This got a tad delayed because of traveling, time changes, and the Thanksgiving holiday, but better late than never. I’m staying put for the time being, so I should be able to get back to cranking posts out far more frequently.
So, Tuesday the 15th I flew from LA to Portland and continued on the second leg of my gypsy trip out west. The decent into the Portland airport was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. You could see the rolling hills and mountains with all sorts of different colored leaves still hanging on the trees, but there was still a pretty noticeable layer of clouds. This made it fairly difficult to figure out where we were in terms of landing. Once we finally crossed through the cloud cover, we were more or less on the ground. It was a really beautiful approach, which was only appropriate for Portland.
Portland is super easy to get around and has an easy, and extremely inexpensive train system that goes just about everywhere in the city, including the airport. Once I got my bag, I walked right out the front door of the airport and about 50 feet away was a train stop that would take me exactly where I was meeting my friend. After a brief 30 minute train ride, I got off at the Pioneer Square stop and met up with my friend, Ben Klein (better known to all as Paco), who is a student at Lewis and Clark. We wandered around the area a for a good bit and finally found a sports bar called On Deck to get some food and drinks and watch basketball (Kentucky vs. Kansas and Duke vs. Michigan State were playing that night).
Once we sat down, Paco explained to me that nearly every place in Portland has either one or two happy hours each day. This is probably the greatest thing ever, especially when you’re traveling and don’t have what I would like to call “deep pockets”. On Deck happened to be pretty slow the night we were there and decided to have one long happy hour, which needless to say, was fine with us.
We got a few drinks and some very inexpensive food (I’d come to find out I should have not eaten there and saved room for somewhere way cooler) and waited for my friend Dan, who I lived with for the last three years at IU, to get off work and meet us there. Dan met us, but we didn’t stay much longer, and we ventured back to his apartment, which we were conveniently extremely close to.
We had a brief pit stop there to drop our things and meet his adorable cat named Thai (see below for adorableness), and then continued on out to check out some more of Portland’s cool spots. We first went to Deschutes, which is a local brewery and pub. This bar was beautiful and was filled with amazing woodcarvings and was exactly what I imagined a nice Portland pub to be. Unbeknownst to us, they were releasing their winter brew called “The Abyss”. They were not kidding when they called this beer Abyss. It’s a very dark imperial stout and its flavors were incredibly strong. I don’t usually like dark beers all that much, but it was quite tasty, however I’m not sure I could have had more than one.
Once we finished our beers there, we continued onward to Henry’s Tavern for the late night happy hour, which is generally after 9 pm (I love Portland). Dan got some dinner and Paco and I had a couple of cocktails. This bar was also extremely aesthetically pleasing and enormous. It had several different rooms and two floors.
Once we finished, Paco headed back to Lewis and Clark and Dan and I headed back to his apartment. He had work the next morning so we couldn’t be out late, which was fine with me as I was worn out and could do with a good nights sleep.
Wednesday, I had intentions of wandering around town a little bit and wanted to find a place to eat a good lunch, but Dan forgot to leave me his keys, so I was stuck in his apartment for a bit. It turned out just fine since it was raining and cold.
Around 4 in the afternoon, I met up with some old friends from camp, Ben and James. They were great hosts and showed me around town a bit. We stopped at a cool little Chinese restaurant for happy hour but were not there very long as they wanted to take me to a cooler, tastier spot called The Bent Brick, and boy was I happy we went there instead.
The Bent Brick was a cozy little restaurant with a menu unlike any I have really seen. According to my friend Ben, the owner doesn’t really like the idea of a food coma and would rather people come in and share smaller dishes. While I do love the occasional food coma, this was perfect for an early dinner and the food was really incredible.
They also have some really amazing cocktails. I don’t usually go for the strong flavors of cocktails, but I was strongly encouraged to try one. I started with a “Path To Victory”, which included bourbon, chinato, gingersnap, bitters, and vinegar. I don’t really know how to explain the flavors in it but it was one of the best drinks I’ve ever had. It was so good that I decided to try another later in the meal. At the suggestion of my buddy James, I tried the “Stranger Things Have Happened”, which featured bourbon, coriander, verjus, spiced currant, and egg white. Another outstanding cocktail.
We ordered five dishes for the three of us and it was one of the best meals I have had in a very long time. For the first dish, we reached back to the roots of our friendship in northern Wisconsin and ordered fried cheese curds and fried apple sauce which was sprinkled with the cheese powder used to make Kraft Mac N’ Cheese. This was my first experience with not dive bar cheese curds and they didn’t disappoint. The fried applesauce was also insanely delicious. The flavors surprisingly went well together, and while you could taste the hot crispness of the outer fried shell, the applesauce still seemed to be cool to room temperature.
Next, we tried a muscle dish with smoked muscle Aioli, shallots and a little Tobasco. I have never been a huge fan of muscles, but these were incredible. The smokiness was extremely strong and the muscles slid right out of the shell. As you can see, this was also an amazing presentation.
Next we had crispy pork snacks. This featured fried skin, crispy ear, and some leg jerky. It also came with a blue cheese and pickled celery dipping sauce, which was out of this world.
Our fourth dish was a sweetbread dish that had a horseradish cream sauce, cabbage three ways (cabbage chips, roasted cabbage hearts and fermented cabbage) and dill oil. This was easily the best dish we had. It was also my first experience with sweetbreads (the thymus of a calf) and it was a great first impression.
Our final choice was clam dish. It featured a roasted sun choke puree, sun choke chips, four kinds of seaweed, Manila clams and a foam on top.
The dishes were staggered so we could enjoy each one separately and they were all unbelievable. I think I managed to tell everyone I met the entire time I was in Oregon about this place. If/when I return to Portland, this will be the first place go to eat.
With our Belly’s fully and satisfied, we settled up and headed to pick up Paco and moved on to Ben’s Brewery. Ben is the Brew Master (arguably the best job title in the history of forever) at a local place called Brakeside Brewery. We arrived and Ben was nice enough to buy me a sampler platter of their different beers since it was my first time there and we preceded to head to the basement to see where Ben spends his day’s Brewing delicious treats. These were definitely the best beers I tasted the entire trip out there (no, I’m not just saying that because my friend made them). There were so many great flavors, including the final one I tasted called Aztec Ale. It was made with a mix of Serrano and Habenro chili’s, which gave it a crazy bite. It literally was like biting into a pepper, but followed with a nice cool sweetness.
Ben had to be back downtown for a concert and James had to be at work at around 2:30 am so we headed back and Paco and I met up with Dan and ventured to yet another local eatery called Touché. Dan got some food and we hung out for a bit and called it a night.
Thursday I headed to Eugene, where University of Oregon’s campus is located for the weekend with my good friend Joey Laskin. We had a great weekend of football and other shenanigans. Unfortunately for all of the people I was around for the weekend, the Ducks fell to USC in tragic fashion. This was only a day after the campus was abuzz after Oklahoma St. lost to Iowa St. and dreams of a second straight national title game were very realistic. Those hopes were quickly dashed by Matt Barkley and company.
Eugene is a beautiful little town and reminds me a lot of Bloomington. The campus is wooded and well landscaped and the town itself seems to thrive off the campus, much like Bloomington. I really enjoyed my visit but unfortunately, I found out I have to take the GMAT in order to get into their Sport Management grad program, so I probably won’t be going there unless something drastic changes.
Sunday, I watched the Ravens defeat the Bengals and then boarded my Amtrak bus back to Portland. I arrived back at Dan’s apartment in time to watch the Giants vs. Eagles game, which was actually pretty entertaining.
We found a place to go for dinner where we could watch the second half of the game called Bridgeport Brewery. After eating only a gas station sandwich and a pancake all day, I was famished. I ordered the Zito’s Blues burger, which had Blue Cheese, porter onions and steak sauce. Unfortunately, I was so hungry I started eating before I remembered to take a picture, but it was another outstanding meal.
Dan, being a huge Giants fan, was not happy with how the game was going, and right before the two-minute warning, the satellite feed in the restaurant went out. It may have saved him some agony in the end to not watch Vince Young and Riley Cooper beat his G-men on the very next play.
Dan was so distraught and uncertain of what to do without the TV’s working, he almost decided it would be a good idea to pay quickly and run home even though we both had full beers and there was no way we would have made it back in time anyway. Thankfully I talked him out of that move.
Monday I called it a trip and headed back to Baltimore for a brief stop before heading to Louisville for Thanksgiving. This trip was great and I officially love Portland. It was such a cool city to hang out in for a few days. I only wish I had longer. I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage everyone to try and get out there at some point. It was really a great experience and I hope I can get back sooner than later.