Portland, Oregon, the city that takes great pride in its weirdness, was a must-visit city on this trip, even though we’d both been a couple of times previously. This time around, we decided that we would focus on sampling the great food Portland has to offer, thanks in part to an article we’d just seen in the latest Bon Appetit. Plus, we really only had an afternoon’s time to spare.
Our first stop was lunch at Cultured Caveman, Portland’s first paleo food cart, something Loren had read about a few times and was dying to sample. If you don’t know, paleo is a way of eating that is modeled on our ancestors’ diets, which excludes grains, legumes, dairy and excess sugar, and instead focuses on veggies, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, healthy fats and some fruit. We ordered three different menu items for some variety, including a small kale salad, bacon almond dates, and sweet potato fries with homemade ketchup. Super tasty and healthy.
After posting a photo of the cart on Instagram, Loren found out that it was International Bacon Day. This was fun news (for us, every day is bacon day), and we’d already had bacon in two meals by that time: we cooked our breakfast eggs in bacon fat, and we’d had delicious bacon-wrapped dates for lunch. Our excitement about the official Bacon Day was echoed when we told the paleo food cart owner, from which a quick foodie conversation ensued. On her recommendation (albeit not paleo at all), we set off down the street for a splurge at a little ice cream shop called Salt & Straw.
They have a cool handmade look and feel, along with really unique flavor combinations rooted in seasonal, local ingredients, and the whole shebang did not disappoint one bit. We got one scoop of the guest Chef’s special, a kaffir lime and lemongrass ice cream with fish sauce caramel (salty-sweet bliss for Kristen), and a scoop of the honey balsamic strawberry with cracked pepper for Loren. Sooo yummy.
Next we headed to the Nob Hill neighborhood (why are all cool neighborhoods called Nob Hill?) for a pick-me-up caffeine charge and a chance to blog. We sat at the little cafe called Fat Straw, which specializes in bubble tea and bahn mi. We would have loved to try the bahn mi but only had room for beverages and wifi. We each got a cup of flavored iced tea, which they make with coconut milk (dairy-free!). Kristen promptly spilled half of hers on the floor, after which fierce blogging ensued.
The Portland food tour continued at a popular Thai place called Pok Pok and which we read about in Bon Appetit. Pok Pok is nestled a few miles from downtown in a more residential area that seems to be an up and coming neighborhood. Even at 5pm, we were quoted at a 1hr 45min wait, which we weathered while sipping cocktails at the restaurant’s bar across the street, called Whiskey Soda Lounge.
We were super intrigued at their list of tasting vinegars, and the cocktail Loren adopted as his poison had tequila with Som honey drinking vinegar, fresh-squeezed grapefruit and lime. It was super tasty. Kristen’s drink was called Khing & I, made with Mekhong (Thai whiskey), lime and ginger syrup.
We were notified that our table was ready just in time to save Kristen from ordering another drink, so we went back across the street and sat down to a delicious dinner. The unique plates are not your normal Thai dishes, but deliciously different creations that are inspired by Thai street-vendor fare, Chiang Mai (Northern) cuisine, or Burmese cuisine, to name a few. The server explained most menu items are meant to be shared, so at his instruction we felt okay about ordering three plates: a duck dish, a pork belly dish, and the most popular dish: the spicy fish-sauce chicken wings. Even though we’d only just begun to scratch the surface after half an hour, we were both stuffed, so we packaged up the wings and felt good about leaving Portland before overdoing it.
But... We caved, and couldn’t pass up one last stop along our Portland culinary extravaganza, this time for dessert. Voodoo Doughnuts is a super-hipster Portland mainstay (its tagline is “good things come in pink boxes”), which has become a tourist destination; when we drove by their flagship location near Burnside Bridge downtown, there were at least a hundred excited patrons lined up down the sidewalk (similar to Georgetown Cupcake in DC).
Luckily Kristen remembered that they have a second location. We ended up waiting in line for a shorter amount of time than it took for us to decide from the dozens of doughnut kinds. We eventually settled on two: one chocolate cake doughnut with pink frosting, topped with coconut and peanut butter; the other a large rectangular doughnut topped with maple frosting and bacon. (Yes, bacon! Remember, it was International Bacon Day! We were just doing our part.) Mmmm, sugary fried gluten, so unhealthy but so delicious! We could only handle a few nibbles each, and then re-wrapped them, adding the package to our cache of leftovers for later consumption. It’s kind of ironic how healthy the day started off, but how easily we slipped off the bandwagon into progressively more unhealthy splurges. Well, you only live once.
We had our eyes on our next big destination, Olympic National Park, so we drove into the night, crossing into Washington state, and eventually found ourselves a campsite at Lewis & Clark State Park for the night. It was pretty standard, though we swear a nearby campground neighbor may have been the lead singer of the Kings of Leon - some guy was belting songs out so confidently and perfectly, we sat back and wondered if it could be him. Though, our next-door neighbor wasn’t quite so happy: their 10-ish-year old son comically said, “Quiet down now” in a southern accent just loud enough for us to hear.