What We Ate in Portland, Oregon

January 5, 2011 | By | COMMENTS

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I am doing something now called convalescing which, in dictionary terms, means I’m recovering from an illness: specifically, the flu, which hit me like a ton of bricks Monday morning and kept me in bed, motionless, for 48 some-odd hours. Now I’m starting to get the twinkle back in my eye and I’m glad that’s the case because I had so much I wanted to blog about this week! Specifically, this year’s trip to the Pacific Northwest.

As many of you know, I make a yearly pilgrimage to Bellingham, Washington (see here and here) to join Craig and his family for their version of Hanukkah: Christmas. This year, because I’ve been working on this cookbook where I’ve been traveling the country and cooking with chefs all over, I decided to fly my cookbook photographer, Lizzie Leitzell, out with me early and instead of driving north from Seattle to Bellingham, we drove South, straight from the airport (after the six hour flight) to Portland, Oregon (which took about 3.5 hours.)

The idea was to get to Portland Thursday night, cook with two Portland chefs on Friday and drive back to Seattle on Saturday. And that’s exactly what we did.

For the purposes of keeping a shroud of mystery around my cookbook, I won’t tell you who we cooked with (but I appreciated all your advice on Twitter!) What I will tell you about is everything we ate when we weren’t cooking with Portland chefs.

So, that Thursday night when we drove in? We were famished. We were staying at the Ace Hotel which turned out to be the perfect place to stay. Here’s the lobby:

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The rooms were stylish and, more importantly, the hotel is connected to three excellent eating/drinking establishments: Stumptown coffee (which we drank the next morning), a deli called Kenny & Zuke’s (where we had lunch the next day), and Clyde Common, a hip restaurant (many people had recommended it to me) that turned out to be the perfect place to eat our first night’s dinner.

Here’s Lizzie with her menu:

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The server was this chipper guy who enthusiastically told us about the day’s drink special which involved ginger beer. Lizzie asked if she could have the ginger beer without the alcohol part of the drink; he said “sure.” Here it is:

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We shared a radicchio salad that came with some kind of cheese and walnuts:

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We also shared salmon rilettes, which had chunky bits of fresh-tasting salmon:

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Lizzie, for her entree, had a big bowl of their minestrone soup:

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And I had this amazing dish that I’d love to recreate someday–cavatelli with cauliflower, cream fraiche, lemon and bread crumbs:

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That was it for that night–we were pooped (no dessert for us!)–and so we went to our separate rooms and agreed to meet the next morning at 7:45 AM in the lobby.

Here’s my room, in case you’re wondering what a room at the Ace Hotel Portland looks like:

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The next morning, we met in the lobby:

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And fetched some coffee and pastries from Stumptown, which is accessible right through a little doorway:

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Here’s what I fetched for myself; a cappuchino and a blueberry scone:

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It was top notch!

Off we went to cook with Chef #1 (stop asking who it was, I shan’t tell you!). Towards the end of cooking with Chef #1, Chef #2 called to ask if we could come earlier. We could; so we hopped in the car and flew across town to the Chef #2′s place. After cooking with Chef #2, Chef #2 suggested we come back to the restaurant for dinner to experience the food that we prepped together. We said “sure” and then returned to the hotel.

We were actually pretty hungry (we mostly did prep work with Chef #2, which is why Chef #2 invited us back to eat the food), so we went to Kenny & Zuke’s for sandwiches. I had an egg salad sandwich which I thoroughly enjoyed:

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We had a few hours to kill before we had to return to the restaurant of Chef #2, so Lizzie and I went our separate ways. I journeyed over to Powell’s bookstore, a legendary Potland institution (and right across the street from the Ace Hotel):

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They had an excellent cookbook section, including some rarities like this vintage Vincent Price cookbook (which is actually supposed to be a pretty excellent cookbook):

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Here are some more of their vintage cookbooks:

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Leaving Powell’s, I walked around a bit and discovered a cluster of food stalls that I’d heard so much about:

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But the problem was we were about to have this HUGE dinner and we’d just eaten this sandwich for lunch, so I couldn’t justify getting any food at a food stall. Next time.

Though one thing was haunting me; many of my readers urged me to try a doughnut from Voo-Doo doughnuts. I did some math in my head: how much will one doughnut ruin your dinner? You don’t even have to finish it.

I looked up Voo-Doo doughnuts on my phone and navigated my way there. It was in a seedier section of town.

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When I walked in, I studied the doughnuts in the revolving glass case:

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I couldn’t make up my mind, so I asked the guy working there which was the best.

“The bacon maple,” he answered, not missing a beat.

“I’ll have a bacon maple,” I answered.

And here it is:

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People of the world, this is a doughnut to rival all the great doughnuts of the universe. The balance of flavors–the doughy doughnut dough, the sweet maple glaze and the strips of fatty, smoky bacon on top–made it impossible to stop eating. “Just one bite,” I told myself, and then I took two more.

Luckily, I had one factor motivating me not to finish: I wanted Lizzie to try it too. So I pocketed the final 4th of the doughnut and made her take a bite before we headed off to our epic dinner at the restaurant of Chef #2. She had to agree, that was one mighty doughnut.

I realize many of you Portland fanatics might read this and think: “But you missed ___! And you missed ____!” Hey, this was a working trip. And for all you know, we DID go to ___, I just didn’t tell you about it (yet).

Suffice it to say, Portland treated us very well and I can’t wait to go back for fun and not just work sometime soon. Just like Tony Bennett’s heart calls to him from San Francisco, that bacon maple doughnut will call to me from Portland forevermore.

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Categories: Northwest, Restaurant Reviews, The Rest of the U.S.