Thursday, March 3, 2016
I have a dream in life to create a city that is home to all of my favorite people and highlights the best parts of the best towns and cities. I shall call this Perfect City. Or MereLand. I know - I'm extremely original.
Sadly, I don't have the cash - or land rights for the moon, yet - to make that happen!
My friend Michelle would definitely live in MereLand. In fact, she would live on the same idyllic lake as me, but we would only be a few blocks from the bustling city center. She would bring me baked goods, we would drink wine and gossip. We would always have put-together outfits, fun jewelry and always-fun jobs. MereLand is awesome!
Who is this Michelle chic, and why does she get prime-time real estate in MereLand? First, all real estate in MereLand in prime. Secondly, she is one of my favorite people! How'd we meet? Oh, how I meet most of my friends - blogging! She writes the amazing blog Hummingbird High. It is gorgeous, clever and tasty. While we initially connected over our love of eating, we quickly developed a a real friendship. From careers to love, we talk about it all. When she comes into town the best restaurants are necessary for the stupendous conversation we have.
In real-life Michelle lives in San Francisco, develops phenomenal recipes, and we gossip over GChat. It isn't ideal, but it works. She moved there from Portland last year for a very exciting job.
Don't forget to stop by Bakery Bingo and find out where Portland's Favorite Friend, Greg of NomNerd, noshes while in town.
So when I'm in Portland, I tend to head to the places whose type of food I can't get anywhere else in the country. I just booked reservations at the following places:
I once tried describing Ava Gene's to a friend down here in SF, and found that I couldn't come up with a comparable restaurant. Because sure, on paper, Ava Gene's is just another Italian restaurant. But it's mostly the kind of Italian food you can't really get anywhere else. Because it's really rare that an Italian restaurant shifts the focus from traditional pastas onto vegetables instead. Even my mom — a woman who is an incredibly adventurous eater and has travelled to over 50 different countries — admitted that dinner at Ava Gene's was one of the most exciting, unique meals that she's ever had.
Order: one or two things from every section of the menu and share it family style.
Aviary is also a really hard place to describe to folks who've never had dinner there. It's kinda mostly Asian. But also kinda mostly Pacific Northwest. Mostly, it's just Portland food done really, really well.
Order: Their Happy Hour menu rocks and is a great bang for your buck; their dinner menu rotates frequently with the seasons, but it's worth ordering the standards like the Japanese eggplant and crispy pig ear salad.
Kachka took Russian food (the world's grimmest, saddest cuisine — my dad lived in Siberia for a while and believe me, the food situation up there was bad) and actually made it delicious. And not only that, they actually made it COOL. You won't find a Russian restaurant anywhere else that's as delicious and desirable (waits can be surprisingly long!) as Kachka.
Order: I like the warm side of the menu better than the cold, but that's because I have an undying love for dumplings. I believe Meredith and I once ate three giant servings of their pelmeni dumplings in less than 5 minutes during last year's Feast.
Uh, what brunch place allows you to order standard fare like scrambled eggs and bacon alongside Korean fried chicken and Burmese pork stew? Pretty much nowhere besides the Tasty N' family. Keep Portland awesome, guys.
Order: the chocolate potato donut, the maple cumin yams, the bambino plate, the Burmese pork stew, the Korean fried chicken, and/or any of their breakfast boards.
Pok Pok has been around for so long that it's almost passe or something to recommend it. It's basically the restaurant that put Portland on the culinary map, and is even recommended by all the usual travel guides for tourists. Doesn't mean it's any less good though. I've been to several knockoffs trying to replicate Pok Pok's success, and they never quite nail it like the original.
Order: Half the menu. Whatever. It's awesome.