I spent most of the morning on a coffee tour of Portland with Third Wave Coffee Tours. We visited five of Portland's top coffee bars in three hours and the tour was informative, entertaining and definitely very caffeinating. I'm going to write up the tour properly once I'm back home and on my own computer, but suffice to say that if you're in Portland and like your coffee, Lora will show you a selection of the best cafes and roasters in town.
By the time we had finished the tour, even I was slightly jittery and realised that it was brunch o'clock. Lora from Third Wave Coffee Tours had recommended a restaurant called Veritable Quandary near the Hawthorne Bridge, so I headed over there and took a seat at the bar. The main dining room area is beautiful, so if you get the chance to eat there, you really should. I started with a bloody mary ($9), which came with beet-infused vodka and a skewer of pickled veggies. Needless to say, it was delicious and perhaps even slightly healthy. My main course was less healthy: chicken hash with an ancho coffee rub, poached eggs and pink peppercorn aioli ($18), which was delicious. When my bill came, once again I was pleasantly surprised by the absence of sales tax in Oregon.
After brunch, I strolled past Portlandia — Portland's famous statue and the second largest copper repoussé statue in the United States no less (after Lady Liberty, of course) — and then dropped in and out of some of the downtown shops. There are some really nice independent shops on SW 10th Avenue near Washington Street: Wildfang has minimalist women's clothing inspired by menswear; Radish Underground sells girlier women's clothes; Woonwinkel is great for homewares and gifts; and there's another branch of Tender Loving Empire. A few blocks further north (NW 10th near Couch) is Made Here PDX, which has lots of unique local goods, many of which make great gifts, and North of West (NW 9th near Burnside) sells a well-curated selection of minimalist design and lifestyle goods. Don't forget to check out Powell's City of Books!
I had a couple of shopping errands to run, which took me to a generic mall south-east of the city centre. The MAX got me out there in about 45 minutes and I was pleased to discover that a public transport day pass costs just $5. Bargain! While I was at the mall, I decided to take advantage of another (relative) bargain: a $10 cinema ticket for Hail, Caesar!, which was as entertaining and wacky as you would expect for a Coen brothers film.
For dinner, I decided to scope out a restaurant recommended by another coffee tour participant: Irving Street Kitchen in the Pearl District, just northwest of downtown. The restaurant is large and attractively decorated with a mix of industrial chic and Scandi cosiness. Late on Super Bowl Sunday evening, it was pretty quiet and I took a seat at the large, semi-circular bar.
I ordered a Crown Jewel cocktail ($12), which involved Aviation Gin (a favourite of mine), absinthe and bitters, among other things, and which was rather good. Although I had had chicken for brunch, I couldn't resist the buttermilk fried chicken with mash, greens and bacon gravy ($23), and I did not regret my decision. The chicken was juicy on the inside, crisp on the outside and the mash was also very tasty. Meanwhile, I wondered if my iPhone had been hooked up to the sound system, which played tracks from the Stone Roses, Joy Division, Radiohead and David Bowie. Irving Street is a lovely restaurant and would also make an excellent brunch spot.