Showing posts with label Portland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Portland. Show all posts

Friday, August 27, 2010

A gastronomic gallop through Portland

That's the real reason I want to return to Oregon's "City of Roses".

                 Lobby and courtyard Hotel Modera
Yes, its parks and gardens were great, shopping plentiful, and our Hotel Modera was heavenly, (a most memorable nightcap was sipped along side one of its three large fire pits in the courtyard) but it is the promise of continued culinary adventures that seem to be the strongest draw. 

The Female Foursome did our best to sample as much as possible during our short stay with two notable highlights being:
 * Higgins Restaurant and Bar, 1239 SW Broadway, a place that has grown so popular since its 1994 opening that I was glad the Portlander among us had made reservations at this French bistro-style restaurant housed in an atmospheric historic building complete with pressed tin ceilings.  I had one of Chef/owner Greg Higgins' pasta creations in a fresh basil pesto with hazelnuts. Hazelnuts, also known as filberts, are grown in Oregon and this rich, satisfying dish did credit to the crop and the chef's creativity.

* Mother's Bistro and Bar, 212 SW Stark, was our breakfast destination where the menu items featured Oregon's fresh blueberries and blackberries on or in muffins, pancakes and French toast. We walked from our hotel to justify eating another meal so soon after dinner at Higgins - an easy walk and great sightseeing.

         Morning set up at Food Carts
Our gastronomic gallop through the heart of the city took us to two of Portland's innovative Food Cart blocks.  I am talking city blocks filled with gourmet food offerings served from windows of trucks, vans and trailers - think taco truck, ice cream man, Oahu's Northshore shrimp trucks and you  get the idea.  Small sidewalk bistro tables and picnic tables make up the out-door dining areas.

Ethnic specialties, old-fashioned locally made Brats, ice cream - its all there somewhere.  High quality food for low prices and each eatery a popular stop. One place that had as many published food reviews on display as ayou might find in a restaurant; but then many of these places are the launching pads for chefs who aren't quite ready to make the plunge into traditional restaurant settings, we were told.

               And then open for business
Clever names. Inventive food.  We stopped at The Dump Truck, open Monday - Friday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., to try its gourmet steamed dumplings.  Dumplings, dump truck. . .get it? Ever thought of a bacon cheeseburger dumpling or one filled with Portobello mushrooms? They serve them here, where a hearty sampler plate can be had for $5.

Yes, I will go back but next time I'll slow the gastronomic gallop and simply forage through the food cart blocks. . .

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Portland "City of Roses"

Decades ago Portland, Oregon dubbed itself the "City of Roses" and today it still lives up to its name. Rose beds fill parks and rose bud images are found everywhere including imprints on water main covers in the middle of city streets. 

                Rose bed in South Park Blocks
Last week's visit as part of the Female Foursome  was just a taste of all this city at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette (Wil-lam-ette) rivers, a few hours south of Seattle has to offer. 

The Foursome sampled a lot of the town during our time together and recommend:
  * strolling  the length of the 25-block boulevard between Park and 9th, an oasis of trees, gardens and statues that got is start back in 1852 and today is referred to as South Park Blocks.
  * visiting Powell's Bookstore, an independently owned business that covers a city block and is filled with more than a million new, used, and out-of-print books; a place so inviting that we had to go back twice during our short visit and still didn't have enough time to roam the entire maze of color-coded rooms.
             Fountain at Jamison Square
  * visiting the one-time warehouse district, now the urban renewal award-winning Pearl District , a place that also drew us back a second time to continue our tour of  its restaurants, shops, bars and galleries. 
   * enjoying the neighborhood parks - during our visit they were filled with kids making the most of the summer sun, playing in the fountains and pools.
   *  sampling some of Portland's micro-brews.

    Enjoying Portland's Deschutes Brewery
Portland's MAX light rail train and Streetcar - with their free ride zone in the heart of the downtown  -- made explorations a snap.  We'd walk until we couldn't go another step and then simply hop a train for another couple of blocks. 

I'd love to revisit everything I've mentioned, but if you want to know what  the real reason is for me wanting to go back, check the next post. . .

Saturday, August 21, 2010

On track in the Pacific Northwest

            Portland, Oregon's train station
"This is so beautiful," the man from Genoa, Italy exclaimed. "I think I have the good side." 

We were aboard Amtrak's Cascades traveling between Portland, Oregon and Seattle,Washington, passing through a part of southwestern Washington that I had always considered 'somewhat boring'. 

           Crossing the Columbia River
I had met the Italian  in Portland's train station while we waited in a long line for seat assignments. Having completed the business portion of his Pacific Northwest trip he was traveling by a train to the area's largest cities: Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.  He asked for  recommendations on what he should see; I ticked off the usual tourist sites as we inched our way towards the counter.

We'd chatted again as I made my way to the dining car for coffee. Back in my seat, I thought about his enthusiastic declaration and realized that I was guilty of traveling a familiar route, close to home and simply taking it for granted.

I decided it was time to really pay attention to my trip; I pulled out my notebook and made note of my discoveries:

*  Winlock, Washington, just south of Tacoma, home of the World's Largest Egg - the conductor announced it but unfortunately a freight train kept us from seeing it. It is 12-feet long and weighs 1,200 lbs - no joke; follow the link I provided above.
*  Speaking of Tacoma, if you pay attention as the train eases into the station from the south, you will go under the Chihuly Bridge of Glass with its Crystal Towers gleaming above you.
*  Passed a town I don't think I'd ever paid attention to before called Bucoda but its been around since the 1870's when it served as home to the first Territorial State Prison. 
*  A profusion of blooms filled acres of flower gardens along a portion of our route making me wonder if they were the Hmong Gardens I read so often about in newspapers; the ones that had suffered from our strange northwest weather this year.
* And then there was Mount Rainier, at 14,411 feet (4,392m) the highest mountain in Washington State. In the late afternoon sun it beauty was so striking that other passengers roused themselves from napping to take a look.

Majestic Mount Rainier from the train
Wish I could tell the Italian visitor that -- thanks to my brief encounter with him -- I won't ever take this trip for granted again.


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