Saturday, October 6, 2012

The City Of Roses...Days 1 & 2

I knew it would happen.  I knew we would walk into this city and fall completely and totally in love.  And fall we did.  To say that we have a crush on Portland would be a gross understatement.  It's the city of our dreams, a Disneyland for adults if you will.  The food was amazing (more on that later), everyone has a dog, the weather was great (even though it didn't rain, dang it!), but more important than all of those amazing things, was the people. Everyone in Portland that we met (and we covered every neighborhood) was happy and as in love with Portland as we were.  People were eager to share their favorite restaurants, favorite shop for jewelry, clothes, where to get the best steaks in town, favorite recipe, these people are HAPPY.  Excited about life!  Eager to share their finds with anyone within chatting distance!  It was such a relief to see people's reactions when they heard we were thinking about moving there from California.  Come now!  Check out the neighborhoods off Hawthorne, you'll love it!  There's a great market down there with the best chai tea!  Have you been to Washington Park yet?  Check it out!  These were our people.

Our first afternoon/evening was spent acting like children given the keys to an amusement park.  We checked into our funky hotel Inn @ Northrup Station.  It's in the North West District off of 23rd Avenue, an area we loved immediately!  It is a tree lined street full of boutiques, cafes, bars, and restaurants.  We stayed at the Inn the first three nights of our visit and it didn't disappoint.  There is a full kitchen, a nice sitting room, great view, and super comfortable bed.  

Said comfy bed.  Seriously, it's the most comfortable hotel bed we've had the pleasure of sleeping in.

Sitting area where the coffee table is covered in books and magazines about Portland with titles like "Food Lover's Guide to Portland".  Oh laaaaawd, Portland is a foodie's paradise!

Groovy kitchen complete with Bodum toaster and Keurig coffee maker.  We were obviously taking full advantage of the plethora of food options in this town, but we did swing into Trader Joe's for some coffee creamer, o.j., and fruit to hold us over in the morning.  Our hotel offered a free continental breakfast but we're still gun-shy about crowds of people since we hail from the land of one million plus in the parking lot at Wal-Mart at all times of the day and night.  Turns out we were right, the lobby was packed every morning with folks lining up!

After we checked into our hotel we decided to hop in the car (we rented a 2012 Explorer by the way, quite fancy!) and started driving.  Portland is divided into several districts so we wanted to get somewhat familiar with each neighborhood so we didn't miss anything.  We ended up downtown and decided since we hadn't eaten all day we needed something to sustain our weary bodies for further exploration.  Since there are so many spots to choose from in this town we decided to download the app Yelp to help us find a good spot.  And find one we did.  We landed at Pizza Schmizza and quickly confirmed this was a good choice.  We sat outside and decided the alligator pie and pumpkin ales were appropriate.  It was delicious, but even more than delicious, we experienced something we haven't in a loooong time.  Excellent service, dining al fresco, and friendly smiles from people walking by.  People are so happy here, probably because they all have dogs on leashes that accompany them while they run last minute errands on Sunday afternoon.  Not the first or last indication that this is the town for us.   

I give you...Alligator Pie.  It was covered with alligator sausage (delish!), Mama Schmizza's noodles, fresh tomatoes, red bell pepper, feta cheese, and cilantro.  The pumpkin ales washed it down nicely too!

After dinner and some more driving around (and confirming the EXACT LOCATION OF VOODOO DOUGHNUTS where there was a damn line around the corner at 5 pm) we decided to head back to the hotel.  We were pretty tired at this point and figured we'd head to bed early so as to get an early start the next day.  Eric and are not party people...OR SO WE THOUGHT.  We got back to the hotel, I poured a glass of wine while throwing open the balcony door, we turned on Pandora and settled in for a cozy evening of research into Portland.  We dived into the stack of magazines on the coffee table, and Eric found an article about Living Room Theaters which is described as "Environmentally friendly.  Designed to entertain and welcome you at any time."  It's a movie theater with a first class bar, kitchen, and live music. Each theater has huge comfy chairs and seating with tables in the back of room. You can be served appetizers, dinner, or cocktails during the movie! And they feature independent films! We decided that we couldn't pass this up.  

We caught the 10 pm show of "For A Good Time Call" written and starred in by Lauren Miller who just so happens to be married to my secret boyfriend Seth Rogen.  Truth be told, I have a crush on her too after seeing this movie.  It was hysterical.  And, I drank a dirty martini while watching that was served to me by a bartender who is also a fire dancer.  Clearly people in this town were going to be cool as hell.  

Check out this movie trailer for "For A Good Time Call".

I should mention that before we checked out this hysterical movie we had an hour and a half to kill before it started.  We headed to the theater and figured we'd walk around the Pearl District and have a drink before it started, but as soon as we rounded the corner...I saw it.  When I spotted the sign I swear I heard angels singing.  Could it be Powell's City Of Books?!?!?!?  It's described as the largest bookstore in the country and it takes up a city block.  A CITY BLOCK FULL OF NEW AND USED BOOKS PEOPLE!  There are four floors and floor to ceiling books. Be still my heart! Each floor has rooms designated for different genres.  Fiction, Literature, Metaphysics, Cooking, Classics, it goes on and on.  Here's a glimpse into the world of Powell's:

*angels singing*
Powell's store front at 8:30 pm.  The place was buzzing with locals and tourists.  LOVE!

A tiny glimpse into the world of Powell's.  Every room looked like this!  

Our first night was amazing.  Living Room Theaters was a great place to hang out and I'm so glad we took advantage of that place while we were there.  Interesting observation: The first few minutes before the movie started (as we sipped our drinks) both Eric and I were so bitter that nothing like this existed anywhere we'd ever been.  A movie theater that screens indie films, serves food, and drinks?  Every town should have one!  It cost us $18 to see the movie and our drinks were $14.  You'll spend more than that in Fresno on a Wednesday night buying movie tickets, popcorn, and sodas.  Reason #764 we can't wait to live here one day!

On day two we woke up excited to see more.  Eric suggested a drive to the town of Astoria on the coast where the movie "The Goonies" was filmed.  I thought that sounded awesome, so we got ready and headed out for a road trip.  One of the reasons I love travelling with Eric is because he's up for anything at any time.  Some folks wouldn't have even considered a two hour drive after flying into a new town, but Eric's on board for an adventure no matter what.  I'm so glad he suggested it because it turned out to be one of my favorite days of the trip.  The drive out of town and into the country was gorgeous.  

The view of the Lewis and Clark Bridge over the Columbia river.  This river is huge!  Gorgeous blue water and white caps and we were loving every inch!  Huge barges were moving who-knows-what up and down the river, it was fascinating.  All of this surrounded by mountains, we were in heaven!

   Gorgeous, no?  It reminds me of North Carolina, which made it feel even more like home.  *sniffle*

Eric and the fancy Explorer complete with seat warmers.  Loooooved me some seat warmers!

After the scenic drive we made it into Astoria, and boy was it beautiful.  It looked just like the movie, which was awesome.  We turned to Yelp again to find a good spot for lunch.  And once again, we found a gem of a spot.  Baked Alaska was right on the water, and since it was a week day it wasn't busy at all.  We had a beautiful view of the water, great service, and a tasty lunch.  Brace yourself for many gratuitous photos of food, because it's always our favorite part!

We started with the Aged Jack & Asiago fondue served with sourdough and fuji apples.  Yup!  It was as delicious as it sounds!  We also ordered a 1/2 dozen raw oysters served with a "pink peppercorn mignonette" that was to-die-for.  A lunch at the coast is not complete for me without raw oysters.  I could eat a dozen by myself!  Also of note: I ordered a blood orange something-or-other that consisted of blood orange vodka, muddled naval oranges, and orange flavored San-Pellegrino.  It was a delight to drink, perfect and light!  

We decided to split the Dungeoness Crab Sandwich that was grilled panini style and a cup of clam chowder.  The sandwich was full of fresh crab meat, and was as light as a feather.  The chowder was delicious too, second only to my beloved Fish Hopper in Monterey.  

We split the "Baked Alaska" for desert and were surprised to find that it wasn't the traditional dish we were expecting.  Turns out it was a giant chocolate chip cookie baked in a cast-iron skillet served with ice cream and a vanilla brandy sauce.  So, needless to say, we left totally satisfied.

The restaurant was connected to a fun shop called Mise en Place (pronounced "miz on plas") which is french for "putting in place".  It was a cute store full of cooking gadgets and local art and while we browsed the shop there was an intriguing cooking class taking place in the middle of the room.  The chef teaching also happens to be the head chef at the restaurant we had lunch in.  He was teaching grilling techniques for fish, salmon specifically.  If we'd had more time I would've definitely signed up for the class because everyone taking it was sitting in a gourmet kitchen sipping wine while they watched.  Sounds fun, eh?

After we finished lunch and browsed a few other shops we decided to drive through the town.  It is adorable!  Here's a few shots of what we got into:

The new moonstone ring I picked up (for 70% off!) at Terra Stones on Commercial Street.  I found a few other goodies too.  I'll definitely be shopping at their online store!

These bleeding hearts were the size of the palm of my hand!

The sunflowers were at least 8 feet tall and the blooms were the size of a dinner plate.  

The town's architecture was so quaint, everything had a steeple!  

I spotted this glass blowing gallery on the way out of town and am so glad I stopped.  Fernhill Glass Studios was a great find.  It was an outdoor glass blowing studio with a shop that had the most beautiful hand blown ornaments, vases, mugs, paperweights, etc.  They offer classes for blowing your own ornament (only $40!) as well as a paperweight blowing class where I was told everyone leaves with at least two different pieces.  Another thing I was sorry I didn't have time to do!  The owners were very friendly and eager to tell me about the process of glass blowing. They even told us where to get the best pesto pizza with white sauce in town!  I love the way everyone here loved food!  

Annie's Tavern Dancers was closed!  Boooooooo!

After a few hours exploring Astoria we jumped back in the car to head back to Portland. On our way into town we'd passed a filling station that was advertising homemade fried chicken.  What else can one do in a strange land but to pull the hell over and try the fried chicken?!?!?!  Eric decided the offer was too good to pass up so we pulled off for a taste.  

The sign that drew us in...

Eric embracing the spirit of the road and trying what looked to be a juicy piece of fried chicken.  I declined to taste, as the fear of restrooms being few and far between was too great, should the need arise.

Proof that the chicken was amazing.

We laughed the entire drive back to Portland about how we should probably save the bones of that chicken because like a snake bite, if something takes a serious wrong turn we'd need some sort of evidence of what was eaten so the emergency staff would know what they were dealing with!  The chicken turned out to be as harmless as it was delicious, and I was glad one of the two of us committed to the adventure of trying the local staple.  

We wound down the evening back on 23rd Avenue with a bit of shopping for me and cocktails at a sidewalk pub for both of us.  We chatted for a while with a few local shop owners who were so gracious about sharing what they love about Portland.  They suggested neighborhoods to check out if we moved, the best place to see a live show, and local bands they loved.  So nice!

By the time we were ready to head back to the hotel we realized that it was almost 10 pm and it had been a whole five hours since we'd eaten!  *GASP*  That's when we stumbled onto the best pizza (we found) in the city.  And we ate a lot of pizza!  I'll leave you with a photo of said pizza so you'll know what we were dealing with.  

Cocktails at Ram's Head Pub on 23rd Avenue.  

Escape From New York pizza.  Ya'll, these guys know what they're doing.  It's a cash only joint with a few tables and a bar with stools, and that's about it.  They use fresh ingredients, amazing cheese, and you can have a beer while you wait for your pie to cook.  No need for fancy atmosphere when you're making something this good.  You can order a slice, or a whole pie and it is delicious!  In hindsight we obviously should have ordered a slice, but Eric had no problem having cold pizza for breakfast the next morning!   We also read through the local music flyer advertising live shows and were stunned at how big the music scene is.  Page after page of amazing bands, some we'd heard of, some not.  Check this out!

Just a few days worth of music playing locally.  I doubt this many shows have happened in Fresno in the last three months!

Aimee Mann was playing on our anniversary and we were soooo tempted to go see her!  We found something equally cool to do, but we loved having THE CHOICE of whether or not to check out a great show or do something else exciting.  We were baffled and impressed, yet again.

Stay tuned for more love letters to my now favorite city Portland!  We packed a lot in the week we were there and I'll be posting regularly until the entire adventure is documented!

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