|Once or twice a year I get to pick a destination to travel to with Tee for a long weekend This year I picked Portland, Oregon. I often
like to take these weekends in somewhat 'random' cities. I chose Portland only because I hadn't been there since I was a kid and it
sounded like a nice place to break from the mid-August temps in Salt Lake. Tee secured us a room at the Crown Plaza near the
Convention Center (sounded pretty central, right?) and we booked a couple of tickets about six weeks out.
None of this would have been possible without the help of my cousin Carol Lynn. She is a Godsend to us in that she has allowed us to
have several of these types of weekends over the years thanks to her willingness and ability to look after our kids while we are gone.
Thanks again Carol Lynn!
The morning of the trip came and we dropped the kids off at my sister Heather's place (Caol Lynn would be picking them up from
there later in the day) before parking the car at Diamond Parking and making our way to the airport terminal. We stopped into the
Delta Lounge, but only long enough for me to have a couple quick glasses of Cranberry juice and for Tee to make some
modifications to a future flight at the service counter.
The flight itself was quick and smooth. We sat in an exit row facing the flight attendant's seat, so we talked with her on and off
throughout the flight. We also chatted a bit with the guy seated next to us who was wearing a Charlie Brown t-shirt (yellow, with a
zig-zag stripe) and whose name actually was 'Charlie Brown.' Tee and I both played the trivia game on the on-board entertainment
system and took turns taking 1st place.
Once we arrived in Portland we hopped a cab to the hotel. As we approached the hotel we both had the realization that perhaps the
hotel wasn't quite as centrally located as we might have thought. We checked in with a terribly incompetent girl at the front desk who
was entirely unhelpful in answering some questions about how to access the downtown. She even initially checked us into a room
that was in the middle of being painted. Fortunately there was another guest who had heard some of our questions, and helped
explain to us that the regular light-rail line that normally would take us from the Convention Center across the river and into downtown
was not running because of construction on the bridge it normally used. Therefore, we had to take a shuttle bus over another bridge
and alight at the next light-rail stop near Chinatown. We were lucky to have him explain it thoroughly to us as it was a somewhat
complicated scenario initially.
We basically just dropped our bags in our room and went into town to get our bearings and find some lunch. The shuttle/train ride into
the center of town was a bit of a pain but not terribly time consuming. We alighted at Pioneer Square and walked north on Broadway
until we saw the Westin and went in to inquire of the
Concierge there. Before coming to Portland I had done a bit of research in order to get a few names of places to eat and drink. I
asked the Concierge to mark on my street map a few of these places. For lunch he recommended Southpark Grill or Higgins
restaurant. We left the Westin and started walking around the city. We spotted the well known Jake's restaurant and looked at the
posted menu. It seemed nice, especially the option to eat outside, but I wanted to walk around a bit more and check out our other
We walked back south to Salmon Street, then passed Southpark Grill. The menu seemed limited but inviting and there were outside
umbrella tables here as well. I was curious about Higgins however, so we continued on south and onto Higgins. The menu looked
superb, but there was a very big construction project on next door and there was no option to sit outside. We decided to walk back to
Southpark Grill via the heavily shaded park (South Park) fronting Portland University.
We sat at a very comfortable outdoor umbrella table and ordered some local Pinot Gris and local oysters to start. I then had a very
unique sandwich of Smoked Pork Loin, Gruyere, and Apple-Currant Chutney. It was quite good, but very rich. I was certainly glad to
have that white wine to cut through it!
|After lunch we sauntered about town a bit before eventually walking north on Broadway until there was nothing much left to see. From
there we made a b-line through Chinatown and back to the Convention Center shuttle bus. Once back in our room we showered and
took a bit of a nap. My feet hurt a bit from all the walking, but considering the bad condition of my feet I was just happy it wasn't worse.
For dinner that night I had researched and made reservations at a restaurant named Grolla. It looked to be very eclectic, comfortable,
and sophisticated. We called the Bell Desk to book a taxi about 30 minutes prior to leaving, but when it was time to leave we were
offered a free ride in the hotel shuttle. The shuttle driver, Rick, was a very friendly and energetic older gentleman who drove as a
'retirement job.' The restaurant is located in a subdued, suburban area called the 'Alberta District'. As we approached the restaurant I
think both Tee and I were a bit suspicious of whether we had possibly made some mistake. The neighborhood and it's visible
residents didn't exactly appear inviting, but sure enough, we ended up pulling up to a lovely, open, and welcoming dinning space on a
corner of recently renovated businesses. There was only one other table occupied so we were able to sit just where we wanted. Our
young waiter, J.C. (?) was terrific from the start; professional, friendly, and knowledgeable. We ordered the 5-course Chef's Tasting
Menu with wine pairings and were surprised to find that we would each receive entirely different offerings, thus allowing us to share a
total of 10 different dishes. It was obvious from the beginning that Grolla was a restaurant interested in celebrating the bounty of local
food and wine with a keen sense of seasonality and presentation. It also had a very naturaly romantic flare. Overall the experience at
Grolla surpassed even the high hopes I had for it.
At the end of our meal we approached the two chefs in the kitchen in order to thank them for a truly great dinning experience. They
were great guys. I could tell they were happy to have us come back to compliment them. As we talked we found that one of them was 1
of only 5 certified sake experts in the United States! I immediately asked him if he knew John Gauntner, the most highly regarded
non-Japanese expert in the world. I suppose I asked him partially to test the legitimacy of his claim, but he did indeed seem to be very
familiar with John Gauntner and said that one of his best friends had actually written a book with him. Go figure!
They also volunteered another restaurant recommendation. When they learned that we were celebrating our 15th Anniversary, the one
chef took me aside and told me that if I wanted to REALLY impress Tee that I should take her to a new restaurant in town called
'Lucier.' I knew we probably wouldn't have the chance to dine there on this trip, but wanted to make sure and mention it again here so
that upon any future trip to Portland I can remember this recommendation and make sure to go!
|After leaving Grolla we took a bit of a walk around the neighborhood and discovered that despite our initial impressions, the place was
undergoing quite the renewal phase, with a number of trendy restaurants, clubs, and art galleries. Our waiter at Grolla had mentioned
that the restaurant next door, 'Beast', had been named this year's Portland Restaurant Of The Year. We also took note of a
modern-style Japanese izakaya just next to that called 'Yakuza,' also owned by the owners of Beast. It made us start to wish we had
enough time to come back and explore this neighborhood more, but this night was not going to be a late one since we had plans for
the next morning. We called the number for the hotel shuttle and within 20 minutes we were once again treated to a free ride back to
Our plans for the next morning were to take part in an epicurean walking tour with Portland Walking Tours. The tour group met at a
lovely, British inspired hotel called The Heathman. The second floor library was the designated meeting spot. I was surprised to see the
number of people there. Luckily the group was divided into two different walking tours. Ours ended up with about a dozen people. Our
tour guide was a short, stout, middle aged Jewish man originally from New York. His name was David. He had both an abundance of
knowledge and a real passion for the subject of the Portland food scene.
Our first stop was into a nearby deli named "The Flying Elephant." It was a bright, busy, modern deli. The group received a sampling of
the Pumpkin and Orange soup. It was delightful. Tee bought something there as well though I can't remember what it is now. Tea or
We then hopped aboard the Trolley car and rode our way up into the Pearl District, all the while being told of both the Trolley system
and the virtues of Portland's constant striving to live with "sustainability." The train was particularly crowded because of a large number
of elementary school students and their teachers who were on some kind of field trip.
We alighted in the northern Pearl District and were told of how the area had been experiencing a dramatic transformation from dock
and warehouse area to one inhabited by expensive, modern condos and upscale boutiques. Our destination was only about a block
away and turned out the be the well-known Bridgeport Brewery. It was an old, small, historical building amongst the modern
refurbishments of the neighborhood. The short tour and presentation by the head Brew Master was fun and impressive. We learned
that Bridgeport Brewery is Oregon's oldest, having been established in 1984 (Utah has two breweries older than this), and that
Portland has more breweries per capita than any other city in the world (the second being somewhere in Germany. Hamburg?). We
were also impressed by the fact that the entire brewery; production, packaging, pub, and restaurant all use a single industrial sized
garbage bin which is dumped but once a week. Certainly this was congruent with the "sustainablity" David was so enthusiastic about.
Oh, and the beer was great! My favorite being the Blue Heron Lager, Bridgeport's first original beer.
Our next stop was a large corner bakery called 'The Pearl Bakery'. We were led directly behind the counter and into the back kitchen. It
was a very impressive place, employing a good dozen people just in the back. David showed us the various doughs left to rise in large
containers at the back, then provided us a taste and detailed description of four different baked items. The baguette was the best I had
ever had! At one point David was talking about how only the highest quality 'local' ingredients were used and half-gestured toward the
pallets of flour I was standing near. When I looked at the bags of flour they clearly said "Leihi Flour; Leihi, Utah." When I pointed out that
the flour was actually from Utah, he revised his statement to say that they tried to stay "regional."
Next stop was to a gourmet kitchen store/cooking school named 'In Good Taste'. We all sat at a large demonstration table normally
used for the cooking classes and were told about a couple of interesting cooking products (the most interesting being the incredibly
sharp ceramic knife) while sipping a sampling of local Pinot Noir and tasting gourmet mustards. It was a lovely shop with a very
impressive cooking area and huge selection of cook books.
We then walked a couple of blocks to a very inviting tea house called The Tea Zone. We all sat in a cozy and comfortable spot in the
back lounge and sampled three different types of tea. Again David impressed me with his knowledge and passion for the subject
matter. I learned more about the history and characteristics of tea in that 20 minutes than I had ever know before. I also enjoyed the tea
more because of it!
From The Tea Zone we followed David to "an environmentally sustainable" building that housed a well known local pizza placed called
Hot Lips Pizza. Again David emphasized the F.L.O.S.S. (Fresh Local, Organic, Seasonal, and Sustainable) philosophy which the
place seeks to follow. The pizza was truly delicious despite there being broccoli on it! Tee gave me all kinds of ribbing for this because
I'm always telling her how broccoli has no place on pizza! We also were able to sample a Marion Berry soda. No, not THAT Marion
Berry (what's in those things?!), but the famous berries from the Marion region of Oregon.
Our tour came to it's conclusion at a European style coffee shop called, Via Delizia. We gathered at one of the umbrella tables just
outside the front door and sampled a couple of different coffees and three flavors of Gelato. We chatted a bit with another couple from
our group who were in from Dallas specifically to eat and drink, then had our picture taken with the tour guide David before leaving to
go shop for some gifts for the kids.
|After a successful trip to the toy store we continued to walk south toward the center of town. Although we had sampled a variety of
foods on our walking tour Tee was still in the mood for a little "something" more, and I had my mind on a cold beer. So when we came
across a brew pub/restaurant called "Henry's," we knew we had to stop in. The interior was a single large room with two stories and a
huge T.V. screen, but most all of the patrons, Tee and I included, chose to sit out on the back patio. I had the same beer that had been
my favorite on that mornings Bridgeport Brewery tour, Blue Heron Lager, while Tee had her favorite from the tour, the I.P.A.. We also
snacked on some pita bread and roasted red pepper hummus.
|From Henry's we went off to do a bit of shopping. We first went back to a men's underwear store where we had purchased a couple
pair of unique underwear for me the day before. I had worn my new underwear the day before and really liked them, so we decided I
needed a couple of additional pairs. It was then Tee's turn to get a few things. We first went to the Nike Town store (an essential stop
while in Portland I figure) where Tee bought herself some workout clothes as I rested my weary feet on the "boyfriend bench." It was
then off to Macy's where Tee found some great buys on underwear for herself. At this point my feet couldn't take any more walking,
so we made a b-line back to the hotel in order to take a short nap before heading out that night to the Bite of Oregon (or Oregon
Bites, as we began calling it) food and wine festival.
The food festival wasn't originally something we had planned on doing, but when I had seen it advertised on the train the day before I
decided that it would be a perfect thing for us to experience, and felt lucky that it was being held on the weekend that we were in
town. Again we took advantage of the hotel shuttle and arrived at the festival around 7 pm. The festival was being held at a nice spot
on the waterfront called McCall Park. We started walking around only to find that some strange gravitational force had pulled us
directly to the wine garden area of the festival at the far south end. Upon entering the wine garden we purchased the required tasting
glass for $5 and began poking around the various that were occupied by various Oregon wineries. And what a variety it was! I had
initially thought that I would stick with beer that night and let Tee do the wine tasting, but after seeing the number and quality of wines
that were being offered I quickly changed my mind and began sampling some of Oregon's best. I hadn't quite realized just how good
the wines of Oregon were until this trip. The best of which is certainly the Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. I even came across the
Momokawa sake booth and was to sample a full glass of their organic sake.
It was then off to sample some food. Our first stop was at a booth that featured Wagyu beef sliders with wasabi mayo. They were
beautiful! We could have eaten a dozen, but checked ourselves knowing there was a lot to sample yet. We then grabbed a generous
serving of ceviche. It was simple but incredibly satisfying. I took special note of it's contents in order to attempt recreating it once
back home. Our final selection of food that night was a slab of BBQ ribs, which were perfectly cooked but lacking a bit in flavor for
my liking. I did however eat the entire plate with no complaints, then soon realized I was too full for any more food.
We walked to the far north end of the festival where there was a band playing at the largest of the three stages at the festival. The
band was a great blues oriented band and we watched them play while taking turns in the restrooms. While watching the band I
noticed a few different people wearing "Crazy 8's" tee shirts. Then I heard the announcement that the Crazy 8's would be the night's
headliner. I was really surprised by this because the Crazy 8's are a band that used to play in Salt Lake regularly over 20 years ago,
and I band I've seen a number of times back in the 80's. It was hard to believe that they were still around and playing music together.
When they took the stage it was announced that they were members of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. I had never known that they
were from Portland. The crowd was huge and we initially tried to watch the show near the front but off to one side. When that proved
not to be the best vantage point we moved all the way to the back. I had always known the Crazy 8's to be a "ska" band but the first
couple of songs didn't sound like the old Crazy 8's at all. However, by the third song they were in full skank mode and had the crowd
dancing. We took in about an hours worth of the show then decided to start making our way home. It had been a fantastic night of
food, wine, and music!
|We took our time in the hotel the next morning then left for the Portland Saturday Market about 11:00. We decided to make the 30
minute walk down to and over the Burnside Bridge. The Market happens every Saturday under the Burnside Bridge and consists
of a very large number of temporary booths and which sit a variety of vendors selling anything from electronics, to original artwork,
to clothing, to food. We began our stroll through the market from descending the staircase from the top of Burnside Bridge to the
train tracks below. We looked amongst the vendors booths for about an hour. I thought most of the items for sale were somewhat
cheap and tacky, but there were some things that stood out; a woman who made belt buckles out of thick coloured glass, a guy
selling his own blend of spices, and the inventor of a board game called something like "The REAL Game of Life." We did end up
buying several items from the spice man.
At the back of this section of the market there is a little bit of a break in the action as it transitions into an adjacent food stall/eating
area. Both Tee and I were getting really hungry so we immediately started prowling the food stalls. I saw a Hawaiian food stall and
ordered a plate lunch with two scoop rice and Huli Huli chicken along with a mango iced tea. The place was run by an old Hawaiian
couple from Maui, who, funny enough, looked exactly like an old couple from Maui! I tore through my plate lunch as Tee did the
same with her Falafel from the Lebanese place.
I was now ready to take on the second half of the market which ran due West from the food area. This part of the market was under
the sky as opposed to under the bridge and was even bigger. Similar types of vendors occupied this section, though there was a
bit more of the tee shirt vendor-type stall here as opposed to the more serious artisans and crafts people of the initial section. The
whole place was very busy and bustling with activity. The people were varied in a very "Portland" sort of way. That is to say that Tee
and I had been only all too keenly aware of the fact that this town suffers from a serious dearth of attractive people. Not to be too
critical, but it's hard not to miss the fact that a lot of people here don't seem to have personal hygiene and fashion sense high on
their agendas. Sorry if you're from Portland and are reading this (I'm sure you are an exception to this rule!), but after having initially
pointed out to Tee the fact that I had yet to see an attractive female after our first day of walking around town, we both had taken
note of the fact that now, after two more days, we STILL had yet to see an attractive woman! Quite shocking for a city of this size!
There was a section of this side of the market were a few street performers and pan handlers gather to do their thing. I wasn't
surprised at all to see many neo-flower power, Rainbow Family types milling around. Several had their unique pan handling signs,
most of which asking for either for money or pot via clever sayings like "A hug for anything green!" It also wasn't too surprising
when I saw a Jimi Hendrixs look-a-like walking around. What did surprise me was just how authentic he looked! I observed him for
a bit and thought that he looked like a nice guy. He always seemed to be looking around for people checking him out, and always
seemed really happy when he was getting some attention. I just knew I had to get a picture of him so I approached and asked him.
He was more than happy to oblige. After taking a few photos with him we shot him a couple of bucks and he went off happy as a
|Soon after taking photos with Jimi we boarded the MAX a few more stops into town. Our next stop was the cultural antithesis of the
Saturday Market; Brooks Brothers. Tee needed to buy a replacement for one of her favorite Brooks Bros. shirts, so when we saw
the train pull up just outside Portland's branch we hopped off. Tee tried on several things with the help of a very friendly female
assistance. In the end she ended up buying only the shirt she had come in for originally. I sat the whole time on the boyfriend bench
almost overwhelmed by how much my feet hurt! I was glad to sit there for about 45 minutes. As we were leaving it occurred to me
that the older, distinguished looking gentleman who was the menswear sales person here was the only person I had seen wearing a
suit the entire time since arriving in Portland.
At this point I was only thinking about two things: getting a cold beer and getting off my feet! I wasn't going to be too picky as to
where to satisfy these two pressing needs, but I was hoping to find an Irish Pub sort of thing, with perhaps a baseball game on the
monitor. But after a quick Google search via our phones we decided that the Rock Bottom Brewery a couple of blocks away would
have to suffice.
The Rock Bottom Brewery is a smallish chain of brew pubs that started originally in Colorado. It's certainly not the local-ish, low key
pub I had in mind initially, but we knew if wasn't far away and would have good beer. We sat at a convenient raised table with a view
of a few different T.V. monitors. I noticed straightaway that the Angels (our team) were playing the Yankees on the screen just in front
of us, and that it was only the 2nd inning. I knew EXACTLY what I would be doing over the next couple of hours!
In fact, the next two hours or so were absolutely splendid. Not just because the Angels came back in the last two innings to pound
the Yankees 11-3, but mostly because it provided us a leisurely time to sit opposite a small table and enjoy one another's company,
sans kids, and enjoy a fun game and several good micro-brews. We had a really great talk and felt that we had taken full advantage
of that time together. I should also mention that we also watched some of the Olympic swimming and beach volleyball, which was the
first Olympic events we had seen.
Although I had been off my feet for some time now, I still wasn't ready to hit the pavement again yet. So we took a cab back to the
hotel. Knowing exactly where we wanted to eat that night, Tee called Hiroshi restaurant to see if we needed a reservation for the
sushi bar or not (almost all better sushi bars do NOT require a reservation, but one never knows). They said that we didn't need one
but that they would take one for us since we had called. We also called the kids, Carol Lynn, and Tee's sister Sue. Tee then took a
short nap while I had a shower and watched some local news. The big story being that a helicopter flying a crew of Oregon fire
fighters out of a large wildfire in California had crashed and all had been killed.
We chose Hiroshi for our sushi dinner after having asked and looked around specifically in order to find the best sushi restaurant in
Portland. We were told of a couple of other places in addition to Hiroshi, but after a brief "walk by" the day before we decided
quickly that Hiroshi seemed the best option. Glad we did. Hiroshi is a simple but beautiful restaurant containing a long sushi bar at
the front and a floor of tables off to the side. The design is very "Contemporary Japansese" in that it is big, open, and sleek, yet
incorporates distinctly Japanese elements such as the liberal use of wood and the placement of ikebana (Japanese flower
arrangements). I was impressed right away, not only by the interior but to the fact that we were warmly welcomed at the door by a
young Japanese man in a suit, then seated directly in front of Master Hiroshi, the immaculately dressed owner and head sushi chef.
Master Hiroshi is a lifelong sushi chef of about 60 years old. Originally from Hokkaido, he and his wife have been in The States
many years now. He was very welcoming, while retaining the very professional air of a Master Chef. When I made reference to
Hokkaido's lone NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) team The Nippon Ham Fighters, he really perked up and we began a great
repartee, speaking about Japanese baseball, our favorite sushi bars in L.A., and his history in Portland. All very interesting. Every
10 mins. or so another one of the staff, including Hiroshi san's wife, and the Restaurant Manager made there way to us and quite
formally introduced themselves. It really made us feel welcome and gave a great impression.
As for the meal itself, it was just as we had thought; wonderful! We asked for "omakase" (Chef's choice) and drank Sapporro beer. I
couldn't name all of the items included, but it was a wonderful progression of mostly nigiri pieces and Hiroshi's original offerings. We
attempted to get a photo of Hiroshi san, but he vigorously resisted, so we settled for his wife taking a picture of us at the sushi bar. It
was a wonderful couple of hours of food, drink, and interesting conversation.
|After dinner we went walking back toward the city center, but after a while agreed we should just hop a cab back to the hotel. As we
approached the hotel we noticed a large number of people leaving the arena next door. Obviously some event had just ended there.
Once back at the hotel Tee went up to the room and I stopped into the hotel for a beer. I asked what the event was next door and was
told it was the Motley Crue concert. It all made perfect sense judging from the "motley crew" that made up the bulk of concert goers. I
drank my beer and watched a couple of Olympic events, then made my way up to the room.
We had a couple of hours the next morning to pack up and head out to the airport. We took the hotel shuttle to the airport, sharing the
van with two guys from a professional lacrosse team from New Jersey. By the time we arrived at the airport I couldn't wait to get out of
the van and away from these knuckleheads' inane conversation, the singular topic being lacrosse! Once inside the airport and through
security we stopped by a vendor selling local wines and bought a couple of bottles of wine simply and humorously called "Joe's Wine."
Turned out to be good! We also spent some time at the Northwest Airline lounge where we met a Japanese family on vacation from
Tokyo. I think we gave them a little shock in the elevator when we began speaking Japanese to them.
Well, another great little trip came to an end and it was exactly what we had hoped it would be! Thanks Carol Lynn and thanks Portland!