Tastes of Portland and Seattle

I’ll get to the last four new experiences (all were completed and two blogs are nearly done), but I feel like I need to write about the last week. The lack of photos in this post reflects our states of mind, we took less than 10 pictures between us.

It’s been a surreal week. I haven’t slept a lot. Senator Harry Reid did a nice job of summarizing some of the conclusions I also reached during those sleepless nights. That is, I will not accept nor normalize bullying, particularly from positions of power. I will work towards respect and opportunities FOR ALL, with my voice, my vote, and my vocation. I invite my friends and family and readers of this blog to join me. Hatred is neither a family, nor an American value. 

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog post. We were in Portland, Oregon last week for a National Science Teachers Association conference. Given my state of mind (and how many of these conferences I’ve attended), I don’t have much to say about the conference. I can, however, always talk about food 🙂

We arrived Wednesday night and opted to ride the TriMet MAX light rail into town. It was a good choice. It costs $2.50 per person, and takes about 30 minutes from the airport to the Convention Center. Given that it was rush hour, and there were protests, it would have taken far longer (and cost much more) to take a taxi.

After checking in, we opted to order food from Pok Pok using the Caviar delivery service. There was an up-charge on each item and a delivery charge (which are somewhat reasonable trade-offs if you don’t want to go out), but the two bigger issues with Caviar were that (a) it obliterated my cart when I entered my billing zip code instead of the current location zip code when no guidance was given and (b) they brought utensils, but no plates, so dishing up was a challenge for us in a hotel.

How was Pok Pok itself, you ask? Yum yum. The fish sauce wings had great flavor (delivery was not kind to their crispiness) and not too much heat. The house speciality Kai Yaang (roasted chicken) was tender and juicy inside with crunchy and flavorful skin–and the sauces were exquisite. The Papaya Pok Pok was perfectly spicy and balanced and the sticky rice was, well, sticky. I’d recommend a visit, but go to the restaurant if you can to avoid the downsides of delivery. (Apparently that can be challenging too, or so we hear.)

For lunch after our first presentation, Cece and I ventured to Pioneer Courthouse Square. We didn’t have a restaurant in mind, but happened upon Pastini Pastaria, a local chain. They offered a great selection of $8.50 lunch specials, which turned out to be pretty tasty and just the right amount for lunch. A more-than-serviceable choice if you find yourself in the neighborhood.

On our second evening, we trekked about a mile down Grand Avenue to Kachka, a Russian restaurant I found on the Eater 38 list. Maureen was a little skeptical about the offerings, but gamely agreed to try it. We started with a flight of vodka (go figure) from three different Oregon distilleries and added the horseradish vodka for good measure. We ordered the beet salad and some bread and butter as well. The beet salad consisted of roasted beets, cheese, and walnuts atop a purée of pickled beets and was fantastic. There were two breads, a sweetish pumpernickel and a delicious rye, which were served with a crisp green onion and spectacular butter. Next up was the fish board, which included beet-cured salmon, mackerel, smoked trout, cod liver pashtet, and crimean mussels. I could have skipped the pâté, but the rest of the fish was very tasty. And there was more bread and butter. Finally, we had cheese vareniki, which were delightfully creamy and tart.

The dessert menu claimed two kinds of cookies that could “change your life,” so of course we had to try them both. They were pretty awesome. One type was filled with caramel, while the other type was actually served as slices of a fudgy roll. Yum.

The return trip was a little more exciting than we had hoped. We had planned to take the streetcar back to our hotel. We walked a couple blocks up to the trolley stop, but at that point we had caught up with the evening’s protesters and neither transit nor traffic was moving at all. When cars started whizzing around in circles in the nearby intersection, we beat a hasty retreat and crossed over to the parallel street to walk back as we had come. The protest broke up before it reached our hotel, but we were back long before any traffic was flowing on that street.

Lunch on Friday was at Burgerville. The fries were crispy, hot, and full of potato flavor, but the burgers were no match for Bingo Burger.

Friday night we met extended family in another part of town. They made a reservation for Cabezon. It was an excellent choice. Maureen had an outstanding Manhattan, and excellent Grouper with Brussels sprouts. I had Cioppino, one of the house specialties, which was jam-packed with fresh fish and shellfish. And we had a great visit with great people.

Portland Station


We left Portland early Saturday for Seattle. If you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned breakfast in this post, it’s because they were all purchased at the Starbucks across the street, and this morning was no exception. From there we took the light rail to the train station for our Amtrak Cascades ride. I don’t think we got to experience its high-speed features, since we were following a slow freight train for most of the trip. The scenery, however, was beautiful, including a rainbow above one of the bays.

Seattle Station

Upon our arrival in Seattle, we were picked up by my Vancouver brother and his family. We headed immediately (imagine that) to lunch. It was pizza and it was pretty good, as was the homemade Ginger Beer, but that’s all I can tell you. I’ll try to do better next time.

We ate dinner in, with roasted fingerlings and excellent pink and coho salmon from the Vancouver fishery co-op I’ve discussed before. And a fantastic Côte du Rhône rosé.

After a leisurely morning, we had our last lovely meal of the trip at Capitol Cider near downtown Seattle. They boast a completely gluten- and peanut-free kitchen. In addition to ciders (go with the Wandering Aengus Bloom if they have it–I didn’t and regretted it), they have a full menu of brunch items. The fried chicken thighs were a hit, and I really enjoyed the chilaquiles. Apparently the grilled mushroom was quite tasty, and the fries were respectable, if a bit salty. We had planned to get a cinnamon roll for dessert (a rare treat for the wheat- or gluten-intolerant), but everyone was just too stuffed. I would definitely go back–even in a town with as many options as Seattle has.

With that we left family and the Pacific Northwest and a few days of recovery through eating to return to Colorado. A little nurtured and definitely well-fed, we move forward with resolve.

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