Coffee and Fedoras: A Weekend in Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon is impossible to describe. I won't even try. Let's just say that it's awesome and you should probably go sometime. I like to think of Portland as a lovechild of Denver and Boulder, Colorado with infinitely worse weather...but, you know, in a good way. 

In my opinion, much of the country's greatest wine comes from an area just south of Portland, the Willamette Valley, and I have to say that it's nice when my itinerary contains fun adventures in both food and wine.

The Wine

While there are many other wine regions in Oregon, the Willamette Valley is the most popular. Just a short drive south of Portland, this region can produce some of the best pinot noir and chardonnay around; not to mention some of the country's best pinot gris and riesling. The Willamette Valley is often compared to the Burgundy wine region in France; I suppose because the climates are somewhat similar and they are known for producing wines from the same grapes. While worthy of the comparison, this region is also worthy of standing on its own. They are so well-known for their pinot noir that the International Pinot Noir Celebration draws wine lovers from all over the globe annually! 

One winery that offered a surprise was Argyle Winery in Dundee. While they have an excellent riesling, their sparkling wine was equally wonderful. I have a thing for sparkling wine and I also have a thing for finding excellent local sparkling wines that are comparable to Champagne. This is one of those wines. 

Back to pinot noir, here were some of my favorite tastes:

Penner-Ash (they also have an excellent riesling) in Newberg, OR
Ponzi Vineyards in Sherwood, OR
Cameron Winery in Dundee, OR

Portland is also home to some very well-known breweries, including Rogue Ales & Spirits and Deschutes Brewery, but one of my favorites happens to be Hopworks Urban Brewery because they brew (mostly) organic and sustainable beer. Oregon, in general, is known for hoppy beers and I'd guess that this has something to do with the fact that the Cascade hop (a very popular variety of hops) was developed in Oregon!

The Food

This city is definitely not suffering from a shortage of good food! Portland does, however, suffer from one thing: there are so many amazing restaurants and products and some have gotten so popular that they've expanded far beyond a local little storefront. In a hipster town, this is viewed as negative. Places like Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Pok Pok have expanded nationally, but that doesn't mean they are any less desirable or delicious. So, yes, some of my recommendations in Portland also have locations elsewhere. I'm not apologizing.

One place that I will say to avoid is Voodoo Doughnuts. This little doughnut shop has amassed such a following that people now wait in line for an hour or more just to buy a doughnut! They show up on just about every "What to Do/Eat/See in Portland" list on the internet and their doughnuts are fine, but I will never say that they are so much better than anywhere else or that they are worth waiting in that line. I am beginning to think the only draw these days is just to take a photo of the cute pink box and share it on Instagram. Do yourself a favor: skip the line and head over to Blue Star Doughnuts. Delicious. Amazing. You won't be sorry.

But, I ask, what is a doughnut without coffee?  Stumptown Coffee Roasters produces an excellent cup of coffee and you can't go wrong, but if you want to try something new, head over to Coava or Courier Coffee.

 Pok Pok, Portland

Pok Pok, Portland

One of my favorite meals was at Pok Pok - Andy Ricker's famous Thai paradise. My advice is to get there early for lunch to avoid a wait. I have the unfortunate habit of asking for things "extra spicy" because, let's face it, I just like to play with fire. A place like Pok Pok doesn't mess around with that request, so if you find that your mouth has been engulfed in flames, you may find joy in walking across the street to Salt & Straw ice cream. If you think you've had good ice cream, reassess after visiting Salt & Straw. Their flavors are always changing and evolving, but I am partial to the Arbequina Olive Oil or Honey Lavender. 

Le Pigeon is no doubt an excellent (and very popular) meal, but their more casual bistro, Little Bird, is absolutely excellent and also my preferred dinner spot. Clyde Common is another great choice for either brunch or dinner. Their food and cocktails were some of the best in the city!

If you're looking for something a little different, try Andina for dinner, which is one of my favorite Peruvian restaurants. I'm a real sucker for Peruvian food and I love to find it done so well. Andina's grilled octopus is addicting and their sangria goes down a little too easily - you can catch both items on happy hour, too! 

If you love local charcuterie, you must head over to Olympic Provisions, which is a great food shop and casual restaurant. 

Don't forget to look up every once in a while to take in the gorgeous mountains, green trees, and bridges over the Willamette River. Portland is a town for walking and biking, so ditch the car and take in the scenery!