West Coast Adventures: Portland

September 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

As promised, despite being a bit overdue, I’m carrying on with the next installment of this summer’s west coast travels. After a very early morning wake up call, we were off to the train station in Seattle to Amtrak it to Portland. This proved to be a scenic, cost effective and relatively efficient way to go, although I had to take Rupert’s word (and photographic evidence) for scenic as I may have slept for the majority of the trip.

A view from Amtrak en route from Seattle to Portland

Coffee Coffee Coffee
After getting checked into the hip and conveniently located Hotel Lucia, we set out for an afternoon of exploring. And explore we did! We first headed out in search of coffee, but not just any coffee would do. After last year’s debut of Stumptown Coffee in New York’s Ace Hotel, I was deadest on tracking down any and all of the Portland based stores and filling myself with as many lattes as possible during our short stay.
With delicious coffee in hand, we explored the Pearl District where I feel in love with the very urban but green design of the lofts and condos. Almost everyone had some sort of balcony or outdoor space and for relatively new construction were very attractive. We grabbed a quick bite at the cute and tasty Everett Street Bistro, where the pastry counter did catch my eye, but I decided to hold out for treats down the road. Lunch was good, but I think it would be killer for brunch, particularly the pastry counter!
Roses & Blues
Following lunch we set out on foot for what turned into a beautiful (and uphill) walk to Washington Park, home of a huge reservoir and the famous Rose Gardens. The roses were in full bloom and glorious. I’ve never seen so many varieties and colors in such a dense area. From there we took the zoo train through the forest and the zoo before heading back downtown where we CONTINUED walking and ran into the Waterfront Blues Festival. We sat for an hour or so listening to music on the two stages and enjoying some beer from Deschutes Brewery.
Le Pigeon
We abstained from festival food, not without temptation, in order to save room for a very anticipated dinner at Le Pigeon that evening. After some sprucing up in the hotel, we took a quick taxi across the river to dinner. Le Pigeon’s chef, Gabriel Rucker was honored as one of F&W’s Best New Chef’s this year and deservedly so. He is known for his way with offal and organ meats, and knowing we were in his capable hands, I was open to eating just about anything. The restaurant itself was small with a great retro vibe – boasting an assortment antique glasses, plates and silverware. I had an incredible beet salad following by a lamb tongue appetizer that came highly recommended by our server. It was my first time eating tongue and it was tender and delicious. Rupert had the Beef Cheek Bourgingon, a signature dish, which was also impressive. When I referenced the menu while writing this post, I realized almost none of the dishes were the same – a testament to its seasonality – but its ashame as I can’t recall all of our dishes or their components.
On Two Wheels
We woke up with a plan to secure bikes and take advantage of the bikeability that Portland boasts. After a quick stop for lattes and bagels at Stumptown Coffee (yes, twice in 24 hours!), we rented some nice Trek hybrids and set out along a trail along the river with a handy map outlining the bike lanes, bike friendly roads and less than friendly roads. In all we were out for about 4 hours with a quick pizza break which was essential for refueling. It was indeed a beautiful place to ride and I loved the arts and crafts style houses that dominated the neighborhoods across the river from downtown.
After getting cleaned up, we headed out to reward ourselves with a visit to the Rouge Ale House, where we had a great sampling of their brews on tap. Note to international travelers: apparently foreign drivers licenses do not suffice as IDs to prove you are of age in Portland, even when you are 27! Rupert had to hightail it back to the hotel to secure his passport before he could treat himself to the Rouge brews. In doing so, he made a taxi driver friend who gave us a lift to the airport the next morning 🙂

This guy was scoping our bikes out from above

Charcuterie and Tug Boat Jenga
We continued the night with dinner at Irving Street Kitchen sitting outside on the patio to take advantage of the cool weather. Irving Street has a cool “barrel to bar” cask wine program that predominately features wines from Oregon and California. We enjoyed a wonderful charcuterie plate and bibb lettuce salad and shared one of the seasonal fish entrees that was delicious.
Finally we finished our evening at Tug Boat Brewing Company. We were told by the bartender that hops was the name of the game when it came to the Tug Boat brews, but they had a few other artisanal offerings on tap that were more my style. This is the coolest dive bar I’ve been to in quite a while and a serious game of Jenga only added to the evening’s entertainment.
After only two action-packed days, Portland earned a place on my shortlist of favorite US cities – a refreshing, environmentally friendly place to explore with a great food and beer culture. Next Up in the West Coast Adventures series: Healdsburg!

Creative building post-Jenga match.

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