Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Adventures in Portland, Oregon

Portland is a clean, beautiful and almost futuristic city, rich with culture, music, and, of course, food. I had the chance to visit Oregon last weekend for the second time this year -- and in my life -- and was hoping to experience as many west coast culinary delights as possible. Since we were only there for the weekend and our schedule was pretty full, we didn't have a chance to do as much as I wanted, but maybe the third time will be the charm (fingers crossed for another visit!).

Friday morning we met Rob's family for breakfast at a place called Zell's Cafe, a comfortable American hometown type of place. At first I didn't think anything of the 20 minute wait, but then we all realized it was Friday and not Saturday or Sunday. Don't people in Portland have jobs? This is another reason I love this city -- everyone seems so relaxed and leisurely all the time.

Anyway, the wait turned out to be worth it. The wait staff was really sweet and accommodating, bringing a tray of coffees for us all while we were waiting for a large table to free up. Everyone gets two complementary mini-scones. I ordered a soda and the waitress came over a little while later to refill it from a small pitcher. If I ever live in Portland, I'd probably be a regular here.

The food was good and really well-priced too. I ordered the chorizo omlette which was spiced to taste like a curry (cumin maybe?). It was pretty good, but I thought the big glob of sour cream on top was a bit out of place. Rob got the salmon benedict. Same heavy-handedness with the sauce, there was an insane amount of buttery hollandaise which made the salmon taste almost lobstery. No complaints from Rob on that. But it was definitely richer than you might expect a benedict dish to be. Below: the curried chorizo omlette and the super-buttery salmon benedict.

Saturday morning we headed over to the farmer's market near Portland University. I wanted to try the Salvadore Molly's stand as I was told they had really great Mexican food, but unfortunately they were out of everything by the time we got there. At least we had a nice chat with the guy closing down the stand -- he used to live in Clinton Hill and now is so much happier living in Portland. Hmmm?

At this point we decided to go on an adventure and try a Mexican food recommendation from one of Rob's coworkers. The west coast is supposed to have fantastic south-of-the-border fare and I wasn't leaving Portland without trying some. But since we were at the farmer's market and we were both starving, we grabbed a quick falafel and humus plate from a Mediterranean stand on our way out. It was pretty standard and it hit the spot.

Next stop: ?Por Que No? taqueria. It was a bit out of the way from where we were but luckily Greg came by with a car -- and a GPS. When we got there around 3pm, we were surprised to see a line out the door. I think we all knew we were in for a treat.

This eclectic little place looks like it was fashioned out of an old firehouse, then decorated with all sorts of knick knacks. Behind the counter is a semi-exposed kitchen, full with people running around with bowls of limes and whole avocados. The garage doors open up to the street while they blast Bob Marley and Matisyahu -- you'll keep looking out the window hoping to see the beach instead of a shopping plaza across the street.

The tacos were authentic and very fresh -- quite possibily the best I've ever had. I ordered some meat tacos -- carne asada (steak, salsa roja, cilantro, onion) and Porque Tinga (shredded beef, pasilla chile, cilantro, onions, salsa roja, queso fresco) and Rob got the seafood tacos -- Pescado (cornmeal crusted snapper, cabbage, salsa verde, onion, cilantro, pineapple) and Camarones (shrimp, chili, crema, salsa verde, onion, cilantro, pineapple). Greg got the ceviche -- snapper and shrimp with a lime and chips -- and tamales. The tamales had a perfect consistency and were absolutely delicious. I didn't try the ceviche but was told it was excellent as well. I think it was the luckiest thing for us all that Salvadore Mollys was out of food at the farmer's market that afternoon. Below: my cilantro and salsa roja meat tacos and Rob's pineapple and salsa verde seafood tacos.

I won't mention anything about our Saturday night dinner (it was a Japanese mini-room disaster) so instead I'll leave you with a picture of a scrumptious-looking place that unfortunately was closed down when we walked by.

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