Portland, Oregon, is possibly the most sustainable city in America. Farm-to-table isn’t a trend, it’s a given. Carbon neutral and energy-efficient building models aren’t trends, they’re the norm. Artisans work together instead of cut-throat competing in order to create interesting products and a thriving community. This spirit of activism and innovation is also visible through the food scene. You can’t go wrong with simply following your nose — or your eyes as decadent cakes in windows and rustic decor beckon you into these establishments; however, we wanted to highlight some truly sustainable and delicious offerings. Without further adieu, here is the epicure’s guide to Portland, Oregon, from farm-to-cone ice cream to certified organic brewing and beyond.
Stay: Hotel Lucia
Located in downtown Portland, Hotel Lucia is a 127-room sustainable hotel that showcases local products like Salt & Straw pints of ice cream and fresh-pressed Kure Juice at the front desk, and Portland Roasting Coffee and Smith Teas in the rooms — not to mention a number of local purveyors like Bee Local Honey in their restaurants and bar (although they also have their own rooftop beehives that will begin producing honey in the fall). The property is very arts and innovation focused, with projects like an Instagram wall that pulls photos from a certain Portland-inspired hash tag. Unique amenities like the chance to call down for an iPad or mix-filled iPod (we recommend the “Keep Portland Weird” mix) add to the fun. On the bed, you’ll find a sign asking “What’s your eco-personality?” so that housekeeping know how often to wash your sheets and towels. Make sure to have a meal in the on site Imperial or the Portland Penny Diner where you can savor farm-to-fork creations by James Beard Award winning chef Vitaly Paley.
Portland food trucks. Photo taken by Jessica Festa using the Nokia Lumia Icon.
Explore The World Through Food Carts
Located in Portland’s West End at 10th and Adler, you’ll find an extremely dense block — technically it extends onto the outer blocks, too — of artisanal food carts selling everything: Georgian, Thai, Israeli, Indian, vegan, European, Mediterranean, Italian and anything else you can think of, all made fresh by locals. Typically these carts stay in the same location each day. While you’ll undoubtedly find delicious food simply using your nose as your guide, some recommendations include Nong’s Khao Man Gai “no joke” spicy free-range chicken and rice marinated in ginger, salt and sugar; the Pork Schnitzel Sandwich with slaw from EuroDish; and the falafel sandwich with shawarma fries from Gonzo.
Artisan Coffee at Stumptown
Duane Sorenson opened Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Portland in 1999, passionate about sourcing beans from small, sustainable farms and paying up to three times more than average Fair Trade prices. Their passionate about forming strong, trusting relationships with their coffee growers as well as other local businesses like breweries, ice cream shops, restaurants and artisans to create interesting new products. They’re also passionate about great coffee, not only buying the best equipment — coffee geeks will love looking at their brewing products — but also rigorously training their employees to brew the best possible cup of coffee. All beans are taste tested with strict grading sheets and must score 86+ out of 100 before being served to ensure quality consistency. They also help the people they work with. For example, after seeing the inefficient tools Rwanda coffee pickers were using to move their beans to production, the company started Bikes to Rwanda and donated cargo bicycles for these people to more easily transport their beans.
Visitors to Portland can go to their Tasting Annex (100 SE Salmon Street) for a free cupping experience daily from 3-4pm — get there at 3pm as you won’t want to miss anything — where you’ll enjoy a guided tasting and can visit their mini museum of antique coffee-making tools and modern java devices.
Portland Farmers Market. Photo courtesy of Travel Portland.
Portland State Farmers Market
Another artisan experience is the year-round Portland State Farmers Market. Here you’ll find hundreds of produce vendors, farmers and artisan purveyors selling natural, fresh foods sourced mostly within 100 miles. One of the best parts of the market is that almost every vendor offers free samples, so you can easily have a full meal of wine, hot sauces, cheeses, breads, fruits, cookies, honeys, dips and more.
While you can’t go wrong with any of the vendors, there are some that stand out. At Tastebud you can savor a Portland-style bagel, where the bread is boiled in warm water and baked in the oven making it denser and crispier on the outside (I love the leek flavor!). Another must-sample is Killer Dave’s Bread “Sin Dawg,” a 100% whole grain organic cinnamon-sugar bread roll that bursts with flavors of sweet sauce and the contrasting texture of soft bread and crunchy grains. At Marshall’s Haute Sauce an array of spicy sweet and savory sauces are showcased, like “Cranberry Red Jalapeno” and “Habenero Carrot Curry.” Sample lavender-infused jams and honeys at Sundance Lavender Farm, French-style cheeses at Goldin Artisan Goat Cheese and local wines at Twist Wine Company (who are so obsessed with wine one of the makers is named Chenin). Tip: Go at 8am when it opens to see all the city’s chefs purchasing their ingredients for the day. Note: Vendors change weekly, although you’ll often see the same faces.
Hopworks Urban Brewery. Photo courtesy of Visit Portland.
Organic Beer At Hopworks
Portland is home to almost 55 breweries, so there are a lot of excellent craft beer choices in the city. One that stands out in terms of sustainability is Hopworks Urban Brewery, a carbon neutral brewery and the only certified organic brewery in Portland. Moreover, their grains and barley are recycled to local farms to use for fertilizer and to raise organic livestock.
After doing a brewery tour it’s worth it to have a meal in their restaurant — you’ll really noticed their love of bikes here with the recycled bike frames dangling above the bar. We recommend a Bomber BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger topped with local Tillamook cheese, natural smoked bacon and Velvet ESBBQ beer sauce paired with a craft beer from their colorful chalkboard, like a “Raspberry Belgian Tripel” aged in Pinot barrels with raisins, a “Notorious F.I.G.”, a fig infused Belgian dark, a “Totally Radler” featuring 60% lager and 40% lemonade, or a “Velvet ESB,” an amber ale with oats. Also don’t miss Breakside Brewery, known for making experimental beers like salted caramel stout and passionfruit sour.
Salt & Straw
I’m hesitant to even call what Salt & Straw produces ice cream. It’s more like magic. A small-batch ice cream company making “farm-to-cone ice cream” started by cousins Kim and Tyler Malek. Everything is done by hand — right down to folding in the ingredient add-ons, which are perfectly measured to ensure the same amount of fruit and candy in each bite, and the packing. They work with small farms and artisans to source their ingredients, with range from Stumptown Coffee to Woodblock Chocolate as well as the all-natural ice cream they get from small farms in the nearby Willamette Valley. If the sustainability aspect of this operation doesn’t entice you, the flavors sure will. Picture “Sea Salt with Caramel,” “Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper,” “Cinnamon Snickerdoodle,” “Pear with Blue Cheese,” and “Stumptown Coffee & Burnside Bourbon.”
Photo courtesy of Salt & Straw.
Also be sure to sample something from the theme of the month. For example, at the time of writing Salt & Straw had partnered with Portland mixologists to create a classic cocktail series. Some of these include a “Chocolate Chip Mint Julep” made in conjunction with bartender Brandon Wise of Imperial containing Oregon roasted single-origin chocolate, local spearmint and Four Roses Distilling bourbon, and a “Lemon Amaretto Sour Sherbert” crafted with the help of spirit handler Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Clyde Common made with fruity amaretto sherbet and lemon egg cream. If you’re not sure which flavor you want, opt for one of their ice cream flights.
Cascade Ale House Sour Beer Sampler. Photo courtesy of Torsten Kjellstrand.
Stroll Through Portland’s Artisan-Filled Central East Side
The Salt & Straw factory is located in Portland’s Central East Side, essentially an artisan corridor due to the types of businesses and production spaces that call it home (and that are scheduled to soon move to the area). This is a great place to rent a bike and explore local culture. Stop at Harvester Brewing for a gluten-free beer, attend a free guided tasting at the Stumptown Annex, pair pinot noir and local and international cheeses at Clay Pigeon Winery, savor barrel-aged sour beers at Cascade Brewing Barrel House, have a single origin coffee at Coava Coffee, try some of over 40 tap wines at Cooper’s Hall or visit the factory of Bee Local (reservations required) to take part in a terroir-focused honey tasting. These are just a few experiences one can have in this area, and there are more to come later in the year, like an artisan creamery, a new restaurant and Jacobsen Salt’s new mineral water facility.
For an expert local guide we recommend Kieron Wiedner of First Nature ([email protected]), who do completely customized tours for guests. He’ll teach you about the local ecosystems and even how to forage for hazelnuts, berries and delicious lemon-flavored wood sorrel. You’ll get a true taste of Oregon, and learn more about where your food comes from in an adventurous way. If you’re interested in a foraging adventure, he can customize one for you and even take you to meet local farmers, an extra sustainable experience.
Dining at Clyde Common in the Ace Hotel. Photo courtesy of Jessica Festa using a Nokia Lumia Icon.
Dinner And Drinks In The Hip Ace Hotel
The Ace Hotel immerses guests in Portland culture through art, local products and funky innovative rooms. Whether you stay in their hotel or not it’s possible to eat and drink on property. Start with dinner at Clyde Common, where American-meets-European-meets-Portland. The space is well lit by natural light and offers a rustic ambiance with wooden tables, a minimalist design, exposed bulbs and air shafts and soft fabric textures hanging from the wall. While the menu changes daily — each thick papered menu features a date stamp — some items you may encounter include Olympic Provisions charcuterie with pub mustard, bread and pickles; fideos with crab velouté, scallop, clams and octopus; gnocchi in basil pesto with asparagus, cashew, lemon and grana; and a pastrami short rib with a chickpea panisse, Tokyo turnip and olive. Also make sure to order a cocktail, as nationally-famous mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler, also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique is the head of the craft cocktail program, which is focused on thoughtful craft cocktails made with the highest-quality ingredients.
Downstairs in Pepe me Moko, a newly opened bar in February 2014 and the brainchild of Morgenthaler, jazz music, classic cocktails, low-lighting and secret booths offer a speakeasy setting. Order the “Hotel Nacional Special” made with aged rum, lime, apricot brandy, pineapple gomme and bitters, or, if you’re in the mood for a boozy dessert, a “Grasshopper” featuring cremes de menthe et cacao, vanilla ice cream, Fernet Branca and sea salt.
Bee Local Honey
You know those honey bears you see in the grocery store, full of sticky caramelized goop? Bee Local is the opposite of that. Damian Magista creates terroir-focused raw honeys by placing hives on rooftops around Portland. What is in the area for the bees to pollinate will determine the flavors and textures of the honey. Unlike commercial honeys that move their hives constantly and heat honey to high temperatures to move it through the machines faster, Bee Local honey is never heated and hives are rarely, if ever, moved to help keep hives healthy. In true Portland community fashion Bee Local partners with a number of Portland businesses to create honey beers, honey ice cream and honey-infused restaurant dishes. Right now, they’re also focusing on single-origin honeys from other countries like Ghana.
To experience Bee Local for yourself you can visit their facility to take a short tour, learn about beekeeping and honey harvesting and partake in a guided honey tasting. Reservations are required. Moreover, The Driftwood Room inside Hotel DeLuxe serves craft Bee Local honey-infused cocktails like “Board of Directors” made with dry vermouth, green chartreuse, honey and lemon juice; the “Local Honey” featuring local Aria gin, farigoule wild thyme liqueur, honey and lemon juice; a “Port Authority” with whiskey, Port, honey, basil simple syrup and lemon juice; and a classic “Bee’s Knees” featuring gin, lemon and honey.
A passionfruit and cocoa nib Blue Star Donut. Photo courtesy of Jessica Festa.
Blue Star Donuts
While Voodoo Doughnut is famous for its crazy, naughty, sometimes downright dirty doughnut flavors, Blue Star Donuts is a local favorite for its artisanal, sustainably-made treats. The bakery uses a classic brioche recipe that’s a bit lighter and less sweet than the norm, incorporating local and organic ingredients, with donuts made regularly throughout the day. Continuing with the “go local” philosophy they serve Portland drinks like Stumptown Coffee and Steve Smith Teas. What’s also great about Blue Star Donuts is the flavors: “Blueberry Bourbon Basil,” “Peanut Butter and Jelly,” “Widmer Brothers Hefe Citrus,” “Hard Apple Cider Fritter,” “Passionfruit and Cocoa Nib” (shown above) and more. These aren’t the type of donuts that are made for shock value, but instead both typical and unexpected flavors are paired for an addictive result.
Farm-to-fork dining at Ned Ludd. Photo courtesy of Ned Ludd.
A Taste Of Oregon At Ned Ludd
“A significant part of the pleasure of eating is on one’s accurate consciousness of the live and the world from which the food comes.” This quote by Wendell Berry is written right on the menu, and embodies the philosophy of the venue. As soon as you walk into Ned Ludd, the English farmhouse ambiance washes over you with reclaimed wood benches and walls, potted plants, candle-lit chandeliers reflected in oversized mirrors, antiques and local fruit wood stuffed under benches, in bathrooms and in every nook and cranny (it’s used to cook dishes in their wood-fire oven, which is also where cooking prep happens as there is no back kitchen). Owner Jason French has built strong relationships with local farmers, and works closely with them to ensure each is sourcing and working in a responsible manner. They even purchase whole animals when possible.
“There is a freedom as a chef working through say, peas from the beginning to the end of the season,” says Chef Jason French. “We can change the ways we use the peas paying close attention to their life cycle from sweet to starchy. Using whole animals works in the same way, one day loin, the next day leg, the next day a braise, a bit of charcuterie.”
Almost 100% of the menu comes from Oregon, including the wines and beers. The menu here changes weekly, ensuring the freshest seasonal ingredients — although you’ll always find coffee, cheese and spices having influence over the offerings. Some unique menu items you may encounter include a pasta made out of pork skin and topped with clams and chorizo; an arugula salad with strawberry, rhubarb, sheep’s cheese and almonds; a pastured lamb with farro, cucumber, spinach, feta, olive and yogurt; and an Oregon dalmon with radish, leek and mustard beurre blanc.
Multnomah Whiskey Library. Photo courtesy of Jessica Festa taken with a Nikon D5100.
Experiencing The World’s Most Interesting Bar At Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library
Opened in October 2013, Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library is possibly Portland’s most interesting craft cocktail bar. Featuring a wall showcasing over 1,700 bottles as well as portraits painted by local Portland artists that depict people important in the whiskey revolution, guests can choose to sit by an enormous fireplace, on plush vintage leather couches, in a quiet library nook or at a long communal table illuminated by reading lights. Order a tasting of one of their fine whiskeys or other spirits, or choose a cocktail from the menu. Better yet, tell your server what types of flavors and drinks you typically enjoy to have a bespoke cocktail prepared just for you. Some must-have experiences include watching mixologists climb a sliding “Beauty And The Beast”-style library staircase to grab spirits off the five-level shelving, seeing food from kitchen appear out of a secret dark wood wall panel, and watching a craft cocktail being made tableside. Tip: Order a drink that’s stirred over shaken, as typically stirred cocktails involve bringing the spirit cart to the table while shaken cocktails get made behind the bar.
What’s your favorite artisanal taste of Portland? Please share in the comments below.
Top Photo courtesy of Hotel Lucia.