Portland Joys

J. and I returned last night from a quick trip to Portland, OR; a belated birthday present for me. As usual, we had a great time.

First off, despite a ‘late’ leaving from work (and may I say: I really hate it when other people’s inability to budget their time means I’m working after they get to leave the office) we headed home to pack and reassure the furkids that all was well. (The early dinner distracted them, I’m sure). We hit the road about 6:50pm and despite the late hour traveled in fairly heavy traffic all the way through Olympia. I can’t imagine what the daily commute must be like for someone who lives south of us, but works up in Seattle. Dreadful, trully appalling.

Nonetheless, we pulled into the driveway of the Brittania at Terwilliger Vista BnB (http://www.terwilligervista.com/) at precisely 9:50pm — our usual 3-hour journey. J. booked the Garden Retreat because of the soaking tub and fireplace, and it was very romantic. No frillies! (Tangent One: why does romantic seem to equal plastic lace and over-ornamented frou-frous? ick). The late hour and long drive meant an early night for us and into bed we tumbled. (Tangent Two: bless the people of the world who believe that a good night’s sleep means a firm yet yielding mattress. And several pillows, thick and thin for those who sleep on their back, sides, and tummies.)

Breakfast started at 8:30 with juice, several kinds of bread, cereal, fresh fruit and Eggs Benedict if we desired. I passed, but J, tried them and liked them. Carl was the cook while Karen chatted with us. (Turns out we have a California past in common and we amiably shared Bay area commentary over coffee.) Then it was hippity-hop to the Portland Art Museum (http://www.portlandartmuseum.org/) to see the The Quest for Immortality exhibit. This is a lovely collection of art from various tombs (of course) including the highlight: a reproduction of the burial chamber with its walls painted with the literal instructions for the sun to go through its nighttime journey. The audio tour was even worth listening to (narrated by Jeremy Irons). We spent more than two hours wandering through, and could have spent longer if it weren’t for aching old abcks and knees!

For lunch, we asked one of the docents for a recommendation, and he directed us to SouthPark (http://southpark.citysearch.com/), a seafood restaurant with a lovely lunch menu. So lovely, in fact, that we wished we didn’t already have dinner plans. Local suppliers, incredibly fresh fish, and a superb wine list made this a restaurant we will be returning to in the future.

Back to the room for a quiet afternoon of tubs and naps. The we gussied up and headed out for dinner at BlueHour (http://www.bluehouronline.com/). If you haven’t had the pleasure of having a meal here, please make the time. You’ll thank me. We hadn’t been here in about a year (give or take a few weeks) and were laughing to be seated at the same table. Then our waiter came to say hello and started off by saying, “have you been here before?” just as we were recognizing him as our same waiter. We were given an amuse bouche of cauliflower mousse in grougere, and while I recognized the excellence of it, anythign caluiflower is wasted on me (brussell sprouts, too). I accompanied my Pinot Gris (Oregon ’04) with the 20 Greens salad. Crisp greens, very few bitter, and a delicious sherry mustard vinaigrette combined excellently. J. had the Roasted Potato soup with smoked bacons and chives –just a few sprinkled on top added a smoky depth to the thick, rich soup. Just the right amount of time after that, our main courses were served — and this time, J. won, hands down. He had the Roast Chicken and Dumplings, a dish utterly unlike anything you’ve had at home. The chicken was roasted tenderly, and thoroughly so that it was completely cooked but not dry. The ‘dumplings’ were more like slices of dense apple-pecan bread and the combination was orgasmic. My own Double Cut Pork Chop with onion marmalade was superb, but the chicken was better. We happily devoured every bit, sharing back and forth generously. Dessert was (as it was the last time) a tad tricky. BlueHour has the usual flavors for dessert (chocolate, seasonal fruit, cream, and citrus) but presents them in unusual combinations. We ended up choosing the Peppermint Ice Cream Profiteroles with Hot Fudge Sauce and the Apple Tarte Tartin with Creme Fraiche Ice Cream. WOW. The peppermint ice cream was like licking a frozen candy cane — very intense flavor. The tarte was perfectly warmed and also delicious (but J. had won again ).

Although we stayed awake long enough to digest, our dinner took us about two hours, so we weren’t overly full to begin with. And we again slept very well.

Breakfast was yummy french toast and this time we had company — two other couples from WA. We chatted and shared stories and recommendations and then packed up our belongings. After settling the bill, J. and I headed to the absolute must-do in Portland: Powell’s City of Books. We’re old hands by now, so we decided on a meet point (wherever I ended up) and time (one hour) and split up. I’d been inspired by the PAM exhibit, so I made a point of going through the history section and picked up a book on Alexander the Great, and another on Courtesans. A fiction piece set in Ancient China looed interesting, so I picked that up as well. From there I wandered over to science, and found an interesting book on the evolution of our understanding of DNA. By now, J. had found me, we’d agreed on a new time to meet, and we split once again. So I headed over to the area that takes the most time, even though I go through it the quickest: Sci-Fi/Fantasy. C.S. Friedman has a new book out, but I held out since its Book 1 of 3, and I have no desire to torture myself for the next four years. A few missing Lackey books (once owned but lost over the years), some Eddings, and a few totally new authors all went into the basket. By now we’d been at Powell’s for more than three hours; it was time to get on the road.

Just as we crossed the river, we realized we were hungry, so we pulled over at a place called The Broad Street Brewery & Grill. We were just in time for the last quarter of the playoffs (sad Seahawks!) served up with a really yummy Pulled Pork sandwich (me) and Halibut and Chips (J). Their Winter Ale is pretty good as well.

Finally, we really hit the road and made it home in 2.5 hours. A busy weekend, full of fun culture, and realy good food. A perfect birthday present.

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