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February 23, 2014

Portland, Oregon Anniversary Trip

For whatever reason, for B and my 3rd anniversary (back in 2012), I decided I wanted to go to Portland! Don't ask what made me decide this, but I was thinking maybe San Diego or Monterey, but they were both too expensive to stay at for any length of time. Then I thought of how popular Portland was becoming, checked hotel rates, and they were so cheap! We stayed at a place called the Phoenix Inn, in Lake Oswego, about 20 minutes south of downtown, and it was really nice and totally within our price range. We drove and the hotel was right next to a gas station, which was always nice if we needed gas on our way in for the night, or out for the day. It was a very long drive, about 10 hours, I wouldn't recommend it if you aren't trying to save money like we were. But I figured, I've made the 8 hour drive to San Diego and back many times, so another 2 hours is no big deal. The nice thing was we were able to stop in to the Voodoo Doughtnuts that was way south of the city, and there was no waiting, unlike the downtown location.

I also decided that maybe this would be the right time to get my first digital SLR camera, so I bought that along with an additional lens, battery, case, so on. Some of the photos are taken with it, and they sure do look great!

Grain and Gristle - Burger
Grain and Gristle - Our first dinner once we got into the city, we stopped at little bar called Grain and Gristle for some food. We weren't super hungry because we stopped for lunch in the middle of the drive, so we split the burger and added a fried egg. Very delicious, great little place to stop by.

Voodoo Doughtnuts - Voodoo Doll Doughnut
Voodoo Doughtnuts - Bacon Maple Bar

Voodoo Doughtnuts - The next morning we were craving doughnuts for breakfast, so B waited in line at Voodoo, while I grabbed coffee at the hipster coffee place right near by. They have some nice picnic tables to sit at, and the maple bar with bacon was one of my favorites.

Pok Pok - Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings (Spicy)
Pok Pok - Khao Man Som Tan
Pok Pok - We stopped at Pok Pok for lunch, and I have to say, this was one of, if not my all-time favorite meals we had in Portland. Amazing food, there was almost no wait. I have dreams about that papaya salad ... so good! Especially having tried other papaya salads, and they just aren't the same. Every single one in San Francisco feels the need to add shrimp to mask their sub-par salad, but the Pok Pok papaya salad was perfectly executed. The fish sauce wings are one of their specialties, but while B was licking the sauce off his fingers, I was scarfing down this papaya salad, served with coconut rice and shredded pork! I highly recommend this restaurant, and both of these dishes.

Apizza Scholls - Caesar Salad
Apizza Scholls - Half Apizza Margherita, Half New York White Pie
Apizza Scholls - I wanted to see what kind of pizza Portland had to offer, so I found this place called Apizza Scholls and made reservations. We got a Caesar Salad to start, and couldn't decide on the pizza, so B wanted half Margherita, and I wanted half White. So we split the pizza, and each had a little of each half. Very good pizza, I love a good white pizza pie. Especially if there's garlic involved.

Cascade Brewing - Beer flight tasting
Cascade Brewing - Looking back, I think this was the beginning of my craft beer addiction! We were trying to figure out what to do after dinner, and I was looking at my phone seeing what was around us. I found this brewery and was like "Wanna go beer tasting?" B said "Yes, duh" so we headed over to Cascade Brewing. They are famous for their sours, which are pretty much exactly as they sound, beer that is sour! I don't remember what all these were in the photo, but they were all tasty! Back then I didn't really know what kind of beer I liked so we just ordered beers that sounded interesting. (My favorite styles of beers now are mostly IPA's and anything dark, usually porters and stouts.)

Nong's Khao Man Gai - Chicken and Rice, with extra sauce
Nong's Khao Man Gai - Portland is pretty famous for their not food trucks, but food carts! There are all kinds of parking lots converted into permanent food cart locations. The one that started it all was Nong's Khao Man Gai, which serves chicken and rice. If I weren't around, I swear B would be living off chicken and rice for the rest of his life, so this was right up his alley. We got the chicken and rice with extra sauce, because I've heard you can never go wrong with getting extra sauce. It was amazing, Nong is the owner and she is there pretty much every day serving her khao man tai of Thai origins. I hope someday I can travel to Asia and try Hainanese Chicken Rice there, but maybe I'll try my hand at making it someday. I highly recommend stopping at this famous food cart, you can't go wrong with chicken and rice.

Lardo - Pork Belly Sandwich with Egg I think, I don't know if they still have this exact sandwich on the menu anymore
Lardo - Cubano I think, with Lardo Fries
Lardo - I honestly don't remember which Lardo location we went to, or what we ordered. I don't even know if what we ordered it still on the menu, but I believe I got a pork belly sandwich, and B got a cubano. We also got some of their famous lardo fries. They had just opened I believe when we stopped in, so it wasn't busy. The sandwiches were good, but I remember them being kind of expensive for what they were. I'm sure Portlandians have other favorite places for sandwiches.

Potato Champion - Poutine, the worst thing I ate the whole trip. See that moldy cheese curd on the left? Yeah, it was gross.
Potato Champion - I have to say I was so excited to try this food cart, and I was so disappointed. I don't know what it was about the day we went here, but it was all bad. We arrived a little early before they opened, but we were ok waiting a few minutes or so. Well, we ended up waiting about 30-45 minutes after they were scheduled to open, the guy rolls up in a van, looking like he just rolled out of bed at 11AM. He still needs some additional time to get set up. So now, it's about an hour after their website said they opened. All the other food carts in the lot were open and serving food.

I order the poutine because it was reviewed highly and everyone said it's like the real thing. This was the first poutine I'd ever had, so I didn't really know how it was supposed to taste, but ours was bad. I hated the taste, couldn't finish it, didn't want to finish it after I discovered a moldy cheese curd, which you can actually see on the left side of the photo above. By that time, I'm pretty pissed, and we had to go somewhere else, so I didn't want to deal with taking it back. We just tossed it and left.

So disappointing. I probably wouldn't go back, I'm not picky with service or food, it's usually not hard to please me. Just don't screw up the order, bring it in a fairly timely fashion, and have it be at least decent and I'm happy. I read some Yelp reviews, and I can always tell when people who give a bad review were just being super picky and whiny. But mold in my food? That's a deal breaker.

Rogue Hall - Idaho Buffalo Chips
Rogue Hall - Halibut and Chips, 3 piece
Rogue Hall - Let's contrast the worst meal I had in Portland, with one of my favorites from Rogue Hall! Now, there are several Rogue Hall locations throughout the west coast, including one in San Francisco, which I wouldn't recommend going to. The San Francisco location is small, not a lot of seating, the food is just ok, not as great as the one in Portland, and the service is terrible. Like, college dropouts who don't give a crap that you're there waiting for your order to be taken. You almost always have to flag them down, and like I said their food is just ok.

I forget which one we went to, but it was near a college campus, so go to that one. I think it's just the Rogue Hall location in downtown Portland. It was empty when we went in, and our server was wonderful. Let us take our time, recommended beers and food to us, and we even bought some beer to take home with us. First we ordered the Buffalo Chips, which were spicy potato rounds served with Ranch dressing, those were delicious. We were tempted to order another plate of them! But I wanted to try their Fish and Chips, which were halibut, and they were great! Such a different fish than most fish and chips are made with, but the batter was crisp and it was such a big portion.

Tasty 'N Sons - Chocolate Potato Doughnut with crème anglaise
Tasty 'N Sons - Potatoes Bravas with over easy eggs & aioli
Tasty 'N Sons - Auntie Paula's French Toast with huckleberry-maple & whipped cream
Tasty 'N Sons - Steak n Eggs with cornmeal pancake & jalapeño butter
Tasty 'N Sons - B and I were going on a very long hike this day, so we had to have a filling breakfast. Tasty 'N Sons was delicious, very busy, but totally worth it! We shared a few dishes, including the doughnuts and the potatoes bravos, then I had the French toast, and B had the Steak n Eggs. It was wonderful and filling enough that we barely ate anything on our hike, 13 miles!, but we were definitely hungry enough for dinner. 

Laurelhurst Market - Foie Gras Torchon
Laurelhurst Market - Marrow Bones
Laurelhurst Market - House Charcuterie Plate
Laurelhurst Market - Steak Frites
Laurelhurst Market - Dulce de Leche Cheesecake
Laurelhurst Market - We made reservations for Laurelhurst Market in advance for dinner after our hike. The one downside was that we had to actually cut the 13 mile hike short, we didn't make it to the end of the trail, and we had to hustle back to make it in time. I felt bad, we changed our shoes, but we looked like a mess going into this nice restaurant! Luckily no one looked at us too strangely, but I wouldn't recommend going on a 13 mile hike then going into this restaurant! It was very good, and I initially picked it because they had some famous dishes on their menu that were relatively cheap to finally try, like bone marrow and Foie Gras. These menu items were fairly cheap, because they are a butchery as well. It was a great night to cross some items off my food bucket list. We were going to just try a bunch of appetizers, but we decided we needed a little more food, and ordered a main dish to share. They were very accommodating after we changed our mind about just having appetizers, and the service was good.

We stopped by Voodoo again on the way home. They were a little worse for wear, but still delicious!

Here was all the beer I brought home! The Rogue Chocolate Stout is one of my favorites from Rogue.

All in all, B and I loved Portland, way more than we had thought. And like I told B, if in the future I have a job that says to me, you have to re-locate to Portland, I totally wouldn't mind!

Here's a convenient list of other attractions we visited in case you are wondering what else there is to do besides eat and drink!

  • Hiking - We went on the Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls Hike, and unfortunately because we had dinner reservations, we never made it to Tunnel Falls. We went as far as we could, figured we could make it back a little faster (downhill) and booked it back to the car and made it to our dinner right on time. Got back to the car and my Fitbit said 13 miles, so I have no idea how close we were to the falls. This hike also goes by Punchbowl Falls which is also a popular ending point.
  • International Rose Test Garden - This was on our list because I thought it would be nice to get outside and walk around for a while, and it's FREE! Beautiful for photos, it has all kinds of colors of roses. There are benches you could sit and eat your lunch, and it was perfect for us, because when we arrived, B got an important email he had to attend to so we sat and hung out while he dealt with his business.
  • Oregon Zoo - This was a spontaneous attraction we visited, wasn't on our plans or itinerary at all, but we were driving around with a few hours to kill, and decided to stop by the Oregon Zoo. I highly recommend visiting, it's a pretty nice zoo! Big, with a variety of animals, definitely bigger and nicer than the San Francisco Zoo, which I think is in decline.

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