Monday, 1 August 2011

USA 2011: Portland Part 1

I had decided to catch the train from Seattle to Portland because it only cost $45 for business class and I thought it would be a pretty trip. it was a very pretty trip! Lots of nice things out of the window. I did find the seats a bit uncomfortable though, they were not designed for shorter people to sit in them! The train was about half an hour late getting into Portland because at one point we had to sit still for half an hour on the tracks. This was because the train had tooted its horn so much that it had run out of air. Seriously. I kid not. It was tooting a lot! Eventually I made it to Portland, and was looking at a map when a nice railway attendant came and helped me out finding the way to walk to my hotel. Upon mentioning that I was vegan, he called over another attendant who was vegan, who was very happy to tell me about his favourite places. Meeting another vegan within five minutes of being in Portland... is this a vegan fairytale??

It took about 15 minutes to get to my hotel, The Mark Spencer Hotel. The rooms here were different from other rooms, as they included a small kitchen. I really liked this room!

After unloading at the hotel, I walked a few blocks to Prasad. This had been my plan for dinner from the start, and my helpful railway vegan had said this was his favourite place of all, so I was looking forward to it. It shares a space with a yoga studio, so it is quite a relaxed and peaceful vibe there.

The helpful railway vegan had recommended his favourite on the menu, so that was what I got. It is the Dragon Bowl: Quinoa (you could also have bhutanese red rice if you preferred), beans (kidney beans today, it varies), arame, wakame, dulse, steamed greens, avocado, scallions, sesame seeds and sprouts. He also recommended I order it with two sauces: the ginger lime sauce and the peanut sauce, so I did. This was amazing! Just what I was after.

Wholefoods was just a couple of blocks down the street, so I went to stock up on a few essentials. They had a vegan pizza sign out the front, which always makes me happy. I only brought a few things, but I enjoyed strolling and browsing at all the amazing things you can get in Wholefoods.

Given that I had a freezer in my room, I bought some Purely Decadent Cherry Nirvana ice cream. I love cherry things. This was good, though the cherry flavour was a bit artificial.

I finished my day with some of the beautiful organic peppermint tea I had bought (my first peppermint tea in a week!) and a chocolate chip cookie from Prasad. Yet again the room did not have a kettle (why are you afraid of kettles, USA?), so I had to boil my water using the coffee maker, which took forever!

The plan was to have an early night tonight, but I'm afraid I turned on the TV for the first time in my trip and was promptly sucked in by Toddlers and Tiaras (it's like a train wreck, but you can't look away) and I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant on the TLC channel. The latter had me entranced, I couldn't stop watching, and it kept going on and on and on. Eventually I did sleep. I had a little bit of a snooze in the next morning, before having a small and uninspiring breakfast at the hotel and then heading out for my day.

I was having trouble getting my hand on a good map of Portland. PDX is divided into 4 quadrants - SW, SE, NW and NE. My hotel was in the SW, and I was having a hard time finding a complete map of the east side of town. There were small maps of certain areas there, but not complete maps. It was important because a lot of food is on the eastside! So I went to the visitors centre, who looked confused because I wanted to go to the eastside but I didn't have a car and I didn't ride a bike. Apparently walking and public transport was not a concept. Eventually I was able to get a bike map of the NE, which combined with my other mini-maps of the SE was enough to get around.

PDX is known for its food cards, but I didn't really have a concept of what this meant. However within a quick walk I found numerous blocks full of different food carts. Like this one, which included the Sonny Bowl vegan food cart. I never did get to eat here, but it was great to see the word vegan!

I then proceeded to meander around the SW corner of PDX. To be honest, aside from food I wasn't really sure what I was going to do in PDX. Someone had suggested the art museum, but they seemed to have having some car exhibit and that is not interesting to me.

What I did like was the long stretch of park land, several blocks of beautiful green space called the Southeast Park. It was beautiful, green and lovely. A fantastic public space where the public would actually want to spend time (hear that, Brisbane?). The park goes all the way down the university - what a lovely place to go to uni!

SQUIRRELS! You know I love these little guys. This time I actually got a non-blurry photo.

One of the places that I had heard a lot about was Homegrown Smoker, a food cart down near the uni that sold all vegan smoky goodness. I was in awe when I got there, and loitered around for ages trying to make my menu selection. They let me try a sample of the smoked soy curls, which was the first soy curl of my life, and they were so good.

I had really wanted to get the mac-n-cheese wrap, but in the end the special of the day won my heart. It is the Curly Wrap - Smoked soy curls, smoked eggplant, totally baked beans, grilled peppers and onion, shredded slaw and greens, NoCheese Sauce and chipotle aioli (I got mine without the peppers). See, the idea of smoked eggplant lured me away from mac-n-cheese. I considered getting mac-n-cheese as a side, but I knew I had second lunch coming up in a little while, so I sadly refrained. However, what wasn't sad was how good this wrap was. HOLY SMOKES! This is one of the best things that has ever graced my tastebuds. I had a minted lemonade to go with it, which was just the right thing.

I took my amazing noms to a park to eat. I had read about the Ira Keller Fountain, and it was just a couple of blocks up and sounded nice. So off I went. Turns out the fountain is more of a manmade waterfall! It was really nice there. I sat on a stone and munched my amazing first lunch and was happy.

Plus there was a SQUIRREL!!

After eating, and thinking that was one of the best food experiences of my life, I meandered across the river to the mythical eastside... the SE to be precise. I had another food card experience in my sights.

On Hawthorne Street there is a collection of food cards that have some great vegan noms. There is also free wi-fi there. What more can a girl want??

The reason I was here was Potato Champion, home of the vegan poutine. I had dreamed about having vegan poutine for months, I was really looking forward to it. The idea of fries, gravy and cheeze... so good!

So of course, I got something completely different! Someone on Twitter had mentioned they had PB&J fries, which sounded intriguing. Eventually my curiosity won the day and I chose these over the poutine. They were really interesting, a cross between awesome and slightly odd! It turns out that the cheeze they use in the poutine is Teese, and I can get that in Brisbane, so vegan poutine will still be mine at home. I am really glad I got to try the PB&J fries!

Another cool cart that is there is Perierra Creperie, which has a vegan, gluten free option! Gleegans rejoice! They have a couple of vegan filling combinations, or you can get any other the other fillings in the xgfx crepe.

I chose the classic combination of lemon and sugar. There was a bit of a wait because the cart was so popular and there was only one girl there who was mesmerising as the made crepes, but I didn't mind. It was worth the wait for this giant, hot, delicious crepe. I remembered as I was ordering that not all sugar in the US is vegan friendly, so I asked her and she said it was vegan, so I hope they knew what I meant.

There is also a place there that sells vegan burritos, though I didn't have any of these.

What I did have, however, was a hand-pie from Whiffies Fried Pies, which as several vegan options.

At first I was going to get the berry one, but then I noticed they had a Vegan Mounds - coconut, chocolate and almond, and I was sold! To be honest I could not eat all the pastry, it was very fried, but what I could eat all of was the delicious, oozy filling inside! Oh, it was so good!!

I'll be back next time with more PDX adventures!


  1. Wow, so much vegan food! I want gleegan crepes and I'd really like to try Homegrown Smoker.

    I love the squirrel shots too!

    I laughed at your comment about Toddlers & Tiaras, I've only seen clips of it and part of me wants to watch it and the other part knows I shouldn't go there!

  2. At first I was a little grossed out at the thought of PB&J fries, but then I looked closer and saw that it's satay sauce and dinner-ish raspberry sauce, and now I think it sounds totally delicious.

  3. I went to Portland last year and managed to go to the Poutine cart on my last day which was the one day of the week it was closed! Lovely reading about Portland, I know what you mean about the maps, I totally relied on my friend to get us from place to place, I just couldn't get my head round them! I also got addicted to some truly terrible tv shows during my holiday.