I was recently down in Portland, Oregon to do a couple bookish events, one at the Whole Foods in the Pearl District and the other at Robert Reynolds Chef Studio (take a class here - he's wonderful!). I've lived in Seattle for 16 years and had just barely scratched the surface of our sister city to the south. Until now.
I have recorded my outsider impressions thusly:
1. Portland is flush with trees. They say New York City is a city with a park in the middle of it and Portland is a park with a city in the middle of it. I can vouch for this.
2. It's easier to find parking in downtown Portland with a stretch limo towing an Airstream attached to a Vanagon than it is to find 1 square inch of uninked skin on your average Portlandian.
3. Portland is like the love child of Seattle neighborhoods Georgetown and Fremont, with more bikes, more tattoos, better public transportation, less diversity and no apparent professional dress code.
4. Portland's downtown Saturday farmer's market kicks ass, takes names and is larger and more diverse than any in Seattle.
5. Portland is also called the City of Roses which is a good goddamn thing because deodorant is apparently being rationed.
Depression is a problem in Portland. This guy was obviously blue.
Maybe he didn't see this sign, which perked me up right away.
Even the water tower in Portland loves you, blue guy.
Will someone please, once and for all, explain the origin and promulgation of the shoes tied around the telephone wire phenomenon in urban cores throughout our great land? It has been explained to me that "it's a signal to let people know where drug deals go down." This explanation is about as logical as selling heroin on Craigslist, but first calling the police to let them know what you're going to do.
When bananas go bad*
I call this photo: Long Apparatus.
Gotta give it up to the Ace Hotel for their quirky take on wall murals.
View from the Ace Hotel in Portland
and stole your deodorant.
Jameson Fink. As it was just 3 flights down from my hotel room, I made quick work of their $6 happy hour burger - the juiciest, most flavorful bit of beef between two buns I've experienced since watching that amateur video my friend Marc made.
I didn't stay here.
Ads as art
Portland could also be called "The city of bridges."
I got to know this bridge very well. At the far end of this bridge is the Portland Farmer's Market Administrative Offices which should NOT be confused with the Portland Farmer's Market, because it's a 45 minute walk over a long bridge and through a shady section of town and there are no farmers there, no market and it's closed on Saturdays.
Four fabulous Italian rosés at Nostrana. Don't ask me what they were.
Let's just call them light pink, pinker, pinker still and pinkiest.
I was blown away by this incredibly simple and humble plate of beans with albacore tuna at Nostrana. There is no place to hide in a dish like this; no bells and whistles to distract from the fundamentals. Everything has to be perfect -- the tenderness and creaminess of the beans, the level of salt and acidity and the crisp freshness of the vegetables.
I didn't eat here.
I did, however, grab a late-night bite at Pok Pok Noi. I wish I had a picture to show you but it was hard to focus on anything through the snot and tears generated by the Thai chilies in my bowl of unripe papaya salad (somtom). Not since I've been on the streets of Bangkok have I had such an authentic version of this dish. And the pandanus leaf infused water that they serve? It was a revelation. Toasty, full-bodied and refreshing, I'm afraid pandanus-free water will never quench my thirst again. I'm ruined Pok Pok Noi.
I also checked out Bamboo Sushi, one of only 4 sustainable sushi bars in the country. I highly recommend the mackerel, albacore belly and any sashimi served with yuzu jelly. On my train ride home, I packed a pastrami on rye with a side of coleslaw from Kenny & Zuke's. I will always, until the day I die, leave Portland in this fashion. I say this as a Jew from the New York area: thank you Kenny. Thank you Zuke.
As if Portlandians need a 3 foot hand to point them towards their civic duty.
Food trucks rule the streets in Portland. There's even one for grilled cheese sandwiches.
Food truck lit up at twilight.
Don't mind if I do. Until next time, Portland!