5 Destinations For Excellent Coffee Culture

Cafes are often a travelers hub, not just because you can kill your jetlag with a cup of espresso, but because they are inevitably the place where you go to sit and do some people watching and, while you’re at it, take a moment to get immersed in the local coffee culture.

If you’re a coffee drinker, finding the best cup in town is often an adventure in and of itself, sometimes leading to a city’s most off-the-beaten-path destinations. Remember: they may speak English, and you know what that grande latte is going to taste like, but it’s not at Starbucks that you’ll find your bliss.

Love coffee enough to travel for it? Put these 5 cities on your list of next destinations.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Strong Vietnamese coffee is made with a filter that sits atop your cup. It’s most often served with sweetened condensed milk. In Hanoi, you’ll find a variety of coffee shops, from the back alleyway hole-in-the-walls, to the more luxurious places where you can sit all day and use the Wi-Fi. Check out Hang Hanh (Coffee Street) in the Old Quarter, which is home to many cafes. And while you’re at it, get an iced coffee at least once (cà phê sữa đá if you’re working on your Vietnamese). You’ll need it in the Vietnamese heat.

Portland, Oregon

Every Portlander has their local craft roast of choice, and you’ll quickly learn that although Stumptown is good, it’s not the only excellent coffee in town. If you like your coffee made with care – and we’re talking about both the beans and the end drink – break out of the box and check out places like Coava, Water Avenue, Ristretto and Heart. Just don’t order anything ridiculous like a double skim vanilla latte or you’ll be shamed out of the coffee shop quicker than you can say Portlandia.

Vienna, Austria

While many cities may claim that they love coffee, only Vienna has a UNESCO status going for it. Going back to the 17th century, Viennese kaffehauskultur – coffee house culture – has the ultimate in recognition as part of Austria’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, honoring the city’s distinct atmosphere that can be found in its many coffee hubs.

Istanbul, Turkey

As the Turkish proverb goes, coffee should be “as black as hell, as strong as death and as sweet as love.” Türk Kahvesi, or Turkish coffee, is certainly known as being such, and you’ll find it served in the numerous coffee shops around Istanbul. This kind of coffee is made by boiling finely ground coffee beans in a pot, and then serving the coffee in a cup where the grounds are given time to settle. If you like your coffee strong, this is the way to do it.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

In the top ten of coffee exporting countries, Ethiopia has a coffee culture that goes all the way back to the 10th century. In the home, coffee ceremonies are a common thing and can often be quite elaborate. In Addis Ababa you will find a burgeoning cafe culture that offers both opportunities for more Italian-like drinks as well as true Ethiopian style.

[Photo Credits: osamukaneko, toehk, OKVidyo, dorena-wm, John Picken, myeralan]

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]

Hiking, Scrambling And Swimming Oregon’s Oneonta Gorge

oneonta gorgeDespite the various nicknames bestowed upon me throughout my 20s (all along the lines of “Hippie,” “Nature Girl” and “Treehugger”), I had a love-hate relationship with hiking the great outdoors. Blame my poor, misguided parents, who made my brother and I undertake many forced marches on summer vacations. We hiked all over California, the Pacific Northwest, the Rockies and even Europe. I know, I know – call Child Protective Services.

It is perhaps unsurprising that I rebelled as I grew older. I was quite a sloth in college, despite my love of travel and camping, and not until 2000 did I rekindle my early love affair with walking the woods, deserts and mountains.

I was attending a conference in Portland, Oregon, and decided to spend a few days camping in Columbia River Gorge, an hour east of the city center. The Columbia is the second largest river in North America, covering 1,200 miles, from British Columbia to the central Oregon coast.

The Gorge itself is a stunning 80-mile drive, as well as a world-class wind-surfing destination, important salmon fishery and source of hydroelectric power. You can also kayak, fish and partake in various indigenous cultural events in the area.

During my 2000 visit, it was Indian Summer, and the dry heat combined with cool, mossy canyons, waterfalls (77 in the Gorge in all) and the Douglas fir forest made for enchanting hikes. On one memorable day, I embarked on three separate outings, stopping only when it became too dark to see.

Since then, I’ve returned to the area several times, but my favorite hike remains Oneonta Gorge, which is conveniently located on Oneonta Creek, just off I-84, 35 miles from Portland. Although frequently crowded with day-trippers, it’s such an unusual and beautiful hike (actually, it’s more of a scramble or slog, depending upon the season), it’s worth sharing.

Do note Oneonta requires some serious scrambling over massive boulders and a logjam or two, so you need to be agile and fit to do it. I’ve seen plenty of non-agile, unfit people in inappropriate footwear (tennis shoes, Chaco’s with Vibram soles or Keen shoes are ideal; water socks or high heels aren’t going to cut it) attempt the gorge. It isn’t pretty, and usually results in a homo sapiens jam, if not minor injury.oneonta waterfallOneonta is a slot canyon, just 20 feet wide. A half-mile down the creek bed is a 100-foot waterfall that spills into a clear pool. The thing about the gorge is that there’s no trail; you need to either swim, scramble or slosh it.

The first time I visited, the water was so high in October that it hit me mid-chest. Because I don’t relish swimming in snowmelt and I love a challenge, I decided to see if I could climb the entire route without touching the water. To this day, I have no idea how I managed to grip those wet, slippery, craggy canyon walls without falling, but I succeeded. To be honest, I’m still impressed with myself (and rather despondent that I no longer possess that kind of upper body strength).

I’ve also done Oneonta when it’s just ankle-deep, but regardless of water levels, you can always count on its sheer basalt walls to be teeming with ferns, mosses, lichens and other primordial plants. It’s otherworldly in there, and I find it oddly soothing, even with summer crowds. You could go early in the morning to avoid them, but it’s better to wait until for heat of the day, when the cool, misty air of the gorge provides a respite, and the sun’s rays send shafts of light down into its green depths.log jam

For the most diverse hiking experience, I suggest combining Oneonta in combination with the connecting 2.6-miles Horsetail Falls Loop. This extension will take you up into the forest, and provide views of the Columbia River from the Oneonta Bluffs. For the truly lazy, the 176-foot falls are visible from the roadside.

Getting there
Take I-84 East to the Ainsworth Park Exit 35, and make a right (west) on the Historic Columbia River Highway for 1.5 miles, until you reach the Horsetail Falls Trailhead parking lot. Cross the road, head west a few hundred yards through Oneonta Tunnel and you’ll see the “trailhead,” alongside a bridge with a set of decrepit concrete steps. Get ready to wade or scramble.

Tip: Ainsworth State Park is a lovely campground, and open March through October, first-come, first-served.

[Photo credits: gorge, Flickr user McD22; waterfall, Flickr user stokes rx;scramblers, Laurel Miller]

Visit the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Berkeley’s Edible Cities Guide Leads Urban Foragers To Free Good Eats

plum treeAnyone who’s ever snagged fruit off of their neighbor’s trees or bushes (oh, don’t look at me like that) will appreciate the new online Edible Cities guide from Berkeleyite Cristian Ionescu-Zanetti.

Berkeley is ground zero for the localized food movement, and “urban foraging” has been growing in popularity amongst local chefs as well as home cooks.

As a former resident and recent subletter, I can attest to just how many tasty treats grow in this region, which is composed of many microclimates. All manner of citrus – most notably Meyer lemons – heirloom varieties of plums, cherries, loquats, avocado, raspberries, blackberries, pomegranates, persimmons, rosemary, wild fennel, miner’s lettuce, wild watercress, mustard plants…they all flourish here, sometimes in backyards, but often in public spaces.

Hence, Edible Cities, which uses a Google Maps interface that denotes where specific species are free for the picking. In a recent interview in Berkeleyside, Inoescu-Zanetti, who is originally from Romania, stated that urban foraging’s “most important aspect is education: Kids need to learn where food comes from, and adults need a refresher, as well.” Here, here!

According to its mission statement, Edible Cities’ goal is to promote local food security by “mapping publicly available food sources” and “enable a more sustainable mode of food production that lessens our environmental impact.” In plain English, you can have free fruit and preserves year-round, instead of buying tasteless, imported crap sprayed with God knows what.

Oakland has a similar program, Forage Oakland, which began in 2008. Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle and Tampa also have fruit gleaning projects, which are variously used for residents and to provide fresh food for those in need.

[Photo credit: Flickr user OliBac]

How to Choose Ripe Fruit

Seattle Ranked ‘Best City For Hipsters’ According To Travel & Leisure

hipsterSo Travel & Leisure has published a list of “America’s Best Cities for Hipsters.” This is amusing – and a wee bit annoying) to me for a variety of reasons – not least of which because Seattle makes the top of the list. I’ve lived here (actually “there,” because as I write this, I’m in a sublet in Oakland) for nearly three years. Apparently, I’m reverse-trending, because San Francisco is #3 (Portland, OR is #2).

As the sun (metaphorically – this is Seattle we’re talking about) sets on my time in the Pacific Northwest and I prepare to relocate back to the Bay Area for what I hope to be at least a couple of years, I’m filled with mixed emotions. Hipster-mocking and -baiting has been one of my favorite pastimes in Seattle, which is both ironic and hypocritical of me when you take T & L‘s definition of “hipster” into consideration:

“They sport vintage bowling shoes and the latest tech gear-but they also know all the best places to eat and drink. [The magazine] ranked 35 metropolitan areas on culturally relevant features like live music, coffee bars, and independent boutiques. To zero in on the biggest hipster crowds, we also factored in the results for the best microbrews and the most offbeat and tech-savvy locals.

It’s our take on the debated term hipster….whatever your take, you generally know hipsters when you see them-most likely in funky, up-and-coming neighborhoods. A smirking attitude toward mainstream institutions means they tend to frequent cool, often idiosyncratic restaurants, shops, and bars-the same kinds of venues that appeal to travelers looking for what they can’t find at home. There’s also an eco-conscious influence in contemporary hipsterdom.”

So let me get this straight: I’m a hipster because I care about the environment, and I write about food, thus I eat and drink in places that are too idiosyncratic for mere mortals. And jeez, I just edited a craft beer guide. And I really support my local indie businesses. Conversely, I know jack about tech, and you will never, ever see me in a pair of bowling shoes. I also want to bitch-slap the bejesus out of smirky, pretentious funksters who feel the need to categorize themselves in order to maintain a sense of self. Cliques are for high school, kids.

[Image via Flicker user Conor Keller fortysixtyphoto.com]yellow shoesI also find it deeply ironic that a luxury magazine likes to think it knows what’s hip, because real hipsters love nothing more than a bargain, whether it’s $2 happy hour PBR’s or a sweet bowling shirt from Value Village. I can assure you the average T & L reader does not shop at Value Village.

What I find interesting, however, is that part of my mixed feelings about leaving Seattle have to do with its very hipsterness. I love street fashion, vintage, indie anything, tattoos and food artisans (hipster alert!). People watching has been one of my favorite activities in Seattle, because most Seattlites have such great style. It’s a city where the alternative-minded can grow old semi-gracefully, without looking like roadkill from Gen X or beyond. In Seattle, no one gives a f— about what you look like, or what you’re into. You can just be.

It’s sheer coincidence that last week, while reacquainting myself with Berkeley (where I lived for nearly a decade), I wondered why it is the natives here have no style (in my hipster eye view, pilled fleeces, flowy hemp clothing and ergonomic shoes are terminally unhip). I already missed Seattle’s eclectic street style, which never fails to inspire, amuse, and yes, sometimes horrify me (Boys, please stop with the neon, nuthugger skinny ankle jeans. Just sayin’).

Is this essentially a very shallow essay on an incredibly superficial topic? Yes, absolutely. But if it is a “tipping point” as T & L claims, then hell, I’m game. I’m ultimately leaving Seattle – an amazing, beautiful, vibrant city – because the climate kicked my ass (see my forthcoming post on “Sleeping In Seattle: SAD And Its Side Effects”). I’m back in the Bay Area because the economy is simmering and for someone in the food business, this is Ground Zero.

You can’t have it all, and the grass is always greener. Those cliches aren’t very hip, but they’re true. I miss all the hipsterness that once surrounded me, but I also love seeing sun, citrus trees and the Bay Area’s unbeatable food scene again. And that, in a nutshell, is why I’m trading down to a place a little less hip. I can always visit Seattle when I’m feeling frumpy.

[Image via Flickr user Andrew . Walsh]

How to Dress Like a Hipster