Each fall, Becca and I take a long-weekend trip with friends to a location where at least one of us haven’t visited (called it a #newcation). We started in 2011 with New York. San Francisco/Napa, Philadelphia, and Chicago then followed.
We’ve met some tremendous people, enjoyed fabulous food and drink and encountered some serious misadventures — the lightning strike directly behind a haunted house in New Hope, Pennsylvania, will never be forgotten.
For 2015, we selected Portland, Oregon, for its natural beauty, hearty food (bring on the poutine!), delectable beverage variety (coffee, craft beer and wine we embrace you) and hipster vibe.
So … what awaited us in Portland (we perhaps met a Portlandia dumpster diver or two … or dodged their water bottle projectiles)?
Opening Night Brings Breweries, a Doughnut run and Bottle Dodging …
When I visited Yelp prior to our trip, I noticed there at least 30 craft brew pubs and breweries within a half mile of our hotel in the Pearl District area. With so many choices, we decided an early Friday happy hour was our only option. So, once Portland’s wonderful mass transit got us to the hotel (we won’t talk about how I elected to catch a transfer in a bad part of town), we checked in, flung our bags into the room and hit the pavement for the nearest brewery.
(She: Oh. I want to talk about it! We got off the train and were followed by a guy whose eyes were rolled back into his head, his face covered by a bandana, and swollen hands. Okay, he wasn’t really following us. I think he was too strung out to know what was going on, but it was creepy.)
First stop … BridgePort Brewing Co. It was so close to the hotel — and the vibe a perfect blend of crowd and chill — that it would become our home away from home for the next several days. Plus, the food (the friday afternoon special was especially good) and excellent beer made it an easy choice.
Other brewery stops included (in no particular order) …
Deschutes was the final stop (call us weak, but we just couldn’t make it to Fat Head’s). There, I had a scotch ale that was SOOOO peaty that I thought I was chewing moss. After all that beer, the group decided that we hadn’t had enough carbs so a doughnut run was in order. A run to the world famous Voodoo Doughnuts that is.
The fun of the doughnut excursion was somewhat dampened by a Portland local who must not have liked the way we looked because he threw an open plastic bottle with fluid of some unknown origin at us. Fortunately, we all managed to dodge the projectile, but it did ruin our group’s festive mood.
Even with sour spirits and the extra crowded scene — as we were only a fraction of many tourists — everyone acknowledged Voodo Doughnuts had an extra cool vibe and some wickedly decorated pastries. That said, we were done for the night, so we quickly picked a dozen and split for the hotel.
Saturday Recovery of Coffee (With Hemp Milk), Food Trucks and …
Being from Kansas City, the Pearl District reminded me a bit of the West Bottoms area or, better put, the Pearl District struck me as what the West Bottoms could be … the natural brick warehouse and office buildings transformed into artist galleries, vintage shops, breweries and coffee joints.
And there were coffee joints abound. I tried a hemp milk latte for the first time at Sisters Coffee Company and, I will have to tell you, that I enjoyed the flavor more so than I do almond or coconut milk. I wish the Kansas City cafes would start using it here. The other spot where we traveled several times was Barista (it was a little more of a jaunt from the hotel, but that was the point — get out on foot and explore the district a bit).
One of the quintessential things Portland is the food truck parks. We made sure we spent Saturday hunting one down for lunch. Little did we know we pinpointed Tidbit, one of the premier pods in the city (we’d ultimately chosen it over others because it was half-mile walk to shopping on SE Hawthorne). Saying there is something for everyone is an understatement. I really wanted to go exotic, but after the prior evening, I played it safe with some excellent wood fired pizza and a pint of beer. We wanted to hit the Lombard area, too, but just couldn’t make it work.
(She: I loved food truck day — beautiful weather, eating alfresco, drinking beer. What could be better!? Only downside was my bee friend who didn’t want to leave my side.)
As for dinner, we had a destination long planned out. After reading a profile in Travel & Leisure about Departure, a trendy pan asian place run by celebrity chef Gregory Gourdet, we had to try the place because 1.) pan asian places are, like, our thing; and 2.) the views and drinks were supposed to be phenomenal. The view and drinks deliver. The food was good, but a bit richer than we expected — and too much can be too much of a good thing — so …
Sunday Brunch and a Trip to Willamette Wine Country
The week after our trip, recreational marijuana sales were to become legal in the Portland area. As we were making our drive to the heart of Willamette wine country, you could see the future tours to be marketed to vistors — a winery … a weedery … a winery … a weedery.
But … we limited ourselves exclusively to the wine. Our first stop was Archery Summit. We spent a great deal of time here because of the tasty wine, lovely views and friendly staff — though it’s funny, whenever we travel to the West Coast, the first thing folks want to talk to us about are Kansas politics.
With the leisurely morning brunch at VQ, we were running out of time but wanted to hit another winery: Domaine Drouhin did not disappoint. We thought the earlier views were sublime, but nestled a little higher up the hill, the winery patio here offered an even more beautiful view of the valley.
(She: Such a gorgeous view. And drinking a nice glass of wine with this view…)
Though the wineries were all closing, we weren’t finished. As my buddy Chad says, I’m always looking for an angle. And I found one. On the way back into Portland, there was a microbrewery called Hair of the Dog that I was just dying to hit but it wasn’t within walking distance of the hotel. Well, lucky me, it was right off a highway exit that we had to pass on the way back to the hotel. I made everyone stop for a quick drink. We grabbed a flight and shared — easily some of the best beer on the trip.
Final Day Respite and a Day of Hiking Along the Colombia River Gorge
In many ways, this was a tough trip. Our 9-year-old golden retriever, Rufus, had fallen ill the day we were leaving and the reports coming from home were not good. And while we had fun eating and drinking, we needed a day of tranquility and last one of the trip provided it.
(She: This hike was amazing and I would recommend taking a picnic lunch. It really lifted my spirits which I definitely needed. Rufus was my baby.)
The trek along the Columbia River Gorge included a hike up to the top of Multnomah Falls …