Thursday, August 23, 2012

Portland Day 3: Jam on Hawthorne, Portland Farmer's Market, Rose Garden, Portland City Grill, Eastburn

This is post #3 out of 5 about a recent trip to Portland. Other posts in this series include: Day 1, Day 2, Day 4, Day 5.


Day Three started off with brunch at a spot my friend, Amy (a Portland local), had decided on. The day prior she'd asked if I wanted "charming" or "quirky," and I replied with a "whichever one is more Portland." We ended up with quirky.

The place she picked was called Jam on Hawthorne. I wish I took a picture of the interior – it was very whimsical, a cross between vintage and diner. The waiter had the driest sense of humor I think I had ever witnessed – it's almost worth going there for him alone.

I had the Pesto Scramble, which came with roasted red peppers, mushrooms, basil pesto and a couple slices of sprouted wheat (!) bread. It was dense, just the right amount of salty and creamy, and very flavorful. Basil pesto is so good.

Amy got the Grand Marnier French Toast, which I had a bite of. It was two thick slices of eggy and buttery challah, dipped in Grand Marnier-infused batter, grilled, and then drizzled with house-made marionberry reduction. I loved the use of challah.

After brunch, we parted ways and went to the Portland Farmer's Market, which was surprisingly located in downtown Portland – in the financial district. It was nestled in a park, shaded by trees of the greenest pretty. The atmosphere was both cheerful and relaxed – I loved strolling around.

I had a few treats: a lavender latte (it was good but I wish the lavender were stronger), and some goodies from Two Tarts Bakery. The basil macaroon was delicious.

After the farmer's market, we drove to Portland's International Rose Garden, which is home to almost ten thousand rose bushes, representing more than six hundred varieties. (So many roses in the garden, but no heady rose scent...sadly.) There were definitely some unusual varieties – I saw ones that were light lavender, others that were bright yellow, and my favorite: the sunset gradient ones. Still waiting to see a blue rose though.

I liked the "Gold Medal Garden," which was an area serving as a testing ground for new rose varieties. The best ones each year are given the Portland Gold Medal Awards – so we could see the "best" roses each year, starting from 1919.

There was a Scottish tour guide who I fell in love with – I think he was a octogenarian by the name of Ken. He was such an expert on the roses I could do nothing but swoon...

We decided to then drive back to downtown Portland and explore the area. I wanted to try the famed Stumptown Coffee, but unfortunately the cafe was just closing up early just as we walked up to the door. There had been an E. coli scare earlier that day – some strains were detected in the water supply west of the Williamette River, where we were. A "Boil Water Notice" had been issued by the city.

But life goes in. We walked a couple blocks to Powell's Books, but it was a little too overwhelming inside. We halfheartedly strolled around the first floors, took a touristy photo, and then exited to get some air.

Some happy hour drinks were had at the Portland City Grill, on the 30th floor of a skyscraper. Due to the suspected water contamination, the bar had to get ice supplied from Washington and bottled water instead of tap.

The views were lovely.

After dinner, we went to Eastburn, another "very Portland" spot recommended to us by a local. There were swings of a couple different varieties...

...we ultimately chose a table with a fire pit in the center, which kept me warm, because I am a reptile and get cold even when it is 70 degrees out.

Dinner was decent – we had a Tuscan white bean spread with grilled levain bread; I had a portabello and roasted tomato salad because I had not eaten vegetables since the beginning of the trip; Ryan had a humongous pork chop that he ate with much gusto. It was topped with something that looked like fries but was disappointingly a apple horseradish slaw...which was a little too bitter for my tastes.

We also had a couple of the beers on tap – a refreshing "Chris' Summer Delight" from Full Sail, and a darker "Red Thistle" something or other.

If you notice, there are no pictures of dinner, I think because I was almost literally sick of taking pictures by that point.

Post-dinner activities involved skeeball in the basement, a neighborhood walk (this one was less quaint than the others), and swinging on a neighborhood swing, that was actually very chafing.

And once again, the day ended with me passing out like no other. This is what full itineraries do to you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Nectarines + Basil

I just discovered something amazing by accident and had to share with you.

If you store a few leaves of basil with nectarines in the same container, the nectarines will smell faintly of basil when you eat them (even if it's only been a few hours). Which, if you like basil, is awesome. The nectarines taste more refreshing and a little more complex.

I just love the smell of basil. I would wear it if it were a perfume...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Portland Day 2: Waffle Window, Columbia River Gorge, Hood River, Double Mountain Brewery, Apizza Scholls

This is post #2 out of 5 about a recent trip to Portland. Other posts in this series include: Day 1, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5.


Our day started off early with breakfast at the Waffle Window.  I was only adamant that we try their "3 Bs" waffle (bacon, brie, and basil), which came highly recommended by multiple sources. The secondary waffle was the Banana Rumba, which came with banana caramel sauce, whipped cream, and granola topping.

I think I have this problem where I will order whatever a place is famous for, even if it prominently features an ingredient I dislike. In this case: bacon. (I think not liking bacon and chocolate has made me a freak outsider in certain communities).  It was OK, I liked the basil, but the texture of the hard bacon against the hard(ish) crust of the waffle, along with rinds of the brie made it not my favorite.

With the sweet waffle, I also didn't really like texture of chewy granola and whipped cream together...but I'm done complaining now.

I think I would've been happy with just the plain pearl sugar waffle. They make them Liege-style, which means they're dense, chewy, buttery, and just the right amount of sweet.

I would not trust my opinion though, given their insane ratings on Yelp.


After breakfast, we headed out onto highway 84, which weaves along Columba River Gorge. It was an overcast day, which meant I got to watch fog rolling in and getting caught on the tops of the pine trees.

The Gorge is a canyon of the Columbia River, which forms the boundary between Oregon and Washington State.  You'll find a high concentration of waterfalls and even temperate rainforests along certain portions of the river.

We stopped at Multnomah Falls, the second highest waterfall in the U.S., after Yosemite Falls. (It's a two tiered waterfall, so doesn't that mean it's two waterfalls? Need to research this.)

It was Friday at noon, so I was hoping there would be fewer tourists, but I guess it was a popular time to be out. But it wasn't too bad – the higher you went, the fewer tourists there were.

We hiked up to the top of Multnomah Falls, and then continued hiking a couple miles more to Weisendanger Falls.

We also technically passed a third waterfall, Ecola Falls, but it was hidden and there was no clear path down to its base.

There was so much greenery! It's frustrating not knowing the names of plants. But I know we did see ferns and white tree fungus (which are actually parasitic and slowly kill the host tree).

I also saw giant striped millipede-like creatures, but in the pursuit of not throwing up on my keyboard, I'm not going to post those photos.

This hike has been one of my favorites in the U.S. It was incredibly lush and peaceful. I loved the mistiness that would give way to sunlight, and then quickly return.

After our hike, I had hoped to do a second one further down the highway, to the less touristy Oneonata Falls (which involves traipsing through log jams!). I was concerned that we wouldn't have enough time for Hood River, a town half an hour west of where we were, so we passed up on Oneonta.

First stop in Hood River: Double Mountain Brewery. They make their own beers and have their own taproom, where they serve their own beers, guest beers, pizza, and sandwiches.

We had a sampler tray:

Clockwise: from the top left: the Vaporizer, India Red Ale, Devil's Kriek, Rainier Kriek, and in the middle, Dapper Dan. The ones on the left were Belgian-style sour ales combined with last year's cherry harvest – the lighter one is with Rainier cherries; the darker with Bing. The cherry flavor was faint, which is probably better for beer aficionados but worse for fruit lovers like myself.

We also had their Jersey sub, which came with capicola (like proscuitto, except from the neck/shoulder of the pig rather than the thigh/rump), ham, provolone, and peppers.

After our lunch, we walked across the freeway to the river. Thanks to a "wind tunnel" effect from deep cuts of the gorge, Hood River has become a very popular windsurfing and kitesurfing spot.

We walked around the river, relaxed on the grass, stalked cute dogs...

...and then walked back across the freeway  to explore the town. There were only a few blocks to the main street. We walked past a few historic buildings, a handful of stores selling sporting equipment, and some of the usual boutiques and restaurants. Some of the inns/b&b-looking buildings had lovely outdoor patios that were very tempting for a meal or a drink – if only we had more time.

We did stop by Mike's Ice Cream to get a baby-baby scoop of ice cream (which, ahem, is the size of some "regular" scoops in SF, but 1/4 the price – it was just $1!!). We sampled a few flavors, but ultimately settled on Kahlua chip.

After our ice cream break, we drove back to Portland. We were early for our dinner reservation, so we walked around the western side of Hawthorne Street, which had a few funky stores and food stands.

Dinner was at Apizza Scholls, which, according to a couple Serious Eats articles, is the best in town. I think you need to make reservations a month in advance if you are going to be going on a busy night.

What's awesome about the place is that you can order half and half pies. So we went with one half New York White (mozzarella, pecorino romano, grana padano, ricotta, garlic), and another half Amatriciana (cured bacon, red onions, chili flakes). I was too tired to move, so I have this picture of my pizza at an uncomfortable proximity.

It was good pizza, but I think I've been spoiled by SF, especially Gialina...I was planning on getting the Tartufo Bianco, which was mozzarella + truffle oil, but I didn't see it on the menu. In retrospect, I technically could've asked about it, but I don't think my brain was at maximum functioning level.

We walked around the neighborhood after dinner. It's quite common to see small gardens in the front yard of houses – I find them so sweet.

Our walk was the last activity of the day, which was quite long and action-packed. Needless to say, I passed out immediately when we got back to our hotel.