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

Marnay and Paul on the 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!

Advertisements

Ultimate Richmond Adventure: Part 2

We usually go to Richmond two to three times per year, once in the summer and once during winter. As you may recall, it was about 100 degrees on our last visit to Richmond. This time, even though it was only February, it was nearly 60 degrees outside. I had thought of a bunch of indoor activities for the day, but since it was spring-like weather, we had to take advantage of it.

Rapp Session

From Main Street Station, we walked west through downtown a grabbed brunch at Rapp Session, the more casual sister restaurant to Rappahannock Restaurant. Travis and Ryan Croxton, the owners of Rappahannock Oyster Co. and local oyster gods, also own Rappahannock Restaurant and Rapp Session. Marnay got the hangtown fry, a 19th century San Francisco creation, which is scrambled eggs, cornmeal crusted fried oysters, bacon and salsa verde served with a green salad. I have never loved fried oysters, but this dish may have turned me into a fried oyster convert. I got the absolutely addictive sourdough beer-battered fried local catfish sandwich with tartar sauce and vinegary slaw on crusty buttered bread. We try not to repeat things on our Richmond visits since there is so much to explore, but it will be difficult not going back to here next time.

Rapp Session brunch

Exploring

Because it was so nice out, we set aside our plan to go to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and instead spent the afternoon walking and exploring. We walked down to the James River onto Browns Island and the brand new pedestrian bridge across the river to the south side, where we took in the views of downtown from the river bluffs.

Richmond James River pedestrian bridge

We made our way back across the bridge, through the Oregon Hill neighborhood, the bustling VCU campus and the Fan District. When all was said and done, we walked 10 miles! The neighborhoods would alternate between reminding us of Capitol Hill and the more quirky Hamden in Baltimore.

Sugar & Twine

When we reached Carytown, we briefly paused to have mid-afternoon snack at Sugar & Twine, a confectionary from a Portland ex-pat who decided to set up shop in Richmond. We sat on a sidewalk table off West Cary Street and people-watched while devouring a heart-shaped meringue cookie, a peanut butter brownie and an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.

Sugar & Twine cookies

Isley Brewing

Each time we visit Richmond, our train back to Union Station leaves at 6:30pm. Even though we had done a lot on this trip already, we still had a surprising amount of time left in the day. After finishing our treats, we walked to the Scott’s Addition neighborhood, Richmond’s de facto brewery district. The area used to be industrial but one by one the warehouses are being converted into lofts, breweries, distilleries, CrossFit gyms, etc.

We checked out Isley Brewing, a family-owned brewery that opened in 2013. It had been a while since we had sat down and our legs were a little tired, so we grabbed a stool and enjoyed our Need for Greed black IPA and the quaffable 1708 ACDC Belgian IPA.

Isley Brewing Company

Metzger Bar & Butchery

After finishing our beers, we ubered to the Union Hill neighborhood, just east of Main Street Station. Metzger Bar & Butchery is a small German restaurant, which, just days after we dined there, was named a semi-finalist for a James Beard Award in the Best Chef Mid-Atlantic Category.

Metzger Bar & Butchery cocktails

Marnay started out the meal with a very refreshing cocktail called the Land of Flowers, with gin, mandarin thyme cordial, lime, fino sherry and luxardo bitters while I went with a bone dry Riesling from Pfalz, Germany.

Metzger Bar & Butchery striped bass crudo

Food-wise, we ordered the house bread basket, striped bass crudo and pork schnitzel. The bread basket was superb, especially the buttery parker house rolls and the pretzel rolls. I mean, if you are a German restaurant, you really need to have good pretzel rolls and Metzger delivered. The star of the show, though, was the outrageously delicious, transcendent striped bass crudo with red pepper flakes, sea salt, citrus, chives and pickled cabbage. Seriously, we could have easily eaten three plates of the crudo.

Metzger Bar & Butchery golden pork schnitzel

The finale was golden pork schnitzel, another traditional German dish. The schnitzel was glistening when it first came to the table and believe me, it tasted as good as it looks. We couldn’t linger at the restaurant on account of our train, but we will definitely be back to Metzger on our next Richmond trip.

Video Recap

 

Places we visited:

Rapp Session: 318 E. Grace Street Richmond, VA 23219

Tyler Potterfield Pedestrian Bridge: North end at Browns Island

Sugar & Twine: 2928 W. Cary Street Richmond, VA 23221

Isley Brewing Company 1715 Summit Avenue Richmond, VA 23230

Metzger Bar & Butchery 801 N. 23rd Street Richmond, VA 23223

R. House

On a cold, windy Saturday we took the MARC train to Baltimore for a bit of an adventure. Unbeknownst to us, we went on the day of the Army-Navy football game. But unlike approximately 90% of the people on the train, we weren’t headed for the football stadium once we arrived in Baltimore. No, we were headed to R. House, a stadium for people who love good food.

R. House

R. House is a brand new food hall located in the Remington neighborhood, a rapidly changing neighborhood north of Penn Station and on the western edge of Charles Village and Johns Hopkins University. The building is a former car showroom, with large windows and garage doors for warmer weather. Inside, the layout is similar to a mall food court, with 11 stalls and a large amount of seating in the middle.

White Envelope

We knew that we wanted arepas, so we started out at White Envelope. White Envelope is named after the cornmeal pocket that serves as the vehicle for their many different filling combinations. The Vegano, which I ordered, come with a reddish-pink bun, made that color by the beets incorporated in the dough. It’s then filled with Venezuelan falafel, spicy butternut squash puree and purslane. The squash puree was the best part, as it added moisture and sweetness.

R. House White Envelope

Marnay tried El Cerdo Ilustrado, “The Literate Pig.” Folded inside of the cornmeal pocket was shredded roast pork leg with tomato, arugula and lime mayo. Marnay said that this arepa compared favorably to some of her favorite tacos. She also said that it would not be the same without the lime mayo, and I agree. While there are similarities between arepas and tacos, the thick cornmeal bun of arepas screams for some sort of moisture.

R. House White Envelope arepa

While we were seated on a long communal bench eating our arepas, something amazing happened. A server from R. Bar, R. House’s centrally located bar, gave us a drink menu and then took our order on an iPad. The roving server thing was the most groundbreaking part of R. House, for me. I could have easily had five glasses of the Apple Milk Punch, with brandy, apple cider, lime and cinnamon syrup. Meanwhile, Marnay’s gin-and Campari-based Lady Remington had a little too much Campari to be a balanced drink.

R. Bar cocktails

Arba

Still quite hungry, we checked out Arba, an Israeli/Palestinian street food stall. Arba means “four” in both Arabic and Hebrew. The Syrian Cheese, which is pan-seared halloumi, was our best bite at Arba and my favorite bite of the day. The pan-sear gave it a pleasant crisp and the cheese was buttery but mild.

R. House Arba

We also got crispy breaded eggplant, a good snack. Unfortunately, we had just had Peter Chang’s dry-fried eggplant the night before, and no we eggplant fries can compare to Peter Chang’s.

R. House Arba

BLK Sugar/Little Baby’s

BLK Sugar is a bakery from a local Baltimore artisan and Little Baby’s is an ice cream shop based in the Kensington neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia, which has slowly been expanding outside of that city. Together, they joined forces at R. House to open BLK Sugar/Little Baby’s. Little Baby’s serves Philadelphia style ice cream, which does not contain eggs. Since we only had ice cream at this stall, we are not going to address BLK Sugar.

After all we had eaten, we still wanted something sweet, which is what drew us to Little Baby’s. Marnay got non-dairy Birch Beer, which tasted so much like a birch beer float, it was uncanny. I got Philadelphia style “plain”, which was a perfectly good vanilla ice cream.

Ground & Griddled

I returned to R. House on Tuesday morning so that I could have a breakfast experience. Ground & Griddled, which serves Stumptown coffee and casual breakfast fare, is the most photogenic stall at R. House, with its bright yellow exterior. The place is run by Dave Sherman, the proprietor of Café Cito in Hampden.

R. House Ground and Griddled

I went with a latte made with housemade nut milk and the Breakfast BLT. The Breakfast BLT, a culinary work of art, is the ideal breakfast to eat while hanging around R. House on a weekday morning. Two slices of ciabatta support the heft of a paprika fried egg, griddled tomatoes, arugula and garlic aioli. The yolk is runny, but not too runny because the ciabatta soaked up much of it. In fact, the sandwich kept its structural integrity quite well thanks to the ciabatta. By the time I got to the end of the sandwich, I only had a few bites of bread left, which tasted like garlic bread thanks to the aioli. There wasn’t any on the sandwich, but I tasted the vinegary heat of Tabasco, most likely because of the paprika.

R. House Ground and Griddled Breakfast BLT

I ate my breakfast at a long communal high-top table and watched the sights and sounds of R. House. I saw prep cooks getting ready for the lunch rush at Amano Taco. I saw the chef from White Envelope walk in the door and talk to Dave Sherman. If all goes well, this could be a launching pad for some of Baltimore’s next great chefs.

Best Bite
Paul: Breakfast BLT
Marnay: El Cerdo Ilustrado arepa

Address
R. House: 301 W 29th St, Baltimore, MD 21211

Ultimate Silver Spring Weekend

Thursday

On Thursday, we headed to one of our favorite bars in Silver Spring, Scion, for their Right Proper Tap Takeover.   The event was to celebrate Right Proper’s entry into the Montgomery County market, which is certainly a big deal.  The Shaw brewpub just opened up a much larger production brewery in Northeast DC.

The bartender at Scion, Matt, is extremely knowledgeable about beer and a good guy in general.  Scion has a huge beer list and I will usually ask his opinion on what to get.  The bar is a relaxed place, and the atmosphere was still relaxed even though there was a good crowd for the event.  Another thing that Scion has going for it is that it has one of the best patios in Silver Spring, on the large sidewalk fronting East-West Highway.  The food at Scion proper is good, but at the bar you can also order bao (Chinese steamed buns) from their sister restaurant, Nainai’s.  I think that Nainai’s may be one of the best restaurants in Silver Spring for both quality and value.

Friday

As you know, we are both huge foodies.  About three weeks ago, I (Paul) saw one of my favorite food writers mention on twitter that she was at The Classics.  I tweeted back and told her that we’ve lived in Silver Spring for two and a half years and had never even considered it…we’re not really into steaks and it didn’t seem like the kind of place we would like.  She strongly recommended it, though. She said that she and her husband, who is also a food critic, used to go there every Friday until they moved.

Because of her recommendation, we decided to include it in our #ultimatesilverspringweekend.  Boy, are we glad we did. The bartender is this friendly yet curmudgeonly man and he is absolutely perfect for the place. He’s an old fashioned bar tender….the service was amazing, but he also just let us do our thing and didn’t bother us unless we wanted his attention.  We ordered a New York Strip Steak, cooked to a perfect medium. As I mentioned earlier, we are not big steak eaters, but we devoured this.  It was just the right amount of food for two people to be full afterwards.

We were finished up dinner, getting ready to leave, when guess who walks in?  M. Carrie Allan, the Washington Post spirts columnist who I had tweeted at three weeks ago! I froze, starstruck.  She came and sat at the other end of the bar.  We had already gotten the check at this point but I told the bartender that we had a change of plans.  We ordered another drink and who walks in but Tim Carman, the Washington Post food writer who sometimes fills in for Tom Sietesma as head food critic! Alas, we did not get a chance to talk to them. But it just shows what an interesting and fun place Silver Spring is!

Saturday

On Saturdays, first thing upon waking up we like to walk across the street to Bump ‘n Grind.  We will normally get two drip coffees to go as well as two biscuits, which are made at La Mano in Takoma Park.   We then take the biscuits and make sandwiches with them at home.  Bump ‘n Grind has recently starting showing soccer games on a large projector screen, which has drawn crowds the last few times I was there.

Later in the afternoon, we went for a walk to focus on the parks of Silver Spring.  We actually went on part of my running route and it was nice to be able to appreciate the scenery instead of flying by.  First stop was the surprisingly large Woodside Park, just on the edge of downtown at the corner of Spring and Georgia.  Next, we made our way through the Woodside neighborhood to connect with the Sligo Creek Trail, an incredible resource to have so close.  We walked all the way to Kemp Mill, basically to the northern end of the trail.  Exhausted and hungry, we sat in the parking lot of a shopping center and ate food from CVS, the only thing open.  Kemp Mill has a large Orthodox Jewish population, so almost everything was closed on Saturday.

We took the 9 Ride on Bus back to downtown and got some delicious black bass from Whole Foods to cook for dinner.  Whole Foods is another great resource to have in walking distance.

Sunday

Sunday was our Pete’s New Haven Apizza day.  We ordered three personal pizzas to share so that we would have lots of leftovers for dinner on Monday.   We got the Staven, with pepperoni, hot sausage, roasted garlic, caramelized onions and hot cherry peppers, the Margherita and the Merritt Parkway (named after the highway in Connecticut), with prosciutto, Kalamata olives, caramelized onions, basil and olive oil.  Mmm, my mouth is watering right now just thinking about the Staven!  The Silver Spring food scene is embarrassment of riches.  We went to a lot of different restaurants on our Silver Spring weekend, but it would take a lot longer than a weekend to visit all of the good spots.

After we finished, we went home to drop off the pizza and then walked on the Sligo Creek Trail again, this time towards Takoma Park.  At Maple Ave, we started walking towards Philadelphia Ave and then hopped on the F4 Metrobus back to Silver Spring.  We got off at Veterans Plaza to pick up a few more things at Whole Foods.

We had a lot of fun on our Ultimate Silver Spring Weekend.  We learned  about some new things, like the Classics, but it also helped us appreciate the things we have nearby and that we may take for granted.   Silver Spring is an incredible place and we are happy to call it home!

Places we visited
Scion: 1200 East-West Hwy, Silver Spring, MD 20910
The Classics: 8606 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Bump ‘n Grind: 1200 East-West Hwy, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Woodside Park: 8800 Georgia Avenue. Silver Spring, MD 20910
Whole Foods: 833 Wayne Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Pete’s New Haven Style Pizza: 962 Wayne Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Jack and Zach Food

The morning after our Woodberry Kitchen dinner, we went to Jack and Zach food, which is located near my office and is one of my favorite lunch spots. Jack and Zach Food is just two guys, no other employees. But even though it is completely different in size and scale than Woodberry Kitchen, the two places are surprisingly similar. Like Woodberry Kitchen, Jack and Zach make almost everything themselves. There is a chalkboard with a list of homemade items, which includes things like their sausage and pastries all the way to butter. Making your own butter at two man operation shows true dedication to your craft.

Jack and Zach has a L-shaped counter for seating, and each seat was taken when we arrived. There are scattered newspapers and books, including multiple books on how to make sausage. Eventually, two people sitting at the end closest to the door left and we swooped in, with plenty of room for our suitcase. Since restaurant is just Jack and Zach and since they want to make almost everything themselves, the menu is small. We both ordered the pancake plate, which comes with hash browns, breakfast potatoes and a side of meat. I chose their homemade curry sausage and Marnay chose bacon, which comes from Truck Patch Farms. I’ve had their bacon before and I let Marnay known that it’s one of my favorite bacons, so she was looking forward to it. To drink, we had Zeke’s coffee. Zeke’s is a local Baltimore roaster who recently opened up a small spot in the Woodridge neighborhood of D.C.

The pancakes, served with real maple syrup and homemade butter, were probably the best we have ever had. They were thin and almost crispy, yet not heavy at all. They complemented the syrup because they were thick enough to avoid becoming a sponge. Instead, the syrup was more of an equal partner. Marnay’s bacon was thick, meaty and smoky–nearly perfect pieces of bacon. My sausage was juicy and had serious kick from the curry. When Jack and Zach say that their homemade sausage will taste like something, they mean it.

Unlike Spike Gjerde at Woodberry Kitchen, Jack and Zach likely won’t be winning a James Beard Award anytime soon. However, it’s not completely far-fetched. Jonathan Brooks at Milktooth, which is in an industrial part of Indianapolis, only serves brunch. Yet, he was named one of Food and Wine Magazine’s best new chefs for 2015 and Milktooth was named one of Bon Apetit’s best new restaurants. Jack and Zach’s dedication to what they do which is one reason I considerate it a must-try when visiting Baltimore.

Address
Jack and Zach Food: 333 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21201