Wednesday, November 13, 2013

portland: wonderland

I couldn't sleep last night so I decided to upload Portland photos. I still hope to finish Japan at some point. Thursday is me
Here are some nice stocking stuffers: holiday scented purell with a handy hook for hanging on the tree! Portland pics, after the jump
right away when we get in to the airport there is a store stocked with local beer. sac needs a store stocked with local stuff. people need gifts when they are flying out and also you can take the beer on the plane without having to check it since it's after security
right when we got into town we picked up dp and headed to whisky bar (the non-annoying arm of pok pok). they make drinking vinegars. apparently this is a thai thing? they had a celery one and I asked the bartender to mix it with gin. fuck why can't I get this in sac. dp and ch live right next to a strip of division that everyone kept mentioning is now the hottest part of Portland culinary wise
this guy
this guy
and I think to myself: these are wonderful wings. the famous pok pok wings
top 4 favorite bakery: little t. half a block from their house. we brought home two loaves of their spelt
a breakfast that they offer there. dill cream cheese on spelt. I wish I could eat this every weekend. they have good coffee from coava, too
i'm glad I got to see real fall colors, since we are having annoying hot weather still

usually I don't take Asian/Mexican recommendations in Portland because that is Sac's one claim to fame. But LC recommended Chiang Mai on Hawthorne and we were right across the street. Fuckin' A. This was the khao soy, which was pretty good.
The owners are from Northern Thailand which seems to share some flavors with Laos (makes sense). This is the same crispy rice salad that Asian Café has, which is one of my favorite dishes in the world. Fermented pork sausage, ground pork, strong lime flavor, peanuts, red onions. It's as good as Asian Café. I missed the salt and intensity of Asian Café but still...
If there's a Wodehouse section in the bookstore you're just might be in Portland
The cat whisperer strikes again

We went to Commons Brewery and this is their gose.
Damian Magista, husband of TU, has his honey place adjoining the Commons and we ran into him. I will admit, I was skeptical that honey could vary from kind to kind. Then he gave me a honey tasting and blew my mind. People bring him honey from all over the world, plus we tasted his.
Chestnut honey from Italy. I didn't take notes but I do remember that it was soapy and bitter and I didn't even like it! Who knew honey could be like this!
Tasmanian leatherwood! Also soapy.
This is Damian's business, Bee Local. Here's the brilliant idea: honey by neighborhood! Like Mt. Tabor honey. You can taste your neighborhood. Honey with terroir! His business is blowing up. This was actually a monocrop since he can barely keep up with the neighborhood orders. Buckwheat and it really intensely tastes like buckwheat.
Even honey from same neighborhood from year to year is totally different and looks different. Hopefully he can get enough back stock to do vertical tastings at one point but for now he is selling out. I got to eat it right off the comb. The comb is good chewing gum.

Commons is brewing a honey beer with his honey. Of course they are.
Israeli falafel at Wolf and Bear food cart. We bought this parsley sauce to bring home.
I got a mini Cheezus burger at the grilled cheese cart. It's like a cheeseburger, but the bun is a grilled cheese sandwich.
There's an ice cream shop called Salt and Straw. Well, two, one is on Albert in the northeast, and one is on Division. We didn't see the one on Division until we were out of town. This is stumptown coffee and bourbon. They also had turkey and salted caramel! I guess it's not really weirder than bacon (it only had turkey fat in it) but I was not into it. The fat tasted a little oxidized to me.

This gives you an idea of the weather. Loved it! After I got acclimated in about a day.
Love my new boots. Between the records, books, food, beer and shoes we really did a lot for the Portland economy. They deserve it because of their lack of sales tax.

We went to the new Broder, can't remember where. Scandinavian food but kind of better than any we got in Scandinavia. Snooty, I know. This is an all booze cocktail with aquavit and some other booze. They only have boozy aquavit cocktails. When in Rome..

Guess I ate a lot of salmon.

From a bookstore
Visit to upright brewery. The smalls are 1.50 and the bigs are 3. Insane.
This is the cabo wabo tequila I drank to assuage my sorrows. I got the day of our flight wrong and had to buy as two full price tickets at the southwest counter. 540 dollars later...
Next days breakfast: spelt and honey
Who knew?

I came home really down on Sac and want to move to Portland. Just being honest. Usually I say I couldn't stand the weather and that I would miss the ethnic diversity. The weather I think I could adjust to, plus I know I would visit Sac a lot. After eating that delicious Thai food I know I could get one of my favorite types of food whenever I want. And there is a whole neighborhood of ethnic stuff and who knows maybe some good Mexican. I ate wayyyy more good food in Portland than I did in Brooklyn. Brooklyn has menu writing skills, that's for sure, but I'm not sure about the follow through.


beckler said...

Woah, I meant to say Thursday is Heckarap with me and Mike C. I have a feeling that no one will come. Maybe I am wrong. After all, Thursday is a pretty good night.

DJ Rick said...

Should I really tell you that the Mexican food in Portland is better than Sac? Would you even believe it? This is a very recent development that I've only noticed in the last couple years.

Whereas PDX-Mex had been totally disgraceful or boringly bland for the first 20 years of my dining experiences there, and whereas many Northwesterners are still apparently happy to eat at their same familiar fave canned or bland (think Luis's or El Camino Real) Mexican restaurants, the best of Mexican food in Portland is better than Sac's best, especially where it concerns variety of regional cuisines. For instance, I count seven places in Portland where you can order panuchos or salbutes, the Yucatecan cousins of the tostada which eat more like a taco because they are at least semi-foldable. I've eaten at two of them, and they were both fantastic: Angel Food & Fun in the overlook and undesirable Cully neighborhood and Taqueria Hermanos Serralta in the even-more-undesirable Madison neighborhood at the foot of Rocky Butte. Angel Food & Fun also has this killer soup with turkey swimming in those Yucatecan beans that are like refried black beans "broken down to their very last compound", as KRS-One would say.

There are also at least two places where you can eat cemitas poblanas, a variant of a torta from Puebla, Mexico, which is otherwise only available at a couple places in Chicago, about two dozen (and growing) places in L.A., and one Oakland-based gourmet food-truck that has some bourgeois $15 version of it. Even if quality is equal, a cemita is better than a torta because it's not too bready, has a fun hot/cold yin/yang effect, and the crunch and splash of pickled veggies and peppers. Rather than a football-sized pillow of bolillo bread, cemitas are on sensibly sized seeded buns that are rather pretzel-like. Hot meat and cold cheese, peppers, and veggies come together at the last second before serving.

Metro Portland's cemita choices include a hip, trendy gourmet place that serves a petite $11 cemita that is creative without undoing its essential cemita-ness, and a little hole-in-the-wall out in Hillsboro that serves a strictly low-brow/no-brow blue-collar version for $6 that is at least close enough to sniffing the heavenliness of the lights-out authentic (or so I've heard from seemingly very credible people) cemitas I've had in East L.A. and Boyle Heights.

The stretch of T.V. Highway between "downtown" Beaverton and Hillsboro has dozens (yes, at least two dozen!) taco trucks.

Jananaknits said...

I was excited to go to heckarap but my mom is coming to town that night and I don't think it's her scene. Next time!

Stephen Glass said...

That kind of weather is the best.

beckler said...

Sorry, Rick, I don't believe you. I know you are psyched on cemitas but are you taking for granted the tortas we have in sac? yucatecan food is awesome, the little I've had. but we probably don't have it cuz maybe not many yucatecans live here, but for instance, we have a lot of chilangos and their style of food is awesome.

I will test it out next time I'm there though. I want to try a cemita.

beckler said...

oh, and the thing that clinched it for me as far as wanting to move was the four dollar showing of citizen kane in a theater that sells you beer and pizza and then provides tables in front of the seats. and it was a crowded showing. and a nice walk from where I was. very nice. and probably safer than walking around here. pretty different from three art house screens that can barely sustain themselves that's a sketchy walk from my house.

i'm bitter right now. i'll get over it.

beckler said...

I just saw that somebody below called out the weed prices in American Beauty! He charges lester two thousand dollars for a small bag! The writer had obviously never smoked weed.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the dealer was taking advantage of Lester cause he knew he was a square who didn't know how much weed should cost and had the money to pay for it? I haven't watched it in forever so I don't even remember this scene.


Anonymous said...

The Xmas Show on Dec 21st will put the Sac back into Heckasac!

beckler said...

even if I lived in Portland I would come down for the xmas show

Anonymous said...

We used to live right in DP's current neighborhood pre gentrification. Good rent rates then. I do like some of the new stuff on the Division strip. There is a good yoga place in that new building with your bakery. One of the teachers drones out on a harmonium at the beginning and end of class.

I still think Sac matches Portland's food overall, just without the hype and TV show. You are going to find things in both places that you can't get in the other.


Anonymous said...

I spend way too much time rolling my eyes about all the awesome things Portland has that we don't (I admit to sipping on the haterade). I should probably go up there some weekend and give it another chance.

I've been watching a lot of Portlandia.


DJ Rick said...

Am I crazy? I've been to Portland three times since September, and I'm hoping we can get back up there one more time because I'm so bummed about the food I didn't get to eat on the last visit.

There's this weird scungy tavern really closeby to that area of Division that I got a photo of. While shopping in the vintage clothing store next door to it, I eavesdropped on a conversation between the store owner and the landlord who was warning him that the rent was going up. I actually heard the figures being discussed and just about choked. Not because it was expensive, but the exact opposite. The space where Buffcastle existed was more than this guy was paying for at least triple the square footage and probably 800% more window frontage in a rather dense commercial area with increasing foot traffic. The space where Phono Select used to be was three times the price of the increased rent. And the dude was still on a month-to-month after years at that location.

undercover caterer said...

I had the misfortune of living across the river in Vancouver WA for a while and I couldn't haul ass fast enough to get home. But I had to wait for my baby to be born. That was also 23 years ago. I digress.

I still go to Portland at least twice a year, maybe more. There are plusses, there are minuses....

1l If you have any any any inkling of depression, stay the fuck away.
I don't think the ethnic food diversity is as good. I don't think the farmers market thing happens as much either, or maybe I'm just not aware. The growing season (if you garden) is super short.
Some of that Portlandia shit is real. Some people really have this righteous bs attitude that makes me want to punch them.
Wine = not as good.
The pattern of restaurants letting customers choose "three sides" as their meal, even if they don't go together and would assault any good chef's sense of well being. The fucking lines for brunch.

2. The weather from July to October is good. Beer = obviously good. A lot of good restaurants, high on charcuterie. High on small plates. Oregon beaches. No sales tax. Good shopping at little places, not malls. Love all the separate neighborhoods that are almost self-sustaining. THEATERS. I love going to the movies there.
All my friends live there. (hence my frequent visits). Bitchin dive bars. There's still a couple of ancient tiki bars too.

Well if you move there, I can put you on my list of people to visit.

DJ Rick said...

Portland has multiple areperias. That's Venezuelan. Even multiple Belizean options. And 450% more Ethipian places (if you count two in Sac despite Habesha's suckiness). Having diverse food options is apparently not so much a matter of having a diverse population as it is a matter of "How adventurous are your white people when it comes to dining?" No wonder so many of them seem a little too proud about it.

beckler said...

The wine is 99% more to my taste than the wine here. I also went to Olympic Provisions (makes their own charcuter) and got a glass of Fino sherry. These are simple pleasures that are almost unattainable here. Pleasures for me, not everyone.

More of a book-oriented culture overall, and I am totally talking about big picture, not dissing anybody.

People do not seem as nice, that's true. I got huffy attitude from at least two Powell's people and a vintage clerk, but other people were really nice so that's a pretty small sample. Smug level is a lot higher there.

I have to spend over two years more at my job for a retirement thing so this is just pie in the sky. Sac is Sac and sometimes I love the Sacness and sometimes I hate it.

DJ Rick said...

When we ran into David Paul and Caroline at a wedding this year and the inevitable Sac/Portland comparisons came up, I mentioned how I thought it was unfair that Sac was on some list of "10 unfriendliest cities". I just figured there were at least 10 cities that were much more notorious for boorish jerks like Boston or Anytown, NJ. But DP said "I can totally see that".

During that trip, we counted the number of cars that went by as we walked up to a crosswalk. It was one for the entire trip through perhaps dozens of crossings.

Back home in Sac, I rededicated myself to stopping at any crosswalk where a pedestrian was waiting on the curb. And I have never been honked at or flipped off more in my life.

Anonymous said...

Every time we've been to Portland (we were pretty much on a twice a year schedule too, before this year) I always felt everyone was way nicer up there. Sometimes I feel like all the smugness and snootyness is a projection (not by anyone here, but by all the people that complain of hipsters in general). Even the curliest of mustached fellas and twee-est ladies have always proven to be extremely nice once I've actually interacted with any of them. And yeah, the theaters, food, beautiful surroundings...we always leave Portland wanting to move there someday soon, and we always joke that if we can convince a percentage of our friends to move there too we'd do it. But yeah, then things like the Four Eyes Christmas show and the Halloween show happen and I feel like I could never leave.


DJ Rick said...

I saw a Halloween-type show in Portland where some people did some great funny versions of The Wipers, The Clean, Joan Jett, and Depeche Mode, but it was actually during the weekend adjacent to Halloween. I guess Portland doesn't do "ironic" like Sac does.

Anonymous said...

I would not call the Halloween show "ironic."

beckler said...

Dangerous ground Rick, dangerous ground. I think "joyful commununal experience" sums it up better.

DP pointed out that he visited Sac 6 times last year. I bet he was here for most of the good stuff.

I know I sound kinda assy with this thread.

Caroline said...


It is ridiculous to say that Sacramento has better food than Portland. That doesn't mean that Sac doesn't have great food, but just by sheer numbers Portland has more. And, the food is way more affordable up here. I do hate to do the comparison game, but I have to pipe up once it starts being played.

It is totally possible to live up here as a person with depression. I am a sunshine obsessed California girl with it, and winters here are fine. For some people they are too hard, yes. But the summers here are so goddamn fucking glorious that I don't care.

I do think that Sacramento knows how to have fun more than Portland. Because it was a small city with nothing to do, y'all had to find a way to make your own fun, and everyone is up for any kind of party or project. The Sac Halloween show is unlike the Halloween cover band shows I've been to here (they only have 4 bands play, wimps). And my Sac friends are so deeply and personally involved in the community, I think you can really take personal credit for making it the great place it is right now. This is one of the things I miss most about Sacramento, although of course with time I am finding my community up here.

It's funny that I've lived here for over three years now (!!) and Rick Ele knows way more about Portland than I do. Next time you are in town, Rick, will you take DP and I on a tour?

Scott Miller said...

But does Portland have an ARENA??? Oh, it does, never mind.

Caroline said...

It does, and DP and I are seeing Nine Inch Nails there next Monday. NIN is not going to Sacramento on this tour. So, that's another thing we have going for us.

DJ Rick said...

I only mean that Sac's Halloween shows are "ironic" insofar as they don't happen during Halloween season. And Portland's are not because they do. And this was supposed to be "funny" because everything else about Portland points to it being one of the world capitals of irony. But any joke that has to apologized for and explained is obviously not funny. I'm sorry, everybody! I do still love Sac.

DJ Rick said...

And YES...Caroline and DP, I will chauffeur you all over on my tour of Portland including its hinterlands!

At the height of my gonna-move-to-Portland-anytime-now-ness when I was booking more shows up there than down here and traveled as much as 6-7 times per year there (during the venue drought between Espresso Metro/Primo's and Fools Foundation), I gave a tour of weird roadside Americana and glimpses of old weird Portland that pre-dated "Keep Portland Weird" to some musician friends.

This tour included a buffet lunch at the timewarpy Georgian Room above the old Meier & Frank store, Harvey the Rabbit, an A & W family lacking context in a city park, the world's tallest barbasol, a cable-drawn ferry over the Willamette, some weird people's house where you could pet giant turtles, and some old pre-I-5/US Route 99 stuff. It was such a hit with these friends that I started getting requests from others to take this tour.

The Georgian Room and the reptile house are no longer an option, but I think that all the other sites are still there.

beckler said...

not meaning to chop-bust on you rick. I will definitely check out one or two of your Mexican recs.

lol at the room you can pet turtles

if kj knew 9 inch nails were skipping us he would bring it up as a pro-arena argument. rightly so

Scott Miller said...

On the bright side we're still a stop on this year's Trans-Siberian Orchestra holiday tour.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip Smiller. I'm gonna see if McKenna can get my band on the bill.


Anonymous said...

Well guess I will weight in. Caroline you are spot on here with all your points.
Portland has better food, better stuff to do and many of the people I love most in the whole world, including my family. But it doesn't have my community that I have spent most of my adult life building. and while it is difficult here at times and will wear you down if you let it, it is where my heart is. and so in the end Portland doesn't have me.


Anonymous said...

How did Portland get to be as cool as Portland is? It certainly didn't get that way by having all the cool/hip people give up on Portland when it was down and move to a different, cooler city.

If all the great people in Sacramento would just stay here and make it better instead of taking the easy way out and moving to Portland, Seattle, San Diego or SF, our city would just keep getting better and better.

Scott Miller said...

I think Portland got so cool at least partially BECAUSE so many people moved there from other places! But I hear what you're saying. I've lived here my whole life and can honestly say I've never been as sick of Sac as I am now. This is just based on my personal interests.

Caroline said...

It also has a lot to do with having local government supporting the arts, small businesses, and social programs. You could have the awesomest people ever (and Sac does!) but community development is still limited by what local government will legally allow and support. Unfortunately, Sacramento is zoned poorly and has a fucked city gov't and a lot of stupid laws that inhibit small, local businesses. It's definitely gotten better recently, but broadly speaking it's important to recognize that this is a much bigger factor for cities being awesome than being a hub for cool people.

People come to Portland because it has a good cost of living and decent wages. If you can't find a job (big problem), it's relatively easy to putter along due to affordable housing, food, and entertainment, and Oregon provides decent social services for the poor and unemployed. A *lot* of the things that are awesome about it up here are due to excellent city planning, public services, and local laws that support not only businesses but also workers (for example, food servers get paid the state minimum wage, not that bullshit server wage). I want these things for Sacramento and for California.

the armeniac said...

Portland got cool because it's huge. If Sac squeezed 30,000 more people into the grid it would match a lot of what Portland got. And let's not forget how just incredibly awfully horrible Portland was in the 90's, drunks and junkies were the dominate punk type. Sac's scene has been consistently fun and vibrant for at least 20 years.

DJ Rick said...

I do get what anonymous is saying, but Scott and Caroline hit the nail on the head. Portland has a magnetism to it, but it also retains much of its home-grown talent, energy, and creativity. Sac is a city where most of the brightest, most creative, funnest, and energetic teenagers aspire to leave as soon as possible. And the same is true at our major local universities...especially UC-Davis.

The other thing about Portland was already evident 20 years ago when I went to college there was that every neighborhood had its own historic business district that had at least a few really useful places that people from that neighborhood frequented. Meanwhile, in Sacramento, many neighborhoods have very scant business districts with tons of open lots and chronically vacant storefronts that need a lot of work to be turnkey.

Punk-wise, Portland in the 90s may have been known to be the whipping boy of Seattle's über-scene. Its depressing underbelly was its most evident attribute, but that did hide the fact that a lot of awesome things were happening there which was not well-known to people here or elsewhere. The X-Ray Cafe is pretty much the kernel of the DIY music scene that has become so preeminent for the last decade or so. I've got the X-Ray Cafe documentary on DVD if anyone wants to see proof.

That said, I did miss seeing bands in Davis and Sacto while I was up there. When I came home to bands like the Yahmos, Pope Smashers, Los Huevos, and Nar, I felt like my pasture got greener. But I also know that I didn't get too ensconced in that X-Ray Cafe scene. If I had become a fixture there, I reckon it would've felt very similar to The Loft, but with weirder music, violins, and more theater, and even a little bit of hacky-sack seshin'.

Anonymous said...

The X-Ray! I haven't thought about that place in a million years. Only saw a few shows there but some good ones for sure.


Anonymous said...

DP, I agree having a greater number of people in the city proper is part of it. So much of our population is in the burbs.

I remember seeing a little bit of the junkie/drunkie thing when I was living there in the mid 90s, but I don't remember it being the defining vibe.


Dave Smith said...

DJ Rick, next time I'm in PDX, I demand a list of places to eat!

There was a time in the mid-1990s where people debated (and moved) to Sacramento vs Portland. I remember talking to Scott about how insane it was that there would sometimes be 3 shows to see on one night in Sacramento! Thank god the Sac City Council put a stop to that.

Please remember that the creative scene also includes: musicians, artists, photographers, scientists, engineers and programmers.

Sacramento gets lucky because as a state capital, scientists go out of there way to move here. Then they get fucked and end up with a job at a music store in a small town (cough**Andrew*cough).