Portland: A Great Food and Wine Destination

Portland: Island Grill BBQ food cart

Recently I had a chance to travel to Portland, Oregon for a weekend. I had 3 things I wanted to do:

  • Try the food carts
  • Buy some Oregon Pinot Noir
  • Try the restaurants

I did get to try all three. Here is my synopsis.

Portland Food Carts

Portland has a great food cart scene.  Food carts are grouped into “pods”, which are typically around parking lots.  Most of the food carts are downtown, but there are many outside of the downtown core.  I love Cajun food, and Southern BBQ, so I checked out the Food Carts Portland website to narrow down my search.  (Note this website has a set of Google Maps showing the pods and the carts at each pod.) The food carts I eventually tried was:

  • Island Grill Hawaiian BBQ
  • A Little Bit of Smoke

Portland: A Little Bit of Smoke food cart

I also have a soft spot for Hawaiian lunch plates, which are typically some bbq’d meat (in my case Kalua pork), a scoop of rice, and a scoop of potato salad. If you go to Hawaii, look out for Hawaiian lunch plates.  They are always a great value!

At the Island Grill Hawaiian BBQ, I did have the Kalua pork lunch plate, as outlined above.  The pork had a nice smokiness to it, and was very juicy. They have a mini for $5 and a large for a few dollars more.  I enjoyed the mini.  This left me some room for my next food cart.

A Little Bit of Smoke is Carolina-style BBQ.  I ordered their “Hogpile“, which was a bowl loaded with black-eyed peas, pulled pork, slaw and their special red barbeque sauce.  A ton of flavours in your mouth; sweet, spicy, smokey, earthy all in one bite, plus the crunchiness of the slaw!

Oregon Pinot Noir and Wine Stores

Oregon is well known for their wines, especially Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, two cool climate grapes. Just around from my hotel downtown was a fantastic wine shop called Vinopolis Wine Shop (1025 Southwest Washington Street).  Nothing glitzy about this store, just boxes and boxes of fine wine from around the world.  I spent a few hours just walking through this store, checking out wines that I have not seen in Vancouver.  I was tempted to pick up some Rhone wines, but I settled on two Oregonian Pinot Noirs:

  • Belle Pente Belle Pente VIneyard Pinot Noir 2008

    Belle Pente Belle Pente Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008

  • Patricia Green Cellars Olenik Pinot Noir 2009

I picked Belle Pente in part because Burghound had reviewed this winery.  Burghound is best known for his encyclopedic knowledge of Burgundy, so when he spent time to taste and review Belle Pente, that was a hint to me that this is a wine I should consider. You can read about Belle Pente’s wines here.

I also have been hearing many good things about Patrica Green Cellars and knew this is one wine I had to buy.  You can read about Patricia Green Cellars on their website.

I don’t have much to say about these two wines as I did not open the bottles yet.  They have to sit in my cellar for a few years.  I will let you know when I open them!

Portland’s Restaurant Scene

Getting into a restaurant in downtown Portland is a challenge.  Don’t show up at their door, even on a Monday night and expect to get a table.  If you want a table you have to book at least 1 day in advance, at least for the restaurants I tried.  I did go to three restaurants, and enjoyed 3 dinners:

  • Irving Street Kitchen
  • 50 Plates
  • Andina

Irving Street Kitchen has a working kitchen in the centre of the restaurant.  Everything is open, with funky, stripped down, industrial style interior.  My meal was perfectly cooked duck breast served with corn grits.

At 50 Plates, I shared a green chili seafood chowder and a paella.  Seafood chowder made with green chilies is new to me, but it tastes great.  A bit of southwestern flavour mixed with northeast seafood chowder.  The paella was listed as Florida style.  I’m not sure the difference, but the paella was chock full of seafood.

Andina Peruvian Restaurant Draper Chicken with Yam

Andina advertises themselves as novo-Peruvian food.  Peruvian food is described by all South American countries as being the best food in South America.  After trying Andina’s food, I agree.  I was in Chile 2 years ago, and the Chileans recommended for me to try the Peruvian food.  Peruvian seafood dishes are highly rated.  For me though, all the restaurants I visited in Portland had local Draper Valley chicken.  I had to try it, so I ordered the ESCABECHE DE POLLITO CON DUO DE CAMOTE, which is described as  Pisco-brined Draper Valley chicken, pan-roasted to order, and served “escabeche” style; with pickled onions, Botija olives, quail eggs, cherry tomatoes and sweet potato served two ways: crispy quinoa croquettes and huacatay-cotija cheese gratin.  The sweet potato cooked 2 ways  were fantastic.  The quinoa coated yam croquettes were crunchy and had a sweet onion relish.  The huacatay-cotija cheese grain, was paper thin slices of yam piled high and coated with cheese and baked.  The yam had a dill flavour to it.  I couldn’t see any dill in the dish, but it was delish.  I will have to try recreating this on my own.  The chicken was of course cooked to perfection and was very enjoyable when you ate it with mouthfuls of the olives, quails egg, cherry tomatoes… To this dish I had a glass of Graffigna Pinot Gris Reserva from Argentina.  Nice stone fruit and acidity paired perfectly with the chicken.

Of the three restaurants, although all had really good food, Andina was exceptionally good.  If you are planning a trip to Portland, do not miss a visit to Andina!

If you would like to visit these restaurants, here are their websites: