My husband and I had to go to Oregon for a Memorial of a friend of ours who passed away in December. We decided to make it a mini vacation and visit Portland for about 5 days and then drive down to the Memorial which was in Williams, Oregon. Neither of us had ever been to Portland but I have a friend who recently relocated there so we made arrangements to have dinner together the evening we arrived. I have always heard that Portland was a culinary delight. So I did some research about where the great restaurants were and also got some recommendations from my friend who lives there now. On my list was Pok Pok, a Thai restaurant with Andy Richter at the helm and is supposed to be one of the best Thai restaurants in the U.S. Also Andina, a Peruvian restaurant, Voodoo Donuts and Stumptown Coffee. We met my friend and her Significant Other for dinner at The Firehouse in Northeast Portland. We were staying in mid downtown at the Westin and we immediately discovered that the Public Transportation system in Portland was very convenient with multiple options for getting all around Portland so we took the Max to the restaurant which was about 6 miles away. The Firehouse is over 100 years old and their menu is seasonal with many salads, interesting entrees and Wood Fired Pizzas.
I ran my list of must eat restaurants by my friend and she gave her opinion on which ones were good and which ones were hype. She said forget Andina for Peruvian food because we certainly had better Peruvian fare in Los Angeles, Voodoo Donuts was way overrated and the wait for Pok Pok was ridiculous. Her recommendations for restaurants included Veritable Quandry, The Aviary, Bijou Cafe for breakfast and Blue Star Donuts all of which we went to. Her suggestions for things to do in Portland were The Rose and Japanese Gardens, Pittock Mansion and Michican Avenue for interesting shops and breweries.
The second day we were in Portland, the weather was nice so we went to the Rose Garden after a fantastic breakfast at Bijou Cafe which was about an 8 block walk from our hotel. They serve great omelets and creative hashes and the service is very friendly. Next door is Stumptown Coffee, a Portland landmark for great coffee where I picked up a pound of coffee to take home. Down the street is Voodoo Donuts which I took my friends advice and skipped but had to take a picture of it with the long line waiting to order.
We ate an early dinner at Veritable Quandry which was fantastic. Seasonal dishes in a relaxed but elegant setting by the Willamette River before you cross the bridge taking you to the Eastern side of Portland. The next day we explored Michigan Ave. which was quite a hike uphill from where the Max let us off. There was a closer route by bus which we discovered after we were ready to go back to our hotel. The Avenue is located in a neighborhood like so many in Portland that has undergone some gentrification where young hipsters have moved in and started renovating some of the old houses and opened up eclectic and interesting shops and restaurants that none of the old time residents frequent or can afford. The most glaring thing for me about Portland was the lack of diversity of people eating or working in the restaurants or shopping in the stores outside of the downtown area. A real deal breaker for me as to where I would choose to live. The next day, we decided to visit Pok Pok for lunch and was pleasantly surprised to find no lines and great Thai food. Pok Pok is heralded as one of the best Thai restaurants in the world and both my husband are connoisseurs of Thai cuisine, having spent many trips traveling all over Thailand. It was great food with very nuanced and complex flavors and could well be one of the best Thai food places we have eaten. It really took us back to time spent in Thailand because it is located in a residential area and just a wood shack with Thai music playing in the background. The only difference was that the servers were not Thai and the food prices while not outrageous for America were about 5 times as much as in Thailand.
Our last day in Portland, we visited Pittock Mansion which was at one time owned by the owner of the Oregonian Newspaper and now belonged to the Parks department. It was magnificent, located in a wooded area of Portland with many hiking trails around. It was a bit of a schlepp uphill from the highway where the bus lets you off so wear comfortable shoes. The property had a fantastic view of the Portland skyline and is a great way to spend a couple of hours. You can hike down one of the trails back to the highway where the bus picks up to take you back downtown.
In the evening, we dined at The Aviary which was suggested by my friend and it was great. The next morning before we rented a car to drive to our friends Memorial, we grabbed a couple of donuts at Blue Star and again we were blown away by the freshness and creativity of flavors offered.
We drove to Jacksonville, Oregon which was about 10 miles from where The Memorial was being held and where we met our friends Barbara and Allen who were also going to the Memorial, at a Bed and Breakfast called the Touvelle House that we were going to stay at for 2 nights. It is one of the grandest Craftsmen houses in the town which was once owned by Judge Touvelle and is now owned and run by Phil and Gary, who happened to be married in Canada. The rooms and house were charming and every need was attended to. Early morning coffee, fantastic breakfast, comfortable beds entertaining hosts. I would highly recommend this place if you are looking for a place to stop on your way to somewhere else.
While the town has a couple of good restaurants and a charming Main Street, there isn’t much going on although it does have an annual Brit Music festival where many big names in music play. It is held at an amphitheater in the Summer and the whole town is totally booked with people coming to hear some great music.