Portland is calling – and you will want to answer. Few cities can rock the unusual combination of cosmopolitan flair and country goodness but Portland and its surrounding metro area are just that. It is eclectic, fun and beautiful. Even if you do not describe yourself as an outdoor person, nature is so alive throughout the area that you might awaken the tree-hugger inside of you. Before you know it, Portland will have you skipping along its coffee and microbrewery-lined streets with happy thoughts and not a care in the world.
This city has a progressive palate – an ingrained spirit of ingenuity, creativity and loyalty to its citizens with keeping it “local” as its core value. You will find a proud, small batch community of food, wine, beer and handmade or repurposed products. Portlanders are proud of their city and culture and are proud to brand themselves as weird folks. Nothing is more evident of this than the famous “Keep Portland Weird” sign in Old Town which is a stone's throw away from another icon, Voodoo Doughnut, a shop offering an array of outrageous flavors and has a devout following of worshippers evident in the long lines wrapped around the block.
Portland is easily accessible by foot, light rail, streetcar or Uber. Start your trip in centrally located downtown Portland with a stay at the Hotel Lucia. This art-inspired boutique hotel offers luxurious and comfy accommodations, personable service, pet services and a free craft beer happy hour which itself is a winning point to lay your head here. Both the Imperial Restaurant and Portland Penny Diner are attached with award-winning reasons for breakfast, lunch, dinner and hand-crafted cocktails. From here take a leisurely stroll through the streets and you will run into places such as the Lan Su Chinese Garden, the Portland Saturday Market, an open-air crafts market alongside the river, and MadeHerePDX, a shop that supports and highlights local artists and tastemakers who craft some pretty cool stuff ranging from furniture and jewelry to kitchen wares, clothing and delectable edibles. As an added bonus there is no sales tax in Oregon so go and get your shopping on.
Foodies will revel in Portland’s cutting-edge culinary scene with a variety of innovative restaurants and food cart communities called “pods” which are clusters of vendors situated in former parking lots around town. Food Carts Portland has a map of the pods. Locally grown and organic ingredients are on everyone’s radar here and you will find every ethnic food represented. Take an epicurean excursion with Portland Walking Tours and sample some eats while learning more about Portland’s culinary point of view.
The greater Portland region consists of the Tualatin Valley, Mt. Hood Territory and Columbia River Gorge where Lewis and Clark took the river route and sailed to the coast to end their pioneering journey. They are all within a short drive from Portland and offer an alternative side to city life. Combine a little adventure with some libations for the day in the Tualatin Valley. Start with a hearty breakfast at Maggie's Buns. Then head off to Tree To Tree Adventure Park for an exciting zip lining experience through the trees or tackle the aerial obstacle course.
The gem of this area is the winemaking and no trip would be complete without a few wine tastings. Montinore Estate is not only a breathtaking vineyard but the wines are all on point and very approachable. Abbey Creek Winery is owned by Bertony Faustin, the state’s first black winemaker. The winery offers tastings as well as special dinners and events on the weekends. For something completely different, try sake tasting at Sake One. The brewery is home to premium sake and also offers complimentary tours. Sylke Neal-Finnegan, vice president of marketing and communications for Washington County Visitors Association/Tualatin Valley, sums up her love for the area. “The Tualatin Valley is a diverse destination, appealing to a broad range of interests and that diversity can be experienced throughout the area. Global cuisine, unique outdoor recreational experiences and dozens of wineries, each with its own winemaking philosophy, are just some of the reasons travelers visit and return.”
Visiting greater Portland’s farm country in the Mt. Hood area is a refreshing spin on a typical city vacation. This is where the true essence of a “farm-to-table” way of life is well represented. The Kitchen at Middleground Farms is a haven for foodies who want to take a recreational cooking class. Walk through the door of the converted barn and you will see a unique cooking school which also sells wares and housemade edibles. Owner and chef Jessica Hansen lives there with her family and has nothing but the freshest ingredients on hand. Narendra Varma and wife Machelle are the founders of Our Table Cooperative, a collaboration of farmers and producers working together to grow sustainable fresh food for the surrounding communities. He is passionate about the farm and the good that comes out of it. If you’re lucky, you might walk into a honey pulling demonstration with fresh jars being filled for the store on the grounds. Farm field dinners are abundant in the area and should not be missed. You could be dining on a 6-course meal in the middle of a tulip farm, vineyard or Alpaca ranch, complete with wine or beer pairings and only 20 minutes from downtown Portland. Try Dinners in the Field or Plate and Pitchfork. You will not be disappointed.
When asked why folks should visit this area, Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory PR manager Annie Bailey Austin says, “It’s no secret that Portland is a culinary mecca, some of the prime reasons being its close proximity to local bounty and the close relationships chefs and farmers have fostered with each other. A trip to Mt. Hood Territory (a weekend or longer recommended) provides visitors the same opportunities to learn and experience our bounty from its source and meet the farmers, from on-farm cooking classes and u-pick farms to on-farm dinners and special events.”
Don’t leave Oregon without tasting some of its homegrown delights which include blackberries, boysenberries, strawberries, cherries, hazelnuts, salts, honey, and chocolates. Make sure you pack plenty of goodies for yourself because when you get home you will wish you had.
For more information on visiting Portland and its surrounding areas, go to TravelPortland #pdxnow @travelportland, MtHoodTerritory #OMHT @mthoodterritory and TualatinValley.org #tualatinvalley @tualatinvalley.
Read more about Portland's food scene in my article “Culinary Portland: Trailblazers and Tastemakers of Food and Drink.”
Photo credit: Tracey Augustine/V. Sheree Publishing