On every visit to Portland we make sure to fit in the Saturday Farmers Market at Portland State University. In fact, this our very first stop once we arrived in the city. Several years ago we happened to walk upon this Farmer’s Market and fell in love. This place is amazing if you enjoy beautiful fresh produce and artisan foods. The Pacific Northwest region produces some of the most beautiful and eclectic produce varieties. It was hard to resist the local goods so we picked up a few items for dinner and enjoyed the scenery.
As always when we visit different cities we make sure to check out local meat. Yes, as some of you may know, we are suckers for cured meat. Olympic Provisions is home to both a European-style restaurant and deli serving lunch and dinner, as well as Oregon’s first USDA certified meat-curing facility. We enjoyed their Chorizo Navarre, Chorizo Rioja, Sopressatta, pork liver mousse and pork & pistachio terrine. Typical of Pacific Northwest cuisine, the aromas and flavors were clean and full of earthy flavor. The good news is they have 2 locations both on the West and East side of Portland. If you are in the area, make sure to stop by enjoy a few small plates. We also found their meats available in specialty food stores throughout the Portland area.
Who knew Portland was a mecca for craft distilled spirits? Distillery Row is in the heart of Southeast Portland in a small industrial warehouse neighborhood where independent distilleries are producing over twenty unique liquors. Vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, absinthe, aquavit, and flavored liqueurs are all being distilled in the heart of Portland. We highly suggest you stop in have a tour at one of these distilleries. These folks really have a great cult following and are definitely putting themselves on the map.
Luckily, our Portland friends (Boba, Pete and Bill) are very well versed in the distillation process and took us to Stone Barn Brandyworks. Sebastian and Erika Degens, owners of the distillery gave us a personal tour and explained to us their process and allowed us to partake in their brandy and grappa. Good stuff! And get this – their daughter is a student at Pitzer College! Small world…
The very best thing about our trips to Portland is visiting our friends Bill & Diane [last name left out to protect their identities :)]. These guys are fantastic hosts, the kindest of people, but the very best thing about them is that they can cook! They do not mess around when it comes to food. Meals at their house entail elaborate barbequing, roasting, sautéing and early mornings to brine, marinate and season. Our friend Pete is a resident guest cook at their Portland home and barbequed lamb, salmon, fresh vegetables from Farmer’s Market and several dishes from his Serbian homeland. Friends and family come from all over town when these folks cook and hang out on the porch enjoying the food and company. Don’t worry, we provided the wine. With the warm weather in Portland we partook in several dry white wines and Pinot Noir.
A couple restaurant highlights in Portland which you cannot miss when visiting:
Pok Pok was so good we had to dine there twice. This Thai restaurant is like no other. Andy Ricker, Executive Chef just won the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Northwest Award and it is well deserved. He spent a decade traveling back and forth to Southeast Asia researching cuisine. All menu items are small and meant to be shared, so order several items and savor the flavors. For us, the best thing on the menu was Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings. They are marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar and deep-fried and then tossed in more fish sauce that’s been caramelized and tastes almost candied. Just be forewarned, with a lot of recent press for their prized food, there can be a long wait. But don’t worry, it’s well worth it.
On the other side of town there is an amazingly creative Peruvian restaurant, Andina. Contemporary refined Peruvian dishes honor the culture but at the same time reinvent flavors in a sophisticated way. Andina has received glowing reviews from many publications, too many to mention. The menu features small plates so and passing the plate around the table is highly recommended. We ordered a causa which is mashed potatoes, infused with key lime juice and pressed into a purple cake filled with Draper Valley chicken salad. It was beautiful. We also enjoyed a tirandito, which is a Peruvian cousin to ceviche (difference between the two is ceviche includes onions, and tiranditos do not). Both items were very inventive and left us disappointed we had arrived already full from another dining experience. Next time we will definitely arrive with empty bellies.
Stay tuned for Part II of our Oregon visit where we visited over 20 wineries in Wine Country.