Wednesday, March 25, 2015

PORTLAND, OREGON: MORE TREATS AND EATS

My daughter is a food blogger. It's an important part of both the previous post about food carts and about this post about All the Stuff We Ate in Portland. I'm sure that if she weren't a food blogger, we would have eaten only fresh vegetables in reasonable quantities.

Whew! It's so nice to have an excuse for these food posts!

Lilly's Hummus
I'll start with a food destination that really, truly is all about healthy eating.  Rachael has done some photography for Lilly's Hummus, a wonderful home-grown business in Portland, and when she told the office she was going to be in Portland, they invited her to come see the factory, and I got to tag along.

Just about the first thing I noticed when we walked in was a seven-foot-tall poster of a darling little girl enjoying her hummus snack.  Hey! That sparkling face belongs to my grand-daughter, hummus connoisseur extraordinaire!  What fun!
We loved meeting Lilly herself. I was impressed to learn how her now national company began in her own kitchen as she made hummus to sell at a local farmers market. "People would get made when we sold out," she told us, so she started making more and more of her organic, locally-sourced hummus. Soon they had to move production to a small factory, and just recently they've moved into quite a large facility that we were able to tour.

Lilly uses dried garbanzos rather than buying a pre-made cooked bean. That adds a significant extra step of soaking and boiling the beans, but it makes for a better product:

The hummus is also packaged on site, so the entire process occurs in one place, which allows for excellent quality control:

This is what Hummus Heaven looks like:

Lilly sent us on our way with a complete one-day supply of her delectable dip, including her newest and most magnificent flavor: Sriracha Hummus. I can't even begin to tell you how inspired it is. Rachael and I devoured an entire container in a few hours on a drive through the Columbia River Gorge the following day.
Lilly's Hummus is sold at fine grocery stores all over the United States, including Whole Foods in California. Buy some and conduct your own taste test. You'll see what I mean when I say it is a cut above the Costco variety.

Also, check out my cute daughter talking about Lilly's Hummus on Salt Lake City's Studio 5 TV show recently.

Cacao
A cup of drinking chocolate (not cocoa) at Cacao on 414 SW 13th Avenue in Portland is a must. This is liquid heaven, I'm telling you. It transported me back to a trip to Spain when we had drinking chocolate and churros at a sidewalk cafe in Madrid. The chocolate is smooth and thick enough to coat a dipped churro, and you haven't tasted "rich" until you've had a cup of this stuff. This may be the best chocolate drink I have ever had anywhere, and believe me, I've drunk a lot of chocolate.
Rivoli dark chocolate, $4

St. Honore Boulangerie
Not quite as good but still over-the-top amazing was this spiced hot apple cider from locally sourced apples at St. Honore Boulangerie on 3333 SE Division Street.
We had it with an apricot almond tart

Voodoo Donuts
From the sublime to the ridiculous, or from the upper crust to the pushing-the-limits crowd.  We had heard from about 127 people that a trip to Portland isn't complete without a stop at Voodoo Donuts. Okay, okay--we'll eat some donuts just for you!  After all, how could we NOT be impressed by the artistic stained glass in the shop windows at Voodoo Donut Too, 1501 NE Davis Street?
  The bubble-gum pink interior and donut boxes were also tres chic.
So hard to choose: the eponymous voodoo donut with the spear stuck in his arm, or the weeping donut losing his dinner? We opted for the latter.

The donuts were good, but the selling point is the very high Weird Factor.

Blue Star Donuts
On the other hand, Blue Star Donuts on 1237 SW Washington Street is to donuts what Cacoa is to drinking chocolate. Oh my stars. It's glass front shop looks like a New York department store.

They may say "Quality over Quantity," but we were fortunate enough to get both as we came in at the end of the day.
 Every time we pointed at one donut, the shopkeeper would say, "How about I throw in a Meyer lemon and key lime curd donut with that?" or some other equally scrumptious variety.  Somehow we ended up with about a dozen donuts for the price of six.
Blue Star Donuts, Portland
 From the top: Bacon Maple Glazed, Blueberry Basil Bourbon Glazed, Passion Fruit and Cocoa Nib Glazed, Meyer Lemon and Key Lime Curd Filled, Valrhona Chocolate Crunch.
Sorry Voodoo Donuts, but you're not even on the same continent as these guys.

Bunk Sandwiches
Several people, including our food cart guide, had recommended Bunk Sandwiches for a good lunch. We visited the downtown location at 211 SW Sixth Avenue.
We shared a Pork Belly Cubano Sandwich with sides.
 Here is how we felt about it:

Pok Pok Noi
We had two "gourmet" dine-out nights.  Our first was at Pok Pok Noi, an award-winning restaurant Rachael was especially excited to visit. Although it served Thai food, it was not like any Thai food I have ever eaten.

The restaurant was small and crowded, and we ended up on a picnic table on the heated patio--heated, but we kept our coats on.  At some point in the meal, two more people joined us on our table but were served separately.


We started with drinks: pomegranate, vinegar, and seltzer for me, and Thai basil, vinegar and seltzer for Rachael. Vinegar drinks? I know it sounds weird, but my oh my were they ever good. Along with our drinks they brought us the house roasted red peanuts with chiles and lime leaves.

 My main dish (and I am quoting from the menu here as I don't know what half of these things are) was Khnom Jiin Naam Ngiaw: Northern rice vermicelli topped with pork ribs, minced beef, tomatoes, bean sprouts, dried dawk ngiew and house pickled mustard greens, spiced with Thai dried chiles and herbs and served with khao kan jin-Taiyai-style dirty rice served in a banana leaf:
 Rachael had Muu Paa Khan Waan: Boar collar meat rubbed with garlic, coriander, and black pepper, glazed with soy and sugar and grilled over charcoal. It was served with chilled mustard greens and spicy chile/lime/garlic sauce:

Even the sides were gorgeous, such as this chilled mustard greens and sticky rice:

Natural Selection
 Our second Gourmet Night happened at Natural Selection, a vegan restaurant at 3033 NE Alberta Street.

 We ordered from a set menu. Rachael got column 1, and I got column 2. That way we could taste everything. Here is a sampling of our beautifully prepared dishes:
Sunchokes with Brussels Sprouts Salad
Farro with Citrus-Glazed Rutabaga
Roasted Apples with Spiced Creme Fraiche
We really should have more pictures, but I think we were to busy stuffing ourselves to think about photography.

Salt & Straw
Ask any native and they would tell you that no trip to Portland is complete without a trip to the iconic Salt & Straw ice cream parlor, named one of America's best ice cream shops on many lists. In fact, a friend of mine in Portland who I got together with on this trip is the one who suggested we meet there. She could tell me about every flavor on the list. It was clear she had been there more than a few times.
We could sample every flavor we wanted. No limits. The girl behind the counter gave us good-sized samples on regular metal spoons fanned out like an edible peacock's tail.
Salt & Straw, Portland
Isn't this amazing? I was so full from my samples that I probably could have gotten by without ordering anything, but after this demonstration of talent, I felt I owed her at least a three-scoop order.

Petunia's Pies
 We may or may not have indulged in a piece of  pie from Petunia's at 610 SW 12th Avenue. Who could resist Bumbleberry Peach Pie with Hazelnut Strudel? Not us!

World Foods Grocery
When we travel abroad, one of the best places to go is always the grocery store. A lot can be said about a country by what staples and tasty treats its people consume, how food is displayed in the aisles, and how much variety there is. I have to say that World Foods in Portland made me want to hang out with Portlanders. If it represents their culture and personalities, count me in. The store is full of unique stuff.  For some reason, I was particularly drawn to this nut brittle:

I bought some artisan salts, a loaf of Dave's Killer Bread (made in Oregon), They had a great artisan chocolate and imported water sections ('cause you know that water tastes different in Armenia):
 They also had a pretty incredible homemade goodie area, and Rachael fell for a marzipan-stuffed date. Isn't it radiant?

PDX Airport
Airport shops should highlight the best products of a state, not just the usual tacky tourist t-shirts and trivia. Take Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, for example, which is full of gorgeous tulips and saliva-inducing rounds of Gouda cheese. We give PDX Airport a 9 out of 10 because of one shop that had stocked up on fine chocolate, including Portland's own Woodblock Chocolate, the state's first bean-to-bar chocolate company.
As you can imagine, we had a nice tasting party while we waited for our plane.

Final analysis? If you happen to like to eat food, cook food, write about food, take pictures of food, think about food--Portland is your place. More than any place I have ever been, Portland is for Foodies.

But then, maybe that's because I was traveling with the ultimate foodie gal.

4 comments:

  1. Have you ever been to Porto's in Glendale, it is a good Cuban bakery you might enjoy. I saw a man vs food challenge once about voodo donuts, looks like a wild place.

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  2. Oh my. I'm realizing all over again how much I've missed really good, interesting food during the last 3 weeks. Most of these pictures make me want to book a flight to visit Pearson's.

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  3. Pork belly sandwiches, check. Donuts, donuts, ice cream, ice cream, chocolate, chocolate. I think the term is desserty, not foodie.

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  4. After re-reading all your posts again (with intent to leave comments this time), I am now bothering Dave to take me back to Portland for more than one day. Okay, it was two days, but you and Rachel have tantalized me to go for MORE days just to get all this food tasting in. Yum!

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