Monday 19 July 2010

Portland, Oregon

I'll put my hands up here and say I didn't even know where Portland was a year ago. Well, it's in Oregon (didn't know where that was either) and it's a slight, but extremely worthwhile diversion from Route 101. And you can't talk about it without talking about food.

Natalie, a friend from cooking school works in one of the best restaurants in town. She's off Friday and Saturday but catering for a party of 65. I offer to donate my skills on Friday to help prep, so for the first time in a long time, I get to spend a day in the kitchen. Even the mundane things, like chopping pounds of tomatoes for pico de gallo brings joy to my soul.

In the evening we eat in her restaurant, Veritable Quandary. The starters steal the show - a cheeseboard with summer berries, nuts and the best bread yet, toasted and brushed with olive oil. The best cheese of all is a cremeux that has the consistency of soft butter. Spread on the sourdough with a deep fried marcona almond for company, it is divine. We also have the dates; from the inside out, marcona almond, goat's cheese, date, panceta. Say no more. Mains are good, I wish I'd ordered Nat's scallops rather than the lamb, but since I've not eaten any red meat for what seems like weeks, I won't go on about it. The kitchen treat us to desserts, a berry crisp (American for crumble) and chocolate truffles that are too good.

Ken's Artisan Bakery - probably the best bread yet

Feeling like I needed to burn off last night's meal, I opted for my new favourite thing when you only have a day or two in a new city, and hired a bike on Saturday morning. I used it to ride directly to Ken's Artisan Bakery, producer of last night's bread, to buy myself a loaf. Whilst there I grab a Stumptown Coffee, the best in Oregon, and probably a few other states as well. I spent the rest of the day riding around town, then out of town. I didn't take that many pictures, since I wasn't really feeling it. It's not an especially photogenic place; it's the food that makes it special.

Kids in a fountain on the riverside, Portland

If I'd been in town longer, I'd have eaten so much more. There are food carts scattered all over the city, selling every conceivable cuisine. There's a doughnut shop, Voodoo Doughnuts, that has a permanent queue stretching to the next block. An abundance of small cafes and bakeries sell local, organic food, and are packed to the rafters. If some infection were to strike me down in Portland, as in Vancouver and forcibly extend my stay, I probably wouldn't complain.

But the Road beckons once more. I checked out on Sunday, went to the gym for the first time in who knows how long, and headed for the river beach north of town to put my feet up for a couple of hours. Before skipping town I had breakfast in Bijou Cafe, where I took this photo. The line on the mirror reads "Good conversation is the perfect accompaniment for a good meal."

Talking to yourself: the only way to be assured of intelligent conversation

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