Eating in Portland: A Weekend Away

| May 18, 2012 | 0 Comments
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Ace Hotel
It was the kind of trip that sort of happens to you. The kind you don’t plan for in advance or research what to see or do. The sort of trip where you ask your friends the night before what they’ve loved and just take it from there, knowing full well you can’t do everything in less than two days time, but you may certainly try.

That’s where we found ourselves last weekend: with an itch to get out of Dodge and check out Portland. We managed to find a relatively reasonable rate at The Ace Hotel, and were looking forward to a few days without computers — roaming a new set of city streets with little agenda except ice cream, coffee, and curry.

Stumptown Coffee
Strong Coffee at Stumptown

We started off the morning in the lobby of our hotel where Stumptown is the adjoining cafe. Depending on the time of day, there can be quite a line, so in addition to your wad of cash bring your patience. If you find yourself drawn to the design of the Ace Hotel, you’ll probably really dig Stumptown too. Of course the coffee is spectacular, but beyond that, the spare design cues are spot-on with customized postcards, a super sleek espresso machine, and long and low bar for easy barista viewing. Even if you’re not staying at The Ace, you can grab a cup of Joe and amble on into the hotel lobby for a seat at that big, low coffee table with the morning paper.

Bakeshop
Kim Boyce’s Bakery, Bakeshop

After coffee, we headed over to check out Bakeshop, the bakery owned by one of my favorite cookbook authors, Kim Boyce. Boyce’s book Good to the Grain has been a constant inspiration to me as I took the leap into baking largely with whole-grain flours. Her recipes always test out perfectly, she’s charming and gracious in person, and I’d heard her bakery sold lots of the same treats that filled the pages of the cookbook. When we arrived, Boyce was forming croissants and greeted us with a smile. I was pleased to find pastries from the cookbook, including the Strawberry Scones and the Figgy Scones along with those pretty-famous Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies. And while the treats were delicious, I ultimately wanted a bit more selection, a little coffee, and more of a sit-down atmosphere. But maybe that’s not what they’re going for here — I know Boyce does a brisk wholesale business, so the retail portion of the business may not be the focus. If you’re a Boyce fan, you must visit when you’re in town. If you’re looking for a decadent, special bakery where you can sit down and enjoy a few sweets, I honestly wouldn’t make the effort.

Ken's Artisan Bakery
Morning Bun, Oregon Croissant, and Cannele at Ken’s Artisan Bakery

When you’ve only got a little over 24 hours in Portland, one bakery is surely not enough. We decided to check out Ken’s Artisan Bakery, well known for their breads and laminated pastries (hello, croissants!). We managed to score an outdoor table and shared the citrus morning bun, Oregon croissant, and cannelle. The Oregon croissant was studded with local berries and slathered in pastry cream. It was one of the best things I tried all weekend, and I’m looking forward to attempting to recreate it one of these days at home. The cannelle was pretty close to perfect, with a crisp, buttery exterior and a soft vanilla-scented interior that crumbled easily with each bite. Ken’s was packed: a sure sign they’re doing something right. Judging from the pastries we ordered, I’d venture to say they’re doing virtually everything right. The neighborhood is charming and walk-able, too. A perfect weekend morning stop.

The Meadow
Buying Chocolate and Salt at The Meadow

After two bakeries in one morning, a break is in order. We drove over to The Meadow where I’d heard you could buy every kind of salt imaginable. This is true. We took home Rosemary Salt, Chocolate Salt and Vanilla Salt but were tempted by Red Smoked Salt, Lemon Verbena Salt and Saffron Salt. You can buy small little tins to try or larger glass vials that make a beautiful gift. They also have an incredible selection of bitters and vermouth and … chocolate. For some reason, no one had mentioned the incredible chocolate selection they have at The Meadow: everything from San Francisco favorite Dandelion to Brooklyn stand-out Mast Brothers and local Portland chocolate makers Woodblock. I stocked up for our own cupboard, for Father’s Day, and for a few friends. A splurge indeed, but I’ve been loving the vanilla salt on popcorn at home, and am so looking forward to wrapping up the special chocolates I bought as gifts. The Meadow was a pretty comprehensive website, so if you can’t make it to Portland (or their New York location) you can still order a few things to try.

Olympic Provisions
A Peek Inside the Kitchen at Olympic Provisions

For lunch in Portland, I can’t recommend Olympic Provisions enough. It’s the one place I’ve been raving about to friends and family. In short, it’s Oregon’s first USDA-approved salumeria, open just three years now but boasting two locations that operate as European-style restaurants, happening neighborhood delis, and onsite meat-curing facilities. We were there later on a Saturday so they were still serving brunch, and if you find yourself in a similar scenario, the eggs benedict is something pretty special. It’s piled high with house-cured Canadian bacon, perfectly poached eggs and a smattering of fresh chives.

Olympic Provisions
The Chef’s Choice Charcuterie Platter at Olympic Provisions

We also shared the Chef’s Choice Charcuterie Platter because it seemed silly to visit and not try a few different cured meats. The salami and mortadella were pretty incredible and came with a variety of pickled accompaniments, good grainy mustard, and sliced bread. A most generous and filling offering. The kitchen is beautifully designed and open, so you can pull up a seat at the bar and watch the butchers, chefs, and pastry folks work their magic. A treat for the eyes, stomach, and the senses.

Salt and Straw
Salt and Straw: Ice Cream Flight!

Later that afternoon after ambling about the Hawthorne neighborhood checking out shops and antique stores and spending a good chunk of time in Powell’s Home and Garden it was time for an ice cream cone. Friends who live in Portland swear by Salt and Straw and I’ve been reading quite a bit of good press lately, so I knew we had to check it out. We ended up getting the Ice Cream Flight ($9) which allows you to choose four flavors — a good option if you can’t possibly decided where to begin. While their delicious all-the-time offerings are always a good choice (The Salted Caramel or the Balsamic Strawberry are standouts), the Seasonal Specials are a good place to start.

Salt and Straw
Menu at Salt and Straw

We tried the Honey Lavender which was the loveliest shade of pale purple and just the right amount of floral and aromatic notes. Rhubarb with an Anise Crumble also made its way onto our sampler platter. For an afternoon stroll or evening dessert, Salt and Straw is my new favorite ice cream in the Pacific Northwest.

Of course after bakeries and ice cream cones, a proper meal is in order at some point and we ended up dining at Pok Pok, a restaurant specializing in the food served at pubs, restaurants, homes and the streets of Southeast Asia. Most of the dishes come from Thailand and, according to their website, “everything has been researched, eaten, and/or prepared in the country of it’s origin.” While many friends have reported that it’s one of the best meals they’ve ever had, we both felt like it was good but not phenomenal and left wondering if perhaps we just hadn’t ordered the right dishes. We did get the sweet and spicy chicken wings that folks rave about; I don’t usually even like chicken wings nor does my partner Sam and we both loved these. While they’re messy like most wings, they’re different in flavor than any other wing I’ve tried and have a serious spicy kick to them. We also tried the green papaya salad and the coconut curry soup, a little sticky rice, and donuts with coffee and condensed milk ice cream for dessert. If you end up with a wait when you arrive, the Whiskey Soda Lounge right across the street has unique appetizers (try the “Chicken” Three Ways: a combination of peanuts, lemongrass, and shallot) and housemade cocktails. They’re particularly well-known for their drinking vinegars — the grapefruit will make the time spent waiting for dinner breeze right on by.

Clyde Common
Late-night drinks at Clyde Common

Back at the hotel, we wanted to grab a quick drink before heading up to the room and Clyde Common is a very sweet, spare bar and eatery on the other adjoining side of the Ace. They’re open relatively late and have a great bourbon and whiskey selection in addition to housemade cocktails (Negronis on tap!). The staff is warm and not at all pretentious, and we sat until they were closing up shop. If you can get a seat by the window, there’s some prime people watching and you still feel some of the good energy from the folks at the bar while still maintaining a bit more privacy.

The Details:

  • The Ace Hotel: 1022 SW Stark St., Portland, OR; (503) 228-2277.
  • Stumptown Coffee: 1026 SW Stark St., Portland OR; (503) 224-9060; Hours: Weekdays 6am-6pm, Weekends 7am-7pm
  • Bakeshop:5351 NE Sandy Boulevard, Portland OR; (503) 946-8884. Hours: Wed-Sunday 7am-2pm
  • Ken’s Artisan Bakery: 338 NW 21st Avenue, Portland OR; (503) 248-2202. Hours: Mon-Sat 7am-6pm, Monday Night Pizza 5:30pm-9:30pm; Sunday 8am-5pm
  • The Meadow: 3731 N. Mississippi Avenue, Portland, OR; (503)-288-4633. Hours: Sun-Thurs. 10am-7pm, Fri-Sat 10am-8pm
  • Olympic Provisions 1632 NW Thurman St, Portland, OR 97209; (503) 894 8136. Hours: Lunch, 11am–3pm Monday to Friday; Dinner, 5pm–10pm Tuesday to Saturday. For other location information, check the website.
  • Salt and Straw: 2035 NE Alberta St Portland, OR; {503}208-3867. Hours: Open 11am-11pm Daily. For information on other locations, check the website.
  • Pok Pok: 3226 SE Division Street, Portland OR.; (503) 232 1387. 11:30am – 10:00pm, 7 days a week.
  • Clyde Common: 1014 SW Stark St, Porland OR; (508) 228-3333. Hours: Lunch Weekdays, 11:30am – 3pm. Happy Hour Weekdays, 3pm – 6pm, Sat-Sun 4-5pm. Dinner Mon-Thurs 6-11pm, Sat-Sun 5-11pm. Late Night Menu Mon-Thu 11-11:45pm, Fri-Sat til 12:45am.
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Category: baking and bakeries, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, cocktails and spirits, restaurants, bars, cafes, tea and coffee, travel

About the Author ()

Megan Gordon is originally from Eureka, CA although she's lived in numerous college towns around the country (another story altogether). A freelance food and travel writer, Megan has written for publications like Ready Made Magazine, The San Francisco Examiner, Edible SF and Edible Marin & Wine Country, Olive Oil Times and The San Francisco Bay Guardian. She writes regularly for Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn and maintains her own local food blog, A Sweet Spoonful. Yes, Megan even tweets @meganjanesf. In addition to writing and photographing food, Megan is the founder (and head baker) of Marge, a Bay Area baking company specializing in classic American pies and nostalgic desserts.