Portland Report(land)

by janet on March 25th, 2010

I heart it when conference organizers choose proper cities that (a) are walkable and (b) are a random foodie oasis.  I was recently in Portland for exactly such a conference, with my dearest friend and OG Foodie Sharisa, and found my new favorite restaurant…

Ping

Ping was named Rising Star Restaurant of the Year by the Oregonian’s Diner Guide.  I was excited about their Baby Octopus Skewer (marinated in lime, chiles, garlic, fish sauce, and cilantro).

Mostly I was enticed by the price – TWO BUCKAROOS for all you see above!  Loverly.

Our server was the cutest hapa girl, which Sharisa appreciated as she is a hapa herself.  She guided us to good cocktails and handled our frantic and impassioned ordering with style.

In addition to the octo-bebehs, we ordered a red potato skewer (salt roasted and grilled, served with spicy mayo sauce – $1!), a salapao (thai-style steamed bun stuffed with sweet shredded pork, fried shallots – $2.50!)…

deep-fried tiny fish ($2!), chinese tea egg (steeped in black tea, soy sauce, ginger, star anise, & cinnamon – $2!)…

…house-made pork meatball skewer (Thai-style, dipped in sweet chili sauce – $2.50!), house-made fish ball skewer (same), yam yai (Thai-style green salad with lettuce, boiled egg, peanuts, onions, prawns, chicken, bean sprouts, pickled garlic, scallions, cilantro, cucumber and tofu topped with a peanut dressing)…

And THESE.  Quail egg skewer (wrapped in bacon, with spicy mayo sauce).  Every neuron in my noggin was trilling with joy.  We ordered another as soon as the first hit our respective mouths.  Think smooth plus crunchy, shot through with spicy cream.  Not that I chewed to register the crunch.  I gulped them down cartoon-style – a delicious Adam’s apple!

We should have stopped there, but the fucking curiosity killed the cat (‘s palate).  We spied chicken butt - brined with fish sauce, garlic and sugar, grilled and served with sweet chili dipping sauce and ordered it.  Two thoughts, both related to R2, popped into my head.  (1) R2 told me that the a bird’s butt-al area is called its “vent” which is gross and reminiscent of wormy farts; and (2) no one loves a slanted rhyme more than R2, so I promptly texted him “What’s up?” and he texted back, just as promptly, “Chicken butt.”

Excellent.

Chicken butt is fucking disgusting.  Think of the gristliest bit of chicken that you’ve ever accidentally eaten, then shoot it through with sickly-yellow chicken fat, and then genetically hybridize it with  bouncy ball and that’s what you get.

Thinking about the chicken butt is bad.  Thinking about chicken butt while watching the episode of Man vs. Wild where he…well actually, any episode will do, but this one is the one where  he drinks his piss (which he has deposited into the skin of a rattlesnake) and then he’s eating skunk that he’s recently beheaded and describes it as “steak rubbed in dog feces…” anyway yes blogging chicken butt plus Man vs Wild is making me green about the gills.

Despite the chicken vent, I was so happy to be full-up with good food and hanging out with Sharisa again.  In fact, it was this very conference, six years ago, where Sharisa earned her nickname from our ESL Chinese friend who could not pronounce her real name and called her Sharisa (“Sharisa I have your wine!” she said about the vodka and champagne we had purchased to pregame – every kind of alcohol is called “wine” to her apparently) and called me “Janeee.”

My happiness was shot to berserk levels of happy when our server set down our check and we discovered her name was Charissa.  ”HOW DO YOU PRONOUNCE YOUR NAME!!” we shrieked at her, and she said “Sharisa.”  More shrieking!  What a perfect end to the night.

Except it didn’t end!  Because we next rolled ourselves over to…

Voodoo Doughnut

Voodoo Doughnut is a Portland mainstay.  The guy behind the counter was a burly, bearded, world-weary Portlandey dude who would periodically sigh “Can I get anyone anything.”  I had, natch, the bacon maple bar, which I thought I could handle being the sweet-savory queen.  No.

Others got the apple fritter, which was a triumph.  Crisp, light as air, and the size of a large frisbee.  Many grabby grabby hands tearing off shreds and nomming with gusto.

The next day we went to…

Navarre

Navarre also had glowing reviews, so we went.  I don’t know what to say about this place.  It does everything right (local, organic, la la la, small plates big plates etcetera).  Ambiance is cool, good wine list.  But none of the dishes sang.  Good, not great.  Not always due simply to underseasoning, per se, just…boring.

Save for this one dish, which was off-limits to cheese-hatin’ Sharisa.

Pardon the awfulness of the photo.  Did I even need to show it to you?  It’s basically a huge thing of fried cheese.  We manhandled this shit like there was no tomorrow.  Shattery, sticky cheese that squished out pleasing salty grease liquid, oh lord.

At more than twice the cost of Ping and with less than a tenth of the elation, NOT WORTH IT.

The following day I went for lunch with an old advisor to…

Veritable Quandary

VQ was a medium-schmancy joint where everyone from the conference ended up for lunch.  Sharisa showed up, too, with her advisor.  I could only take a couple quick pictures because I do NOT want any of my former advisors to know about this little blog overflowing with f-bombs.  Anyway, here it is:

Vegetarian biscuits and gravy with mushrooms and poached egg.  I am laughing to myself as I look at this photo, because I could not have (a) inhaled this faster; or (b) paid less attention to my advisor.  I hope I am still shiny in his eyes after this lunch.  I couldn’t help it!  The biscuit was perfectly crisp at the edges, and the yolk that yin-yanged into the extremely rich gravy was just so drop-dead fucking (see? f-bomb!) scrumptious. Lickety lickety.

Sharisa and I ditched the rest of the conference and went on a walk of Portland that moved me to exclaim, more than once, “This is like the fucking ODYSSEY!”

We started out walking along the river, where we happened on a huge fair.  Apparently this happens every week?  But it covered several blocks and I counted three different live bands!  Sharisa and I lamented that we were both full and couldn’t partake in any of the lovely fair food, fun stuff like bentos, gyros, curry!  Also, there was a cool artist who painted with numbers.  Not by numbers, but with numbers.  From far away it looks normal, but up close it’s like 1′s and 2′s and 3′s (well, you know what numbers are) that, like pointillism, from far away comprise a picture.  Pretty nerdy cool.

We kept walking and stumbled upon a city block that was crowded with loud people in wacky wacky costumes that walked that line between jolly and frightening.  A little too loud and drunk and homeless-looking.  Sharisa and I stood on the edge of the block, breathing hard and gathering courage to walk on.  We did, and encountered a guy dressed as the Last Supper (he was Jesus in the center with cutouts of the others, with a full-on table with bread and stuff on it slung around his neck.  Then a crusty looking guy ran up, grabbed a baguette from the table, and started wacking cardboard Judas with it, causing Jesus to get pissed and yell HEY HEY HEY HEY at increasingly menacing decibels.  Sharisa and I scampered right out of there.

Next, we passed Cupcake Jones.  Donuts are the new cupcakes and we had been there, done that, but we stopped nonetheless to pick up a baby cupcake each.  She: vanilla (flecked through with real vanilla bean and topped with a preshus edible pearl).  Me: red velvet (topped with a darling edible flower petal).

Blood sugar restored, we went to the world’s largest Anthropologie, which was a bit meaningless because I can never find anything that looks good on me there and Sharisa already owns all of it.  Next to Anthropologie was…

Powell’s City of Books

Goodness Gracious.  Truly a city.  I stepped in and I was shell-shocked.  I was on a hunt to find a used Edgar Rice Burroughs book for R2, who is collecting all the ones with Ace covers.

Usually he’s lucky if he can find any ERB books at a used bookstore.  Here, there was not only one book, not only one bookshelf, but three and a half bookshelves FULL of ERB books!  I breathed “Ohhhh he’s gonna die…” and whipped out my phone to call him and gloat.

I picked up two books to add to his collection, read through a Bon Appetit that said photographing one’s food was rude and should be outlawed (gulp!), texted Sharisa to find her, and left in search of a cocktail.

And I spied this thing!

EEEEEEEE!

Our final stop in Portland, recommended to me by a Portland native, was…

Clyde Common

The new home of noted mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler, we were excited to try some weird cocktails.  First we cooed at the impossibly cute dog outside, who looked like a pig and cow and puppy rolled into one.  No picture, sorry.  I suck at taking animal photos, remember?

We got one Copper Penny: Old Overholt rye, Clear Creek pear brandy, Punt e Mes, apricot, one B.M.O.C.: bourbon, raw ginger syrup, Angostura, soda water, one Tonga-Tonga: Smith and Cross Jamaican rum, lime, grapefruit, Trader, and one Beginning of the End: Boca Loca cachaca, lime, amaretto, egg whites, apple butter.  The latter was my favorite due to my intense love of egg whites which was further thickened with the apple butter – captivating!

And thus, we said goodbye to Portland in the best possible way – slightly-beyond-tipsy.

One Response to “Portland Report(land)”

  1. R2 says:

    Rare form, MTFB. A tome of food-blog goodness…and more!

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