Portland is a beautiful city. Plain and simple. Its lush greenery blankets the sprawling town while the inhabitants create a diverse playground for one to feed their soul in any which way they choose. Yoga? They have it. Breweries? Plenty. Food from every region? You bet. Sales Tax? NOPE!
Even as children, one of my best friend's and I have been constant travelers. The last trip we took together (Israel, Prague and Budapest) was over 6 years ago! We were due. Even if we couldn't make it as impressive as our last, an adventure was still an adventure. Her inspiring IG account ArtJaunts, documents some of her most recent travels including last years, year long, multiple countries and states journey.
For this trip, a friend who we hadn't seen in many moons, was living in Portland and generously invited us to stay with her. Our "Birthday Girl's Trip" came to fruition.
Highlights | Honorable Mentions
Upper Left Roasters
Each day in Portland, we made it a daily habit to venture to different coffee shops. Some being across town, some being a few minutes away and some being tea bars instead of coffee. In the end, we always kept coming back to Upper Left Roasters.
It is the quintessential Portland coffee shop with a fantastic selection of high-end teas, home made chai lattes and specifically curated coffees. Keeping to their klean and simple image, a few chosen breakfast options line the menu.
When it came to meals
I HAD to place Canteen as the main image. It was either that or Mt. Hood, which is funny because my first impression of Canteen was not one of excitement. Art Jaunts repeatedly expressed to me that on her last trip to Portland, she ate their multiple times and loved it! I remember thinking, "THAT'S INSANE!". Portland has so many fantastic eats, why would you have a plain ol' bowl multiple times???
BUT I'll say it here and now, I was wrong. Canteen for its simplicity in concept, knocks it out of the park with their bowls.
The bowl that I DID go back multiple times to have was the Portland Bowl - quinoa, black beans, baked maple tempeh, nw sauce, kale & carrots chopped Oregon hazelnuts. I subbed the quinoa for brown rice and added avocado (duh). Everything worked in unison. Soft, but hearty chunks of flavorful tempeh cluttered the dish. Savory sauce poured in and around every morsel was almost worthy of bowl licking and the addition of hazelnuts was an unexpected, yet refreshing ingredient–a nice departure from the overused almond. This bowl became the dish we craved when coming back from our Mt. Hood hike.
At some point during our trip, we made it to the much acclaimed Virtuous Pie. For those who are diehard Virtuous Pie lovers, you may not like what I have to say next so close your eyes and scroll to the next paragraph.
I wanted to love it, I really really did! It's a beautiful pie and the ingredients are fantastic including the handmade crust, but I still didn't love it. There was something about the earthy crust that impeded on my ability to enjoy the ingredients above and the ingredients above didn't shine through enough to overpower the flavor of the crust. Everything kinda fell flat. Interestingly enough, the next day when I ate it cold, it tasted better (?). Either way, I'm still very, very happy that this beautiful spot exists and that they make vegan pizza to order for the on-the-go consumer.
Vtopia Cheese Shop and Deli
One spot that I do see myself running back to is Vtopia Cheese Shop and Deli. Yes, this spot has changed hands multiple times. No, it's not the same owners as the Vtopian cheese anymore. Yes, everything was still delicious.
The ownership may still confuse even me, but the dishes we tried didn't disappoint.
My favorite out of the bunch was the generous Caprese sandwich (middle). The slabs of buffalo mozzarella amongst thick slices of juicy tomatoes and fresh basil was spot on. Hearty and not weak; exactly what I want from a sandwich.
A.N.D Cafe/Off the Griddle
Last time I was in Portland, one of my favorite meals was at A.N.D Cafe which is now A.N.D Cafe/Off the Griddle (still trying to figure out the whole name change thing). I had a savory mushroom waffle with one of the best tofu scrambles I've ever had and a pumpkin cheesecake waffle. This time, sadly, the savory mushroom waffle was not on the menu. Instead, I went with the Feast Waffle - stuffed w/ sausage, hash browns, cheese, topped w/ country gravy, and herb tofu.
Man oh man I wanted to love it! BUT, this too fell flat for me. All the flavors melded together and nothing stood out. It just tasted like, well, waffle. The herb tofu wasn't how I remembered either or maybe since the last time I went Kitchen Mouse has now taken 1st place in the herbed tofu category for me and all others fail in comparison, but it just didn't have the same impact. Since going, I've seen other friends post lovely dishes from here (Vegetaryn) and I would love to go back and give it another go. I will not write them off so easily. I know they have game and I'm determined to put them in high standings again.
While there we went to some great bars, breweries and rooftop lounges. A couple highlights were:
Bye and Bye
We met up with a couple friends for happy hour at Bye and Bye to enjoy some damn good gin and tonics and what Portland sometimes calls "bar food" in their outside patio.
The Gin & Tonic was top notch delicious - house infused lemongrass gin and tonic syrup with cardamom bitters topped with soda. The dishes we ordered were The BBQ brussel bowl and pretzel knots. Both were very tasty and again, another stand out delivery on prepared tempeh. If this spot was in LA, I could see myself frequenting it often.
Multnomah Whiskey Library
On another evening we went to a library I can't stop telling people about. A library that lines its walls not with books, but with rows and rows of old and new liquors. The Multnomah Whiskey Library is classy, exclusive and a truly enjoyable experience. Don't let the name fool you. I'm a gin/vodka drinker and they created a phenomenal drink, in front of me, at our table. I don't want to give too much of the experience away, so I'll tell you to just go.
Portland has many many breweries and one of the ones we made it too was Base Camp. We took a seat at the bar and enjoyed the classic Portland experience...on a weekday.
Little Fun Fact: All bars in Portland have to serve food and most/if not all of them contain vegan options easily spelled out.
Oblation Papers & Press
On the day we chose to explore the local stores, we stumbled upon Oblation Papers & Press. My friend was in heaven. She is a fellow designer who does also enjoys letter pressing. I, myself, got caught up in their awesome card selection...and yes, I definitely bought some because I couldn't stop laughing.
Laughter, is of course, the best medicine.
On the same day, I found some of the best truffles I've ever had. Meaning, I've had them before, thought they were exceptional and then never had them again because I couldn't find them locally and/or was too lazy to try to seek them out intentionally as I have little to no sweet tooth normally.
BUT I was extremely happy to stumble upon them now!
Missionary Chocolates are exquisite. Even with my barely there sweet tooth, I would still dive into a box and tell you to get your own.
The People's Yoga
A key element to our "Girls Trip" was making sure we also actively engaged in the mind/body aspect. This mean't yoga, hiking and walking were to be staples amid our shenanigans.
We found a yoga studio called The People's Yoga and took an early morning Vinyasa class to get our bodies flowing and our minds relaxing.
Snackrilege Turkey and Cheese Sandwich
Peeled Peas Please
Justins Pretzels and Almond Butter
Zand Antioxident Zinc Cough Drops. Why you ask? Provides a simple form of extra nutrients without any hassle.
Nuts from the bins
The hiking trail we took was called Mirror Lake | Tom, Dick and Harry. Not incredibly strenuous, but fairly long and elevated–testing our endurance (~6.5 miles). Thankfully, we were all pretty prepared for our adventure.
We were met with ideal hiking conditions as a crisp chill hung in the air and the terrain, a far cry from Griffith Park or Runyon Canyon. Perfect. An escape from the LA scene. An escape into remoteness...or semi-remoteness as we were still in a fairly populated area. Appreciatively, we were not running into traffic trail jams.
I can still feel everything when I gaze upon the moments I captured as we progressed on our hike.
I fell in love with a scene we passed. The owner taking a break in a hammock while his/her dog waits patiently by for her/him to erupt refreshed.
As we continued on, the hike increased in altitude. We rounded corners, we tip-toed near edges, we stepped over rocks upon rocks until we finally emerged.
At the summit.
We took our moments to reflect upon our journey. Our journey on the trail and off. What it took to get to this exact moment. Where life had twisted and turned to get me right there.
As we took our time to relax on a few rocks, squirrels galore began to emerge–unafraid of the humans trespassing. They only had one thing on their minds-FOOD.
We took our time descending and I grabbed a few more shots on the way down. Taking one of Mirror Lake as we passed and one questionable tree which I leave to your imagination.
Our timing: About 3 hours, 45 min.
I plan to head up to Portland in the future and hike one of the trails on Mt. Hood. Who's with me?
When you're not running off on a solo trip, the right people will make a trip. This trip was made by the people I surrounded myself with and I couldn't be more grateful to have each of them in my life.
I encourage you to plan an experience with those that applaud you to be you. It doesn't have to be grandiose, just something that will feed your soul, your body and your mind.