Jolene eats in Portland (Oregon): Part 2
I ate so many amazing things in Portland that it only made sense not to try to cram everything into one blog. I will pick up here where I left off in Part 1.
Sunday, June 3, 2018
Before attending a church meeting in the morning, we were in need of a local, fairly quick breakfast. This one was a gamble for me - I opened Google maps a couple days before our trip and saw a restaurant within a couple minutes from our Airbnb, called Toast. To me, neighborhood spots can be hit or miss, but in a place like Portland, you're bound to find a hit.
We arrived fairly early for a Sunday morning, since we had a 20-minute drive ahead of us. The verdict? Toast is definitely a hit. Jennifer ordered the pork belly breakfast, while I ventured out into one of the daily specials: pork loin on braised greens, over cheddar polenta, topped with a beautifully runny egg.
PROP TIP: ARRIVE EARLY! BY THE TIME WE FINISHED OUR MEAL, THERE WAS A LINE OUTSIDE. SUNDAY BREAKFAST/BRUNCH IS VERY POPULAR IN PORTLAND, SO EXPECT THIS KIND OF CROWD AT MOST GREAT RESTAURANTS.
The food was deceptively good, hidden behind a modest neighborhood exterior and lacking the intimidation factor of so many hip, pretentious eateries. This local treasure has all of the necessary sophistication in its food, without the superfluous frills of Instagram-worthy locations. While I am a person who frequents those Insta-worthy spots, it was refreshing to be somewhere without that kind of atmosphere. Our exceptionally friendly waitress seemed like a contradiction to our borderline-upscale meal. It was a wonderful surprise for our Sunday morning, and I would definitely recommend indulging in brunch at Toast.
ALDER STREET FOOD CART POD
Next, we visited the Alder Street Food Cart Pod, a collection of food carts stationed around the edges of an entire city block. Food carts are not uncommon in Portland, and there are so many options to choose form. The choices range from Indian to Chinese to dumplings to grilled cheese sandwiches. I grabbed a Persian lamb gyro plate with the most amazing tzatziki I've ever tasted, and Jennifer tried some fairly authentic dumplings. In the end, we shared a fresh bubble waffle with matcha ice cream and fun toppings.
PRO TIP: DO NOT EXPECT TO FIND SEATING! STAND AND EAT, OR USE AN EMPTY STALL TO EAT!
If you read my Jolene goes to Portland post, you know what happened next: a surprise downpour put our roadblock in our plans. Fortunately, I had some back-up plans, and one of those plans included donuts!
BLUE STAR DONUTS
While most tourists gravitate towards the iconic, over-the-top donuts found at VooDoo Donuts, I had a rule on this trip that we would not go there. I'd tried VooDoo Donuts in Austin, TX and did not particularly enjoy the donuts. They were insta-worthy but not exactly worthy of my tastebuds.
Since we were in Downtown for a photo adventure, we walked a few blocks to Blue Star Donuts. The walk was mildly unsettling, as the neighborhood isn't the best, but the walk was worth it! We arrived at the chic space and had it all to ourselves. They were out of the famous creme brûlée donut, but we still enjoyed our choices: a lavender pear fritter and a spicy strawberry cake donut.
While the strawberry left something to be desired, the lavender pear fritter was absolutely heavenly. I'm not a donut enthusiast by any means, but I would gladly come back for another treat from Blue Star.
THE Sapphire Hotel
To close out our last night in Portland, we decided to delve a bit deeper into their craft cocktail scene. I saw The Sapphire Hotel on Google maps, fell in love with the cheekiness of their menu, and decided to drop by for a night cap. While our fancy cocktails were enjoyable and the atmosphere could not be beat, what really stole the night was the charcuterie board we ordered.
I am picky when it comes to charcuterie; I don't care for strong cheeses, and more often than not, the higher caliber cheeses are strong, aged, and sharp. Initially, I wanted Jennifer to have a treat, since she unveiled that charcuterie is one of her weaknesses. I told her to go ahead and get what she wanted, and she insisted I pick some meats and cheeses too.
We chose the brie with balsamic reduction, a Briar Rose Creamery "Maia," a semi-soft cow's milk cheese, the Chop Charcuterie "Sopressata," an uncured pork salami seasoned with smoked paprika, white pepper and fennel, and lastly, the housemade chicken liver mousse. My jaw almost dropped when we were presented with the board, a smorgasbord of delicious sweet and savory treats. Our meat and cheese choices were joined by walnuts, pickles, poached pears, fig jam, apples, dried figs and a gorgeous roasted garlic, all to be eaten with fresh bread.
The combinations were endless, constantly inventing new layers of sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy. Like so many other spots in Portland, the ingredients were appropriately showcased, not overworked, and celebrated in their own right.
Monday, June 4, 2018
Tov Coffee & Tea
I pored over many "best coffee" lists on Pinterest, did my research, and stumbled upon the impossibly unique ToV Coffee & Tea. ToV is an Egyptian coffee shop housed in an old double decker bus. Trying to overlook the obvious novelty of its location, I genuinely wanted to try this coffee shop for it's fare.
Jennifer ordered a rose mocha and I decided to be adventurous and order the Egyptian coffee, along with a orange blossom scone. My scone was wonderful, and despite my hesitation, the coffee was absolutely perfect. A few years ago when we were in Israel, I tried some of Jennifer's Turkish coffee and well, I felt like I was drinking tar. This was not the case in Portland!
When I ordered my coffee, the barista kindly explained to me how to pour it, and how to drink it. He also mentioned that the owner's brother is a leather worker and helped craft the vehicle in which I was to receive my coffee. After his explanation, he let us know he would deliver our coffee upstairs.
We cozied up on some seats and enjoyed our morning fuel when it arrived. I poured my small but potent Egyptian coffee, waited for the grounds to settle (as I had been instructed), then enjoyed its smooth earthiness.
PRO TIP: GO TO TOV. THAT'S YOUR PRO TIP.
We did some shopping and had time for one last meal before heading to the airport. I didn't have a place picked out (shocking, I know!), so I whipped out my phone, consulted Yelp, and chose Jackrabbit, which was a few minutes' walk from where we were.
Jackrabbit is a trip down the gourmet rabbit hole - light pours in through a large window in the front of the restaurant, but warm lights glow against an elegant wrought iron vine in the back. While the overall feel may be elegant, there is still something very cozy and Portland-esque about Jackrabbit.
PRO TIP: CHECK OUT THE MENU BEFORE YOU GO. JACKRABBIT REQUIRES A BIT OF A REFINED PALATE.
After probably too much consideration, we ordered half a dozen oysters to share, drinks, and the burger. I gave Steven Smith tea another try, since there was a sparkling iced tea option, and we jumped right into our oysters. Gracing us with oysters from three different places, Jackrabbit did not disappoint. Normally I enjoy my oysters straight (I know that's not the right way to eat them or whatever), but I had to try the mignonette and it was SPECTACULAR. It was the perfect appetizer to get us excited about our main course.
When our burger arrived, our choice to split one was definitely validated. Of course, we ordered our burger with foie gras on top - why not indulge during our last meal in Portland?
We were not asked how we liked our burger cooked, but were pleasantly surprised to find it pink on the inside, not overcooked but also not too raw. Our waiter informed us that Jackrabbit smokes its own meats, which was obvious once I bit into my half of the burger. A smoky combination of top sirloin and brisket, this was literally the best burger I've ever had. Complete with runny egg, grilled brioche bun and rich foie gras, I was in burger heaven.
An honorable mention goes to the potatoes as well. I'm not a huge potato eater, but these felt like a creative hybrid of roasted potatoes and steak fries. They were crispy on the outside and well seasoned with paprika and other spices.
Overall, as you can probably tell, I ate REALLY well in Portland, and I don't believe I broke the bank. I wasn't out searching for budget-friendly eats, but I generally found most places moderately priced for what we were getting. I was disappointed that our trip had come to an end, but heading to the airport was inevitable.
BUT. We encountered a surprise after we checked in for our flights: THERE IS A BLUE STAR DONUT IN THE PDX AIRPORT!
Suitcase in tow, I ran toward the familiar sign and peered into the display case. There she was, the Cointreau creme brûlée donut, in all of her caramelized sugary glory.
I squeezed the Cointreau syrup into the donut, eager to dive into this famous treat. With a bit of force, I cracked the sugar on top, a satisfying experience for any fan of creme brûlée, and admired the creamy, custard filling. This donut was everything I wanted - not too sweet, fluffy, slightly bitter from the burnt sugar, and slightly citrusy from the syrup.
We officially had the perfect end to our food-filled, unique trip to the City of Roses.
Until next time,