Top 5 Things to Do in Portland #PDX

Portland is a city of food, craft beer, and wine. It is a place to ride a fixie bike and to ride the public transportation system instead of driving your car, a place where being green is the only color to be, a place where there is craft coffee, fancy donuts, crazy soccer fans, beard-toting men, and amazing cider—all in one city.

 This is my Portland. To get a true sense of what it means to keep Portland weird, here are my top 5 things to do in Portland:

1. Drunken Cycle Tours of Portland with BrewCycle Portland

Taking one of these tours is probably one of the funnest things to do with a group of your friends through Portland!  What would be better than drinking beer, blasting music, and riding bikes through a sunny afternoon in Portland?  We got together a group of six of us and mounted a BrewCycle bike with friends for a tour of three breweries in the area (see photo below). Well worth the $20 per person!  Be prepared to pay for your own happy hour priced drinks, and to have a great time!

Brewcycle Madness: The More the Merrier!

Brewcycle Madness: The More the Merrier!

2. Escape to Wine Country with Grape Escape Winery Tours

If you are coming to the Willamette Valley, you have to go wine tasting. It’s a must to leave Portland for a day and enjoy the beautiful countryside. I highly recommend Grape Escape Winery Tours, which is a marvelous little company that plans a trip for you based on what you like to drink and what you want to see. After a conversation with the owner, he will craft a tour just for you and your group. Groups as small as two are welcome. Also, they provide great little platters of cheese, meat, olives, fruit, and even chocolate so that you can continue to enjoy your wine trip without spitting out the wine! Besides the food with your wine, you also get very knowledgeable guides (your “Escape Artists”), who will tell you all about the history of the wineries you are visiting as well as tell you all you need to know about the Oregon wine industry. Furthermore, this isn’t your stretch-limo kind of tour but a nice van that takes you from place to place. It’s a little less presumptuous and comfortable financially. (Make sure to tip!)

Visiting Wine Country with Friends and a great DD!

Visiting Wine Country with Friends and a great DD!

 

3. Get geeky at OMSI- OMSI after Dark

Science is fun!  Can you imagine being able to shoot off a water rocket, microwave a light bulb, and build a Roman Arch with your friends while enjoying some great beer and wine at night?  This event is held once a month on Wednesdays from 6-10 p.m.  The museum picks a theme and sets up a number of really interesting hands-on science experiments that you are sure to enjoy. Make sure to check their schedule here for the next event.

4. Be a part of the Timbers Army at the Portland Timbers Game

Some claim that this is America’s version of European soccer fanaticism—II couldn’t agree more!  I have sat in numerous seat locations—from ones right on the center midline, so close that I could touch the players as they were doing a throw in; to ones on the side, where you can get the best overall view of the game; to the famed Timber’s Army seats. I have to say, my favorite by far have been the General Admission Timber’s Army seats.  These seats allow you to feel like you are a part of the game with the chanting, jumping, flag-waving community that surrounds this home soccer team. At about $25 a ticket, you really can’t go wrong.  Just be prepared to stand, sing, and yell as others stand, sing, and yell with you: LET’S GO TIMBERS, LET’S GO!

Timbers Army

5. Visit a Food Cart Pod and eat it all up!

You can’t leave Portland without having eaten at a Portland food cart. There are over 500 food carts throughout Portland. Not only are food carts a great place to try native foods from around the world, they are also safe and authentic. This is where top chefs or soon-to-be top chefs experiment with an idea, and if it takes off, they decide to expand it to more food carts or potentially to brick-and-mortar locations.  Food carts are always an experiment in entrepreneurism, low overhead, and passion.  Some stay, some go, some move. Look them up before you hit the streets.

 Some of my favorites:

  •  Nong’s Khao Man Gai, which now has become so popular for its Thai chicken over rice.  This plate comes with a phenomenal ginger, soy, and chili sauce called Khao Man Gi sauce. Nong came to Oregon with $17 and two suitcases; she worked in the restaurant industry until, in 2009, she decided to open her first food cart. A Bangkok native and now Oregonian, Nong now has two food carts and a restaurant. I love her food!  Below you will find a video on how exactly to eat her great food.

  • Gabagool, if you love italian food, you will love this place. I have been so impressed with their Piadina Sandwiches, especially its namesake, Gabagool Piadina. I have yet to try their homemade pasta, but if it’s as tasty as their Gabagool Piadina sandwich, I won’t be disappointed and neither will you.
  • Koi Fusion, the place where you can get Mexican and Korean in one amazing fusion meal. Having initially started with one food truck, the owners now recognize the balance of having not only food carts but multiple stationary (brick-and-mortar) locations. There are now six stationary and six mobile locations throughout Portland, so you are destined to run into one. I personally love their kimchi and would add it to every single item on their menu.

No matter what neighborhood you stay in, there is likely a food cart pod ( a number of food carts all in one area) in your area. Click here to find one near you.

There are so many restaurants, breweries, cider houses, urban wineries. and concerts to enjoy in Portland as well!  However, if I went into all my favorites, you’d quickly shut down this article and move on.  So,… I will hold onto my favorites for another article.  (However, if you can’t wait for that article, look back through my Sacred Drop posts on many such Portland attractions.)

To find out more about all the fun things to do in Portland, check out Travel Portland online.  At that website, you can book your hotel and tickets through their concierge staff and receive discounts to all kinds of great events.
See you soon! Cheers!

FoodWorx, the Future of Food: Part II

FoodWorx PDX is an annual conference focused on how the world of food is evolving and the challenges involved in this evolution.  As laws change, as people change, as cities change, the world around them changes. This is part two of the conference regarding food insecurity, Chefstable, and My Street Grocery.

Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council threw some hard-hitting facts at us.  I was stunned to learn that in the United States one in six people are food insecure.  What does “food insecure” mean? It means that on a daily basis, approximately 16 percent of Americans do not have access to food and are therefore hungry or in fear of starvation. On top of that, did you know that 40 percent of the food in this great nation is not eaten?  I was astounded by this fact.  That means that on your plate, you will eat 60 percent of your food, and the rest will be wasted while there are one in six people starving.  Dana pointed out, “If food waste were a country, then it would rank 3rd in Green House Gas emissions.  This food is actually the number one contributor to landfills, and because of it creates an incredible amount of methane.“

Did you know this simply means the food is at it's peak and not an expiration date?

Did you know this simply means the food is at its peak and not an expiration date?

Another interesting fact is that the size of a standard cookie has quadrupled in size since the 1970’s.  Again, compared to the 1970s, Americans waste 50% more food than they did back then.  So what can we personally do to remedy these issues of food waste?  Dana’s recommendations were the following: 1) create a shopping list and plan your meals;  2) avoid the massive bulk purchases;  3) use your freezer to store additional meals;  4) learn your labels and really know for a fact when your food is bad (the “Best by…” label simply means that the food is at its peak, not that it should be thrown out);  5) stop demanding perfect food—an incredible amount of food is thrown away for simple imperfections in color.

Following Dana’s talk came Kurt Huffman from Chefstable, discussing what sells and what doesn’t. Chefstable was created to allow chefs to focus on what they are good at—their passion, which is food—and not on running the business. He emphasized three principal components of making a restaurant “hot:”  1) Environment, creating a space that is comfortable;  2) Service, which is what is most written about;  enthusiasm is key, because, in Kurt’s words, “ it is better to be an enthusiastic idiot” than just an idiot;  3) Product–Yes, product is sadly the least important but still necessary.  Kurt then went on to talk about what investors look for:  1) Team—what they are really investing in; 2) Neighborhood—does it make sense;  3) The story—what is it. and is it likely to draw others;  4) The risk—because 90 percent of investments fail, are they willing to lose their money?

The conference concluded with some stunning storytelling videos by Rob of GLP Productions and an inspirational mobile grocery concept by Amelia Page of My Street Grocery aimed at providing fresh food access to all.

Rob Holmes, founder and chief storyteller of GLP Productions, talked about the four key elements of storytelling. Every story must have a purpose, a location, a journey, and a character. He used several videos to demonstrate each of these aspects. The one that I enjoyed the most was the emphasis on the key character of a story.  He or she doesn’t have to be a CEO; the key character just has to be a person who is authentic and easily relatable, and who has a great story to tell.

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Amelia Page, a young twenty-something, came on stage and talked about the fact that over 23 million Americans don’t have access to fresh food, creating food deserts.  Her solution?  It was to create a mobile grocery truck called My Street Grocery, which visits these food deserts and provides neighborhoods with a chance to buy local, seasonal fresh food at reasonable prices. She uses this as a way to educate people on food as well as to help them with planning their meals through meal kits that cost approximately $2 to $3 per serving. This enables people to eat healthy without having to rely on unhealthy food alternatives such as fast food restaurants. She started in Portland and hoping to expand this to other food deserts in the United States.

Overall, this conference was a very interesting and eye-opening event in which I was motivated to “heed my call,” eat at home more with local food, and waste less, and, when I feel adventurous, visit and support the local food vendors in Cartopia.

Thank you for joining me. For more information on the event visit: http://www.foodworxconference.com/

April Yap-Hennig is a wine lover and marketer at heart. She is co-founder and owner of Epicurean Media, a beverage and food artisan public relations and marketing consultancy as well as writes for the Sacred Drop Channel at www.sacreddrop.com. For more information on April, please visit her website www.about.me/aprilyaphennig and www.epicureanmedia.com.

Foodworx PDX, the Future of Food: Part I

Imagine being a person with a dream, a dream to one day do something you love, and imagine that your dream is to be the owner of a food cart or maybe of a restaurant?  If what I am describing sounds like you or someone you know, then you should have been at this conference.

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FoodWorx PDX is an annual conference focused on how the world of food is evolving and the challenges involved in this evolution.  As laws change, as people change, as cities change, the world around them changes. I met people of various backgrounds—from tour operators like ForkTown Food Tours, to food truck managers like Koi Fusion, to hops soda makers like Portland Soda Works—all of them with the dream of capturing the attention of the people of Portland.

Forget basketball, forget soccer.  Think food. “Eating is our biggest sport in Portland,” stated Erik Wolf of the World Food Travel Association, “Food tourism starts at home.”

What better home than Portland to start exploring your backyard?

I moved to Oregon from Spain and was so surprised by the number of food carts and the abundance of selection Portlandia people had. While at this conference, as a relative newbie, a friend of mine, Bee Talmadge, owner of The Spicy Bee and manager of Koi Fusion, stated, “You haven’t been to Cartopia?”  No, I have not yet been to Cartopia. I’m guessing I need to go. Just in case you are a relative newcomer to Portland, it is on SE 12th and Hawthorne Blvd and is the land of the best food carts in Portland.

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The Power of “And”

Given that there is a demand for great food at reasonable prices, there are “cartrepreneurs” and other food-related entrepreneurs springing up everywhere in Portland. David Hewitt of the Meriwether Group just wrote a book, Heed Your Call, to support all those who are seeing guidance. His book talks about how “human values can be expressed through business.”  With his wife, David initially launched Oregon Chai in 2004 and had tremendous success of bringing together two people, one with a dream (right brain—hers) and one with a business mind (left brain–his). He emphasized the importance of the “Power of ‘And’.”  This Power of And theory stresses that you need to be all three: an Operator, an Exec, and a Founder. By being creative and being logically minded, you can create a successful business.

Gregg Abbott, owner of Whiffie’s Fried Pies and head of the Oregon Street Food Association, talked about the new consumer demand by an educated constituency that demanded “novel food experiences.”  He said that the Portland food carts scene has created a drive back into city centers. More and more cities with downtowns want the formula to duplicate this incredible economic driver.  This is easier said than done.  The Portland food cart phenomena is due through the convergence of ideas, opportunity and demand—all factors that need be readily available to recreate Portland’s enormous success.

Perhaps Portland’s success has also been this overall drive back to all things sustainable.  By “sustainable,” I mean local, wholesome, homemade, and economical.  Food that is created, as Lisa Schroeder of Mother’s Bistro states, “from squeak to wag.” Food made the way it was before the 1900’s when people used to eat slow-cooked meals at home that were made with love. We are now facing a wake-up call where the cost of exotic foods has gone up with the cost of gas, where fine dining is just too expensive, where climate change is affecting our food supplies and where industrial agriculture is affecting our health. There is a return to the old ways in Oregon, where there is a demand for food markets and microproducers. People are raising their own backyard chickens and pickling their own vegetables. This is the start of the “Locavore” movement and perhaps a return to our great grandmother’s cooking.

Stay tuned for Part Two on food insecurity, My Street Grocery, GLP Films, and Chefstable next week.

For more information on the event visit: http://www.foodworxconference.com/

April Yap-Hennig is a wine lover and marketer at heart. She is co-founder and owner of Epicurean Media, a beverage and food artisan public relations and marketing consultancy as well as writes for the Sacred Drop Channel at www.sacreddrop.com. For more information on April, please visit her website www.about.me/aprilyaphennig and www.epicureanmedia.com.

This was also posted on www.winerabble.com .