking. I’m more prone to head to the pantry for pasta than for chocolate, soup will get me going far more than a cake will, and bacon? Oh God, don’t get me going on bacon – I’ll even put it into baked goods and that’s one of the only ways you’ll get me to eat them voluntarily.
Having said that, I will happily go to Pix Patisserie in Portland any day, any time, because their desserts are not just good, they’re awesome. They’re also open until 2am for half the week and midnight for the rest, which makes them the perfect late night treat venue.
My girl friend and I headed down there for dessert after having dinner in the area, had a glass of sparkling rose each (Elio Perrone, Mosto Brachetto/Moscato “Bigaro” NV; it was delicious but quite sweet, highly recommended), and then shared the Royale (chocolate mousse around crisp hazelnut praline filling and dacquoise base) and the Orange Vanilla Creme Brulee. The creme brulee was so-so, but the Royale was divine.
If you’ve got some free time definitely head down there – if it can make me want to eat dessert I guarantee it’ll make you want to as well.
3402 SE Division
My most glamourous friend wanted to take me somewhere exciting for lunch and chose Urban Farmer in downtown Portland. The restaurant, she told me, was well-known for using local and organic ingredients, as well as taking the food from “the farm to the table”. She was slightly worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it because “everything you photograph is so fancy!” – ah glamourous friend. I just love food, fancy or no!
As it turns out, Urban Farmer is a pretty fancy-pants place. Located on the 9th floor of the luxury hotel The Nines it’s all glitz and glamour, with beautiful skylights and foliage in the middle of the dining area. It’s also total comfort food with a fancy twist (how many times can I use the word fancy whilst describing this place? Not enough, clearly) – I had the Anson Mills grits with a soft poached egg, spiced shrimp and pulled pork, and my girl friend had the cheese steak sandwich with shaved sirloin, gruyere fondue and house chips. She actually ordered the house fries which they forgot to change on the order, so we had those as a side too. All very good, but I think if I went back I’d go for the meat, as that’s what they’re known for. Just a little hard to have something that hearty for lunch, but for dinner? Indubitably. A little pricey at around $20 per head, and that’s only for one course, but worth a visit.
525 SW Morrison St
Rich from Otto Pizza promised me that were I not to like my pizza at Dove Vivi, the pizza joint in Portland that started their own obsession and subsequent spin-off in London, he would personally pay for my meal. Well Rich: you need not break out the cashish, because I didn’t just like my pizza, I loved it. What?! Me?! Loving pizza?! Yes, yes indeed. It was wonderful, and Otto Pizza have done a fantastic job at both being able to create the tried and tested cornmeal crust pizzas but also put their own delicious spin on it. As the Hong Kong folks would say: “same-same but different-la!”
I got slices of the Corn Cashew (vegan roasted red pepper & cashew cheese, fresh sweet corn, caramelized onions, chives) and Bresaola (mozzarella, provolone, thinly sliced red onions, porcini mushroom sauté, air-cured beef, lemon oil), and Clara got slices of the Pesto (mozzarella, fontina, ricotta, house-made spinach pesto, basil, fresh tomatoes) and Goat Cheese (mozzarella, goat cheese, marinated green peppers, fresh rosemary, marinated roasted tomatoes). All were delicious – I preferred the Corn Cashew slightly over the Bresaola (the latter was a little too dry), but I’d happily order anything off that menu and swallow it down. I could almost have gone for a third slice… almost.
Go there. I insist. Even if you don’t live in Portland you should still go there.
2727 NE Glisan St
Almost all of my friends told me to try Veritable Quandry, and not just because it has an awesome name. The food, apparently, was phenomenal, a little more on the pricey side but giving you plenty of bang for your buck with local and organic ingredients, and we all know how much Portlanders love their local and organic (or have you not seen ‘Portlandia’ yet?). I headed down there with a couple of friends to try it out.
We had a Spiked Cider, Lavender Lemondrop & Sidecar to drink, then ordered our main meals. Vanessa had the confit duck with roasted vegetables and mascarpone polenta (supposed to have been quail but they ran out), Jesse had the steak with truffles and vegetables, and I had the pecan-crusted catfish with Dungeness crab, creme fraiche and vegetables. Vanessa’s polenta was wonderful (such cheesy goodness!), the confit duck was okay (a little on the dry-side for me and I’ve had far better), and Jesse’s steak was fairly unimaginative but well cooked, but my catfish? Oh Lord. My catfish. It was beautiful. I’ve never had catfish before and it was probably one of my favourite things I ate the whole trip – I practically licked the plate clean. Succulent, juicy, meaty, and with a wonderful crunch from the pecans – I adored it.
We finished things up with the chocolate and walnut souffle and the cheddar, apple and walnut galette with vanilla ice-cream. The souffle was beautiful, so light and airy it practically dissolved on your tongue, but the galette was a little too cheesy… and yet strangely addictive. They had placed a slice of cheddar on the bottom of the pastry beneath the fruit, so as we dug in we were literally pulling strands of cheese away. My palate was a little confused with it, to be honest, it couldn’t quite decide whether this was a dessert or another savoury dish – there was, of course, accompanying vanilla ice-cream which just muddled things even further. Having said that I couldn’t seem to stop eating it. I think the confusion was forcing me to take bite after bite… at least that’s what I tell myself. Regardless, it’s definitely a dessert for badasses.
All in all, whilst there were definite high notes and low notes, it’s a place I’d definitely revisit, particularly as they change their menu every day so it’s always a surprise. Super friendly service and roughly $30 per head for two courses – two very large courses, I might add. Worth a visit.
1220 SW 1st Ave
Le Bistro Montage
Le Bistro Montage, located under the Morrison Bridge in SE Portland is, perhaps, one of my favourite places to dine when in town. It’s been around for years and they’re still doing the same (awesome) things. My old roommate, a North Carolina girl, once said to me, “Portland really wants to be Southern…” and it’s true – it kind of does. There are at least three or four very decent Southern joints around town, and Montage is one of the better ones. One of their signature dishes are their Oyster Shooters which, when ordered, are roared aloud to the bar by the server, and repeated all around you. Quite the shock if you know nothing of it and suddenly find somebody screaming, “OYSTEEER SHOOOOTEEEERRRRR” in your ear. Their other signature piece to note is that all of their leftovers are presented to you in the most beautiful little tin foil creations. I’ve seen people walking out holding tin foil roses, squirrels, snails, whales, all filled with their leftover foods – you name it and Montage will probably do it. I also love their cocktails, which always have awesome names, such as mine above which was called: ‘You’re Not My Real Dad’. Oo-er.
One of their most popular dishes are their ‘Famous Mac ‘N Cheese’ which is completely delicious, and this is coming from a girl who isn’t big on mac ‘n cheese. On this particular night all four of the friends I was dining with ordered a variation of the mac ‘n cheese, and what did I go for? Alligator Jambalaya, of course.
If you’re surprised you should really stop reading my blog right now, because if you haven’t realised that I am the girl who will literally eat anything then I must ask: where have you been?! Of course I chose the weirdest item out there! The alligator itself was kind of like a cross between chicken and pork – the texture was more pork-like, but the flavour more chicken-like. I enjoyed it, anyway.
For dessert we shared the Mississippi Mud Pie and Gooey Butter Cake and holy majoly, they were awesome. They both came on recommendation of our server and when she came back to ask how they were my response was, “holy [expletive], SO GOOD” – I am one classy bird. Seriously though, if you order nothing else, order these.
Montage is affordable, too, ringing in (roughly) at $15 per head for two courses, excluding alcohol. I love it – a real slice of Portlandia on your plate and that’s what it’s all about, eh?
Le Bistro Montage
301 SE Morrison
In Other News
My buddy Sean has the most beautiful light fixture ever on his front porch. Seriously. I would’ve nicked it had it not been attached to the ceiling with a pretty heavy duty chain.
I went down to The Sev (7-11) trying to find the most disgusting food possible: it was the Apple Hostess Pie. Oh Lord. I took one bite and wanted to be violently ill. Yay transfats! And the Butterfinger Snackerz? Well I actually adore Butterfingers (did you know that they have an ingredient in them that is illegal in the UK? That’s why they can’t be imported into the country! Don’t ask me what it is, I don’t know, but it’s probably some kind of crack which is why they’re so damn addictive…) but the Snackerz were kinda weird. I had a few and then gave the rest to my friend!
My girl Clara is the most wonderful actress, singer, dancer and teacher, and has been choreographing a college production of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ at Mount Hood Community College. I was lucky enough to sit in on a rehearsal and it really is fantastic. Clara and the director Jenn have done an absolutely fantastic job on the whole show – I’m only sad I didn’t get to see it go up for real! But if you’re in and around Portland, you should go – thoroughly solid performances through with special mention to James who’s playing Frank-N-Furter. He really is rather wonderful.
And that, my dears, is all for now. Sorry this has been such a lengthy post but, well, it’s Portlandia! It had to be done. Until next time then, peace and love.