Discovering food and other things in Portland, Oregon

April 17, 2011

We’re really impressed with Portland. Like Edmonton, it’s a city that is divided by a river. But unlike Edmonton It’s an easy city to drive around (with triple the bridges) and for a city of half a million people, they have great bike paths and a well-designed public transit system that includes low-profile streetcars (similar to what is proposed for 102 Avenue in Edmonton).

We focus on the market that is taking place at the Waterfront. It goes on for several blocks and is very busy for a Sunday. We look for the food/produce vendors and learn that this is a market, not a farmer’s market (oops, we’ll remember this distinction in the future…). This market has imported goods and hand crafted jewellery, clothes and décor items. Lot’s of people just enjoying being outside, shopping, munching or listening to folk, blues and jazz music.

We take our bikes for a ride along the waterfront to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry to tour the USS Blueback , the last of the diesel-electric submarines built by the US Navy, decommissioned in 1990 and used in the filming of “The Hunt for Red October”. It’s hard to imagine how about 70 people lived here for 60 days without stopping for groceries. Word has it that the food on subs was and still is the best food offered in the service. It’s even harder to imagine how they baked fresh bread and desserts and cooked all meals in that cramped lower kitchen.

Back to the van and off to find a place for dinner. Happily, we drive by The Little Bird, one of the restaurants recommended by Erik Wolfe an associate based out of Portland, Oregon who is the President and CEO of the International Culinary Tourism Association. It’s new (opened on December 8, 2010), but has that old world French feel. We order a glass of Brut to start. Jon has the cheese crepe (a tender crepe folded over sautéed onions, cheese and horseradish) with a frisee salad on the side. I order the soup of the day, French onion soup. It’s piping hot sweet broth has lots of caramelized onions, topped with a crostinis and melted. It’s amazing how something so simple can be so extraordinary when prepared right. The Benchlands Oregon Pinot Noir is a great match for the appetizers and our entrees. Jon orders the seared tuna and I order what Erik recommends, their petit bistro burger. Now, the menu offerings include delicious French traditional bistro dishes: duck confit, coq au vin, charcuterie and I’m tempted to go with something else. But OMG it’s one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten. You know a restaurant knows how to prepare their chopped meat, when they offer steak tartare and ask how you’d like your burger done. “Medium Rare,” for me and that’s how it arrives. It’s the show stopper at our table as guests on either side look admiringly at my plate: a toasted ciabatta bun, topped with a good 6 oz of perfectly grilled minced meat, topped with a perfectly grilled half inch thick slice of red onion, topped with a tartar like coleslaw.

The desserts look wonderful, but we’re stuffed and we’ve enjoyed talking to guests on either side about places we must stop at on our journey. I love how food talk is so universal!

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