Wednesday, June 24, 2015

3 Nights in Portland, Oregon: April 28 - May 1

Mount Hood -- 50 miles from Portland

Once we learned that our friends Frank and Chris would be tying the knot on Catalina Island (off the coast of California), I knew I wanted to get over the jet lag at another location. I chose Portland for a couple of reasons.

I had a conversation five years ago, when I worked at Conde Nast while licensing New Yorker cartoons, that hasn't left me. It was with a client named Jeannie who shared with me that she lived in New York City for 13 years and San Francisco, one of my favorite cities, for about 10.  But today she calls Portland, Oregon home. She raved about Portland.  Ever since that call, I've had Portland on the back burner of my mind.

Fast forward to this year -- Scott and I are watching Top Chef Boston and the final 3 contestants included Gregory and Doug, both of whom have restaurants in Portland.

Easy decision. Portland it was. Needless to say, I focused our itinerary on FOOD! :)

I did have Mount Hood on our itinerary from the rose garden but it got trumped in the sky! I was ready to faint when I saw it from my window seat.

Scott Babe on the MAX
Willamette River view from the MAX

From the airport, we chose Portland's public transportation to get to our hotel. The MAX train was $2.50 per person and very easy to figure out. The only drawback was walking the 7 blocks (1/2 mile) to our hotel with our luggage.

We did Portland on a budget because we were spending much more on the 2nd part of our vacation to Catalina Island. I chose the Crystal Hotel, owned by the popular McMenamins family. Which owns quite a bit in Portland and surrounding area! The hotel was the perfect downtown location and had a soaking pool!

To seal the deal, I knew the Crystal Hotel was the right hotel when their confirmation email included this in their letterhead:

Our room was the top corner :)

At the Crystal Hotel, you have a choice between a room that shares a bathroom or not! Scott would have divorced me if I had chosen a shared bathroom! hehe. Each room is inspired by a song or performance from the Crystal Ballroom's past 100 years.

Our room's song theme was Cocoon by The Decemberists' Castaways And Cutouts album. I'm not a fan of this Portland band but I enjoyed our room very much. It had views! :)

After we checked in, we walked one mile north to the Nob Hill neighborhood, where we saw some great shopping on Northwest 23rd Avenue. My girlfriend Eva and her husband Stefan had just returned from a week in Portland and posted their favorite coffee shops. From #4 on their list, Barista caught my eye and we checked it out before heading to dinner in the same area:

Out of the 4 coffee houses I tried during our stay, this was my favorite.

Scott Babe enjoying Portland in the rain :)

This house caught my eye. ♥

One block up from Barista was Blue Star donuts (another recommendation from Eva!)  We went in to eat with our eyes! :)

One more of Blue Star donuts because I cannot resist.

"The Hogs of 23rd Avenue"

The Ram's Head on N.W. Hoyt - one of the MANY McMenamins' establishments. Had we done Portland for 1 week, we would have done their Passport program where you get stamped at every McMenamins bar, and when you get enough stamps you win something! We will do this when we are retired! :) (Insert Scott Babe's rolling eyes here. hehe.)

Frank recommended Paley’s Place to us. :)


Our appetizers: Roasted Beets with Horseradish Cream and American Wagyu Beef Tartare

I had the Hanger Steak with Braised Short Rib, Spring Vegetable Succotash, and Green Peppercorn Hollandaise. 
Scott Babe had the Seared Duck Breast, Duck & Cherry Crépinette, Spring Onion, and Asparagus with Red Wine Demi-Glace.

A few pics on our way back to our hotel:

Bishops Barber Shop on 21st Avenue

Kells Brew Pub on 21st Avenue

McMenamins' Crystal Ballroom -  One of the few left in the country with a sprung floor (ball holding up the wooden floor!)

Wednesday, April 29th

I got my first morning in Portland started by walking 1 block east for Stumptown coffee at the Ace Hotel. Eva recommended it to me along with these chocolates:

I bought one of each. Salted was the BEST! ♥

After getting my coffee fix and grabbing Scott Babe a diet Pepsi, this mural caught my eye on the way back to our hotel -- Female street artist,  Faith 47's “Capax Infiniti” (Latin for “Holding the infinite”).

We had a good breakfast at Zeus Café (located at our hotel).
 I was bummed that we were too late to enjoy their freshly baked house-baked cinnamon roll. :( 
This can only mean we need to come back!

I enjoyed my Hills Farm ham benedict with chipotle hollandaise and creamy polenta. 
Scott was underwhelmed by his buttermilk biscuits & chorizo gravy.

(recommended by Eva and conveniently 2 blocks from our hotel!)

Bosse Brass Miniatures  -- Design: Austria

 Another cool store nearby - Alder & Co

Time for Blue Star donuts (again!) -- This time, SW Washington Street location

We chose: Valrhona Chocolate Crunch (for me) and Carrot Cake (for Scott Babe)

People's Bike Library of Portland, also known as Zoobomb Pyle

Just a few blocks south of our hotel was the gourmet food trucks! When I posted this video on Facebook, Eva texted me and said, "If you want to try the best Thai chicken and rice, please try the  Nong's Khao Man Gai truck. I wish you could bring some back for me." We couldn't squeeze this in BUT will absolutely try it on next visit to Portland.

After checking out the food trucks, we walked 1 mile southeast to Veritable Quandary for lunch (we had a reservation), which was located very close to the Willamette River. (This place caught my eye from my friend Jillian's blog posting!)

Bonus truffle with coffee

The Edith Green – Wendell Wyatt Federal Building
(Aluminum "reeds" that shade the building from the strongest direct sun on the west side)

City Hall

 The Portland Building

City Reflections by Patti Warashina 

Pioneer Courthouse Square (these steps take you to Nordstrom!)

"Benson Bubblers" -- We saw a few of these bronze fountains around the city. 

 Pod by artist Pete Beeman 

Powell's was huge and overwhelming!

We did a small-batch McMenamins' beer tasting at Ringlers Pub (downstairs of Crystal Ballroom)

Frank recommended the tater tots to us :)
He has never disappointed us with his suggestions!

Games at Ringlers Pub :)

We walked six blocks to Imperial for dinner passing Penny Diner 
(Doug Adams is the executive chef at both restaurants) 

 Chef/Owner Vitaly Paley
 Executive Chef Doug Adams (We were fans of him when he was on Top Chef!) 

The menu changes weekly 

 Debb's Pickle Plate

 Roasted Half Chicken and we shared the Roasted Potatoes
(We had Dougie hold the dill)

 Brandt Beef Dry Aged Rib-eye with roasted jalapeno and honey butter

 Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie and Ice Cream

Digestif Flight - Bartender's choice

Very good dinner! But tomorrow night's dinner blows this one out of the water.
Stay tuned for our last full day in Portland posting.


  1. Gorgeous photos! You're a talent, Tricia!

  2. love it!! except for one thing.. why aren't there any pictures of YOU !! hand over the camera to Scott Babe too :)

  3. I don't think my first comment worked! Buy I was saying, this is my new favorite post! Portland is cool! Mcmenamins has the right idea with all of their cool locations. We stayed a night in their Edgefeild hotel- incredible ( we had shared bathrooms haha!). Wish we were there long enough to explore! I can't believe this is only the first day! I LOVE that you spent a night In 'The Decemberists room'; I m a fan! So many cute coffee shop pics ! Omg Powell's books- awesome! I have to read the next day now :)