Category Archives: Portland

Pok Pok and Barbuto in NYC; Frontera Grill in Chicago

Thought of  recent dining adventures in  NYC, Chicago, and Portland, Oregon,  the other day when I read a NYTimes story about where top chefs go on the rare occasion when they don’t eat at their own restaurant.  Chef Daniel Boulud goes to Barbuto for Chef Jonathan Waxman’s roasted chicken, which my brother also has discovered. I had a good meal there with my brother and his wife in 2011. Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings

Also on the dining front, is Pok Pok NY in Brooklyn and Pok Pok Wing (see photo above of Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings)  on the Lower East Side.  My husband and I ate at the  original Pok Pok in Portland in 2010. (The chef Andy Ricker was named the Northwest’s best by the James Beard Foundation in 2011 so I bet it’s even harder to get a reservation now.) I see from the NYTimes that the two NYC-based Pok Poks have since opened. (Alas, we didn’t have the chicken wings when we went to Pok Pok in Portland. They look incredible! But it was very good Thai food by a non-Thai guy, which was the gist of the Times story. It also mentioned Rick Bayless and Frontera Grill/Xoco et. al.  in Chicago which I’ve been to many times over the years.)

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Oregon greatest hits (from our 2010 trip there)

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law are going to Portland, Oregon and driving down to Sonoma, Ca. Don’t know their route but here are some greatest hits from our visit there two years ago. For more details, click on the “Portland” and “Oregon” categories on my blog:


We stayed at Cafe Deluxe (fun, funky, reasonably priced).  Cafe Lucia is sister hotel, more centrally located, place where masseuse accused poor Al Gore of groping her awhile back. Or some such.

Columbia River Gorge: well worth the drive. Columbia River gorge, old observatory, Multnomah (sp?) Falls, crossing the bridge to Stevenson, WA.

Restaurants, starting with the best on down (all good): Pok Pok (strange Thai place – book way ahead); Kenny and Zuke’s deli; Clyde Commons, Portland Farmer’s Market.

Oregon coast:

Newport:  Sylvia Beach Hotel (homage to writers, quirky place) and Saffron Salmon (probably our best meal in Oregon and we wouldn’t have found it without strong recommendation from locals) Check out nearby Salishan Lodge and Yakina Head Lighthouse

Manzanita: pretty beach; stayed at good place

Cannon Beach: too manicured

Astoria: didn’t get there. next time!

Jacksonville: Rouge River Valley wine tasting, beautiful area near Medford

Ashland: Again near Medford – excellent Shakespeare, shopping, restaurants.

Crater Lake: gorgeous

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Now that we’ve been to Oregon…

Now that we’ve been to Oregon (during a trip last March), there seem to be a lot of stories about places we went to or near.  (Or maybe I’m just more aware of them now and my world view is less Saul Steinberg.)  Anyway, here’s a few examples:

– A recent Wall Street Journal review raved about the Hip Hop Hamlet we saw at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. (I raved first!)

– A recent NYTimes story mentioned several restaurants in Ashland, including the stylish Asian one we ate at called Sesame. (Although I was confused by the story because it says Sesame opened “last April” – we ate there “last March” or maybe that’s “March” in NYTimes style) Others mentioned: The Loft, Blue, Chateaulin.

–  We drove not far from the northern Portland suburb that has since become known as the hometown of a little boy who has gone missing in a strange, sad, highly publicized case.

– And this is the weirdest one: We almost stayed at the Hotel Lucia in Portland, opting instead for its sister hotel, the Hotel DeLuxe. Turns out that the Hotel Lucia is the hotel where a  massage therapist claims she was assaulted by Al Gore.

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Healthy Deli?

Yes, it seems like a contradiction in terms – healthy deli – but apparently some Jewish delicatessens are making a stab at providing more healthful food – some even going so far as to ban salami. (Say it’s not so.) A story in the NYTimes about this featured several delis I’ve been at or near recently, including Kenny & Zuke’s, a deli we visited for breakfast last month in Portland. Apparently the thing to have there is the specially-made pastrami – we came close. We ordered a corned beef sandwich which we happily shared – it was huge – in the Denver airport during our trip home.

The story also mentioned Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor which we visited last summer – who knew they made their own cream cheese although I wasn’t surprised they made their own rye bread. (I think we were supposed to have pastrami there too – again, we had the corned beef. Noticing a trend here?)

And earlier this month, we were on the lower East Side of Manhattan, standing outside of Katz’ s deli debating whether to join a long, albeit fast-moving, line at Saturday  lunchtime. We decided not – and I guess this is good since the article seemed to single out old-school delis like Katz’s as, of course, serving stuff that’s not good for us (even if it tastes good.)

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Filed under DINING, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Portland

Goodbye Oregon

We arrived in the rain and left in the rain – but in between, we had a surprisingly amount of sunshine and warm temps during our 10-day visit to Oregon. Yesterday morning in Portland, we walked over to Kenny and Zuke’s Delicatessen  – in the trendy Ace Hotel – for breakfast that could tide us over into dinner while we flew back to Iowa. That it did – I had a large plate of scrambled eggs with carmelized onions and large chunks of lox, served with a  flavorful chewy onion bagel. D was happy with his eggs, very crispy bacon, well-seasoned hash browns, and authentic rye toast. And just to make sure we didn’t starve, we got one of the deli’s “big as your head” corned beef sandwiches to go – which we shared about six hours later in the Denver airport during our long trip home.

As always after a trip, there are places I wish I’d gotten a chance to visit so here they are: Astoria, Bend, Mt. Hood, Hood River, the southern coast, and specifically in Portland – the rose garden in Washington Park (when in bloom); the Japanese Garden in Washington Park; the Chinese Garden (we forgot to visit it on the waterfront); the Mississippi neighborhood. Next time.

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Portland: exploring on foot and tram

We walked until our ankles – or at least my ankles – were swollen yesterday but how could we not on such a gorgeous day, sunny with temps in the 60s, light breeze. First stop the Portland Farmer’s Market – the first of the season – in the SW part of town on the campus of Portland State University. Not much produce yet but what there seemed very local – which is good and not always the case at Farmers Markets. Also pretty upmarket products – pate, smoked salmon, chocolate-covered cherries et. al. I had a Montreal-style bagel with cream cheese and locally made lox for breakfast. heaven.

From there we went by tram (free tram!) to the Portland Saturday Market – near the Burnside Bridge on the waterfront. Jam packed with shoppers and vendors selling crafts and tschotches, high and low, lots of street performers too. And from there we took  the street car to the upscale Nob Hill neighborhood, wandering down NW 23 rd street, the main shopping area. This town sure has a lot of fancy shoe stores.

Last stop for the day was the Pearl, where we wandered into Powell’s again and to a design store called Canoe. Plopped down for awhile in a pocket park, watching kids play and D. watched the final agonizing minutes of his beloved Jayhawks unexpected loss to UNI. (Small consolation that they lost to an Iowa team.) Dinner was at Karam Lebanese Restaurant, popular unassuming place downtown. We fly home today. Been a great trip.

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Portland: exploring the other side of the river

Today’s view is of a brick wall so we shouldn’t have any trouble motivating ourselves to get out on the town. After one last walk on the beach in Manzanita on a gorgeous day – a near record high of 69 I think I heard – we drove to Cannon Beach, stopping for coffee at the highly touted Sleepy Monk coffee-house then drove 1.5 hours back to Portland on Highway 26, which turned out to be a very scenic road through the mountains and farmland along a river or stream.

After some confusion, we finally found the aerial tram entrance at the Oregon Health and Science Center (0r some such) and rode across the south part of town with stunning views of snow-capped mountains and the downtown waterfront.

Because we had a car, we explored some neighborhoods east of the river that aren’t reachable by light rail – Hawthorne Street, between 34th and 40th, was fun and funky, with lots of people hanging out in the sun. Also went up to nw 28th “restaurant row” which had a handful of interesting looking places. And stopped at the food cart pod at 12th and Hawthorne for a fine lunch of pomme frites with tarragon anchovy mayo (one of several options.)

Dinner was an adventure at Pok Pok, a very different Thai restaurant from those we’re accustomed to. No pad thai, no thai people actually. The chef is an american guy who spent time in Thailand and brought back authentic recipes. Very popular place so we got there early – at 6p.m. and were seated at 7 p.m., happily waiting across the street at the restaurant’s sister joint, The Whiskey soda Lounge. Our wait was supposed to be 25 minutes (not). people who arrived at 8 p.m. had a 1-1.5 hour wait. Despite this, well worth a visit. Had a wonderful soup with homemade coconut milk; mussells with fried egg and bean sprouts, protisserie hen, a fantastic dessert with Vietnamese coffee over ice cream with a homemade donut, and a “Hunny”- fresh grapefruit juice, a drinkable balsamic vinegar, tequila. When in Rome…

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Portland: in the rain

W e shouldn’t be surprised that it’s raining here but what is surprising is that people seemed so pleased about it. As one young hip saleswoman at one of the endless young hip design stores in this southwest Portland neighborhood told me, they need rain after a long stretch of surprisingly sunny weather. (Just our luck.) We’d be better equipped to take the rain in stride if we both didn’t have bad colds that we’re still trying to get over. Walking in cold rain probably isn’t the way to do that.

But we did some walking yesterday because this city is irresistable and we found the Pearl District only a short walk away and, as advertised, full of interesting shops, architecture, restaurants, brewpubs, coffee houses and people.

We dutifully stopped at Powell’s Books which was so  big it was overwhelming. The cashier pointed us to a good brewpub nearby, Deschutes which was packed with a happy Happy Hour crowd – a big open place with lots of wood and woodcut landscapes. Later we had dinner at Clyde Common in the trendy Ace Hotel, sharing a table – as is the custom there – with what turned out to be a friendly group of 7 people. I sat next to Mike, originally from Vancouver but now living in Bend, who appeared to be a successful, albeit modest, graphic designer with accounts like Nike.  We got friendly enough that he dunked his bread in the broth of my main course to give it a try – although I didn’t dare stick my fork in his bowl of lamb and some sort of grain. The food was good – very one-of-a-kind (ex: olive-oil marinated octopus with frisee, fingerlings potatoes, chorizo in a “squid ink vinaigrette” Yum) and the place had a not-irritating alternative vibe.

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Portland at last

We managed to leave foggy,rainy  Des Moines on time and arrived in rainy but not foggy Portland a little early. And there are blossoms here – pink, white, purple branches on the trees and green grass. So nice to see.  The light rail – as advertised – was easy to find and use and took us within blocks of our hotel, a little boutique place called Hotel DeLuxe that has an old hollywood theme with black and white photos of old movie stars (Rita hayworth in the lobby; Marlene Dietrich, we think, above our bed. Our Emma, a movie buff,,  would love this place.,) Hotel staff couldn’t be friendlier and upgraded us to a suite that’s most comfortable, with plush mustard and green colored art deco-ish couch and arm chair.  So after a short rest,we’ll don our raincoats and hit the town. Yipee!


Filed under Oregon, Portland

Portland dining indecision

Two days until we leave for Portland and I still have settled on where to eat – there are just too many options. And I just read about yet another one in the Sunday NYT travel section – a Thai restaurant and bar with the unlikely name of Whiskey Soda Lounge (doesn’t that just scream “THAI FOOD”?) that is a spin-off another Thai restaurant across the street that was on my list: Pok Pok. The Lounge serves something I don’t believe I’ve eaten – “Thai pub snacks” which are basically small plates of  things like garlicky frogs legs (no thank you) and dried shrimp salad on a betel leaf (maybe). Since drinks appear to be as important as the food here I may skip – since I”m not much of a drinker (let alone a drinker of anything made with “honey-flavored drinking vinegar.” One thing I have noticed is that few of the restaurants I’m interested in seem to take reservations – don’t know what this means for a Thursday night dinner, not to mention a Friday or Saturday night.


Filed under DINING, Oregon, Portland