Last weekend, Travel Oregon invited me and about 20 others to experience the culinary scene both within and beyond Portland's borders. Disclosure: they paid for everything.
My hope is that even though my expenses were paid, I can still provide meaningful, informative food coverage of some locales worth visiting. I try to be thoughtful. I try to approach these experiences with a critical eye. But whether I've succeeded is ultimately for you to determine yourselves.
Below is a key to my photos, which appear in the slide show above. In a follow-up post, I'll introduce you to some local artisans and their food crafts, and give you my sense of this changing, growing, youthful, and very quirky city -- warts and all.
Frame 1. Lovely Mt. Hood on a clear September day. Kayaks drifted. Trillium Lake sparkled. Flowers flowered.
Frame 2. A picnic bench at Penner-Ash Winery (15771 NE Ribbon Ridge Road, Newberg, OR). Dusk. I wanted to lie on that table, flat on my back, and gaze at the sky.
Frame 3. Powell's (flagship: 1005 W Burnside, Portland). I wandered the 68,000 square-foot bookstore, then got lost walking back to the hotel even while using the turn-by-turn on my phone's GPS. This is not unusual for me.
Frame 4. Dinner at St. Jack (2039 SE Clinton Street, Portland), named 2011 Rising Star of the Year by the The Oregonion. Highlights included the crispy-salty frites, chicken liver mousse, and...
Frame 5. ...a dessert of plums and vanilla poached pluots.
Frame 6. I like tea. This is no surprise. Portland is home to a fine little shop called Steven Smith Teamaker (1626 NW Thurman Street, Portland), which I'd toured back in 2010. Pictured is one of their herbal bags (Meadow?). I'd like to tape it above my desk, for art. It's prettier than what's up there now, which are some crappily framed postcards I bought when I was 17.
Frame 7. Dr. John Kallas led us on a leisurely forage through the woods and took care to point out several leaves and berries that would cause hemorrhaging and instant death should we consume them. I'd had romantic visions of piling a wicker basket high with chanterelles, or pretty twigs, but there was something equally pleasant, and less taxing, about listening to him speak knowledgeably about huckleberries, thimbleberries, baneberries, and cow parsnips, the lower stem of which can be peeled and eaten like a banana. I bet you did not know this.
Frame 8. A foraged salad at Timberline Lodge (27500 E Timberline Road), a ski lodge founded in the 1930s in the throes of the Great Depression under Roosevelt's New Deal. If you're an architecture buff, you'll enjoy this place and its historical importance. There were a lot of old people milling about, but that didn't faze me because a) I enjoy old people, and b) I was fed a salad of smooth yellow violet, indian paintbrush, wild ginger, tiny tomatoes, bush berries, huckleberries, and verjusette. I swear I did make any of that up. Executive Chef Jason Stoller Smith knows how to make food plucked from the forest taste like it came right from the earth. Oh, wait.
Frame 9. He also knows how to make ice cream threaded with pineapple weed, which pairs especially well with peaches and something he casually refers to as vanilla-olive oil powder.
Frame 10. Picturesque McCurdy Farms orchard (2080 Tucker Road, Hood River). The pears here grow in bottles. I'm not kidding. They grow inside bottles. More on that next time.
Frame 11. Here is a pear. I do recognize that this one is not, in fact, growing inside a bottle.
Frame 12. This man is making burgers on the roof-deck of the Wieden+Kennedy Ad Agency, which handles accounts for Nike, Kraft, Target, and (dingdingding) Travel Oregon. The building itself is crazy-ridiculous and security guards about the same age as my kids are apparently keeping all kinds of corporate secrets very safe. I'm glad they were there protecting me, too, since I was very busy eating sliders.
Frame 13. Sliders! These are the beef ones from Chef Gregory Denton of Metrovino (1139 NW 11th, Portland). They had a fancy sauce. (The menu actually said "fancy sauce.")
Frame 14. A close-in, mildly disorienting look at a gorgeous freekeh salad with toasted hazelnuts, pickled cherries (!), and borage flowers (!) from Chef Scott Dolich of Park Kitchen (422 NW 8th, Portland). Freekeh is a grain. Borage is a flower. They are both real things.
Frame 15. Dark chocolate-dipped caramels with sea salt. I dipped them myself. More on those next time.
Frame 16. And this is the real spirit of Oregon right here. There were 3 unscripted moments in the trip, all on the last day. Passing this sign while boarding my flight home was one of them. You'll have to wait for the other two.
Go on now.
Get out of here.