My wife and I just got back home after 6 nights in the Metro Portland area. Granted, most of the time we were visiting your fair city we were staying with relatives and enjoying home cooking, but thought I would share some highlights.
On Saturday morning, my wife's cousin, with whom we were staying, took us to her favourite butcher shop, "The Meating Place," in Hillsboro. We picked out three enormous bone-in, grass fed rib-eyes (each weighing more than 1.5 pounds), to be shared for dinner that night. Later that day, my wife and I, my wife's cousin and her husband, and two children drove down to the PSU area and spent about an hour perusing all the wonderful produce at the Saturday Farmer's Market. I must say, this market gets larger and more impressive every time I visit Portland. I bought a ginormous purple cauliflower, some lovely little fingerling potatoes, dry roasted hazelnuts (much cheaper than in BC, where I live) and some fresh strawberries, which we quickly devoured. Following a hike in Forest Park, my in-laws took me to a Zupan's market in Nob Hill. I was like a kid in a candy store in that place. In terms of the range and quality of gourmet and specialty items, Zupan's makes Whole Foods look like an Albertson's. We picked up some wine and Cashel Blue cheese. That night, we dined on a feast of grilled rib-eyes, grilled mix veg (purple cauliflower, spring onions from the market, yellow and green zucchini also from the PSU market), fingerling potatoes, and pats of Cashel compound butter melted on the steaks. My relatives said the steaks were among the best they had ever tasted, and I have to concur:)
Sunday AM, I awoke early, as is my wont, and I drove to Portland to pick up some coffee while the relatives were sleeping in. I wandered aimlessly, looking for something more interesting than Starbucks or Stumptown, and eventually stumbled upon a place called Public Domain. I bought a pound of Peruvian beans which family and I enjoyed during the next several days.
Sunday night was dinner at my wife's aunt's place in Oregon City. Monday AM my wife's uncle drove us to a New Seasons market, where we ate sandwiches and picked up a few specialty items not available in Canada (i.e. Red Boat fish sauce, coconut aminos).
Monday late AM my wife and I drove into Portland to spend a few nights on our own. We walked around the Nob Hill area at around noon that day: we split a Mexican Hot Chocolate donut from Blue Star, which unfortunately tasted a little stale. While in Blue Star, I asked the clerk where we should eat lunch in the Nob Hill area. She directed us to Kornblatt's Deli. I enjoyed the old-school ambience and the uber friendly service, but the food was a mixed bag. I got the burger special; while the beef patty itself was unremarkable, I did enjoy the combo of pastrami and sauerkraut on the burger and I liked the soft bun with the egg washed top. The deli pickles were nice, too. My wife's "sloppy joe" was disappointing however as it was served cold and was really just a sandwich (nothing like the hot sloppy joes with which I am familiar). We also revisited Zupan's where I spent a day's wages on specialty items that I have not seen back in Canada.
That night we had a dinner reservation at Higgins. I enjoyed our experience there, especially the service, though I was not blown away by the food. I started with a half-dozen oysters served with orange granita, which was pleasantly tart. My wife had a mussels appetizer and she loved the sauce, which ate like a rich creamy soup. For mains we both had the mixed seafood Pepper Pot, which I thought was really tasty. The desserts were unremarkable and not very modern. Altogether, I found Higgins to be a bit dated in terms of decor and cuisine but I enjoyed myself and really appreciated the attentiveness of our server. I also liked that they accepted reservations as I am allergic to lining up for an hour or more for trendy restaurants that are all buzz and no substance.
The next morning we had coffee at Ristretto Roasters on NE Couch Street, then walked along East Burnside. We ended up having a pretty good breakfast at a place called Waves of Grain. My wife and I both chose the cheese biscuit with chorizo gravy, and as a biscuit connoisseur I must say that their biscuit was better than average. Post-breakfast, we went to Heart for Americanos. Cool decor, and I liked that the roaster was operating right in the shop, but the staff and clientele were definitely aloof with that "don't talk to me, don't look at me, I'm hipper than thou" vibe. After Heart, my wife perused the aisles at Whole Foods while I spent far too much money at Music Millennium.
Lunch was Frank's Noodles (thanks for the tip, Jill-O). Those are quite delicious handmade noodles, and the pickled daikon and kimchee accompaniments were a nice touch.
Late afternoon we walked up to the Mississippi Street area, where we spent a small fortune in a speciality food store named "the Meadow" that sold only high-end salt, chocolate, bitters, and flowers. We will not need to add any more bitters to our bar for the next decade. That night, we ate dinner at Lincoln, which my wife and I both loved. The vegetable appetizers were all knockouts. We particularly liked the asparagus with sopressata topping, the octopus a la plancha, and the sugar snap peas and radishes served with cured black olives. Our house made pastas were great too. The hot fudge sundae at Lincoln is a killer dessert (I took a few too many bites of my wife's). The owners gave us a sample of their own Nocino made from walnuts from a tree in their front yard. They met with us and were exceptionally gregarious. I would heartily recommend this restaurant to tourists and locals alike.
Thursday morning we were getting ready to cut town, but not before hitting Blue Star again to give it a second chance. We got there right at opening. My wife ordered a apple cider donut and a glazed old fashioned; both were amazing. I had a hazelnut donut and a chocolate ganache with nuts, and while I like my choices I must admit that my wife's donuts were better than mine!
After that, we hit the road home. Can't wait until our next visit. I might even put aside my bias against lining up and try out Ox next time. I wanted to eat at Ava Gene's but I could not get a reservation there 3 weeks in advance of our trip, so next time I'll reserve at least 2 months in advance!
Thanks for all of your tips, and enjoy all of those fantastic shops, farms and restaurants you have in Oregon.