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!

A Thirst for Cider: Oregon Cider Week

What was once old is new again. This holds true not just for fashion but also for cider. The US has now experienced a cultural resurgence of cider and is developing quite a thirst for it.

Once Colonial America’s drink of choice, the U.S. is quickly returning back to its roots for inspiration. According to federal data, draft cider sales rose 700 percent between 2011 and 2012; in 2012, U.S. cider sales topped $90 million.  Why?  First, thanks to the interest and subsequent growth of craft beer, the craft cider industry has grown as well. Furthermore, the interest in and demand for something new and different, and perhaps healthier, has created the perfect opportunity for cider.

Data also suggest that the average cider drinker is 20-35 years old. A number of these younger drinkers, particularly in the Northwest, are looking for something authentic, original, and different from the mass-produced sub-par cider and beer. Given all of this data, the Pacific Northwest is the perfect place for a craft revolution.

The resurgence of interest in cider has been very notable in Oregon.  On June 20, Oregon kicked off its third annual Oregon Cider Week with Cider Summit Portland, featuring over 140 ciders from 37 producers, from 6 states and 7 countries. This event will continue on to Seattle, Chicago, and Berkeley. Portland showed its support by coming in droves: 3,000 to 4,000 visitors over two days, to be exact. It was a well-attended event with a lot of people enjoying the sun, the music, and the cider being poured by artisan cider houses.  The rest of the week featured events throughout the state including a number of tap takeovers, happy hours, tastings, and dinners.

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I had the honor of attending the Cider Feast Dinner at St. Honoré Boulangerie off SE Division Street in Portland. Hosted by St. Honoré Boulangerie, Chef Dominique Geulin, and Kevin Zielinski, E.Z. Orchards’ owner and cider maker, this five-course French-style dinner showcased ciders from Finnriver Farm and Cidery,  Virtue Cider, Reverend Nat’s Cidery, 2 Towns Ciderhouse, and E.Z. Orchards.

Cider Feast Dinner

Cider Feast Dinner

The pairings dinner featured a beautiful Goat Cheese and Rainer Cherry tartalette, a mixed green salad tossed with Finnriver Black Currant Cider vinaigrette, a plate of country pâté and chicken liver mousse paired with a E.Z. Orchards cider mustard, and a gorgeous Alsatian-meets-Northwest tarte flambé. This feast was all finished off with a very interesting Cider and Saffron Sabayon.

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For me, it was a beautifully-paired dinner by Chef Geulin, and I will make sure to return during St. Honoré Boulangerie’s happy hour for more cider-based cocktails soon. What is unique about St. Honoré Boulangerie is that they create not only beautiful breads and quiches but also wood-fired pizzas. I was happy to taste some of my favorite cider producers, from E.Z. Orchards to Finnriver to Reverend Nat’s, all paired in this great cider dinner. I look forward to seeing the other great events Portland has to offer.

Stay tuned!

 

 

Foodie Paradise from Rioja to Portland

When most people think of Europe, they imagine the patisseries and the beautiful coffee shops with Parisian-looking people in stylish clothes sitting outdoors at café tables on narrow cobblestone streets, with beautiful churches in the background.

My idea of Europe may have initially started that way, with the romantic Parisian stereotype, but soon enough I was introduced to the hustle and bustle of the Spanish way when I stepped foot in Rioja.

RIOJA

Rioja has a beauty to it, a simplicity to it, a way of capturing your heart and soul with not only the love of wine by its inhabitants, but also with their love of food and, ultimately, of life. This is why I called this place home for two years and why my heart yearns for it every day. It was a way of life, not just a place in which I lived for two years.  It was an escape to an alternate reality that brings for me new meaning to the maxim “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

Cobble stone streets of Rioja

 

The Spanish know how to live life; they live it fully every single day, from the moment they wake up and head down to their local cafe for a “café con leche y una tostada” to their evening get-together with friends after work for a quick drink and some tapas. Rioja is truly what I would call a foodie paradise. Their foods are simple, not overly complicated. They take the simplest of things and make them spectacular without a lot of tricks. Simple dry-cured ham, or Jamon Serrano, which is a leg of pork that is covered with salt for two weeks, then rinsed and hung to dry upside down for a period of six months or more.  The resulting meat, which is cut in thin slices just before consuming, is spectacular and buttery; it simply melts in your mouth. The very best variety of these hams is called Jamon de Bellota.  It is from pigs fed on acorns, and it is incredible. Right now my mouth is watering as I am picturing my favorite place, Cafe Bar Garcia on Calle San Juan, 28 in Logroño, where I get a “Zapatilla,” a thin slice of bread spread with olive oil and jamon serrano, then grilled.

Here is a picture of my mother holding up this wonderful delight.Mom enjoying her jamon serrano

 

Another spectacular and yet so simple dish is their “Champi,” which are fresh local mushrooms that are brought in that same day, cooked with garlic and olive oil, stacked, and topped with a tiny shrimp. It may not sound like much, but every single person who has come to visit me raves about how wonderful this tiny stack of mushrooms cooked, or rather, bathed in garlic and olive oil, is their most favorite thing in the world. If you go to Calle Laurel in Logroño, make sure to stop by Bar Soriano.

 

champi

I could go on and on about the beauty of Rioja and its amazing food. Did I mention that they have world-class wine too? In my opinion, it is some of the best wine in the world. For more information on Rioja, check out my write-up here on this website.

PORTLAND

Unfortunately, I had to leave Rioja: with my master’s program ending and the economy in Spain not improving, it was time to pick my next adventure. I needed a place that offered culinary delights as well as the world of wine.  Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the Portland area, and now to Portland itself, my soon-to-be new home, where the food is local, fresh, and delicious.

Lately, I’ve been writing about all the incredible events that I’ve had the privilege to attend—events including wine and spirits, and, most recently, including cider. Oregon has so much to offer, and Portland as a city has the most interesting culture of young, enthusiastic people who are focused on sustainability and everything that is local.

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The plan of attack for N. Missississippi Tour with Forktown Food Tours

If you are new to Portland or simply wanting to experience a bit of the foodie scene in the region, you should check out Forktown Food tours. It is a great way to explore the four quadrants of Portland and experience not only the food but also the culture of each area.

I went on the North Mississippi Ave. tour, led by Kelsie, a 6th generation Portland native who loves all things food, art, music, and culture. North Mississippi Avenue is a historic, artsy, and exciting neighborhood on Portland’s north side and is one of Portland’s newest culinary hot spots, full of great food and personality.  It is fun for locals as well as for out-of-town visitors.  This part of Portland is well worth the visit!  I would recommend coming very hungry; perhaps skip the traditional Portland brunch and leave room for these offerings, as you are going to need it.IMG_7801

The tour led us through seven different places, starting at a sit-down meal at Mee Sen Thai Eatery for some great Thai food, then on to a food cart called Gabagool, which featured a phenomenal Italian flat bread mozzarella and capicola sandwich, which my husband devoured in 2.5 seconds. We then went to the super locally-sourced Little Big Burger which offered a perfectly-sized goat cheese burger to pair with a nice organic HUB IPA. Did I mention that they have the world’s best Truffle fries? Wow…enough said.

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As if there had been room in our tummies for more food, we then took a little break and headed to Sidecar 11, a great little intimate speakeasy-style whisky lounge where we had a chance to pair prohibition-era cocktails like the Gin-Gin Mule with some great seasonal aperitifs.

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At this point, we were only half way through the food tour, and I was wondering how I was going to fit the great Koi-Fusion Korean/Mexican fusion tacos that came next. What is great about the food cart area next to one of my favorite watering holes, PROST, is that you are allowed to bring your food cart food into their patio or restaurant.  Who could ask for more?  Great German beer and great Portland food! (Disclaimer: My husband is German, so this is the perfect way to satisfy his love for German beer and my love for Portland food carts.)

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After this we finished off with a visit to the cute little salt-and-chocolate boutique shop called The Meadow, where we did a salt-and-chocolate tasting, and then headed off to Ruby Jewel for their real ice cream sandwiches, which are literally two fresh cookies with fresh ice cream between them.

This tour was phenomenal and well done.  I would love to go on some of their other tours as I am sure they are just as great. Check out Forktown Food Tours for more information on their upcoming tours.

That was just Northeast Portland; wait until I get to Southeast Portland! Thanks for joining me on my foodie adventure from Spain to Portland. Cheers!

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