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Portland & Oceanside Trip Report - June 2012

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Just got back from five days in Portland and three days in Oceanside.

There wasn't much in the way of restaurant food in Oceanside, so we mostly cooked. But Metro Portland Hound Leonardo gave us a great recommendation to stop by Karla's Smoke House in Rockaway Beach. We tried the smoked salmon, tuna and oysters (all that Karla had left by the time we got there at 3PM). -- All were excellent, especially the oysters. Karla was fun to talk to. She's quite elderly and says she doesn't know how much longer she'll be doing this work as her health is failing. So if you're on Oregon's northern coast, do stop by to wish her well and try her amazing smoked seafood. It's best to call in advance to find out what days she's smoking.

In Portland, we ate at the following places:

Wildwood -- really good, straight-forward, mostly local food. Nothing unusual or especially creative, but everything was extremely fresh, very flavorful and well done. The mussels and filet were standouts for freshness.

Pok Pok -- Lots of mentions here about Pok Pok. I thought it was good, very authentic-tasting and homey Thai food, but wished they had some green vegetables. Their corn on the cob, soaked in coconut milk and grilled over coals, was really delicious and something we will definitely be trying to duplicate at home.

Nostrana -- We might have just gotten very lucky, but we had what may be one of the best meals I've ever eaten at Nostrana. Standouts were the freshly-made burrata, the sea dab fish special, and linguine with saffron and scallops. Everything was just so impeccably prepared and carefully seasoned and flavored. I'm still trying to figure out how they made parsley salad taste that good.

Andina -- The only real disappointment of the week. I just don't get what's so great about this place. The entree portions are huge and a peanut-cotija dipping sauce they serve with the so-so bread was really unusual and delicious, but I found the tapas-type small plates quite overpriced, and the food in general not as interesting to taste as its description on the menu. The waiter also really "up-sold" us, and we wished we'd just skipped the main entrees altogether and stuck with pricey tapas. It's as if, in trying to make it upscale, they took all the soul out of Peruvian food. Is it more about the "scene" here than the food? I'm still bewildered.

Salt and Straw Ice Cream -- Found it very good, but maybe not as outstanding as the line around the block suggested it would be. That could just be because the things that are in season right now -- strawberries and blueberries -- aren't my favorites for ice cream, and I prefer a less sweet ice cream base. Also, by getting my ice cream in a cup, I might have missed the best part of the experience -- the made-to-order waffle cone (just not a cone fan). The excellent quality of the ingredients was very evident, though. Wish I could come back when peaches or raspberries are in season. My favorite of the flavors we tried was the red velvet cheesecake. The pear and gorgonzola was really special, too, but far more like a cheese course than a dessert.

Gruner -- just stopped in at lunch to try the burger. It was good, -- cooked to perfect medium-rare, well-seasoned, good quality beef. They serve it on a potato bun with cheese, arugula, onions and a house-made ketchup that's sort of like tikka masala sauce and probably inspired by the sauce they serve with curry-wurst in Germany. A fine burger.

Masu -- This was an unplanned stop. it was the only sushi place we could find open after we went to a show, and it was a great surprise. Really fresh, beautiful fish, excellent rice, and, one dish, the steamed black cod, while very expensive for the size of the portion, was maybe the most perfectly cooked piece of fish I've ever had. It came with pickled ginger blossoms, too, -- something I've never tried before and absolutely loved. Our favorites were the salmon skin roll and one of the special hamachi rolls that had basil and ground peanuts in it.

Pine State Biscuits at the PSU Farmer's Market -- At the end of the day, a biscuit is a biscuit, and the line was SO long, but these biscuits were really terrific. I'm glad we had them, but there's so much gorgeous food at that market, that I wondered that so much attention was being paid to this one vendor. You Portlanders are very lucky. If I lived there, despite all the amazing restaurants, I think I'd probably just live off the bounty of that market all week every week.

All in all, we adored Portland and are looking forward to going back. What a wonderful city in so many respects, and maybe the best food town in the country for value and quality.

Hope this report helps others planning a trip to your beautiful town,
Ninrn
Albuquerque, NM

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  1. Thanks so much for posting back!

      1. Thank you both! A terrific place I left out is Montinore Vineyards, a biodynamic winery in the Willamette Valley. We stopped there on our way to the coast. What lovely wines, and what a beautiful, interesting place. It's a little off the main wine trail, but I thought it was worth the extra couple of miles. We had tasted a lot of great stuff there, but two wines I remember as being especially good were the Graham's Block 7 Pinot Noir and the Muller-Thurgau white. The young lady who runs the tasting room was so sweet and full of information, and it was one of the highlights of our food/drink experiences in Portland.

        4 Replies
        1. re: ninrn

          Thanks for the winery suggestion. DH and I will be there next month and I've added Montinore to our list.

          1. re: suburban_mom

            Also nearby is Elk Cove, one of my Washington County favorites. By appointment is Beran, where you can meet Bill Beran himself. I love places where I can shake the hand of the person whose name is on the bottle. Good wine too.

            1. re: Leonardo

              Leonardo, Could you please suggest two or three more vineyards along that route that are good to visit? Thanks.

              1. re: ninrn

                "But Metro Portland Hound Leonardo gave us a great recommendation to stop by Karla's Smoke House in Rockaway Beach. We tried the smoked salmon, tuna and oysters (all that Karla had left by the time we got there at 3PM). -- All were excellent, especially the oysters. Karla was fun to talk to. She's quite elderly and says she doesn't know how much longer she'll be doing this work as her health is failing."......she's been saying that for years.

                You might want to make a post on the Wine board.
                Sake 1 (aka Momokawa) if you like that. Willakenzie and Patton Valley, but not exactly adjacent. http://willamettewines.com/winery-map/
                Off to Blues Fest. Have fun!

        2. Thanks for the great report nin - and I totally agree about Andina ... I just don't get it!