Friday, April 24, 2009

Portland's the pretty one

***Sorry I've been gone so long, but traveling for play and for work took over last week... look for my regular posts and tangents coming soon!

I hate to admit this, but I think Seattle's little stepsister may just have her beat.  I don't think I've ever seen so many smart, stylish, local and seasonally-focused restaurants packed into a few square miles in my life.  And the Portland Saturday farmer's market? Don't get me started.  There are some smart people in Portland, and it seems as though they all love food.

It didn't help, of course, that I was there for a few days to visit my foodie friend Kim who I met while waiting tables years ago in downtown Chicago.  She is one of those rare friends who finds as much infinite enjoyment as I do in walking for hours all over the city, pointing out every new dining hot spot and sneaking into hotel lounges to check out the cocktails and the atmosphere... who will insist on rounding the giant farmer's market at least fully twice before making any final decisions on the ingredients for dinner.  She's one of the few others in my life who considers grocery shopping a recreational sport.  

I hadn't seen Ms. Kim in over two years - and we had so much to catch up on.  We knew this kind of conversation was going to take large amounts of wine imbibed in an atmosphere full of intrigue (like our love stories) and warmth (like our friendship).  "I know!" Kim blurted out, "let's go to Ned Ludd!"  It was her new little Portland dining secret.  Now, I warn you, if you go to Ned Ludd, you must like meat and especially pork products (but I cheated and had the trout - genius!)  The guy who owns the place butchers and cures all his own meats, and uses a wood-fired oven to cook absolutely everything.  Nothing modern and fancy here, folks.... thus the name Ned Ludd.  I had no idea who this Ned fellow was before Kim filled me in, but after dinner I wanted to stand up and proclaim to the world that I too was a proud Luddite.

 bitter greens salad with radishes

So the next time you're in Portland, I would highly recommend dropping into this modern - yet - old school place, a museum of old world style set inside a sleek steel box of a building on Portland's MLK Boulevard. 

No good foodie would leave Portland without experiencing good beer and good coffee.  I had both.  The beer came to me within hours of crossing the Washington-Oregon border.  My traveling friends convinced me into stopping at the Portland Laurelwood Brewery before heading into the Pearl district to meet up with Kim.  So glad I did.  The Hoppy Monkey IPA is worth the 3.5 hour drive from Seattle.  Fantastic.

beer + sunshine = pure hoppiness

The destination for coffee came the next day, when Kim and I did our urban hike around the city.  One of the first stops was the famous Stumptown Coffee.  Even in Seattle this coffee has made a name for itself, but I wanted to experience the real thing, complete with shots pulled in the original location by guys with flannel and beards and girls with black locks and cool jeans.  The space was far from alt-grunge.  It was open, airy and minimal with an espresso machine sleek as a Ferrari (and probably just as expensive.)  My cappuccino was just as a cappuccino should be.  You don't need the plane ticket to Italy, trust me.

I left Portland feeling as though my stay was at least cut two days short.  That's how long it would have taken to get in at least two more Stumptown cappuccinos, a lunch at Blossoming Lotus, cocktails and dinner at Urban Farmer and an afternoon bike ride around the city to work off a Voodoo doughnut.  

I have some plans for Portland.

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