First full day of the 40th birthday getaway to the Pacific Northwest was devoted to exploring (and eating through) Portland, Ore. Thanks to TriMet’s MAX light rail system for FREE transportation (within certain zones) and saving my feet.
Portland Farmers Market: Culinary Heaven
The Portland Farmers Market moves throughout the Rose City during the week but we were told Saturdays at Portland State University is the best. All the fresh fruits, veggies and flowers were incredible and made me envious of everyone who has daily access to the market. I wanted to buy just about everything I saw ranging from the odd – such as fiddleheads – to familiar – lilacs and tulips, but knew it wasn’t practical. They wouldn’t have lasted the week ’til heading home plus, we were heading to Canada and such things aren’t permitted across the border and back.
Instead, I snapped some photos, picked up a package of hazelnuts and savored a bagel with dill cream cheese, lox, juicy capers, sliced red onion and snippets of pickled asparagus from a place called Tastebud. O-M-G! The mix of textures and flavors equated to a handful of culinary heaven in my mouth. View the YouTube video of the amazing experience.
Portland Saturday Market: Place for Funky Stuff
The hotel concierge said something was happening by the river so we headed that way and explored the Portland Saturday Market, an arts and crafts market near Chinatown. Some arts were good, some crafts weren’t so good but enjoyed wandering through what seemed to be endless tents of handmade culture. Ended up bringing home a fun hat and a catnip toy made by Kitty Hooch. I would tell you about the hat vendor but between the two of us, we spent more than 100 bucks on hats and when we asked her to take our photo, she said, “No, I’m working.” Um, okay. Ever hear of customer service, lady? So, I’m not inclined to share her company.
Lunch: Okay, It Was a Chain
I realize many travel bloggers brag about dining in independently-owned restaurants when traveling, after all, that’s where the local color is. As for me, there’s nothing wrong with eating at a chain restaurant, especially one as tasty as P.F. Chang’s. Bellied up to the bar for lettuce wraps and a bottle of wine. Can life be any better? Well, it did with dinner.
Powell’s Books: More than Worms Here
A trip to Powell’s Books is a requirement when visiting Portland and whether into books or not, everyone will be impressed with the store’s size, selection and attitude (or lack of). There’s something comforting about being surrounded by books and there are certainly plenty of them, old and new, here.
Oregon Zoo: Warm and Cold Fuzzies
Japanese Gardens were next but when arrived via Portland’s MAX light rail system (stayed in the free zone during the entire trip), a sign indicated the shuttle to the Gardens didn’t operate on Saturdays so we wandered to the Oregon Zoo. In some ways it was like any other zoo but featured some pretty neat displays such as the Pacific Northwest section where we got up close and personal to a pair of bald eagles. Also saw wolves, bears, otters and all sorts of Oregon sea life, to name a few of the zoo’s fauna.
Henry’s Tavern: Dining Like a Local
After a little bit of a retreat at home base (DoubleTree Hotel Portland – great location to the MAX light rail), headed out for a proper dinner like the locals do at Henry’s Tavern (10 Northwest 12th Ave.; Tel: 503-227-5320). While waiting for our table in the multi-level and huge restaurant, enjoyed a sweet lavender martini at the bar.
Henry’s Tavern’s beer menu boasts more than 100 crafted brews with many from area breweries. Yup, a little overwhelming. During dinner I enjoyed a lovely Portland ale called Hopworks Urban Brewery DOA. Nice flavor, not overpowering.
As for eats, some of the best calamari started the meal. It was cut in strips rather than rings, lightly breaded, deep fried and tossed with sliced onions and green peppers. The seasoning was just right with black pepper giving it nice kick. It was one of the most beautiful calamari dishes I have ever tasted. Mmm, mmm. Okay, enough about the squid…Main course was grilled wild Alaskan salmon accompanied with horseradish mashed potatoes (the kind with red skins) and delicately roasted green beans.
Not a bad way to start the visit day of a week-long adventure. More updates to follow.
Interested in more things to do in Portland, Ore.? Here’s an article about things to do during the summer in Portland based upon a visit several years ago.