Eating, Drinking and Wandering

You may be wondering about what exactly we do when we go to Portland. Do we take fancy clothes and stay out late dancing? Nope.  Go on massive clothes shopping expeditions?  No way.  Visit high-end studios and snootily critique the art?  Have you met us?

We eat.  We drink.  We wander around, primarily on foot.

The weather was less-than-cooperative when we went down last weekend.  Read:  rained like cats-n-dogs.  Paused (to catch it’s breath).  Rained more.  It was not a good hair weekend in Portland.

As I related in my earlier post, on Friday night we baked pizza in our room and enjoyed it with a bottle of red wine we brought from home.  We thought we were in for the night, but an ice cream craving drove us to the streets for Salt and Straw around 9 pm (late to be out, by our standards).  The husband enjoyed Stumptown Coffee & Burnside Bourbon. After tasting a few contenders (the pear and blue cheese sounded interesting, but I couldn’t find the blue cheese in it), I settled on Petunia’s Caramel Pecan Apple Pie.  In a homemade waffle cone. It was amazing.  A break in the rain allowed us to wander the streets enjoying our cones before we headed back to bed.  A wild night in Portland for us.

Saturday morning we slept in (sleeping in for us is 7 or 7:30), had breakfast and hopped in the car to check out Pittock Mansion, which sits high on a hill overlooking the city.  The mansion was completed in 1914 by entrepreneur Henry Pittock and his wife, Georgiana. The history of the Pittocks and their home is interesting and I invite you to check out the website above to learn more.

Eating, Drinking and Wandering,

Unfortunately, the mansion is closed in January, but I was able to take photos of the grounds and the view.  I posted a picture of the mansion in the fog yesterday for Wordless Wednesday.  While the views are said to be extraordinary on clear days, I kind of liked the eeriness the fog gave (redrum…redrum…).  We will definitely return when it’s open.  We smushed our faces against a number of windows (we didn’t leave prints, I promise) and the inside looks amazingly ornate and marble-filled.

After Pittock and a stop at the World Forestry Museum (a surprisingly fun place across the parking lot from the Portland Zoo where we tried our hand at smoke jumping and driving logging equipment.  We will not be making career changes) we dropped the car at the hotel and headed deep in the Alphabet District. Destination:  The Fireside.

Eating, Drinking and Wandering,

I don’t quite know how to describe The Fireside.  It’s about the only place that I’ll willingly sit at the bar.  Perhaps because the bar is a long, burnished piece of wood that allows you to sit facing the street.  Perhaps because they specialize in drinks that involve bitters, and drops of things and mixtures of this and that, which requires small boxes filled with bottles with droppers to be placed at strategic places along the bar.   Perhaps it’s just because it’s a cozy, inviting place.  Made more so by a rainy Saturday afternoon.  In addition, their drinks are unique (and strong) and their Northwest-style, New-American food tasty.

For a light lunch I had a bowl of beet soup.  Their soup is uh-maze-ing.  I had carrot last year and had already decided, before butt hit seat, that I wanted soup this year, too.  The husband had a Fireside Skillet; a small cast iron skillet with hash browns, braised beef and an egg on top.

The drinks broke down like this:

  • Cabin Fever (me):   gin + cranberry liqueur + rosemary maple + lemon + egg white.
  • Oregon State of Mind (both): local hot mulled cider + Clear Creek pear brandy + Benedictine + black pepper.
  • The Winsome Dance (husband):  cognac + rye whiskey + Aperol + Slivovitz Spanish bitters + orange zest.

After a leisurely lunch and good conversation we hit a couple of stores that I was chafing to go to.  The first, Kitchen Kaboodle, is a fantastic (and large) kitchen store that offers everything a lover of cooking could want…and then some.  I could spend a lot of money there.  A lot.  But, I managed to hold myself in check because I knew we were going to Powell’s books the next morning. I may have caressed some Le Creuset cookware while there.

Next we stopped at The Meadow.  This small store on 23rd specializes in salt, chocolate and bitters.  Sounds weird, yes?  Think about those three things for a moment.  Not sounding so weird now, huh?  Sounds pretty delightful, yes?

Eating, Drinking and Wandering,

My mission at The Meadow?  Bitters.  I keep hearing about bitters. defines bitters as “a liquid, often an alcoholic liquor, in which bitter herbs or roots have steeped, used as a flavoring, especially in mixed drinks, or as a tonic.”  Fun!

The nice employee at The Meadow was quite knowledgeable about bitters, asking me what types of drinks I prefer, allowing me to taste a number of bitters.  I settled on a “sampler pack” of Scrappy’s Bitters.  The box includes four 1/2 ounce bottles of lavender, chocolate, cardamom and grapefruit.  The chocolate has me scratching my head a bit.  I’m intrigued by the cardamom.  With gin and vodka being my alcohols of choice I’m very much looking forward to trying the lavender and grapefruit, as they lend themselves well with those boozes.  I’ll report back as I try them out.  And, please share any personal adventures with bitters.

We headed back to the room where we kicked back and relaxed for a few hours before heading out for dinner.  I had done research on Yelp and had selected what I hoped would be a great birthday dinner for the husband.  Barbeque.

The husband and I are barbeque snobs.  It is almost impossible to find good barbeque in the great state of Washington.  Or Oregon, for that matter.  We’ve actually discussed taking a trip to Kansas City just to eat BBQ.

Eating, Drinking and Wandering,

Good BBQ starts with lean meat.  So many restaurants offer meat that is ridiculously fatty. Yuck.  Next:  rub.  That rub should have some spice, some complexity.  After the rub: smoke.  Deep smoke.  Patient smoke.  And, though I like a sweet, sticky sauce, truly good BBQ doesn’t need it.

Almost as important as the meat are the sides.  The slaw should be tangy, the mac cheesy, the beans robust and spicy, the potato salad big on flavor, light on gloppy mayo.

We were greeted by the scent of smoked meat as we entered Smokehouse 21.  It is a tiny restaurant.  Three tables seat 4 each.  A half dozen tables seat 2 each.  We ordered an appetizer:  deviled eggs with a chunk of smoked sausage on top.  You read right.  Verdict? Ridiculous.  In a good way.  The sausage was smoky with a bit of heat, the egg a creamy counterpart.

Eating, Drinking and Wandering,

I ordered baby back ribs with garlic roasted brussel sprouts and mac-n-cheese.  The husband ordered brisket with potato salad and mac-n-cheese.  The meat?  Amazing.  The ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender.  The rub?  Spicy deliciousness.  No sauce came on the ribs, though there were an assortment of house-made ones on the table.  Didn’t need sauce.  The brisket was tender and smoky and perfectly cooked.  The sprouts? Outstanding. The husband’s potato salad?  It had capers in it.  And chunks of bacon. Need I say more? The mac-n-cheese was good, but not amazing.  It was the weakest part of the meal, and wasn’t extraordinarily weak.

We agreed that we’ve finally found good barbeque.  An hour and forty five is a dinner drive that we’ve not quite reconciled.

After dinner we rolled out the door and wandered around downtown, dropping to the Pearl District, passing restaurant after restaurant that I added to the list in my head.  After settling dinner with a good long walk we headed back to the room.

Eating, Drinking and Wandering,

We topped off the weekend with a trip to Powell’s books on Sunday morning.  Love that store.  Love, love, love.  I went with a list this time.  One would think that would make the shopping expedition less dangerous.  Not so.  But, I stuck within budget and am really excited about a couple of photography books I picked up:  David Duchemin’s The Visual Toolbox:  60 Lessons for Stronger Photographs and Expressive Photography:  The Shutter Sisters’ Guide to Shooting from the Heart by assorted photographers.

Bottom line?  Another great weekend in the Rose City.  Looking forward to going back.


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