The ride down was pleasant and uneventful, and despite the late departure we actually pulled into Portland early. And this is where the second round of break downs began to occur. I'd only had a flimsy breakfast on the train (not enough time to get a good one before boarding), and I was very much in the mood to complete the task. Walked down to the Bijou Cafe (one of my usual spots), and it was packed out the door. Walk a few blocks south down to Mother's, which is even busier. OK, well, Yelp recommends a particular brunch-oriented food truck; nope, it's closed for the holiday weekend. *sigh* Fine, Flavourspot now has a downtown location, so I'll take the MAX over that way. Whoops! Yelp's/Google's map is completely wrong (though the listed address is correct) and the actual location is 12 blocks in the other direction, within sight of the Bijou Cafe where I started. ARGH! Fine, they're open, and they're not out of sausage! But they are out of lemon curd! And they don't take credit cards anymore! DAMMIT. As it happens, I had $9 in cash (only because the tunnel bus in Seattle was free!) and another $1.25 in change, which was precisely enough for a sausage/maple waffle, a Black Forest (nutella and jam) waffle, and a small coffee. So, breakfast, finally, and only just barely*.
Things got a lot better from there. Checked in to the hotel, did a bit of relaxing and planning my days, and headed off for some shopping. I randomly ran across the store for Moonstruck Chocolates, which I had attempted to visit in the past, given their rave reviews. Thanks to a generous sample policy, I can say that their caramels were disappointing, but their alcohol-enhanced truffles are amazing! I bought a few of those (scotch, cognac, and port) and a hazelnut praline truffle to take home, as well as a small cup of their caramel malt hot chocolate. That last was good, but not great. If I go there again, I'll definitely try their dark hot chocolate.
From there, it was off to Clear Creek Distillery for another sort of tasting. As it happens, that was one of the two days a year they do a tour of the facility, which was a nice little bonus. It was especially interesting hearing the details of the distilling process, and all of the fun things that they use the "head" of each batch (which is mostly methanol) for. They mentioned that their "scotch" whiskey will be bottled in late June, which I made specific note of. Got to try another small portion of their offerings, and ended up buying some raspberry and loganberry liqueurs, as well as mini-bottles of some things to try later. Bussed it back to downtown, did some more shopping, and dropped all my acquisitions back at the hotel.
Dinner was, as planned, a multi-stage affair. First stop: Blueplate, an old-timey soda fountain place, which, in addition to phenomenal homemade sodas, also serves delicious, petite meals for cheap. I sat at the counter, and chose the beef stroganoff, which I got to see cooked up right in front of me (by the very attractive Chef Jeff). For a beverage, I went with the "Purple Haze", a sweet-tart number full of star anise, allspice, and hibiscus. Both are recommended! Second was Mother's, for their mac-and-cheese of the day. Sadly, though, that day's was ham, mushroom, and swiss cheese, which somehow wasn't working for me, so I headed right over to stop number three: Widmer Gastropub. Now, Portland has no shortage of brewpubs, each seemingly better than the last. Sadly, though not unexpectedly, they were sold out of the amazing, amazing mead I had last time, so I had to "settle" for a hot pretzel with cheese fondue and a pint of their Drop Top Ale. As good as Widmer is, it doesn't displace my current favorite of Deschutes; I like the beers at Widmer a bit better, but their food is that same litlle bit inferior. I'm sure I'll be back to both!
Since I wasn't able to indulge in some mead, there was enough time to head back downtown for another soda at Blueplate. This time, a Hawaiian Sunset: coconut cream and pineapple, with a strawberry sunset. Yum. Ended up having a huge conversation with Chef Jeff, keeping him a half hour past closing, comparing transit/rail politics between Seattle and Portland. Which... I don't think I have words for how awesome that was.
The last planned stop of the evening was Ground Kontrol, which have completed their renovations from the last time I was there. Their new place is clearly TRON-inspired (blue el-wire, glowing geometric shapes hung from the ceiling, white illuminated glass-top tables), but it's definitely not overdone; upon further inspection, for example, the shapes I mentioned resemble a collection of n-sided dice instead of Bit. It was also much more difficult to get around in than I ever remember (not that it was ever trivial), but that may have been due to the massive crowd. Glad to see them doing so well! Had a great time playing a bunch of Frogger, Pac-Man, Burgertime, and Mappy; Tempest wasn't working, though.
On the way back to the hotel, on a whim I stopped at another waffle food truck I'd spied earlier, which is where I got my apple/caramel/whipped cream concoction I posted about earlier. It was great! The waffle was a different style from Flavorspot, but no less delicious. I almost can't call them a competitor, their serving approaches are so different. After that, it was an early turn-in for me.
Sunday was a deliberately slower-paced day. Got up around 10, showered, packed, stored my bags, and headed for breakfast at the Bijou Cafe. Wait was not as bad as yesterday, and it only ended up being about 20 minutes. The food was just what I wanted: scrambled eggs, house-made sausage, salad, and whole-wheat toast with jam. Glorious. The sausage patty, though, had some stray bacon on the bottom, which was sufficiently tasty to get me to order a side of it separately. This was an error; it cost $6 for 4 pieces (my whole rest of my breakfast was $8.75), and took 23 minutes to arrive. Won't make that mistake again.
Headed off to the MAX station to check out the stop at the Zoo: it's North America's deepest underground train station, and the station itself is really neat! It has, encased in glass, one of the core samples they took to excavate the station, and it's all annotated with the layers of rock and different bits of art and scientific exposition and whatnot. Took the elevator to the surface (it shows your current height above sea level instead of floor numbers), walked around for a bit, and headed back downtown. Went to Powell's for some book hunting (came away with only 3 new books: The City & The City by China Miéville, and Pattern Recognition and Spook Country by William Gibson), and then headed over to the east side of the city for some sightseeing. I wanted to hunt down the location of the coffee shop from the Portlandia sketch "Harajuku Girls". I found it! :) It was closed. :( Ah, well, I still got a picture. The neighborhood was interesting. Cute, but much lower density than I was expecting, based both on my experience of things like the Pearl District and the listing of businesses that I saw. Also, I continue to be amazed at Portland's bike infrastructure.
Next was Voodoo Doughnut. As it happens, their downtown location is closed for remodeling, but their other Portland location was right in the neighborhood. And, man, was it popular: the line was out the door. It moved quickly, though, and it ended up being only about a 40 minute wait. Got a bunch of really good stuff! Dinner was at the nearby Fire on the Mountain, home of the best buffalo wings I've found on the west coast. The tater tots are a nice addition, too! Took another bus back downtown, got questioned 8 different times about the Voodoo Doughnuts box in my hands ("Yeah, it's about 20 blocks that way." "Oh, nevermind."), and gathered my belongings at the hotel.
As luck would have it, I was running a bit early, so time for a delightful little latte at Backspace, just to cap things off. While waiting in line, I spied a postcard with some very nice art of Spock looking into a mirror at Evil Spock, with the quote "Conquest is easy, control is not". Intrigued, I flipped it over.
O. M. G. They're doing a *live* performance of the ST:TOS episode "Mirror, Mirror". Apparently this is a thing. I'm told that these people put massive effort into it, and it's actually impressively good! Immediately, I decided I must see it, and given the Clear Creek bottling, the dates work out, so I'll likely be back in Portland the weekend of 7/9. Because how could I not?
Yay for Portland!
* First world problems of the now.