Put a bird on it!
This past weekend I journeyed out to Portland for the awesomely-named World Domination Summit.
(It was just as cool as it sounds, and you can read a good write-up on it at the Huffington Post if you’d like to learn more.)
One of my favorite things about traveling is immersing myself in the local food. (Not literally, of course! That would be a bit messy.)
But the States don’t have much of a characteristic cuisine (apart from Southern food), and it can therefore be difficult to find a unique food culture the places you visit here.
Not so in Portland.
I found that Oregon’s capital had an abundance of fantastic food that I couldn’t find in my hometown of San Diego, and I’d like to share some personal highlights with you.
Invasion of the Food Carts!
Sure, you probably have a handful of food trucks in your city.
They’re the latest thing. They’re taking the nation by storm. And they’re upsetting a whole lotta established restaurants in the process.
I thought that this phenomenon was big here in Southern California, but it turns out we have nothing on our cousins in the Pacific Northwest.
Portland is both artsy and entrepreneurial, and these two characteristics result in a city that tends to support quirky, small, and local businesses. And food carts are one of the most visible avatars of this spirit.
Many chefs forego the glamor of working in a bustling restaurant to establish their own independent food cart that they have more control over. That’s just the way they do things in Portland.
And I love it.
You may be proud of the dozen food trucks in your city, but Portland boasts more than 700 food carts.
That’s not a typo.
Many cities have laws that severely restrict the ability of these establishments to do business, but Portland’s legal system is decidedly pro-food cart.
Which brings me to my next point.
Where I’m used to seeing food trucks that roam the city, Portland is filled with more-or-less permanent carts that stay parked where they do business 24/7.
The sheer amount of food carts (did I mention it’s more than 700?) means that it is difficult to pick favorites. There are simply too many to keep track of. Like many places in Asia, it’s just a part of the culture here to pick up your lunch or dinner at a small outside vendor.
Just find a place with a long line and hop on the end. You’re sure to find something excellent.Bulgogi Tacos with Kim Chi–Ka Fusion Pork Box–El Cubo de Cuba Piri-Piri Chicken Sandwich–Euro Trash
The “New Age” Approach to Food
It seems like there’s two major extremes in the health and fitness world.
On the one hand, you’ve got the “Gym Rats,” who throw down lots of protein shakes and oatmeal, and spend every day pumping iron. On the other hand, you’ve got the “New Agers,” who eat a bunch of fresh food from the farmers market after they hit up their yoga classes.
As I’ve mentioned before, I think that the Gym Rats tend to be the experts at exercising while the New Agers tend to be the experts at diet. (Though they both take things a little too far to the extreme.)
So it’s great to see that the culture of Portland tends to be firmly New Ager when it comes to food.
This means that there’s lots of fresh, local, and minimally processed food available.
Although I couldn’t make it, Portland has an epic farmers market every Saturday on the PSU campus.
I found as well that fresh ingredients were used in every food cart meal I ate.
It might be easy to skimp on food from a bag, a box, or a can, but when it comes to pure deliciousness, it’s hard to beat fresh.Omnivore Pizza and Boysenberry Soda–Hot Lips Pizza
One of the places I ate at was a pizza joint named Hot Lips. Not only do they use fresh ingredients, but they brew many different varieties of their own fruit sodas as well. (With no high-fructose corn syrup!)
Coffee and Donuts
No food report from Portland would be complete without a swing by Voodoo Doughnut.
First off, I need to admit something. I don’t like pastries.
Anything that consists of little more than dough and sugar usually gets a pass from me. Not because I’m trying hard to avoid it, but I genuinely don’t enjoy the texture and taste. (I’m much more of a fan of savory and salty foods.)
But hey, when in Rome…
I knew I had to try the Portland Cream, since it’s the official donut of Portland (and it includes two eyes!). And of course I needed to try the Bacon Maple Bar as well.
I was pleasantly surprised. For the most part.
I thought the Portland Cream was pretty meh, until I got to the filling, which wasn’t the typical custardy stuff, but something fruity (apples, perhaps?).
I did enjoy the flavor of the Bacon Maple Bar. (If you’ve ever had a breakfast that included both maple syrup and bacon or sausage, you know how well these two go together!)
I’m still not a fan of pastries, though. If I lived in Portland, I could see myself eating at food carts regularly, but would leave Voodoo Doughnut for rare occasions.
One place I didn’t get a chance to get to was one of Portland’s Stumptown coffee shops. I’m a big fan of the noble bean, and I’ve heard nothing but good reviews of these places. Maybe I’ll order a pound of their coffee beans online and see for myself.
The Dream of the 90s Is Alive In Portland
As important as learning how to cook is for your health and fitness, it’s probably best for your sanity to be okay with eating out from time to time.
Many people try hard to adhere to their typical diets when they travel.
I do not.
I think the point of traveling is immersing yourself in the local culture, and food is one of the characteristics that make each place unique.
The food culture in Portland centers on fresh, healthy, delicious, and unique food crafted by passionate and independent chefs.
And it’s definitely worth your time to get out of your comfort zone and try some of the excellent food made by these excellent local businesses.