Friday, October 10, 2014

Eating Portland, The Last Course

Cheeseburger and fries at The Original, yes you read that right

Thursday night found us back at The Original.  It sort of became our home away from home away from home, if you know what I mean.  And that's when things got authentic.

You know how I'm always going on about eating fruits and veggies and beans and grains, and not eating meat and all that?  Well throw that out the window, because in Portland I sure did!

That crazy, classic, all American duo up there was ordered and devoured by yours truly in less time than it takes to say 'deluxe cheeseburger'!  It was soooooo good, I'm not going to apologize either.  I do thank the grass-fed cow that gave his life, and the rancher, and the butcher, the cook, the waitress and everybody in between.  Every bite tasted real and fresh, and even the ketchup was organic with no HFCS!!  I most likely will not has another cheeseburger in the foreseeable future, but I will be feeding off the memories of this one for some time to come!

Good old apple pie and vanilla ice cream

There was really only one way to finish this meal and still stay on the steady course that started with the burger.  An apple pie, as big as a hat box, had been calling to us since we entered the diner.   I distinctly remember my sister gasping when she saw it in a round display case by the front door.  We ordered it up with a side of vanilla ice cream and as you can see we stabbed the beast even before I could get a decent pic.  

Again, the realness of the pie just had me glowing from the inside out.  The apples were thinly cut but with still some tooth to them.  The balance of cinnamon and sugar was in cosmic harmony.  The flaky crust, even where it was thick on the edges, melted on the tongue.  And I'm not even going to go into the ice cream part of the whole thing except to say I wouldn't have missed it if it wasn't there but I'm mighty glad it was.  

I think that burger/apple pie pandemonium marked a turning point in my Portland trip.  It was starting to wind down and there were still some things on my wish list.  Chief among them, donuts.  

 Brioche donuts at Blue Star Donuts, Downtown PDX

And I'm not talking Voodoo Donuts, although they have a perfectly good reputation for putting Portland on the map, albeit a sort of slutty reputation.  I'm talking Blue Star Donuts where airy, velvety brioche dough is fried up into rich, substantial yet light donuts.  

I made it my mission to get up early Friday morning and head out due west from our hotel.  Blue Star opens at 7 AM but once they sell out that's it, you ain't gettin no donuts 'till the next day.  Sis and I shared a buttermilk and a glazed, along with a large latte from Fresh Pot, because donuts and coffee.  Please don't give up the ghost without tasting these donuts.  They're what every doughnut wants to be. It goes without saying, they are delicious, but not at the expense of being overly sweet or greasy.  They manage to bring some class to the genre and come off like a proper American breakfast pastry.

 Blue Star buttermilk doughnut and half a large latte

After that things started to spiral out of control.  We had had plans to visit the Alberta Arts District on the previous night since that would have be one of the Last Thursday events where artists set up tables all along Alberta Street and there's all kinds of music and festivities.  However, jet lag, burgers or just too much fun got the better of us and we didn't make it.   We did get there Friday to at least soak up some of the artsy vibe and, of course, get our grub on. 

Funky murals,  street signs incrusted with tacked up posters, adorable shops with handmade goods and homey neighborhood restaurants made The Alberta one of my favorite excursions.  It made me feel like a young artist visiting South Street back in the day before it got all bought out, home girls and boys will know what I mean.

We settled on The Tin Shed Garden Cafe for lunch because on Tuesday dogs eat free.  No, it wasn't Tuesday and I didn't have my dog with me, but you gotta love a place that has that kind of approach to business!  As it turns out it was a great choice as evidenced by the wait list.  We put in our names and took a stroll around the neighborhood visiting shops and checking out the street art that is tucked here and there.

 The crew at the Tin Shed immortalized as street art

After a seating change we wound up in the enclosed garden section and we were virtually the only patrons without an adorable furry companion.  It made for some interesting conversations and funny scenes.  I mean you just can't not have a good time when you look over and there's a big eyed wiener dog staring at  your apple sausage!  Speaking of which, since The Tin Shed is  a breakfast-all-day place, I got the Everything Nice.  Eggs, apple sausage, sweet potato brioche French toast with fruit compote and potato cakes with sour cream and green onions-  it was more than nice, it was an epiphany!   I really didn't think I could eat again for the rest of the trip let alone the rest of the day. 

The Everything Nice (and then some) at The Tin Shed Garden Cafe

And yet somehow later that night we found ourselves walking around the Pearl and just happened to stop into Ruby Jewel a gem of an ice cream spot with discrete lighting and a long counter facing the street, perfect for keeping an eye on the action.  I had a scoop of Banana Cream Pie and sis went with Mint Chocolate Chip, both were excellent!  

OK, just try not to be too jealous of this day that started with donuts and ended with ice cream.  Also, don't even try to add up the calories. It was Friday, I was on vacation and you only live once, you can't argue with that kind of math. 

Ice cream at Ruby Jewel in the Pearl

Saturday was our last full day in Portland and we were sort of heart broken but also still upbeat to get in more sites and yes, food.  That morning took us up to Powell's once again and on the way we passed an exquisite little store front called Maurice.  We must have passed it a few times on our  several forays to the bookstore and yet it had escaped our notice.  We made a point of stopping back after perusing the aisles at Powell's.

The show-stopping desserts at Maurice

Everything, from the sumptuous dessert case, to the marble counter in front of the open kitchen/bakery; from the handwritten menu, to the serene all white palette; from the artful touches, like a row of pears on a rectangular plate to the rabbit head coat hooks, is just too, too au courant.  We were tripping over ourselves in an effort to express our delight at all the well thought out details that make this place so special.

Currant scone with tomato jam at Maurice
We each ordered a coffee and split one of their over-sized currant scones.  I'm afraid I'm a bit spoiled in the scone department as the recipe I use is, bar none, the best in the universe.  It was, however, easy to forgive any shortcomings on the part of the pastry as the vibe at Maurice was just so altogether enjoyable.  Did I mention the French tunes coming out of the sound system?  Anyway, I want to go back to Portland just to hang out at Maurice a few more times.

At Maurice, we finally saw the sign

After a fun packed afternoon at the Saturday Market by the river, talking to vendors and oohing and aahing at all the fabulous handmade goods, we were in need of some caffeine.  We made our way to the Stumptown location in the lobby of the  Ace Hotel.  The hipness level is pretty much off the charts here, but somehow it's very chill and totally inclusive (that actually sums of all of Portland).  Everyone sits around on comfy couches that surround a giant coffee table and it's hard not to strike up a conversation with the person next to you.  Isn't that what life is all about?!

Stumptown in the lobby of the Ace where the coffee table has it's own zip code

I chatted with a blissful young dad, who was bouncing his baby boy on his lap while his wife kept an eye on their other two kids playing by the photo booth.  They seemed like typical, laid back Portlanders.  As it turned out in the course of our conversation I learned they were transplants from Mississippi.  But it kind of reinforced a feeling I was getting my whole time in Rose City, that is even if you weren't born there you're made to feel like you're from there.

Salty snacks, Happy Hour at Clyde Common

There was only one logical way to follow up that wonderful experience and that was to take one step next door to Clyde Common for Happy Hour.  Sis and I shared a couple of salty dishes of olives and French fries as we sipped Lillet and talked about our trip.  We were leaving the next day and the only thing that could console us, other then reviewing all the fun we'd had, was to plan our next trip back here in the Spring!
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