you'd better take Salty along
Salty has gone a travelin' again. Finally you say--after the weekend reports from Rome, sojourns along the Portuguese coast, rompings through the French countryside on fifteen euro rail tickets, missed trains in Prague, Christmas markets in Munich, Sunday nights in Paris poker parlors...yes life in Spokane appears rather Amish in comparison. But as we claim our umpteenth life goal to be the publication of The Salty Cod Travel Guide to the World (the masses will cry: Rick Steves who?! exactly) we decided that a discovery was past due. But perhaps there are those who might say that the cities of America are no match to the romantic odysseys of Europe. Perhaps yes, and so--too bad for you. But we at the Salty Cod hold the premise that if we have not been there, then it is travel. It is adventure. And whether it be five thousand miles away, or a mere three hundred, if I have not been there, then I am a foreigner. Oregonians are in fact a breed unto their own. Portland, Oregon a city gilded green and bursting with a hidden character that defiles that sleepy tree-hugging stereotype of the porklander. Would you like to see? I thought so. On y va shall we.
And what if you did only have one day in the City of Roses, what then? Who can see a city in twenty four hours. Well, let Salty help you. You could visit the famous rose gardens on the hill, take a hot chocolate and artisan truffle at an internationally acclaimed chocolaterie, browse the shelves of the largest independent book store in the world, stop by a grungy Bourdain-approved hole in the wall for possessed donuts literally unlike any other, stroll along the yuppy bohemian chic shop-walk of 23rd avenue, climb atop the tallest hill and seize in one single sweeping glance a panorama of the five tallest peaks in the Pacific Northwest, sit down to lunch at a family owned gluten free house of fish and chips, get your gas pumped by a window tapping attendant, and, if there's time--try to catch a Blazers game. All in a good day's work.
Located on the yuppity shopping avenue of 23rd, the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe is a gourmet stop for anyone desirous of sampling international award winning chocolate confections. Portland born and kept, there are presently five chocolate cafes found throughout Oregon, but are retailed in myriad gourmet food shops around the world. Perhaps you overheard Oprah Winfrey raving about them, or read their review in the New York Times or the Boston Herald, or caught a glimpse of their Food Finds coverage on the Food Network. Would it surprise you to learn that Moonstruck truffles are stuffed into the goodie bags of the Academy Awards and given to guests on the Ellen DeGeneres Show? Well it shouldn't. This is Portland we're talking about after all. Why, as the best truffles in America, they should be given the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House. Oh wait, they have.
For the sake of report, my private guide and I felt it our duty to sample a few of the glittering chocolates instead of merely smearing the protective glass with out cold-reddened face. A couple steaming hot cups of peppermint dark chocolate mocha coffees were in order as well. The lemon cream dark chocolate ganached turkey shaped truffle was amazingly smooth, and the striped eggnog boules were fantastic beyond lexical explanation. Salty's favorite of course was dark chocolate and cointreau. However, the most popular sellers are the champagne, Bailey's Irish Cream, French Silk Chocolate Mousse, and Clear Creek Pear Brandy truffles. Oh la la.
It would be advantageous to hire a personal escort around the city--a true Portlander who knows where to go, and where to avoid, and preferably one with a car, but if you cannot--well there are buses, and a bus you will need indeed if you are to climb Council Crest, Portland's highest point reaching 1,073 feet (327 meters) above sea level. Though once at the top, you will stop cursing me for my sending you up there; the sight is breathless (literally, the icy gust makes it quite difficult to breath...mouthfuls of wind for lunch...) and any and all effort put in will be rewarded instantly. In one glance the four tallest peaks in the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest are devoured; from left to right Mt. St. Helens, hiding behind her the peaking wink of Mt. Rainier, to whose right lies Mt. Adams, followed by Mt. Hood. Nothing, nothing found in Portland compares to the view of these snow capped giants. Award them a moment of attention, there will be felt no regret.
Following an existential mountain viewing, one's appetite is ravenous--and as the Pacific Northwest is known stereotypically for their quality (and quantity) of seafood, why not search out a bit of...cod. The Corbett Fish house, the only completely gluten free fish house (that I know of) in existence. Not a drop of gluten passes the threshold of the family owned pub-style neighborhood fish house--even down to the beer selection. Located off the beaten tourist track at 5901 SW Corbett street, tucked in between doll-like houses, the Corbett fish house offers a variety of sea critters fried in a rice flour batter to crispy perfection. Alaskan halibut, yellow perch from the Great Lakes, oysters from Willapa Bay, Pacific caught cod, and Florida prawns all find their way into the fryers of the Corbett clan. Gluten free beer, gluten free cheesecakes and pies; it seems that the majority of Portland is on the gluten free track--whether fad or for real, it's a-o.k. with us.
The next stop after lunch is for desert (well not for the gluten-free-ers, perhaps just dessert for the eyes then) at a donut shop of celebrity status--visited by the man himself Anthony Bourdain. Voodoo Donuts, I have been waiting two years to come here! I squeal to my guide and housemate, S, the Portland native by whom everything in the trip was made possible. You never cease to amaze me, she laughs, as why would one who cannot even eat the product be thrilled beyond chills and peppermint pills at the chance just to visit the Podunk hole-in-the-wall. The answer, of which she is quite savvy of, is simply, well Anthony went there!
When I say hole-in-the-wall, I mean hole in the wall. The walk along the front entrance is strewn with trash cans and dumpsters, a has-been (and questionable content) theatre to the left, and a grungy tobacco shop to the right. Excellent. It is quite evident why Tony would visit. Upon entry the crowded eclectic interior assaults ones senses with a lot of...pink, but on quick recovery of the feng-shui assault, the eyes are pulled to the rotating cupboard of famous classics--the voodoo doll: chocolate covered dough created in the image of man filled with a blood-red cherry jam and stabbed with pretzel knives in angry revenge, the captain crunch donut, the bubblegum blue, the Oreo and peanut butter concoction dubbed the old dirty bastard, the fruit looper, and of course--Bourdain's favorite, the maple bacon bar with a real slice of fried bacon on top. Did we buy a pink box? Yes. But to whom did they find guttural sanctuary in? Well, I had to provide something when I arrived for thanksgiving now didn't I.
Perhaps a bit of exercise is due after all of those donuts, if meandering is what you lust for, try it indoors, at Powell's Books, the world's largest independently owned book store. Large here means large. The store is divided into color coded sections, the Ikea of books, yes your child could get lost inside, and for that matter you could get lost inside. Spawned now into six Portland metropolitan locations, the shelves of Powell's stack thousands upon thousands of books--new, used, and rare, and has become one of the most successful dot-com book retailers. The cooking section, my friends, spans nearly 5 distinct aisles, with shelves that reach higher than one could even expect a ladder to reach. Powell's is a fortress, and for the book enthusiast, or even simply the maze enthusiast, is a critical stop on a Portland expedition.
Along with all of that, perhaps a stroll along the river, a crossing of one of the myriad bridges, a visit to the rose gardens (Portland is the city of Roses) a promenade along the chic shopping alleys--and maybe, if there's time, a Portland Trail Blazers game. That would be a basketball game (NBA) for yee the non-Americans out there. But all in all this is just one pinch of Portland; underneath her labels of tree hugging, chai-tea sipping, hippy tattooed alternatives, lies so much more, a more that really can only be described by the word variety. Oh and the yellow and green you ask? Well Portland is a city divided by a brutal civil war--it is called the University of Oregon Ducks versus the Oregon State Beavers. You must choose a side, and it is not pretty, let me tell you...but Portland, Porkland is. If you happen to visit her someday, take me with you.
As usual nothing is possible without your friends: Thank you S for everything! And a special thanks to G for the first rate Portland hospitality!