Northwest Vacation Recap: Portland

We have just returned from a Northwest Adventure in Portland and Seattle, our first trip to the West Coast since our honeymoon (in 2014!) where we traveled to San Francisco and Sonoma. We look forward to telling you about our favorite activities and of course our favorite restaurants! First up, Portland!

Saturday

We arrived in Portland late Saturday night, tired from our flight but definitely ready to do some exploring. We were staying at an Airbnb in the North Mississippi/Williams neighborhood, a hip neighborhood in Northeast Portland bustling with nightlife. One of my friends had told me about Alibi Tiki Bar, a 1940s tiki bar that is still in existence today. Our impression is that it felt very “Portland” – quirky and laid-back. Basically, the complete opposite of life in the Northeast. We were starving, so we ate a little bit of food – I would describe it as vaguely American Chinese food. This may sound odd, but the original tiki bars served an American version of Chinese food, considered exotic in the 1930s.

Alibi Tiki Bar neon sign

Sunday

Portland is known for being the premier biking city in America, due to having decades of bike-friendly policies. It should be no surprise, then, that we mainly got around the city by Biketown bike, their bikesharing system. The orange bikes were lighter than Capital Bikeshare, plus they had a basket which made running errands easy. You can also dock Biketown bikes at any public bike dock, which is incredible.

Marnay on a Biketown bike in Portland

We biked across the Broadway Bridge and arrived at Ken’s Artisan Bakery. Ken’s is one of the best and most well-known bakeries in America. Of all things, we shared a locally made hot dog on an incredible baguette-like bun and some incredible macarons. A great way to start the morning in Portland.

Ken’s Artisan Bakery macarons

Portland has an aerial tram. It goes from a medical school and doctors offices to the corresponding hospital, on top of a hill. Still, it offered some incredible views of the Willamette River below and I’m glad we did it!

Portland aerial tram

 

Dinner that night was with one my old MARC train friend, Marcel, and his wife Martha. In June, Marcel moved to Portland from DC for work, so it was awesome to see them. We met at Tusk, a Middle-Eastern restaurant that Food & Wine Magazine recently named one of the best new restaurants in the country. All of the food was communal and it made a great way to catch up. All four of us agreed on a best bite: Melons, cucumbers, celtuce, pepper (hot!), cilantro and pepitas.

Tusk hummus with tehina, paprika and cumin

Tusk melons with cucumbers, celtuce, pepper, cilantro and pepita.

Marnay, Paul, Marcel and Martha at Tusk in Portland

It had been a long day, but we fit in some walking through the Laurelhurst neighborhood and a trip to Base Camp Brewing for a nightcap. A long but exciting day.

Monday

One requirement for Portland was that we needed to stay in an Airbnb that was walking distance to a Blue Star Donuts location and luckily we were two short blocks away from their Northeast Portland shop. We shared their signature Blueberry Bourbon Basil and their incredible Apple Fritter. So darn good!

Blue Star Donuts in Northeast Portland

Next, we headed to Portland’s Waterfront Trail, and biked along the Willamette River. We ended the ride by crossing the river over the Tilikum Crossing, the country’s first pedestrian and transit only bridge. It carries bikes, pedestrians, buses, light rail and streetcars. How amazing is that?!

Paul biking on the Tilikum Crossing bridge

That night, we had a nice bike ride through a few different neighborhoods en route to Han Oak, a Korean-inspired restaurant from chef Peter Cho. We were second in line, so we were able to sit at the chef’s counter right in front of the open kitchen. What a view! On Sunday and Monday nights, Han Oak has dumpling and noodle night. However, that night they had a guest chef cooking Indonesian Barbecue. Our best bite, and possibly the top bite in all of Portland, was the Indonesian Barbecue platter.

Han Oak dumplings

Han Oak Indonesian Barbecue

After dinner, we did some walking through nearby neighborhoods and then biked to Stormbreaker Brewing, just outside of our apartment. We stopped to pick up a growler so that we could enjoy it at home with the rest of our donuts. There wasn’t a TV, so we watched Portlandia on Netflix! Another fun night!

Blue Star Donuts, Stormbreaker Brewing growler and Portlandia on Netflix in our Airbnb in Portland

Tuesday

Tuesday was wine country day. But first, we had breakfast at Pop Bagel, a small bagel shop where all the bagels are pretzel bagels! It was a cool concept. The location, inside of an office building, made me jealous because my office building doesn’t have anything like this!

Pop Bagels

We took an Amtrak bus from Union Station to Salem, the capital of Oregon and our jumping off point for exploring the Willamette Valley. Once we arrived in Salem, we headed straight to Brooks Wine, Riesling specialists located in the Eola-Amity Hills subregion of the Willamette Valley. Before we left for Oregon, I read a wine column from a national columnist about wines to get for special occasions – one of the wines was from Brooks!

Brooks Wine vineyard

Brooks was incredible, the best winery we have ever been to. Since they specialize in white wines, we made sure to both get white wine tastings. Our favorites were the Sweet P Riesling (the one that was recommended in the column) and the Amycas, a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. We came away with a bottle of each.

After Brooks, we headed to Domaine Drouhin, in the Dundee Hills subregion. The Drouhin family is originally from Burgundy, home of the best Pinot Noir in the world. You can understand why we took home a bottle of their 2014 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir.

Paul and Marnay at Domaine Drouhin

We took the very retro Amtrak Cascades train from Salem back to Portland. Although we were tired, we were hungry after a day of drinking wine! When we were back in Portland, we grabbed Biketown bikes and picked up takeout from Pok Pok Noi, part of the amazing Pok Pok family of restaurants. The boar collar and Vienamese wings were delicious!

retro Amtrak Cascades train from Salem to Portland

Wednesday

Our last full day in Portland. We got an early start by heading to Blue Star Donuts for another apple fritter. The best fritters ever! We took Biketown bikes and ended up at the iconic Powell’s Books, a must visit in Portland.

Lunch was at Maurice, a really cool European-style café that is only open for lunch. They serve French-Danish food plus vermouth, wine and sherry and incredible desserts and pastries. I do not think that we have been anywhere in America like this, it was really unique.

Maurice cardamom kissed squid

Maurice scone and pepper cheesecake

After our midday meal, we got some hiking in at Washington Park, a huge urban park in a particularly hilly section of Portland. We explored the Hoyt Arboretum and the International Rose Garden. Conveniently, the MAX light rail has an underground stop in the heart of the park and there is a free shuttle bus that can take you to the different attractions.

Paul walking on a trail at Washington Park

Dinner that night was our favorite dinner in Portland. We started at Jaqueline, in the Ladd’s Addition neighborhood, where we enjoyed $1 West Coast oysters along with a $2 Rainier tallboy and a $3 Topo Chico. So cheap! After our happy hour, we biked to Ken’s Artisan Pizza to grab some pizzas to go.

Jaqueline oyster happy hour

Back at home, we ate our two pizzas and drank the bottle of Brooks Sweet P Riesling. The Riesling had an aroma of petrol that reminded us of that bottle of Hermann J. Wiemer from Tail Up Goat. The two pizzas we ordered were: Handmade – hand-pulled fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, garlic, fennel seed and chile flake and the Brooklyn – tomato sauce, mozzarella, capicollo, pickled jalapeño and honey. The Handmade pizza stole the show. A simple yet perfect pizza.

Ken’s Artisan Pizza and Brooks Sweet P Riesling in our airbnb in Portland

Thursday

We were taking the Amtrak Cascades to Seattle, although our train did not leave until about 3:00PM. That meant that we had plenty of time to partake in one of Portland’s favorite activities: brunch! Sweedeedee, a little less than a mile from our apartment, is known for their pie selection, in addition to more traditional breakfast food. The catch is that you order all of your food at the counter, but you are served pie immediately. What a concept! We shared a slice of peach pie with cream, which was divine. By the time our real breakfast arrived, we were nearly too full to eat. Marnay’s bee pollen biscuit sandwich with ham was memorable, though.

Sweedeedee peach pie

After brunch, we took a meandering walk around the neighborhood and then one final Biketown ride before heading to Union Station. On to Seattle!

Click here to read all about our Seattle adventure!

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5 Best Pizzerias in the DMV

In our household, we like pizza. A lot. Part of this is due to the fact that we each grew up in pizza-crazy regions of the country (New Jersey and Philadelphia, respectively) and part has to do with the fact that pizza makes a relatively inexpensive night out. After living in the DC-area for the last five years, our taste in pizza has changed from New York style to Neapolitan, but when it comes down to it, a good pizza transcends styles.

Without further ado, here is our list of the top five pizzerias in the DMV. Note that it’s not in order, because they are all excellent!

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

Inferno graces our list having the “chefiest” pizzas around, made by former Oval Room executive chef Tony Conte. You will do well with a classic margherita, but this is the place to load-up on top-notch toppings and well-thought out pizza-creations. One of our favorites was a summertime special – a shrimp sausage pizza with sweet corn, smoked parmesan and basil. Don’t forget to end your meal with soft serve ice cream!

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana soft serve ice cream

Frankly Pizza

Frankly Pizza is the place for pork. That’s because chef-owner Frank Linn makes his own bacon and sausage The crust is thicker than the other pizzerias on this list and the tomato sauce is a touch sweeter. It’s liberally applied, but not excessive. The Porky Marge is the best way to experience Frankly Pizza, with mozzarella, bacon, basil, tomato sauce and a light topping of romano cheese. The restaurant has a very small selection other than pizza, so you may want to try multiple pies while you are here, along with a housemade soda.

Frankly Pizza Porky Marge

Pizzeria Vetri

Our award for best crust goes to Philadelphia-import Pizzeria Vetri. The crispness and char are something to behold. We like to wash it down with a beer or wine, both on draft. Since the crispiness of the crust makes for a lighter pie, we have plenty of room to pair it with a rotolo, a cinnamon roll-looking creation filled with ricotta, mortadella and pistachio pesto.

Pizzeria Vetri neapolitan pizza

Pizzeria Vetri pistachio rotolo

Pizza CS

Pizza CS, in the Twinbrook section of Rockville, has taken the time to earn VPN-certification, making pizzas to the exacting standards of the international Neapolitan pizza organization. This is the place to go when you’re in the mood for an absolutely textbook Neapolitan pizza. Pizza CS is good for kids, since it’s a counter-order spot with plenty of space of kids to run around. Other than pizza, there are a few basic salads to choose from, so come to CS to get your pizza-fix. Plus, there’s foosball.

Pizza CS

Pizza CS

Pacci’s
Pacci’s is our neighborhood pizzeria and we feel fortunate that we have it in walking distance. The pies here are Neapolitan and margherita is your best bet if it’s your first visit. Our favorite, however, is the La Diavola, which really brings the heat. That traditional Neapolitan base is then topped with copious slices of spicy Neapolitan salami. If it’s nice out, ask to sit on their large outdoor patio. The experience is worth it.

Pacci’s La Diavola Pizza

I hope that you enjoyed our list! What are you favorite pizzerias? They don’t even have to be in the DMV – a great pizza is something worth traveling for!

JuneBaby

(Note: We spent some time in Portland and Seattle for our vacation this year. We will be posting more in the next few weeks, so this review is just a taste of things to come!)

I first heard about JuneBaby on chef Edward Lee’s Instagram page, when I saw that the renowned Southern chef visited and loved it. Very high praise for what at the time was a brand new restaurant. The chef, Eduardo Jordan, is certainly not new to the scene, having previously been named a Food & Wine Best New Chef for his first restaurant, Salare. He also not new to Southern food, having growing up in Florida. However, we only had two full nights in Seattle. Did we really want one night to be spent at a Southern restaurant, instead of somewhere serving local Northwestern cuisine?

If you find yourself in this situation, the answer should be “yes”, you will want to get yourself to JuneBaby.

JuneBaby by Eduardo Jordan in Seattle, Washington

In our opinion, cornbread is all about balance. Not too sweet, not too dry. We’ve eaten and made cornbread that’s all over the spectrum. The cornbread at JuneBaby is just about as perfectly balanced as you can get. Here, the cast-iron cornbread is made with heirloom cornmeal and then supplemented with sorghum molasses baked into the bread, giving it a subtle amount of sweetness

JuneBaby cornbread with sorghum molasses

Smoked carrots topped with nutty benne seeds are substantial and the accompanying collard greens give off some serious vinegary heat. Tahini, swiped along the bottom, is meant to cool things down. Wisely, though, there isn’t enough to rob the dish of its intense flavor.

JuneBaby moked carrots topped with nutty benne seeds

The entree I was looking forward to most, just from perusing the menu prior to trip, was “Mama Jordan’s” oxtails, served in consumme with a squash salad. The oxtails did not disappoint! The braised oxtail tasted like a more flavorful, more tender brisket. The squash salad at first seemed a bit out of place, but thinking back, it worked to cut all that meatiness.

JuneBaby has a rice program, one of the most important heritage crops of the South. Each night they feature rice from a different growing region and the night we were there was a rice from the Jacksonville area of Florida. It was unwashed and then cooked in a Dungeness crab stock with crab meat on top. The unwashed rice gave it a creamy, starchy taste similar to risotto. As a side note, we made sure to order Dungeness crab, that prized ingredient of the West Coast, any time we saw it on a menu.

JuneBaby Mama Jordan’s oxtails with featured rice from Jacksonville, Florida

To top things off, our bubbly, slightly awkward but always polite server kept the mood light and relaxed. The two well-made cocktails didn’t hurt, either. You may not think of Seattle when you think of authentic Southern food, but here’s hoping you do now.

Best Bite
Paul: oxtail
Marnay: cornbread

Address
JuneBaby: 2122 NE 65th Street, Seattle, WA 98115