Who: VN Senior Editors Elizabeth Castoria + Jennifer Pickens
What: A weekend in the Great Northwest
Where: Portland, Ore.
When: July 16, 2008
Why: Portland is taking over the world, so we thought we'd tag along
The Scoop: Sometimes the best plans are the ones you don't make until the very last minute. As I was recently packing for a quick weekend trip to Portland to visit two very handsome friends, I noticed Jen's Facebook status. Yes, Facebook status. We are freakin' hip. Anyway, her status mentioned that she was at that very moment packing to go to Portland to visit friends of hers, and, thanks to the instantaneous nature of the internet, it took all of five seconds for us to plan to meet up.
As it turned out, we couldn't have picked a better weekend, as the temperature rose well past 100 degrees, which is my absolute favorite kind of weather. Our first stop was, naturally, the vegan mini-mall. Taking turns in Herbivore, Sweet Pea Bakery, and Food Fight!, we were overwhelmed with all the vegan goodies and could have easily spent the whole weekend just boomeranging between the three. Since new tattoos were not on our agenda, we didn't check out Scapegoat, but I made my Portland-based friends swear that they'd go there if their body-art plans changed.
After a sunny trip out to Sauvie Island for some flower picking, we met up with Jen and her buddies at Bye and Bye, Portland's famous all-vegan bar. You want a vegan White Russian? You got it. (Okay, to be technical, I got it, and it was freakin' delicious.) In addition to their signature drink, the Bye and Bye, they had an enticing menu. The Old Timers, aka chili dogs, pictured above with me and my two favorite Portlanders—Jon and Tim—were a hit, as was the famous meatball sub. Jennifer was so delighted with her avocado-and-tomato-lined grilled cheese that she proposed marriage to it. The union, while sweet, was short lived.
The next morning, after a nice, long sleep-in, my hosts and I headed for the beach so that they could escape the heat. Unfortunately, we escaped it all too well—thunder and lightning greeted us as we got out of the car after a two-and-a-half hour drive. After the return drive, we were good and ready for dinner, and headed straight to Nutshell. If you've ever been stuck in a car on a too-long roadtrip and need to feel human again, go to Nutshell. The airy interior was a welcome change, and everyone inside was smiling. Oh, and then there was a little something called the food. Holy crap. We may have eaten more than any of us thought possible, and we couldn't have been happier. Let's just use the words risotto cakes, vegan aioli, zucchini carpaccio, tandoor roasted squash, smoky romesco sauce, the fluffiest focaccia ever, slow-roasted corn, and dilly potato salad. As if those weren't enough things to think about, we also tried the slightly spicy watermelon verbena soup, the crispy rice fritters dipped in avocado purée, and the blueberry-fennel salad drizzled with a coffee reduction. If there's one way straight into my heart, it's through this kind of food. Thankfully, Portland's only an hour's flight away!