I promised I would tell you more about my trip to Portland, Oregon and I’m staying true to my word. If you read my previous post about the 10 reasons you need to visit hip and cool Portland, you know how much I loved my recent visit. As I share my first day exploring below, I think you’ll see why this city is so great.
I met up with two longtime friends, S, who has lived in Portland for 35+ years, and her sister B, from Brooklyn, who was visiting while I was there. They are both big foodies, so our plans for Day 1 included sampling several Portland specialities — coffee, chocolate, donuts, and eating street food from a food cart.
Navigating My Way To Downtown Portland
Since I knew we would be doing a lot of eating, I skipped breakfast at the Inn at Northrup Station Hotel where I was staying, grabbed a city map and free pass for the Portland Streetcar from the front desk, and made my way to the North South line to take the Streetcar into downtown. It was a 20 minute ride from the Northwest part of town. (If you are visiting download the PDX Total Transit app for all your transportation needs.)
The team from Travel Portland Tourism* had arranged for me to have a Walking Tour Of Portland, which is an educational way to learn about the historic sites and culture of the city. S and B joined me for the two hour tour and enjoyed it as well.
Time To Eat The Donuts
Having walked for two hours around the city, the three of us were ready to go scouting on our own. “Where would you like to go now?” S asked. “I think it’s time to eat the donuts,” I replied. Portland is known for its gourmet donuts. Blue Star Donuts didn’t disappoint.
Here’s the scoop on these donuts: “Our donuts are made from a classic brioche recipe that originated in the south of France. The dough takes 18 hours to make and is made by hand every day; we start with a high quality bread flour, add cage-free eggs, whole hormone-free milk, and then fold in a European-style butter.”
How good are these donuts? We tried Blueberry Bourbon and Orange Olive Oil. They were so good, so good, so good.
“Where to next?” B asked. “Let’s go to Powell’s Books,” I said.
The Largest Bookstore In The World
With the growth of digital books, it’s amazing to see a bookstore the size of Powell’s City of Books. This Portland landmark takes up an entire city block and is home to approximately one million books.
If you’re a book lover, you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store. It was such an incredible literary extravaganza to walk the aisles and view all the titles. I headed for the Yoga and Meditation section. There were many books I wanted to buy. Knowing that there was no room in my suitcase for heavy books, I left empty-handed, yet extremely satisfied from having visited the largest bookstore in the world.
Getting Grub At The Food Pods
“Where do you want to go for lunch?” B asked. “Ooh, ooh, ooh, let’s go get lunch at the food carts,” I responded. We got in the car and S drove to the Food Pods on Division, an area that she said would soon be without it’s pods because new housing was going up on the lot.
According to the Food Carts Portland website, “Portland has over 500 food carts available at any given time. Most carts are organized into what are call “Pods.” These are surface lots with more than a few carts.”
Division was packed with carts. There was Back to Eden Baked Goods serving donuts and pies, Moberi making smoothies and acai bowls, Namu Korean Hawaiian food, Tandoori Saffron Indian Kitchen, E-San Thai Cuisine, Belgian Fry Shack frying hand cut fries, and a host of others.
I ordered a salad with fried tofu from Garden Monsters, known for their BIG salads, wraps, meaty, gluten-free, grass-fed, paleo, vegan and vegetarian options. Of course, it’s Portlandia!
For dessert, we went to The Darkside for Shave Ice. Their syrups are made of organic cane sugar and real fruits with no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no preservatives. Of course, it’s Portlandia! They make you feel good about eating dessert. That Shave Ice was so good, so good, so good.
Time To Smell The Coffee
Before the day was over, I sampled Portland’s famous Stumptown coffee at a downtown roaster and also purchased a pound of Bella Aurora coffee beans from Coava, another Portland coffee roaster. The coffee was from Dipilto, Nueva Segovia,Nicaragua, produced by Joaquin A. Levo Lopez, at an altitude of 1350m, and the variety was Caturra. How do I know all this? It’s all on the packaging in Portlandia!
Filling The Soul With Chocolate
Ooh, ooh, ooh, S made a pit stop at her favorite ALMA Chocolates Shop so I could customize a small box of homemade dark chocolates for my boyfriend L. Portland is known for its chocolate makers and ALMA is one of the nation’s top small batch chocolatiers. I picked one each of deux pistachio, coffee bar, Bourbon bonbon, and salted peanut butter cup.
According to its website, owner Sarah Hart named her company after her grandmother Alma, whose name means “soul” in Spanish and “to nourish” in Latin. Sarah says, “Chocolate has long been associated with passion and love, and touted for its aphrodisiac and medicinal properties. It’s Latin name Theobroma means ‘Food of the Gods.’ We are believers.”
After eating an ALMA chocolate, I’m a BIG believer too. They are so delicious that I highly recommend if you adore dark chocolate as much as my boyfriend L and I do, that you go to the website right now and order chocolates for yourself or for holiday gift-giving.
Happy Hour Russian Style
Before we knew it, it was time for happy hour at Kachka. Named by Eater as one of its “Best Restaurants in America” in 2016, restaurant editor Bill Addison writes that Katcha “offers the most spirited introduction to Russian dining (and drinking!) in America.”
We sipped Moscow Mules and Slovenia wine and shared some Russian specialties including Taranka (fish jerky), Bread and Whipped Salo (cured fatback mixed with garlic and coriander), Tvorog Vareniki (scallion and farmer’s cheese filled dumplings), Golubtsi (beef, pork, and lamb stuffed cabbage) and a side of potato pancakes.
Would I recommend this restaurant? Absolutely, but try it for happy hour like we did, as dinner items can add up quickly. Except for the Taranka, everything was so good, so good, so good.
With our tummies full of authentic Russian cuisine, we drove back to the Northwest, did a short walkabout around the Nob Hill neighborhood, and spent the rest of the evening hanging out on the upper deck of the Inn at Northrup Station.
Tomorrow there would be more sites to see and foods to eat. As the team at Kachka recommends: “Clink. Drink. Eat. Repeat.”
♥ Day Two of my Portland trip where I’ll share more sites including a visit to the PSU Farmers’ Market, The International Rose Test Garden, and more fabulous eats.
♥ 2017 Holiday Gift Guide with favorite gift-giving ideas from the NY NOW Lifestyle Show
♥ A full recap of my first-ever ocean cruise on the Viking Star. Yes, I’m back and going through my 29 pages of notes and 1000+ pictures — so I can give you all the details from my voyage to Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Italy. You won’t want to miss it.
P.S. In case you want to read my other blog posts about Portland and its wine country in The Tualatin Valley, you can find them here:
♥ Exploring The Great Outdoors In The Tualatin Valley
♥ Enjoying A Day of Tasting and Touring in The Tualatin Valley
♥ A Beautiful Cycling Adventure on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail
♥ 10 Reasons Why You Need to Visit Hip and Cool Portland
*Disclosure of Material Connection: The Travel Portland Tourism secured my complimentary lodging and Best of Portland Walking Tour. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.