Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Portland Day 5: Shopping, Germans, and Whiffies

After all the fun from the previous night, we slept in a little and didn't get out until close to noon.  But we had a mission: I needed some clothes, and although Gregory didn't, he somehow he managed to buy three times as many things as I did for less money.  This man can find a bargain!

I hesitate to mention this because I don't want to cast an overly serious pall on my self-award-winning entries here, but my Grandpa Doug Peterson died this last Sunday morning the 25th.  So our trip will diverge for a couple of days while I travel solo to Elko to attend the funeral services held on Friday.  Gregory will stay in Portland.  I look forward to being able to see my family, and to celebrating Grandpa's amazing 98 years.  He was born in 1913.  The man has seen it all.  This kind of retrospect really empowers me.  It's hard to feel sad when you reflect all that a powerhouse of a person like him has done for his family, a family that I am a part.  It can be sad and mournful if you let it, it can be beautiful and life affirming if you let it.  98 years!

But there is a dress code for such occasions, and being on vacation, my suitcase is full of shorts and t-shirts.  I brought one pair of jeans in case it gets a little chilly.  I needed a Macy's posthaste.

After a short spree we headed through the downtown area with its quaint shops, many parks, and surprisingly short city blocks.  We ended up near a German restaurant, and they happened to be between their lunch and dinner service, so their menu was limited.  I was hoping for a chicken schnitzel, but alas!  We ended up ordering almost one of everything since they were small appetizer-y, tapas-y, type bites, except for the gruyere cheese, spicy German mustard and prosciutto sandwich, which was full size on yummy bread with all kinds of seeds and grains.  There was salmon mousse canapés topped with fresh dill (aka light and refreshing), a cup of sweet corn soup with chives and creme fraiche (aka magma in a bowl), polenta croquettes stuffed with polenta (magma in crunchy shell), and the sandwich (magma with a mustard aftertaste).  To drink, we ordered Elderflower sodas which were proprietary.  They were good, but expensive and ultimately not worth it in my opinion, but they were still delicious.

We decided to order dessert there as well, and got a chocolate mousse that was quite lovely.  Whomever is the mousse chef, is truly a mousse master.

We headed back to the hotel to drop off our shopping bags and decided to drive around the city to get a better look at some stuff further out.  We drove up past the University to Washington Park, which features an enormous Rose Garden, the Portland Zoo and a Japanese Garden.  Unfortunately everything was closed except for the Rose Garden.  It was pretty amazing to see what 500+ varieties of roses looks like.  Though if you really want to impress me, I'm a 600+ variety sort of guy.  Sorry.

We did some more driving around and for dinner, we ended up at a Jim-suggested restaurant Whiffie's Pies, which have personal little pies that are deep fried, think of a big empanada, and varieties in both savory and sweet.  We ordered BBQ beef and mozzarella pies, and a peach pie for dessert.  It was almost enough for me, but not quite, so we looked around at what else was available.  Before I continue I should explain that Whiffie's Pies is a food truck and all around Portland there are empty parking lots that they have filled with--I'm guessing semi permanent--food trucks that circle around the edge and there are many tables in the middle, similar to makeshift food court.  Only good.  Some of the fancier ones, like this one, have lighting and covered seating--presumably to remain open even on rainy days.

The truck next door to Whiffie's was a crepe place.  Gregory said, just get something with meat, so I brought back a delicious crazy wonderful crepe:  prosciutto, fresh fig, chèvre (goat cheese), and honey.  It was like baby Jesus made it just for us!  (Really I think the guy's name was Dave, but it tasted like what I imagine heaven would taste like--maybe Dave was an angel, or perhaps my reincarnated dog!  Which only makes me think one thing: my dog growing up knew how to make crepes the whole time and we never knew it).  It was amazing.  We waited on Whiffie's peach pie for the end, and it was worth the wait.  The crusts were a perfect caramel color and were so light and flaky.  It made me happy.

The rest of the evening we spent bar hopping, checking out the other gay establishments in the area and eventually ended up back at Silverado, to see what a non-amateur night was like.  (One thing I have to give Portland credit is the cheap drinks.  I think I paid $1.50 for a cape cod.  I mean, don't get me wrong, it wasn't served in a barrel, but still).  The club was every bit as entertaining, but we didn't stay as long, due to our late previous night.  Tomorrow we will take a trip out of the city to see some nearby nature.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Portland Day 4: Tillamook

Our 4th day began on Alberta Street.  I think I could live in a two block radius of the gourmet Tater-Tot truck and survive on intrigue alone.  We did not have Tater Tots for breakfast, but instead had biscuits with sausage-mushroom gravy.  Pine State Biscuits had a variety of options, you could have an egg on top, or you could have a full on sandwich with a chicken breast and bacon in the middle (in case you weren't planning on having a heart attack that morning, they can fix that).  Gregory also ordered a corn dog, because the canoe of gravy before us was simply insufficient.  I am pretty skeptical of corn dogs in general, but this was the best I have ever had.  The honey mustard was a combination of unground mustard seeds and honey with just a tiny hint of spice.  Perfection.

Across the street was the tea shop.  I ordered a bell-flower Earl Gray and a pumpkin-spice Chai for Gregory.  Both were lovely and we relaxed and let the grease of our breakfast glub through our veins.  We chatted with a local sitting next to us, sipping Mate which had been prepared in the traditional Argentinian way: fill the entire cup with Mate leaves and pour the hot water into it, then sip through a straw that has a little strainer at the end. Her name was Megan and she was very nice.  We chatted about stuff to do in Portland while we were here and she asked us about cameras.  I managed to keep myself from buying the entire tea store, but vowed loudly that I would return someday, and then you'll all be sorry!  Then vanished in a puff of smoke.

We met up with our Meagan and Beth an hour later to caravan to Tillamook.  Cheese was in our hearts and minds (and blood and love handles), but we decided to take our sweet time with a scenic drive, a stop at a cleverly redesigned barracks which used to house soldiers, but now operated as a hotel and spa.  Everything was painted, even the pipes and joints had fun faces.  The grounds were light and open, like a park, and was just beautiful.  We took a lot of pictures here.

Meagan and Beth also popped my notes-of-cherry by stopping at my first ever winery, where I got to sample several different whites and reds.  We bought a bottles of each and continued to cheese heaven.

The factory was a lot of fun and we could have spent hours creepily staring at the assembly line through the glass.  I'm sure our intensity of fascination was unsettling to the people just trying to make cheese, but we were transfixed on the giant blocks that whizzed by through the slicer to the weigher, to the packager and sealer and then passed QC and then gone, into the next room for us to only imagine giant piles of cheese getting boxed and crated, waiting for the stork to deliver all those baby loaves directly to us.  We stopped at one last fromagerie to check out the Blue Heron Brie.  It was deliciously creamy and we bought a few cheeses to keep us company through the next few days.

Meagan and Beth were continuing on to the coast from there, and we had to get back in time to catch amateur night at the strip club.  Did you know there are a TON of strip clubs here?  Amateur night was a lot more entertaining than it sounds.  We had a good time and went through several dollar bills.  Some were good and an 'A' for effort, so entertaining nonetheless.  The adventure continues...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Portland - Day 3 - Rafting and Brûlée

Day 3 began at 9:30AM.  We awoke from our slumber to the option of seeing Portland in the daytime, given our previous night arrival in the dark.  Meagan, Jim and Beth had designs on floating the lazy river.  This is similar to something we have done before in the wilds of Idaho, a gentle current in the middle of nowhere and you float lazily along with only the sounds of nature lulling you into a contemplative nap-like state.  The river was very shallow and no life jackets were needed.  And with the promises of sandwiches (Portland cheese steak?--what the heck!), and a glass of white wine, it promised to be an afternoon of deep thought and zen-like contemplation.

The river was quite low, but wasn't exactly lazy.  I wouldn't say there was a need for a life jacket--that was true for me, at least--but given the river had an extra cup of coffee peed into it by the hoochie with the tramp stamp in the next raft, no not here, the other other one.  No the one in the blue.  The light blue.  Her she was totally peeing--I became concerned for some of the less acute swimmers on the river.

Did I mention that most of Portland and half of Seattle decided to join us on the not so lazy river?  The rapids were shallow, but swift, which made falling out of the raft annoying and painful, because the river was just deep enough for you to stand easily, but the current fast enough to prevent you from doing so, and instead just drag you flailing along the rocky bottom.  Beth experienced this first and it resulted in the loss of her sarong.

I was the second to fall on our journey when some irresponsible people on a large raft thought it was a good idea to follow me too closely into a rapid.  They basically ran me over which resulted in my knee getting painfully banged on the rocks as tried to get out from under their raft.  My knee will be fine once the bruises heal.  Unfortunately as punishment for their irresponsibility, I had to kill the boatload of people and chop them into pieces and eat them.  Many people on the river protested at the harshness of my punishment, but I was afraid I would have to insist.  They must be killed and eaten.  And so it was.

The third and final tragedy occurred when Meagan's hat was lost, just before we learned of a tragedy I will number as three-and-a-half, but will label as "holy shit!".  We apparently arrived five minutes after a young man broke his arm on a rope swing.  I don't know how one can do what he did by using a rope swing, but he apparently managed to achieve a compound fracture in his forearm.  In looking at the rope (a regular rope with some knots, where you swing over the water and let go and then land in the water) and imagining how one could achieve such a wound as a result, he may as well have been playing chess for all I understand.  How the hell do you break your arm on a rope swing?  Let alone "the worst injury I have ever seen" as stated by a stander-by who also was a football coach.  The world may never know.

Or at least I won't ever know, so I'm just going to reason it was witchcraft and that either he or the rope were hexed.

The day came to an end at the pull-out and my abs ached (and still do immensely) from what equated to a seven-hour sit-up, due to my floatie tube being just a little too small, or big or somehow both, for me.  (I have a feeling that by the end of the eat-cation, this workout and the resulting pain will have been entirely in vain.)

Jim and Meagan unloaded the equipment and we reconvened around 9 for an evening meal at a restaurant called Veritable Quandry.  And the menu was!  We all wanted everything and at least there were five of us to be able to order a little of everything.  But the thing I was most looking forward to was the Creme Brûlée. It was chocolate hazelnut Creme fucking Brûlée and it was A MA ZING.  We also ordered a Marscapone cheesecake and some kind of incredible banana split with peanut brittle ice cream, which was really good, but the Brûlée was my personal heaven.  I thought for a moment that I was going to start to cry it was so good.

Jim will be leaving on business in the morning and we won't see him again the remainder of the trip.  Meagan and Beth have a rendezvous with us tomorrow at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  Can't wait for that!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2011 Trip Day 1 & 2 Drive to Portland011

More Day 1 and 2 Drive Pics on Flickr

Drive-cation 0-11 Day 1 and 2

Drive-cation 0-11 begins! Our ultimate destination is Portland, where we will arrive after a two-day drive. We will spend a few days there visiting some friends and seeing what the city has to offer, will then amble slowly toward San Francisco via the 1 with planned and unplanned stops for landmarks, vista points, and any spontaneous adventure that strikes our fancy.

The first day we stopped off at the deliciously technicolor assault that is the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield. The factory tour is free and a must if you are nearby. We happened to be there on Friday, and any weekday is preferred since you will have an opportunity to see workers on the floor. A weekend will yield a view of static, lifeless machines, and a work floor devoid of humanity.  And it may smell fine, but the amazing power of having a glorious cloud of juicy pear envelope your entire being is akin to staring through an oven door, drooling over the baking cookies as the scent and anticipation of burning your mouth on 400 degree molten chocolate takes over your rational mind.  The smells are amazing, which is why Jelly Bellies are amazing.  If you disagree, you are insane and I can't talk to you.

The drive got much nicer too as the trip up 5, an otherwise straight and boring shot from L. A., the missionary position of California highways, the landscape became more hilly and tree-y. And as we arrived in our hotel just south of Redding, it began to get dark.

The Hotel Gaia was really nice and we would definitely stay there again, if in the area.  There was a restaurant attached to the hotel and the front parking lot was full, with more cars arriving exclusively for the place, which told us, if the locals are making it a point to come to the hotel restaurant, it is a good sign.  Was it ever! The menu made me want one of everything and I settled on lobster ravioli.  Gregory had prime rib.  We tried to power through to a table-side-fired Creme Brûlée, but we were just to exhausted after the drive and wanted to sleep.

The second day we set out through the Northern California / Southern Oregon leg of our trip, back tracked to the hotel to pickup our almost forgotten swim trunks, and set out again.  Luckily we had only traveled a few miles before the revelation hit us.  A couple of hours later, we stopped off at a little cafe in a rest stop for lunch.  Mid afternoon found us walking through Ashland's Lithia Park where I envied the many festival attendees.  If I had proper foresight, I would have booked us to see at least one play that day on our way through, since the Shakespeare Festival was in full swing.

We stopped at a few sights along the way, including the Winchester Dam, which also featured a fish ladder.  We saw a few small fish struggling against the current.  Our drive into Portland was pretty uneventful, as a book on tape kept us awake and laughing.

We stopped by our hotel briefly to drop off our bags, and were instantly off to visit Meagan and Jim, for us, two of the best reasons to visit Portland.  And by a lovely coincidence, Beth happened to be in town visiting them, and we had an opportunity to see her as well.  We hadn't seen her since May and it was so nice to catch up.  Jim and Meagan were in the midst of making one of their incredible meals and canning.  Jim was brining pickles and preparing steak, meat, and vegetables.  All were of the highest quality and the chicken nearly made me cry.  The wine they chose complimented the steak in spades.  It is sensationally unfair how incredible is their insight over food.  Meagan had prepared a macaroni and cheese casserole that blew everyone away, and made an amazing dessert earlier in the day that looked like what you would receive in Dubai if you ordered a Pop Tart.  Thinly sliced apple over a thin pastry dough with marzipan filling and topped with an apricot glaze.

And it all pales in comparison with just getting to be in the same room, to talk and laugh and hug my friends again.  We have missed them so much and the conversation, love and laughter filled every corner of their home.  It has been an incredible start to our vacation.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Menchie, Joe and I

LEGO Great Ball Contraption

Wow, that is the most amazing and fun to watch ball gizmo ever...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hot Chelle Rae - Tonight Tonight

My favorite song / video this week... Hot Chelle Rae - Tonight Tonight (Even if I am a few months late.)


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