Exploring The Rose City
I love the drive across the Columbia River into Oregon, when the factories segue into city buildings and Portland’s skyline comes into view. We had sped down I-5, eager to spend a night outside Seattle and eat ourselves silly in the Rose City. Portland – a city brimming with creative ideas and concepts when it comes to food – was the perfect option for a weekend trip. Yet, every time we come to Portland, it becomes harder and harder to leave. Each trip gives us a new restaurant to discover and a different neighborhood to explore.
Armed with a list of recommendations from friends, coworkers and the Internet, Lisa and I were determined to squeeze in at least three quality meals during our short time in Oregon. After decamping in Irvington (where LK’s cousins live) we made our way to Laurelhurst Market, a restaurant/butcher that’s a pantheon for carnivores in the Pacific Northwest. Inside the dark and intimate confines, we were whisked to the bar where I sipped a local Pinot Noir while Lisa studied the menu. Everything came farm-to-table, so fresh/sustainable the bartender joked the meat was “grass fed, oat-finished and constantly massaged throughout.”
Meat dominates at Laurelhurst Market, to the point that vegans and vegetarians are straight-up discouraged from even trying, and cooking the steaks well-done is “not recommended.” We glanced only briefly at the mussels and non-beef dishes on the menu before selecting the flank steak (made from Wagyu beef) with chimichurri and a steak with arugula salad. We also ordered an appetizer of sweetbreads (yes, glands) and a side of brussels sprouts.
As blog readers know, we are big fans of sweetbreads. Laurelhurst’s version were by far the best we’ve ever had. Crispy on the outside, melt-in-your-mouth insides, with a slight briny flavor. They also came with a slice of baguette topped with something called “bone marrow butter.” Your heart hurts just thinking about it, right? This might have been the best dish we’ve eaten in months.
The steaks were seared to perfection, and as we dined we chatted with our bartender (a transplant from D.C.) about the culinary renaissance Portland has undergone in recent years.
Our favorite aspects of PDX are not limited to restaurants, but also include the pods of food carts stationed throughout the city. Endless options are available, ranging from grilled cheese on Alberta St., to poutine and frites inside the cart confluence on 12th and Hawthorne. Not limited by bureaucratic red tape and boosted by low start-up costs, food carts are now woven into the food experience in Portland. There’s too many to list, but our new favorites include the two mentioned above, particularly the poutine with its irresistible blend of gravy and cheese curds. Oh, did I mention we (cough) took a weekend off from Paleo dining on this trip. No sense in limiting yourself with so many options around, especially while on vacation. This is the reason we decided the coup de grace should be a dulce de leche milkshake, delicately balanced with sea salt, from the Patisserie cart.
One final memorable snack was at Random Order Coffeehouse and Bakery in Northeast, where we sampled the Meyer lemon pie and coconut cream pie, washed down with (what else) a French Press of Stumptown coffee. Both pies were rich without being too sweet, with flaky, delicate crusts.
We packed a lot into 24 hours, and that isn’t even going into the time spent at Powell’s or the sports bar Claudia’s on Hawthorne in Southeast, where we joined a raucous crowd to watch the gold-medal hockey game between the USA and Canada, all huddled around pitchers of IPA and bottles of Session beer – Oregon’s finest.