Thursday, August 16, 2012

Road Trip: Portland Part 1

A couple weekends ago, I went with a couple girlfriends on an overnight road trip to Portland.  I can't get enough of Portland, which is probably a good thing, because if we lived there I would go broke in about 2 weeks with all the fabulous restaurants, gourmet shops, bookstores, etc.  We were only going to be there for about 24 hours and so we made a pretty tight itinerary.  I am not a huge fan of itineraries but they are certainly useful when you are short on time.

Portland Roadtrip:
-Leave 8:30 AM and Arrive by 11:00 AM.
-Explore Mississippi District (An area I had not been to.)  Have lunch.  Shop.
-Head to Pearl district, go to Museum of Craft and Cacao, a drinking chocolate cafe.
-Head back over river to Hawthorne Street.  Shop at Powell's craft and garden store.  Check out boutiques nearby.  Cocktails at Sapphire Hotel.
-Head back downtown to check into hotel and change for dinner.  Late dinner at Andina Peruvian in Pearl district.
-After dinner drinks at hotel bar.

Phew.  I am tired just writing that.  Well, we stuck to our itinerary like glue and hit all the places we wanted. 
First stop: Mississippi Street.  This is a fun arty street running north-south that is north of downtown Portland but you have to head east over the Willamette river to get there.  Endless jokes as I was driving and trying to park about all the bicyclists and the dangers of hitting one and how we could be in an episode of Portlandia.  If you have seen the show, but never been to Portland, trust me, it's a pretty good satire of the truth. 
 The main reason to hit up Mississippi street was to visit The Meadow.  This tiny shop, the sister store of a larger shop in New York, is tucked into a tiny corner space next to a comic book shop.  Their specialty is salt and chocolate.  I like to use flavored salts in my cooking and this place was recommended by three different people when I told them I was going to Portland for the weekend.  Now that is pretty good word of mouth right there.

What I didn't know was that along with chocolate and salt, The Meadow has a entire wall dedicated to bitters.  I promptly started sampling bitters and completely forgot to buy any salt or chocolate.  Bitters are a (mostly) alcoholic apertif flavored with fruits and herbs and are used in cocktails.  They were marketed as "medicines" during prohibition and now they are still found in the non-booze sections of stores and not subject to alcohol taxes.  Funny, huh?  Anyways, we love to mix up Manhattans and Old Fashioned but more recently I discovered the bliss of a few drops of bitters into sparkling water.  Refreshing perfection.

I ended up buying 4 types of bitters: rhubarb, celery, bitter orange, and a four citrus blend.  Happy.

 The Meadow also sells gadgets to grind your salts.  The top photo is of slabs of salt that you can use as serving platters or even to cook on to add flavor to your food. 

These roasted cocoa nibs were deliciously bitter.  

The wall of chocolate was impressive.  But after my tour of Theo's Chocolate factory, I admit I am a little bit over the thrill of chocolate.  Later when we went to have drinking chocolate, I only had a tiny 2 oz cup.

While in Mississippi we had lunch at Por Que No, a delightful taqueria with a location also on Hawthorne street which I had been to before.  It's a casual taco spot but with very strict rules on ordering before you sit down.  I love that for $3 you can get a plate of spicy cucumbers to start your meal with. 

All three of us ordered their brunch special of potato cakes with poached eggs, beans, veggies, and crema.  Cannot tell you how delicious this was.  I enjoyed iced hibiscus tea on the side.    

Also, I was so excited about one more shop on Mississippi that I didn't take any photos: Paxton Gate.  They are an awesome taxidermy/oddity shop where I bought some glass eyes for my felt sculptures and a carved claw necklace.  Very steampunk.

More posting soon about the rest of the trip! 

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