“Click” I tapped the “Clock out” tab on our ADP payroll website and excitement surged through my veins – freedom rang. I gathered my things and said my few goodbyes to a team of individuals that molded and shaped me into more of team player than I think I’d ever been in the past. It was my last day at Quest Nutrition and I was headed to Portland to let my brain and body rest for a few days – prior to beginning my new position that I’m excited to share with you in the future.
I scampered – two stairs at a time – down to “Ruthie”, my big white truck. She carried me to my destination at Los Angeles International Airport where I would glide down the hallway to Terminal C , eager to plant myself into a window seat and be on my way to a weekend free of stress, relationships and lack there of.
I arrived in Portland Thursday evening already knowing that it was going to be a weekend of joy, friendships and food. I hit it off with an earthy looking gal, Sam, in the lady’s room- chatting whimsically of the waterfalls to visit and all the restaurants that called our names, she left me with a challenge to eat a vegan diet for the weekend and to “Live it up”. I lived it up – failed on the vegan part though.
The travel was seamless – from picking up the sporty rental, checking into my retreat of a hotel room and driving to the South East district of Portland for supper at Harlow restaurant. I was charmed with the old rickety Victorian houses on the surrounding streets and colorful restaurants that dotted the area. The restaurant was welcoming – large family seating, reclaimed wooden tables and hordes of young couples and girlfriends out for a delicious vegan supper. The drinks were unique – fresh squeezed juices, sugar rims and pretty jar glasses. The menu laden with flavorful and unique ingredients – sea vegetables, quinoa and cashew jalapeno sauces – delicious.
I settled into a big table – hopeful someone might join me and my big book. The Chipotle Chili bowl – black bean chili, house made chimichurri, guacamole, and jalapeno cashew cheese -made its way to my table and was exactly what the doctor ordered. It was warm, spicy and perfectly creamy with the addition of the guacamole. I savored every last bite. The cocktail-The Montgomery Angel -was unique and lively on the pallet, my favorite part being the cinnamon sugar rim which was licked clean by the end.
I strolled through the streets that evening and ended up in a Powells City of Books satellite store, meandering through their endless books, home goods and adorable mugs.
The next day I slept in – 7 am being pretty luxurious in comparison to my normal schedule – then worked out and wolfed down a free breakfast at the hotel. My morning began at Tom Mcall park- really nothing to write home about to my dismay. It’s a bit of a refuge place for the unfortunate homeless community – the whole area of old downtown Portland is in fact. Once I’d explored the park a bit I stumbled upon Voodoo donuts – not realizing it’d be so close. This was an experience I won’t forget – the interior reminding me of an old punk rock record store I might have frequented in my rebellious teenage years. The staff was friendly and excited to help me pick the perfect donut. I settled on what looked like it may have very well contained at least 700 calories worth of pure simple carbohydrates – the “Dirty Bastard” the cashier called it. He tucked my fluffy donut covered in rich chocolate frosting, mini Oreos and peanut butter drizzle into a brown bag and sent me on my way. I perched myself next to a young woman and an older man chatting intently while she wrote. She was interviewing him and to my delight the gentleman was one of the owners – Kenneth Pogson. I was thrilled to have the chance to listen in on the interview. Kenneth was friendly, engaging and treated the woman with all due respect as she inquired about the company and how it began. He shared of the company’s beginnings – having only $1,000 to start the company and their “sink or swim” mentality. The donuttery has now grown from a 700 sq.foot shop to the store front it is today of 2,200 sq. feet. He mentioned the maple bacon donut- it’s incredible popularity and competition it had caused in the world of donuts.
After my feast of chocolate-peanut-buttery greatness I moved along to Powells where I poured over books – the nutrition section alone being the size of a small book store. I lingered without a care in the world as the time passed and pages turned.
My day finished up in the NobHill area of Portland -a ritzier and more refined neighborhood with flashy boutiques and dainty eateries. Salt & Straw Ice cream was my first stop – I tried at least 6 of their delicately crafted flavors – a vegan Cookies and Cream, a truffle infused blend, a Balsamic strawberry that was divine and Lavender ice cream that tasted richly of floral notes – finally choosing the Double Fold Vanilla in the end: classy and simple.
Before I headed back to my cozy hotel room that evening I popped over to the nearby Rose Test Garden – something Portland is famous for. The garden wasn’t much to look at during the 30 degree weather but I can only imagine it’s beauty in the spring when the hundreds of bushes would blossom and bloom. I hope to make my way back some day.
The next morning I was on a waterfall hunting mission. I worked out, wolfed down another free and delicious breakfast and made my way in my little Ford Focus to the Multnomah Falls waterfall. The area is rich with greenery, lush with trees and had more waterfalls than I’ve seen since the Grand Canyon. I began at the lower end of the falls – Mutnomah and made my way to Latourell,Horsetails Falls, Wahkeena and finally ended with a short hike down to Bridle Veil falls. I think the memorable part of this trip was the slippery hike down to Bridle Veil- having to walk along walls on the edge of the trail to avoid the sleek ice that covered the earth – well worth it in the end.
After my waterfall expedition it was long past snack time and I was eager to try Blue Star Donuts after hearing from so many that they were “better” than the Voodoo variety I’d already embarked on. I honestly beg to differ – the Cointreau Creme Brulee was fancy -that’s for sure. The pastry was glazed heavily, stuffed with vanilla bean creme brulee and accented with a pipette of Cointreau liqueur for my drizzling satisfaction. It was luxurious – and I felt high-class while slurping down the creamy creme brulee – but it lacked the ridiculousness, richness and child- like qualities of the Voodoo variety. I’d go back to either shop and be thrilled to have another of both but my favorite might lie at Voodoo- I guess I’ll have to go back and try some more to know for sure!
After I’d recharged my batteries with my Blue Star finery I made my way to Forest Park- an area raved about by an older couple I’d met over breakfast – Ken and Dorris. The area was stunning -I felt like I’d just stepped into the forest from Snow White- so much lush fauna, moss and creeks that drizzled down the hill sides.
Dinner that evening was at a restaurant I’ve followed for a long while on Instagram- Prasad. I didn’t even realize it was in Portland until I passed by and spotted its sign. The food is lavish with vibrant vegan ingredients – unique sauces : Avocado ranch and cashew cheese. The Dragon bowl I ordered had brown rice, beans, steamed greens, avocado, sea vegetables, cabbage-apple kimchi, scallions, hemp & sesame seeds and was lathered in a creamy sauce. It was the perfect way to warm up after a long day outdoors.
The last morning in Portland was up in that air as to its agenda- go to the Portland zoo and rush from exhibit to exhibit before my flight, or grab a frothy latte somewhere, spend some time with the Lord and make my way to a church that a friend had recommended in Portland. I was intimidated about going to a gathering where I certainly wouldn’t know anyone and very well may feel out of place – I lost the internal argument and ended up going the latte and church route.
I drove to the Nobhill area of Portland again and perused the area in search of Sterling Coffee Roasters -I passed by it twice before spotting the small wooden sign. Eager to experience my first cup of Portland’s finest I made my way into the small coffee house -maybe smaller than the studio I live in. What it lacked in size it certainly made up for in fine and charming personality. Each white table-clothed table was trimmed with fresh flowers and the baristas were the friendliest I’ve ever met. The shop owner made me an almond milk latte with a fresh vanilla bean syrup that had been hand crafted by a local confectioner. It was heavenly.
Once I’d sat and journaled for a bit I made my way to the school where the church service would be held that morning. Bridgetown it was called. I wandered up the grand cement staircase and into the theater where we’d worship together that morning. I planted myself beside a friendly looking gal. We both smiled but didn’t say a word – unlike me to be so shy. She peered over at me, ” My name’s Ariel”. I gawked – I had sat next to a girl with my name!? We got to know each other a bit : not only the same name we shared but she’s also a food blogger, loves to bake and made me feel perfectly welcome in church that morning.
To finalize – Portland was awesome. I was pretty sold on moving there when I first exited the plane – ready for something fresh, California not filling my soul as I desperately want it to. It may not be somewhere I end up though – a majority of the people I met seemed “too cool for school” and not interested in entertaining my bubbly exterior in conversation. There’s not a large demand for nutrition professionals and I might miss the ocean -scratch that – I’d definitely miss the ocean. I’ll keep an open mind though- I mean I do have to try more of those donuts at some point.