Destination: Portland, OR

portland 09 2015

Portland, Oregon is a cute city to visit if you only have a few days. I have vacationed there several times over the years, so I was excited to focus this 3-day trip almost exclusively on food & drink and only limited sightseeing. It’s been a hot and humid summer that’s carried over into September, which lends itself to cocktail and beer drinking. Lucky for me Portland has plenty of that to offer.

What first caught my eye was that many restaurants and bar menus featured a milk punch. Milk punch may have its origins in the Deep South, but it appears to be on the rise in the Rose City. It is generally described as a cold brandy/bourbon cocktail with milk, sugar and vanilla extract. (1) Bit House Saloon’s twist on the milk punch was a coconut milk substitution for dairy milk. With Portland being one of the cities that spearheaded the most recent artisanal style coffee roasting movement, it’s no wonder that some of their milk punches, like at (2) Tasty N’ Alder, would feature a little coffee. While you’re there, check out their brunch items that include American classics, some of which feature Latin American or Asian inspiration. I opted for (3) the fried egg & cheddar biscuit with fried chicken, (4) a chocolate potato doughnut with crème anglaise, and (5) a burrata watermelon salad (in an attempt to lighten the meal).

If rum is more your style, then (6) Rum Club has what you’re looking for. While the atmosphere is on mellow tropical side, don’t expect any kitschy umbrellas in your drink. Their focus is on the rum selection and ingredients. I kept it simple and ordered (7) a Rum Club daiquiri which blends aged rum, lime juice, maraschino liqueur, Angostora bitters, and absinthe.

Let’s be honest though, most of us know Portland to be a beer drinking city with more breweries per capita than almost any other US city. A friend recommended the relatively young (8) Commons Brewery as one of the musts. With 13 taps, Commons Brewery is pouring mostly their own stuff. This made it easy to choose a flight that included everything they had available that day. There were some very drinkable ales with a few options for the more curious to try – lavender or chamomile, anyone? They also had a selection of (9) local cheeses and charcuterie to hold us over before the next meal.  

And speaking of commons, Clyde Common in Portland’s Ace Hotel offers up a brunch that at first glance looks like the typical American breakfast selection. A closer look and you’ll find some variety that feels a little more Pacific Northwest, like their Oregon Bay shrimp salad and halibut omelet. I opted for (10) a cup of coffee (11) the house smoked brisket hash with fresno chile, beef fat mayo, and a sunny side up egg.

In between eating and drinking, my friends and I took a short drive up to Washington Park to visit (12) the International Rose Test Garden and (13) the Portland Japanese Garden. The rose garden features thousands or rose plants which are neatly organized and labeled. You will see variety names that range from (14) Cherry Parfait to Barbra Streisand to Twilight Zone to Ketchup & Mustard. It seems like rose have something in common with race horses – a tradition of coming up with really ridiculous names for them.  The roses bloom between April and October, and peak around June; so visits should be planned accordingly.

Right across the way from the rose garden is Portland’s Japanese Garden which first opened in 1967. Through part of August 2015, the garden featured (15) a crossbeam of a shrine/gate that had washed up on Oregon’s coast 2 years after the tsunami hit Japan in 2011. It has since been transported back to its home in Japan. The garden will be undergoing significant expansion and will be closed for several months between late 2015 and early 2016, so one should call in ahead before making plans to visit one of the most authentic examples of a classic Japanese garden in the United States.

Although this trip featured a lot of food and drink, the city has so much more to offer, and I can’t wait to come back soon and resume where I left off. Have any recommendations for my next visit?


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