Eating my way through Oregon
This picture was made possible by the Pacific Northwest.
After gorging myself for a few days in the Emerald City, I made my way down to Portland. I have long fantasized about moving there, and envision it as a smaller, grittier, slightly less soggy Seattle. It still has the bad traffic, the heavy blanket of grey clouds and the ubiquitous espresso stands (very important!), but also seems to have a more quirky, DIY-ish culture and cheaper rent.
With the help of the lovely website ExtraMSG.com, I sought out a few particularly delish restaurants where I would proceed to stuff myself. At Ken's Place, I had a lovely dungeness crabcake sandwich and a mammoth chocolate chip cookie, still warm from the oven. Soon afterwards, I ate this entire box of goodies from Pix Patisserie:
Clockwise: Blue cheese truffle with glitter, chocolate hazelnut macaroon, “Ambrosia” rosemary and port truffle, blackberry macaroon
Maybe it was the drizzle, maybe it was the long drive, maybe it was just the fact that I was eating alone, but dinner that night at Pho Oregon was pretty depressing. The food was good (I had pho tai), but the restaurant’s interior and the surrounding neighborhood were both dreary. It reminded me of those really cheap cafés in London. You huddle in a sorry plastic booth with a cup of tea, the rain pisses down outside and suddenly you feel like the main character in a Mike Leigh movie: you live in a council flat with a verbally abusive boyfriend and you’ve got rotten teeth and a terrible job sweeping up trash in an orange jumpsuit or scrubbing out bathtubs in a nursing home. God help me!
Where was I? Oh, poor Pho Oregon. It wasn’t that bad, and ExtraMSG did warn me about the lack of decor. But it inspired a slight twinge of gloominess for the rest of the night. Multiply that times four years and you might come close to my experience living in Seattle. Perhaps I am not cut out for a return to the Pacific Northwest after all.
Nevertheless, I had a wonderful time visiting. The highlight of my trip occurred last Friday at the Portland Art Museum. A huge, glorious exhibit on the Pre-Raphaelites wasn’t scheduled to open until the following day, but I lurked around its entrance for so long that a kindly guard finally let me slip in behind a press tour. Heart pounding at the prospect of being busted and publicly humiliated by one of the suspicious museum employees, my ratty jeans and I toured the collection and received the curator’s uninspiring lecture on the Victorians alongside a group of black-clad arts writers from New York. An attempt to crash the complimentary writers’ lunch that followed would probably have concluded this little streak of fortune in a very obvious and embarrassing way, so I made a quick exit and called my mom, chortling with glee at my subterfuge. Then I realized yet again what a gigantic nerd I am, and got the heck out of the city.
I met Eliz at her home in Eugene, and we then commenced an indulgent weekend in which we sampled just about everything on the menu at Sweetlife, a nearby café that specializes in all things sugary. This is right up our alley. Behold:
Vegan chocolate mousse cake with strawberries
Giant, hulking creampuff in the foreground; airy, light raspberry cheesecake in the background
In some sort of deranged attempt at contrition, we paired our sugar-soaked evenings of cake with lots of vegan and vegetarian meals.
I thought vegetarians never ate anything with a face? Har har. Giant calzone from Pizza Research Institute
Vegan breakfast sandwich with soysage and “tantric mushroom gravy” (I so don’t want to know what that is) from Morning Glory Cafe
Vegan sweet potato omelette with tofu sour cream and vegan banana bread from Morning Glory Cafe
We also spent a lot of time eating Mexican food in Eugene. To wit:
Eliz with a chorizo taco at Lupita’s
Excellent posole at Plaza Latina supermarket
The excellent posole up close and personal
An okay tamale at Plaza Latina
Champurrado and stale bread
And finally, we had champurrado paired with some decidedly wretched and stale bread (pan dulce? I’m not sure what these are called) at Plaza Latina. Their posole was delicious. After that, nothing else really measured up.
Later I drove out to the coast in order to experience how the rain in Bandon, Oregon differed from the rain in Eugene. I stopped into the Bandon Baking Company and sampled this little treat:
Sailor Jack turned out to be a tiny spice cake covered with delicate white icing. Although I despise raisins, I adore spice cake. Here the raisins were absolutely unnoticeable because they appeared to have been soaked in some toothsome nectar (Booze? Probably not.) to the point of total disintegration. Perfection.