What is Portland, Ore.? (Part I)

A trip to Portland wouldn't be complete without a stop here.

What is Portland?

It’s where I had my first newspaper internship way back when at the Oregonian…

It’s where I learned it wise to carry an umbrella two out of three months that summer because that’s just how much it rains there…

It’s a pioneering eco-conscious city known for its great public transportation system, including free streetcar and bus rides in the downtown corridor…

And of course, it’s a region blessed with spectacular homegrown produce, world-class Pinot Noirs, incredible microbrews, legions of food carts long before it became trendy, and a vibrant restaurant scene any city would envy…

Thanks to Travel Oregon, a group of 25 food bloggers, including yours truly, recently was invited as guests to wine and dine our way through Portland.

Here are some of the tasty highlights:

A trip to Portland has to include a stop at Voodoo Doughnut, right?

Get in line behind the sign. And there's always a line, even late at night.

Trying to decide which one to order...

The one I had to have. Can ya blame me?

This doughnut shop is known worldwide and its wacky cruellers have even been featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations.”

I couldn’t resist the Voodoo Doll, a raised yeast doughnut frosted with chocolate and filled with raspberry jam that comes complete with a pretzel stake through its belly. Oh my! These doughnuts are total sugar bombs — as sweet as all get out and as fun as can be.

Ping's open kitchen.

Then, there was dinner at Ping by 2011 “James Beard Best Chef Northwest” winner, Chef Andy Ricker. This trendy Southeast Asian street food bistro in the heart of Chinatown boats an eclectic decor with a wall of old-school radios, billowing fabric panels hanging from the ceiling, and tabletops covered in Korean writing. The food is inventive and vibrant.

Ping's crazy good quail eggs wrapped in bacon with spicy mayo.

A bone-in pork chop nestled inside a soft bun -- a specialty of Macau. So simple yet so spectacular.

Next, a trip to the huge downtown Saturday farmers market, where you can find vendors selling everything from squash blossoms to leaf lard.

An artichoke flower at the farmers market.

I couldn’t pass up a biscuit at the famous Pine State Biscuits. While you can get them stuffed with bacon, sausage or even fried chicken, I opted for a plain one to experience the real unadulterated taste. The biscuit did not disappoint. It’s hefty and high with a fluffy yet sturdy texture. This is not a crumbly biscuit, but one that’s almost bread-like. It’s pretty darn amazing.

The Pine State Biscuit stand at the farmers market.

The biscuits live up to all the hype, too.

After that, it was on to a hands-on lesson in making tomato jam with the gals of Sassafras Southern Kitchen, who showed us how to cook down heirloom tomatoes, lime juice, garlic, shallots, brown sugar and spices to make a sweet-tangy jam that you just want to smear on a hot dog or juicy pork chop.

Our group making tomato jam.

The finished product, all sealed up and processed in a water bath.

After that, another hands-on lesson from the creative duo behind Salt & Straw ice creams. Cousins, Kim and Tyler Malek, showed us how they concoct some of their unusual flavors, including a rose petal one they’re still fine-tuning.

Ice cream maker Tyler Malek concocting a rose petal flavored one.

Salt & Straw's ice creams: (front) Strawberry Balsamic Honey with black pepper; (center) chocolate; and (rear) basil sorbet with Meyer lemon.

We also got to sample an intense basil sorbet with Meyer lemon, a fabulous melon & prosciutto and my favorite of all, sea salt ice cream with caramel ribbon.

Finally, an al fresco dinner of brews and sliders on a downtown rooftop terrace at a very artsy advertising company building that was featured in an episode of the quirky “Portlandia.”

The slider brigade hard at work.

Double cheeseburger sliders.

Chefs from the Gilt Club grilled up beef, lamb and elk burgers until we had to waddle away.

Part II Tomorrow: Portland’s Wine Country

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  • Portland is a cool place I dream of visiting! The food there seems amazing. I would particularly love to try some of those doughnuts.



  • I could use a donut right now! I LOVE the picture of the squash blossom – how GORGEOUS!! πŸ˜€ I’ll have to take a trip there when I visit my sister in Seattle.

  • I laughed when I saw that donut. It looks like a toy, not food. πŸ˜‰

  • I love Portland! It definitely is emerging as a major food destination in so many aspects. Can’t wait to see what else you did there!

  • I’ve never been to Portland….I’d love to visit. Such a nice post and as far as those donuts are concerned…OMG. Tony is never wrong!

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  • A lovely town full of good foods. I like the doughnut very much. It looks so delicious and cute. ItÒ€ℒs just too far from my home, hope I can get such good food here too. πŸ™‚

  • If not for the abundance of rain, I may consider moving to Oregon some day. Ok. Maybe when I get older….? It’s relatively cheaper there than in CA (yes? no?)

  • Tigerfish: Yes, compared to San Francisco, Portland’s cost of living is a bit lower. It’s not inexpensive by any means, but it is a little more affordable.

  • Nick article =)

    Oh, btw the last one are talented chefs from Metrovino though.

  • I mean nice article =)

  • This all looks amazing, and I intend to book mark it so I have a list of fantastic options for my visit.

  • Earl: The Gilt Club team was there, too. Thank you for the correction on who is in that photo, though. The Metrovino crew was awesome, too. I wish I could have a slider smorgasbord like that every night. πŸ˜‰

  • I’m not sure I’m with you on Voodoo doughnuts. I spent a couple of months in Portland this year and people kept telling me to go there so we did, and we stood in line to get what ended up being fairly poor quality doughnuts with ick stuck to them. Most of it is a gimmick (Captain crunch on a doughnut does not make it a better doughnut) and even if you scrape the ick off them they’re not especially good. I wouldn’t call them bad but nothing special and you pay quite a lot for them.

    Voodoo is a great example of the Portland spirit though (read weird). You take an average doughnut and turn it into a crave and you end up with lines around the block. I would sum up most of the food carts the same way except Mum’s Kitchen which provides some truly good food. That’s my two cents… πŸ™‚

  • My hubby and I just had to cancel a trip we were going to take to Portland next week and this was definitely one of my must-do spots!

  • Wow! I’ll say it again, I wish I could have joined you all on this amazing trip! The food and the classes sounded fantastic! And I would love a voodoo donut. Yum!

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