Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Portland Trip Report - July 9 - 12, 2011

Mini getaway with a friend from work.  We happened to be sitting after work one day, sipping wine at the closest bar and I was talking about how much I'd like to go to Portland to EAT.  She was saying how she'd like to return to the Oregon coast as it was so beautiful.  That was where she spent her honeymoon too (divorced now).  So, another glass of wine later we picked our dates and that was that!  Done deal.

We decided to take the Amtrak, spend one day in Portland, then rent a car and drive to the coast.  The fare was really reasonable.  Return ticket was $135 each, all in.  I picked Lincoln City on the coast.  No real reason, it seemed to have reasonable hotel rates and because we would have the car, it didn't matter much where we laid our heads!  We did have lengthy conversations about the car rental though.  Since she was driving she wanted a Dodge Charger since the convertibles and luxury cars were too expensive.  I didn't realize you can't actually reserve the car you want...Anyway, I called Budget, who we booked through and put the request in for it.  They said they would note our request and do their best.  We laughed at how we knew we'd end up with a an ugly, yellow Ford Taurus...

July 9th:
Wake up came early at 4am!  We managed to be out on time and made it to the train station soon after boarding started.  The ride was uneventful, though we had full train as there was a soccer game in Portland on the 10th.  My highlight of the trip was the Ivar's clam chowder.  First time I've ever tried it and it was good!  :-)  Arrived at Union Station about 3:30pm.

I found it interesting that there was no line of taxis there to greet the people.  They trickled in one by one and pretty slowly.  Got a cab about twenty minutes later and we were off to hotel.  We stayed at Park Lane Inn & Suites at 809 SW King Ave.  The fare was only $7 so $10 with tip.  If you get a room on the Inn side as we did, if you're on the 2nd floor, be prepared to hike your luggage up the stairs, there is no elevator.  The Inn side is across the street from the main hotel too.  Our room looked exactly as it does on their website.  We had 2 queens.  It was fine, though sparse, with no fridge or coffee maker in the room but the WiFi worked well.  They do have coffee and water in the lobby.  The A/C also worked well, and it was hot when we arrived so it was welcomed. 

We barely had time to freshen up, run to the gas station for some water, wine and beer and then we had a reservation at Little Bird restaurant for 5:00.  When I called for a reservation the night before, this was the only time I could get.  Called another taxi, it cost the same price as our last fare and we made it about five minutes before they opened.

We were seated upstairs on the balcony as they called it.  Our server was terrific.  She knew the menu well and explained all the specials in wonderful detail.  The baguette bread they bring is delicious.  I have to say that the meal as a whole was a masterpiece.  Every course was seasoned to perfection, you did not even think of adding something to make it taste better.  We started with a bottle of Charles Bove sparkling wine which was $28 and very good!  

Steak tartare, farm egg, grilled baguette - $12
Mussels, green garlic, lemon fries - $13
Frites (and perhaps the best I've ever tasted!)  Wow.
Duck Confit, lentils, garlic-scallion pistou - $20
Short Rib ‘Pot au Feu,’ traditional accompaniments - $23

If you look at the duck confit picture, there are these pinkish coloured vegetables on the plate.  This had one of the most amazing tastes I've ever put in my mouth, but I had no idea what it was.  It was sweet, but still tangy and I can't describe how good it actually was.  It turned out to be "braised radishes"!  Who knew?  We were full...very full so we passed on dessert.  They still brought us a couple of lemony macarons which were perfect.  Great texture on them and nice and chewy!  A perfect bite.  I could have ate another dozen of them!


The most amazing thing about this meal was the price!  It was $97.  Love that "no tax" thingy, Portland!  We are taxed to the max at home.  We left $120 and felt like we walked out with a steal!!!  Such good value for what we received.  I have never had this equal experience in Vancouver and French food is my fave so I've tried them all at home...We left very happy!

As we left , I saw the Tri-Met.  This was interesting as our same trains at home are "sky" trains, so it was interesting to see them running on the road.

So we took a stroll down to the Waterfront and walked dinner off.  Walked a little more around downtown and stopped off at Society bar on Yamhill for a couple of martinis.  After that we were pretty much done in.  Both of us only had about four hours sleep the previous night so we cabbed back to the room and called it a done day.

July 10th:

We awoke early and were starving, both craving that greasy breakfast dining experience.  We called the front desk to ask them where we could go.  He told us about a pub/sports bar down the street.  We were like - "a pub is open at 7am"?  But he said assured us it was.  So we took off down Burnside to head to the Kingston Bar and Grill.  People were out and about everywhere so early on Sunday morning!  We got there around 8.  Well, the place was full!  Soccer fans abounded everywhere.  We soon saw Brazil & USA playing.  However, after sitting for thirty minutes with no service we deduced that there was only a bartender on duty serving the entire place, and there were three rooms full of people!  She finally did stop by and said that someone started their shift at 9am so we would not get service until then or we could go somewhere else.  A couple of girls at another table near by told us Bitter End pub across the street was open so that is where we went.

It was basically a dive bar and not many people in there.  BUT, there was also three staff members working so we sat down.  They only had breakfast burritos so we ordered grilled cheeses with bacon and tater tots.  Along with a mimosa, we were all set!  More soccer fans soon filed in and then this place was full too.  We got our grease fix over with and went back to the room.  We snoozed until it was time to get ready and check out at noon.  Called a cab and off we went to Budget to pick up our rental car.

Our cab driver was interesting and told us about Portland naked bike rides and naked street dances.  At Budget, we did not get a yellow Ford Taurus, but close....we got a:

Chevy Malibu

We plugged in the GPS, put in the address of  pok pok and headed there before our drive to Lincoln City.  There was no wait for lunch inside, so that is where we went.  

pok pok

We were seated in front of the bar and it was fun to watch the bartender craft so many beautiful drinks.  

Spicy Bloody Mary - $8 - tasted great!  
Raspberry Drinking Vinegar - $4 - Refreshing describes it perfectly.  Really good drink!
The famous "Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings" - $12
Grilled corn with coconut butter - $4
Khao Soi Kai - Curry noodle soup - $12

Lunch after tip was $50.  We enjoyed it all.  Would like to return with a lot of people so I could try more dishes.  Was worth the detour before leaving.  We plugged in the Lincoln City address in the GPS and off we went.  A couple of hours later we arrived at our motel.  Inn at Wecoma.

The hotel was o.k.  Room was large.  No A/C though.  They brought us a fan.  Had a fridge, microwave and coffee maker.  WiFi was secure and worked well.  Free parking as well, just give them your plate #, car model on check in.  We asked the front desk for any pubs close by and she said none were in walking distance (not true as it turned out).  She mentioned that a free shuttle for the casino came by on the half hour so that's what we decided to do.  We walked down to a store and picked up some beverages for the room.  Had some champagne and waited for the shuttle.

Headed off to Chinook Winds casino

Pic from Chinook Winds website

We ended up staying all evening and had a lot of fun.  My favourite Wizard of Oz (WOZ) machines were not kind to me this night.  I had great fun on the Lord of the Rings slots for quite awhile though.  Smeagol was good to me.  We were up with our winnings so the first part of the night was free.  We had the buffet for dinner.  For $13 there was nothing to complain about.  The beef brisket or prime rib (whatever it was) was excellent.  That alone was worth the price.  We caught the midnight (last one) shuttle back and went to sleep.  The free shuttle only runs Fri., Sat. and Sunday now.  The driver said tourism is really down on the coast.  It certainly was evident.  There were vacancies everywhere.

July 11th:

We were going to drive to Cannon Beach today, but upon waking it was raining, cold and gray.  We lounged in the hotel room and watched a few episodes of a marathon of Project Runway on the tube.  By eleven-ish we drove to the beach in Lincoln City.  We had a nice long walk and enjoyed the ocean and the fresh air.

After our walk we decided to go for lunch by our hotel at Blackfish Cafe.  

The restaurant claimed to have the "best clam chowder on the Oregon coast".  I call B.S. Worst chowder I ate in Oregon.  Zero taste, might as well have eaten paste - that's how good it tasted.  I will say that our blue cheese stuffed olive martinis were the best part of the lunch.  I had fish (rockfish) and chips.  There was nothing memorable at all, and the three small pieces were all I ate.  The fries were frozen out of a bag and the coleslaw was average.  The breading on the fish fell off, the fish was not firm and was not easy to eat.  Flaked and fell apart to mush.

$12 - I think
$8 - Fish Tacos - Blech!

The fish tacos were just as bad.  Beans tasted like they were straight out of the tin.  Nothing had any flavour or seasoning.  Our first bad meal of the trip.  We walked up Highway 101 for a stretch and had a stop in whatever store we came across.  We walked back to the hotel for some more Project Runway watching and had an afternoon nap.

I liked this cute little drive-through coffee shop with a walk up window

So our last evening, we decided to pub hop and check out the town that way.  We walked down to McMenamin's Lighthouse Brewpub.  We sat outside on the patio and were in time for one happy hour drink. We decided to just do an appy each in case we wanted to try food at the other pubs later.  My friend ordered the crab fondue which we refer to as "Cheez whiz with canned crab".  Twas dreadful and the bread cubes crumbled when you stuck a fork in them.  Very difficult to put them in the cheez whiz and pull them out.  I had crab cakes and while there were only three, I gave up after two and the coleslaw was perhaps the worst tasting slaw I have ever ate.  Lincoln City did not light my food spirit  on fire, that's for sure.  Or, maybe I was just mad that my friend didn't want to go to "Pig 'n Pancake" which I wanted to go to!   :-)

Brewer's Crab Fondue Pot creamy sharp cheddar & ale with crab meat served with rye bread cubes - $8.75

Dungeness Crab Cakes with spicy tartar sauce - $9.50

We asked them to call a cab for us.  We were told there was a stretch that had three pubs within a four block radius between thirteenth to seventeenth street.  So, we asked our driver to pick one for us.  He dropped us at "Maxwell's at the Coast".  It was quiet at the bar but the people who were in there (locals) were very friendly.  We sat at the bar, had some fun conversation and drank...I did have some clam chowder though and it was really good!  I liked it a lot.  Only $2.95 for a cup.

Then we played pool for awhile, and then Karaoke started.  :-)  It was locals doing the singing and dancing.  We even danced too.  We had a good time and enjoyed the evening in our "small town - USA bar".  We left around 1am.  Our nice bartender Shalom called us a taxi and we went back to the hotel.  

We got a call from the front desk saying  that neighbours were complaining about our voices.  We didn't have our "inside" voices on.  Then we got another one and the staff said they were out in the hall and our voices were still too loud.  SO....we went to sleeeeeeep....out cold!  ;-)

I awoke and felt, well yes, like crap!  :-)  We had a long travel day home and I knew it was not going to be fun.  But, I made a great trade, it would turn out.  At the beginning of our trip, my friend had said she forgot her chapstick and she wished she had one.  For whatever random reason, I had a brand new blistex stick in my makeup bag so gave it to her.  While here, she had bought a hangover cure which she offered to me when she saw me moping around the room having a really hard time getting ready.  AND, it actually made me feel a lot better!  I was able get moving without thinking I was going to die!

We checked out, got in the car and headed for Portland.  We made a stop about half way to an AM/PM for some lovely gas station food.  We were starving.  It did the trick for now.  We got to Portland with fifteen minutes to spare for the deadline of rental return.  We had to stop and fill up for gas, however, conveniently there was a gas station right beside Budget.  When we picked up the car, we were told it was $7 a day for the GPS.  But they charge 17% tax on the rental of it.  So the GPS ended up costing $30 for the two days.  Can't understand the tax on that one!  That seems like 100% tax, no?  If anyone can explain that to me, please do!

We got a taxi to the Amtrak.  We asked the driver if there were any food carts within walking distance in the area.  She said no.  We were disappointed but I did have to tote my carry on and laptop around so I didn't want to walk around aimlessly.  Plus we only had an hour now before the train started boarding.  So, we ended up at Wilf's restaurant which is at the Amtrak station.

The restaurant was kind of nice in that old school "lounge, jazzy, steakhouse" kind of way.  

Cup of French Onion Au Gratin soup - Baked with parmesan and Swiss cheese - $5.50

1/2 order of Wilf's Salad - Romaine, Oregon bay shrimp, dungeness crab meat, Pecorino Ramono cheese, Wilf's dressing - $13.75

Caprese Delight - Fresh tomato, basil pesto, fresh mozzarella grilled on Grand Central sourdough , green salad - $9.50

The food was o.k.  The soup broth was nice and not too salty as it usually is.  The salads were average.  Wilf's salad dressing tasted like Caesar dressing and there was nothing special about it. The meal was good enough, though over-priced.  We could have done worse, but yes, we know we could have done better.

And that wraps it up.  We boarded the train and it actually arrived ten minutes early in Vancouver, rather than the forty minutes late it was on arrival to Portland.  Our trip was short and I would have liked to spend more time in Portland - dining.  I never even got a Stumptown coffee while here!  We noticed that most menus have tater tots and rockfish on them.  :-)  Good time, fun time, girl's trip.  Enjoyed it!

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