Since you're going to an Edible conference, I'm guessing you might be heading over to the Ecotrust building? (That's where the Edible Portland publication is based out of, I believe). If so, you're going to be surrounded by tons of great restaurants in the Pearl District. For a quick lunch, stop into Sungari Pearl. It's just 3 blocks or so from the Ecotrust building. You can get a great lunch there for less than $10. Also, try Via Delizia (on the same street at Sungari Pearl -NW 11th). Via Delizia is a great spot for coffee, desserts, paninis, wine, etc. Very casual and friendly.
I am also a recent transplant to the Portland area. I had a very nice dinner at Park Kitchen a few nights ago. I really liked the small informal atmosphere of the place. The service was very good and the bartender made me some peculiar cocktail that was really very good. I had a couple of small plates for my dinner, incuding slices of flank steak with blue cheese. At the end of the meal I asked for recommendations for other restaurtants and the staff recommended Le Pigeon which I hope to try soon. I'm really loving Portland!
Lots of good suggestions. Here are mine without knowing more about you:
* Park Kitchen
* Le Pigeon
* Alberta Street Oyster Bar
All of these places do well at both using the NW's agricultural bounty and inhabiting a Portland vibe. Each has their strong points and weak points. If I was to choose one of these, I'd pick Wildwood. I still think they have the best menu in town night in and night out. And I think there's often a simple sophistication with their dishes and a tongue towards balanced flavors. Park Kitchen can be very creative, but my results have been mixed lately there and their desserts aren't the fantastic creations they used to be. Le Pigeon is one of my favorite restaurants in town right now. The menu changes constantly and the dishes show a lot of the chef's personality. The dishes have a great "what was old is new again" quality. Alberta Street can be a little frustrating with consistency and their lame desserts, but they usually have interesting dishes with a lot of flavor. Clarklewis is less consistent since they changed chefs, by my couple experiences, and from others have been saying, but still they make good food and use lots of local ingredients. So I think that at least a couple of these are musts.
Judging from your location (the midwest) and your tastes (TAC Quick, which I've been to and loved) I think that you should really try to get to Pok Pok, especially the Whiskey Soda Lounge. Plenty of dishes you rarely see on Thai menus, even the secret Thai menus of Chicago. ;-) And the execution is near perfect.
I'd also try Malay Satay Hut, if I were you. There aren't a lot of Malaysian restaurants around, and they do a very good job.
For shops, you should check out In Good Taste, Steve's Cheese in Square Deal Wine, Pastaworks, Powell's for Cooks and Gardeners, City Market (Viande, Newmann's, Pastaworks), New Seasons, Curds & Whey, and Foster & Dobbs. There's also a recent thread on this subject.
If you have other specific loves, I can make more specific suggestions.
Also, check out this tipsheet. It has useful additional information like what places are open on Sunday and Monday and some more links, etc:
If you can manage it, I strongly (vehemently, even!) recommend getting a reservation at a Simpatica dinner. They generally do Friday/Saturdays only (though they are introducing some random weekday meals as well), one seating, served family style at communal tables. Brunch there is awesome, too, but you will wait and wait and wait for a table.
Also, many of the small restaurants along NE 28th are excellent: Noble Rot, Ken's Artisan Pizza, Tabla, Pambiche.
Square Deal Wines in NW has wine tastings weekly and a great little cheese shop inside, too.
Go east and get out of NW Portland and downtown (which is essential to get the *real* feel of this city):
1. Alberta Street in NE Portland. Fun street to walk down (from 15th-ish to 33rd!!!) Alberta Oyster Bar might be a place to try. For more budget eats - try Halibuts.
2. 28th Street (around Burnside) on the Eastside. Street with lots of smaller restaurants including Ken's Artisan Pizza.
3. Any New Seasons grocery store (local version of Whole Foods)
4. SE Division. There's a New Seasons grocery store. Lots of interesting places to eat along this road including Nuestra Cocina, PokPok, Pix Patisserie.
5. Japanese Gardens. Must visit.
Hot Chocolate at Sahagun. Best ever. The handmade truffles aren't too shabby either. A few steps north of NW 16th/Burnside. Easy walk west of Powell Books. It will change your life!
Too bad you aren't here when the Farmers' Mkt is going. That would be your candy store.
Sweet potato fries, seasonal shake at Burgerville. Take MAX for free to convention ctr. Also there's wine tasting in the CC.
I know it sounds cheesy(!), but the Made in Oregon stores will have tons of local wine, cheese, etc. There's one SW 10th/Alder corner. Just skip the chocolate. Make sure to get some Rogue Creamery cheese, especially if you love bleu.
Do some scrolling back here. Also go to portlandfood.org.
For the first timer downtown ideas for fun (not just food):
Drinks and apps at Jakes
Spanish coffee and turkey at Hubers
Catch a respectable diner type meal at the Doug Fir, then listen to a set of music downstairs and then lounge by the outside fire (okay..this one is across the Burnside bridge but walkable on a nice night or a short bus ride)
A funky martini and munchies at the Saucebox
Drinks only (upstairs) at the Greek Cusina
Drinks and nibbles at the bar in Hotel Deluxe
Oregon Wines on Broadway downtown if you don't have the time for wine country:
Viande Butcher shop in City Market for sausages, cured meats, pates and terrines
Le Pigeon for dinner, Simpatica for Sunday Brunch, Carlyle (for dinner or weekday lunch), Powell's Books for Cooks and Gardeners on SE Hawthorne (and the main Powell's on W. Burnside)
Where are you staying? The Fifth Avenue Suites Hotel has a complimentary wine tasting for guests every evening..Saturdays at In Good Taste in the Pearl wine tastings, also a great kitchen store ... Sur La Table on NW Couch & 11th, lotsa kitchen stuff .. Whole Foods, of course, on Couch & 12th.
I like Zupans for gourmet groceries too.
My mind has gone blank, hope this helped. Enjoy Portland!
re: surfer dude
Agreed on the microbreweries such as Rogue. IMO McMenamins have amazing spaces/environment but their menu and service needs rebuilding from the ground up...just keep the tots. A great place closer into the city is Park Kitchen. A very urban experience. Fenouil is a bit too corporate for my tastes, but a fine effort nonetheless.