Adventure Guide 2013: Portland, Oregon


“Portlandia” might lead you to believe that Portland is home only to tattooed baristas with the occasional mustache, but it’s also an epicenter for outdoor activity; every Portlander has his or her activity of choice, and with so many outdoor activities easily accessible, it isn’t difficult to get a taste of the attitude that keeps this city alive. Nearby Sauvie Island is popular with cyclists who like long rides through rolling farmland. The hikers and trail runners flock to Forest Park, home to over 70 miles of trail and the 30.2-mile Wildwood Trail. Water enthusiasts head to Hood River and the White Salmon area out in the Columbia Gorge, but there is also plenty of kayaking to be had in and around the city center.

Portland is always abuzz with new activities, new bike tours and an outdoor event to attend. Mount Hood Skibowl recently opened up the ski area’s new 500-foot zipline, and you can even ride it in the winter. Mountain bike enthusiasts will want to check out the new Lumberyard Bike Park, an indoor bike park with plenty of technical riding trails fit for all skill levels. If you’re more into road riding, Velo Cult is the current stomping grounds for cyclists that like a good night out – it’s a bike shop, bar and venue, and there is quite frequently an event of interest being held. And of course if you’re hell-bent on combining one of Portland’s other favorite pastimes – beer drinking – with your adventures, Brewvana offers the occasional “Boards and Beer” tour, which features a day on the mountain followed by a sampling of local brews.

Whatever your activity of choice is, Portland probably has it. Just make sure to do it with an Americano in hand.

Hotels

Inn at Northrup Station: Located in Northwest Portland, you’re within easy reach of the trails of Forest Park. All of the suites feature fully equipped kitchens, which means that even though you’re paying more than you would at some of the city’s budget hotels, it’s easy to prep your own breakfast and lunches to go before you head off for a day outside. From $139. 2025 NW Northrup Street, www.northrupstreetstation.com

Jupiter Hotel: A converted motor inn, the Jupiter Hotel is a funky boutique hotel that caters to those truly looking to take part in the Portland vibe. The adjacent Doug Fir Lounge, where you can get a $8 plate of eggs, hash browns and bacon for breakfast and then move onto the all day cocktail menu, feels like a space age log cabin, and is a popular hangout because it also houses a live music venue that attracts big names. They also have onsite bike rental as well as ZipCars, so you can either spin around town on two wheels or get out for the day to more adventurous spots like the coast or Mount Hood. From $79/night. 800 East Burnside, www.jupiterhotel.com

Oregon State Park Yurts: Yes, it rains in the Pacific Northwest, but that certainly doesn’t stop people in Portland from getting out of town and into the outdoors on weekends. Many of Oregon’s State Parks have yurts available for rent, even pet-friendly ones. If you’re headed to Portland for an extended stay, this is a fun and budget-friendly option that lets you explore Oregon’s outdoor spaces with the comfort of a warm bed. Cabins from $24/night, yurts from $35/night. Oregon State Park Yurst and Rustic Cabins.

Eat and Drink

Food Carts: Here’s the thing about Portland: you don’t have to look far to find a food cart. Local favorites include The Cultured Caveman (think hipsters on paleo diets) and The Honey Pot (sweet and savory hand pies, yes, please!). Note, however, that the Portland food cart scene is constantly changing and a good resource for keeping up on it is Food Carts Portland. If you’re in need of some food cart encouragement, you can also download the Portland food cart board game that the local newspaper, the Oregonian, put together. One word of advice: before you do any food cart scouting check out the detailed map – there are often over 475 food carts in operation at one time, you will want to plan ahead.

Base Camp Brewing: It would only make sense that in a city like Portland, adventure and beer would come together. Opened with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, Base Camp Brewing in Southeast Portland makes beer, as they call it “for the adventure-minded palate.” The interior looks just like the name would have you believe, and you’ll even find a canoe hanging from the ceiling. High-octane beers after a day outside? How Portland of you. 930 SE Oak Street, www.basecampbrewingco.com

Luc Lac: In between a morning of hiking in Forest Park and an afternoon on a Portland bridge tour by bike, hit up Luc Lac for lunch. A Vietnamese phrase that means “in movement,” it’s the perfect lunch or happy hour spot for the traveler that wants a delicious yet budget-friendly meal in a good Portland atmosphere. The vermicelli bowls are an excellent deal because of the amount of food to price ratio, and at happy hour you can sample a variety of $2 small plates. 835 SW 2nd Ave, http://luclackitchen.com/


Get outside

Kayak: Make your way to the Kayak School at Next Adventure Paddle Sports Center, which offers a variety of kayaking trips, as well as introduction, whitewater and sea kayaking classes. If you want a more urban trip, try the Ross Island tour, which will get you a good view of downtown Portland from the water. To escape the sounds of the city, check out the trip to Sauvie Island, an island just north of town and predominantly filled with farmland and wildlife refuge.

Hut Trip: In the summer at nearby Mt. Hood National Forest, Cascade Huts offers self-guided, multi-day mountain biking trips. They maintain a system of huts, which means you bike single-track and arrive at your backcountry abode, fully stocked with supplies. In the winter they do the same for snowshoers and cross-country skiers. For a multi-day trip in the cold of winter, you can’t go wrong with a warm mountain hut. http://www.cascadehuts.com/

Bike: You can’t visit Portland and not get on a bicycle. If you’re visiting in June be sure to check out Pedalpalooza, a three week long extravaganza of bike events, including the popular Naked Bike Ride and lots of organized rides themed around popular Portland pastimes like whiskey drinking. The city is currently working on getting a bike share program up and running, but until that happens there are a handful of good rental options around town. Portland Bike Tours (which can get you on a single speed so you can feel like a real Portlander) and Pedal Bike Tours can set you up as well as recommend preferred routes and tour options, like the Lava Tour, which takes you to Portland’s extinct volcano, Mt. Tabor. The Portland Bureau of Transportation has a collection of helpful maps when it comes to bike routes.

Get Around

If biking isn’t up your alley, the extensive network of public transportation will serve you well. Getting from the airport into Portland is easy thanks to the MAX light rail system, which gets you downtown in about half an hour – a $2.50 ticket is valid for two hours. Buy books of tickets in advance on Trimet’s website or at the Portland Visitor Information Center located in Pioneer Square downtown. Google Transit will help in planning your route (its recommended bike routes are also good) or you can also use the Trimet website or the Trimet smartphone app. ZipCar is also a great option if you want to get out of town for a few hours.

Adventure Tip

Any Portlander will tell you that an active afternoon should always be followed up with a beer. With over 70 brewpubs and microbrews, it would be inexcusable to not drink a locally made craft beer. Recently published “Hop in the Saddle” is an excellent resource for the beer and bike lover, offering up maps to bikeable craft beer routes, well suited to anyone that wants a taste of true Portland culture. Rent a bike and go. http://www.hopinthesaddle.com/


[Photo credit: Flickr user samgrover (top) and p medved]

Austin food trucks and DIY food culture

“My friend and I are thinking about starting a food truck back home in Columbus”, said my hometown friend, Joey, between bites of fish and chips from Bits & Druthers food truck on East 6th Street in Austin. I had taken him to this particular food truck cluster, dubbed East Side Drive In, selfishly. Ever since first trying the TLT (vegan BLT) from The Vegan Yacht, a food truck neighbor of Bits & Druthers, I’m always searching for an excuse to take friends to the East 6th Street cluster; just east of I-35. But excuses aren’t difficult to find. This particular food truck nesting spot houses not only The Vegan Yacht and Bits & Druthers, but a few others, too. There’s The Local Yolk, which specializes in eggs, especially egg sandwiches. There’s Pueblo Viejo, which just happens to have some of my favorite tacos in town. Pig Vicious is there too satiating all pig-related cravings. Mati dishes up Greek favorites and Love Balls serves Japanese street food. The roster seems to always be changing over at East Side Drive In, though, which is why it’s one of my favorite spots to frequent, especially with folks from out of town.

%Gallery-136561%The Austin food truck scene is something that immediately grabbed my attention and appealed to me when I moved to Austin just over a year ago. I mean, there is even a Trailer Food Festival each year in Austin called Gypsy Picnic. There’s certainly a DIY food culture here in Austin and it expands beyond food trucks.

Take, for example, Joel Haro, the founder of Love Puppies Brownies in Austin. Haro says his brownie company was “accidental”. He “accidentally” got into New York’s CIA and after returning to Texas and opening and closing a catering company, calls kept coming in for his chocolaty morsels… so he “accidentally” started Love Puppies Brownies. But I’m not sure all of this was accidental. His talent, of course, plays a huge role in his success. With flavors that employ dark chocolate chips and pecans, peanut butter, mocha, and even ground peppers, Haro knows what he’s doing. Another factor, I’d guess, is the notoriously supportive community in Austin for indie food. How else could a one man brownie show gain and sustain popularity so quickly?

When I spoke with Haro about the Austin community, he agreed that support for DIY food is widespread in the city. He cites Go Local, Keep Austin Weird, and Go Texan campaigns as breeding grounds for local business support. Austinites are open and adventurous which is reflected in their culinary tastes”, says Haro. He hopes to eventually see his decadent treats sold nationwide and with Austin as a launching pad, that very well may happen sooner than later.

Haley Callaway is another Austin-bred non-food truck but indie food success. She’s a busy college student who manages to head up HayleyCakes and Cookies–a bakery she runs out of her own kitchen by herself. I’ve never seen hand-decorated desserts compare to hers in their artfulness, especially her sugar cookies. With passion, talent, and, I’m guessing, a lot of caffeine, she has managed to launch her company while working between classes, studying business. The Austin community has warmly embraced her and when I spoke to Hayley about her increasing success, she noted that she had only slept 45 minutes the night before. It takes hard work, indeed, but it also takes a community that’s interested in straight-out-of-the-kitchen-at-home or straight-out-of-the-food-truck food. And Austin is that community.

So then the question now arises… what is it about Austin? Why are indie bakers and restauranteurs here doing so well? Maybe it’s a combination of the nice weather and affordable living. Maybe it’s an interest in new business that has been effectively fostered in this city more so than others. Perhaps we can study Austin and learn a thing or two about supporting the self-motivated and, in turn, broadening our culinary options everywhere.


Tour Austin, Texas

Summer travel: best U.S. cities for localized food lovers

best cities food loversWhat’s that you say? Summer’s half over? Those of us living here in the Pacific Northwest had no idea, given the lack of sun in these parts. But even if you’re getting slapped by the mother of all heat waves, it’s still early in the season for the best produce summer has to offer. As for where to get great food featuring locally-sourced ingredients? Allow me.

Some cities are inextricably linked with food; they’re destinations unto themselves if you’re the type who plans trips around meals. I do. Museums are great and all, but personally, I’d rather eat.

As a longtime proponent of sustainable agriculture, I want to support local growers as well as get a sense of place when I take a trip (that the food be good is still number one). That’s why a city like Santa Fe is so intriguing to me. The cuisine is rooted in the state’s history, indigenous peoples, and native foods, and there’s a fantastic farmers market. The fact that Santa Fe is beautiful in its own right seals the deal.

If you also let your appetite guide your vacation-planning, I’ve listed my favorite U.S. cities in which to stuff my face, based upon repeat visits or previous/present residency. It’s like choosing a favorite child, but someone had to do it.

Seattle
I currently reside in Seattle, and work at a cheese shop in the 14-month-old Melrose Market in Capitol Hill. So perhaps I’m a bit biased when I say that Melrose rocks. But really, I don’t think I am. It’s the best thing to happen to Seattle since Pike Place opened in 1907 and became the model for public markets nationwide. But Melrose isn’t a tourist trap, and you won’t find anyone hawking crappy t-shirts. It’s housed in two adjacent, restored historic automotive shops built entirely of reclaimed materials; there’s a soaring cathedral ceiling, and lots of exposed brick.

[Photo credit: Flickr user La Grande Farmers' Market]

The Benefits of Buying Eco-Friendly Local Foodbest cities food loversAlthough home to just four dedicated retail spaces and a wine bar, sandwich shop, and restaurant, Melrose has garnered lots of national media attention. The Calf & Kid (aka My Day Job) is a European-style fromagerie, while Marigold & Mint is a lovely little nook full of antique apothecary jars and cut flowers and produce from the owner’s organic farm. At Rainshadow Meats, without question one of the finest local/sustainable butcher shops in the nation, there are hard-to-find cuts like pork cheeks, and excellent housemade charcuterie.

There’s also Bar Ferd’nand, a miniscule wine and tapas bar, Homegrown Sustainable Sandwich Shop, and the jewel in the crown, Sitka & Spruce. Chef/owner Matt Dillon’s farmhouse mod space features an open hearth, room-length communal farm table, and rustic but refined, hyper-localized cuisine–this time of year look for foraged mushrooms, local goat cheeses, halibut, and Juan de Fuca spot prawns. Do.not.miss. Next door, Taylor Shellfish Farms–one of Washington State’s most beloved growers of oysters and Manila and geoduck clams–just opened a retail shop where you can scoop live shellfish from tanks, or puchase live Dungeness crab or housemade geoduck chowder.

Should you make it over to the Scandinavian-flavored Ballard neighborhood, be sure to dine at La Carta de Oaxaca (get there early or be prepared for a very long wait). Seattle can’t do Mexican food to save its life (I speak as a native Californian), with the exception of this Oaxacan treasure, where everything is made the slow, traditional way. Best of all, two of you can fill up–including beers–for under 30 dollars. For a more upscale treat, hit Bastille, a truly beautiful bistro featuring produce and honey from its rooftop garden.
best cities food lovers
Portland, Oregon
Portland has a vastly different vibe from easy-going Seattle. And while the attitude may be a bit much at times (do not raise the ire of a barista), it’s also got a phenomenal food and mixology scene (and yes, better coffee than Seattle). There’s no one neighborhood with all the great eats; they’re scatted throughout the city: Southeast, Pearl District, Alberta Arts District

Carnivores won’t want to miss Beast or Olympic Provisions (which also makes its own charcuterie for retail). There’s Cheese Bar, which specializes in beer parings, six glorious farmers markets, distilleries, artisan ice cream, and new favorites Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty (wood-fired pizza in the former–and much-missed–Lovely Hula Hands space) and Little Bird Bistro, the sister restaurant from former Food & Wine Best New Chef Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon.

If street food is your thing, Portland is swarming with food trucks, carts, and stands: Mississippi Avenue and downtown are both hot spots; check out Food Carts Portland for the inside scoop. If you feel the need to work off some calories in between food cart visits, (this is one of the best cities for outdoorsy types, after all), sign up for the Grub on the Go bike tour with Portland Urban Adventures.

Santa Barbara
I grew up near Santa Barbara, and have lived there a couple of times. It’s truly one of the most picturesque cities in the world, and over the course of 30-plus years, I’ve watched it evolve from sleepy small town to L.A. North. Spendy boutiques aside, Santa Barbara really didn’t start turning into a sophisticated dining destination until about five years ago.

The original hidden gems focused on locality–Bouchon, and the venerable Wine Cask (which recently changed hands and is now co-owned by the very genial owner of Bouchon) are still going strong. The executive chefs at both restaurants now lead farmers market tours, which I highly recommend. Both the Saturday and Tuesday farmers markets are major community events, and the sheer breadth of offerings–dozens of varieties of citrus, tropical fruit, olive and walnut oil, goat meat–is dazzling. Seafood lovers won’t want to miss the Saturday Fisherman’s Market, held at the Harbor.

The Hungry Cat
is my favorite restaurant in town (it also has a raw bar), followed by the superbly fresh Arigato sushi. Milk & Honey makes fantastic cocktails (and the small bites aren’t bad, either), as does Blue Agave. My true addictions, however, are Lilly’s Taqueria–a downtown hole-in-the-wall where for under five dollars, you can stuff yourself senseless on the best street tacos this side of the border. I also never fail to get an adovado or carnitas burrito at Taqueria Rincon Alteño. The same guys have been running the place for at least ten years, and it always feels like coming home.
best cities food lovers
Oakland, California
Nearly a decade of living in Berkeley, on the Oakland border, has enabled me to see this much-maligned city grow up, both aesthetically and culinarily (it’s always had a great Chinatown and taco trucks). In the gentrified Temescal neighborhood, you can literally hit a different restaurant every night of the week on the block between 51st St. and 49th St. on Telegraph Avenue. There’s Asmara for Ethiopian, Chez Panisse alum eateries Bakesale Betty and Pizzaiolo; Doña Tomas, and the new outpost of San Francisco’s wildly popular Burma Superstar (delicious). On 44th, late night chef’s haunt Koryo has great, cheap Korean bbq. Just around the corner: the wonderful Sunday Temescal Farmers Market.

Nearby, on 51st and Shattuck is the new Scared Wheel Cheese Shop, while down on Grand Avenue, by Lake Merritt, is Boot and Shoe Service (sister to Pizzaiolo), Camino (chef/owner is longtime former Chez Panisse chef Russ Moore). Don’t miss Market Hall Foods in nearby trendy Rockridge.

Brooklyn
I admittedly don’t know Brooklyn well; I couldn’t tell you how to get from Point A to Point B. But I know that some of the best food in New York lies within this dynamic borough. In Williamsburg, keep an eye out for Leeuwen Ice Cream’s roving, butter-colored truck–after you enjoy the heavenly pizza at Fornino. I also love the Brook Farm Genbest cities food loverseral Store, which has all manner of lovely vintage and vintage-inspired items for the kitchen and dining room. Bedford Cheese Shop and Stinky Bklyn (in Cobble Hill) are two of the country’s finest cheese shops, full of esoteric domestic and imported selections.

Over in Bushwick at Roberta’s, chef Carlo Mirachi, a 2011 Food & Wine Best New Chef winner, fires up pizza and other treats in his wood-burning oven, and utilizes produce from his rooftop garden. If you’re still hungry, other tasty stops: Fatty Cue or Fette Sau (both in Williamsburg) for barbecue, Saltie for crazy-good sandwiches, (Williamsburg), and the oddest ice cream flavors ever at Sky Ice (Park Slope). Be sure not to miss the various weekend Brooklyn Flea markets, where you’ll find all manner of good-to-eat treats, artisan beverages from Brooklyn Soda, and retro kitchen equipment. Note: every Saturday is the Flea’s new dedicated food market, Smorgasburg, in Williamsburg.

My other top picks for great food, made with local ingredients:
Chicago
Denver/Boulder
Santa Fe
Portland, ME
Drop me a line and I’ll be happy to give you some tips on where to get your feed on!

[Photo credits: Portland, Flickr user qousqous; courthouse, Flickr user Silverslr; Vietnamese food, Laurel Miller; pizza, Flickr user h-bomb]

Mobile farmers markets: the next “big thing” in food trucks?

food trucks2010 was the Year of the Food Truck, with cities from Seattle and San Francisco to D.C. taking it to the streets, literally. While street food and taco trucks have long been a part of U.S. culture in places like New York, Los Angeles, and Oakland, health regulations have historically made it considerably more difficult in other parts of the country. Eatocracy reports that Atlanta–despite its tight mobile cooking laws–now has a “hybrid” approach that enables food trucks to exist, albeit in a different form. Could 2011 become the Year of the Mobile Farmers Market?

For the uninitiated, street food technically refers to food that is prepared (cooked, if applicable) and sold from a street cart, stall, or permanent stand. Food trucks are essentially mobile street food, and can change location from day-to-day, or remain parked in a stationary spot. These are not your “lunch” trucks of old, selling flabby sandwiches and processed, grab-and-go items. Today’s food truck offers food prepared from seasonal produce and other ingredients likely sourced from local family farms.

Until recently, state and county health departments largely prohibited street eats due to fears regarding potential foodborne illness. It’s harder to regulate things like sanitation and temperature control in a non-stationary kitchen, but far from impossible. Thanks to the open-mindedness of city officials across the country, enterprising chefs and other food industry professionals have been able to give mobile food operations a shot, the most successful of which have gone on to achieve national acclaim. Portland, Oregon, has been so supportive, there are now permanent designated locations for food cart clusters.

But even as we’re becoming more of a food truck nation, it’s still an uphill battle. Eatocracy states that Chicago is just one city making it next to impossible for actual cooking to be done on-site. Instead, food must be pre-packaged, which is a buzz-kill for many budding entrepreneurs. Atlanta requires convoluted logistical wrangling (trucks selling cooked-to-order food must change location every half-hour, nor operate at more than two locations a day) as a deterrent. One local farm’s solution: focus on the raw ingredient, not the end product.

[Photo credit: Flickr user star5112]


food trucksRiverview Farms of Ranger, Georgia, has created a mobile farmers market that brings sustainably-grown produce to various locations in Atlanta. As creator Elmer Veith puts it, “We’re going to bring the farm field to the neighborhood, so you don’t have to come to us.”

Veith retrofitted a Mac Tools truck to create Riverview’s Farm Mobile. Customers enter the truck from the rear, and pay before exiting at the front. The sides are outfitted with shelves for produce, as well as the farm’s cornmeal and grits. There’s a freezer for Riverview’s grassfed beef and heritage Berkshire pork. Other offerings may include bread, pasture-raised chickens, free-range eggs, and cheese from other local food artisans and farms.

Customers get updates on Farm Mobile’s location and that day’s product via email, Facebook and Twitter. The social media aspect is a key part of the success of today’s food trucks. Yet Farm Mobile is subject to less regulations, because they’re not selling prepared food. They are, however, licensed by state authorities, and require permission from property owners to park on their land. If outfits like Farm Mobile (or Richmond, Virginia’s Farm Bus) catch on, can we expect to see more markets on wheels servicing urban areas? Greg Smith, President of the Atlanta Street Food Coalition, hopes so.

“Street food adds life and vibrancy to the city,” he says, predicting that in the future, “There will be multiple ‘food truck lots’ around the city and the trucks might move on a daily basis from lot to lot.” The Coalition, which seeks to help entrepreneurs break into the industry, is yet another sign that mobile eating is here to stay. TruxMap is an iPhone app that lets users hunt down their favorite food trucks, while dedicated sites such as Food Carts Portland are attracting legions of fans. The best way to show support, however, is to start eating on the street. Check out Eater.com, to see if there’s a food or farm truck (coming) near you.

To sign up for Farm Mobile updates, click here.

Mammoth Mountain debuts newest in ski area dining: snowcat food “trucks”

ski area diningThe national street food/truck/cart obsession is hitting the slopes. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that on December 18th, California’s Mammoth Mountain Ski Area will unleash North America’s only snowcat-mobile kitchen. Could this be the start of a new ski area dining trend?

Known as Roving Mammoth, the two “foodcats” are built from refurbished snowcats outfitted with small kitchens. They’ll roam the mountain from 9am to 2:30pm, offering ravenous skiers and boarders carbo-loading in the form of burritos, calzones, and churros, as well as cold, non-alcoholic beverages.

The up-to-the-moment location of the ‘cats can be found via a My Mammoth Twitter account (be sure to keep handwarmers in your gloves for faster burrito-seeking). Stops will include high-volume spots such as South Park, the top of Lift 14, and the bottom of Chair 9, but weather and events will also determine where the foodcats roam.

FYI, United and Horizon Air begin nonstop daily air service to Mammoth from the Bay Area on December 16th, via SFO and San Jose.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Telstar Logistics]