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Monday, July 29, 2013


Portland, OR

It’s hard to imagine what you might be feeling when you actually get to a place that you've fantasized about for the better part of 15 years or so.  I’ve always thought that the Pacific Northwest was some sleepy faraway place that conjured up notions of Sasquatch, rain, fog, more rain and lush green forests spreading all the way to the Pacific Ocean.  For the most part it does except for maybe the part about big foot (the jury’s still out on that one).

The iconic sign welcoming all who travel ....
I don’t know why but this part of the world has always tugged on my curiosity and instilled romantic notions of what a good life is all about. Micro-breweries got their first foothold in this region (beer is good); the vast amount of varied produce grown here give chefs an unlimited canvas in which to paint a wonderful plate of food. 

The air is clean and Mother Nature still has a say as to what’s going on in this part of the world.  The beauty, oh the beauty of this place is dramatically and forever stupid! It’s stupid how gorgeous it is out there.  As far as the eye can see there are reminders that we need to be better caretakers of the land and better understand our footprint that we leave behind.

Columbia River (Lewis and Clark's path to the Pacific)

Wicked beauty along the river bluffs

The mountain ranges to the east and the ocean to the west and all the splendor in between makes the mind dizzy with delight that Portland and the wisdom of their fore-fathers has set forth a doctrine to serve and protect the natural resources for generations (nice job).

Along with the exquisite visual appeal and the burgeoning culinary scene; it’s no wonder I’m drawn to it like a moth to a flame.  I had a Regional Cuisines class a couple years back in culinary school that required us to write a report and my obvious choice was the Pacific Northwest.  With native foods like strawberries, garlic, cherries, rhubarb, apples and mushrooms – there is no wonder that they would have their own style of cooking and accompanying festivals not to mention that salmon is king in these parts.

In addition, James Beard was born in Oregon and wrote about what influenced him regarding this locality in his book “Delights & Prejudices”.  Beard believed that bringing out the natural flavor of an ingredient is the key to good cooking.  Using the simplest and locally grown ingredients to create great food is what this territory is all about.

They really do make a great doughnut!
Now I’m confronted with the daunting task of picking only a few places to visit and eat while I’m here as I have a limited amount of resources (I’m a nascent chef getting paid a cooks wage).  Upon driving up from San Francisco; my first culinary treat at mid-day had to be at Voodoo Doughnuts.  I’m a sucker for a good confection as my sweet tooth is becoming more prominent as I age.  I was not disappointed and promptly ate all three of my purchases within a few short minutes. Ahh …. Vacation is grand!  Now, on to the city of Portland and all she has to offer.

These roses are huge!

These roses inspire!

They are vast and varied!
   Since I’m a very visual person I first tackle the International Rose Garden that sits high atop the city overlooking this fertile and thriving valley.  I’m a big fan of roses as my mother instilled this in me at an early age.  Don’t miss this garden if you ever visit Portland!  The pictures don’t do this park justice.

A great place to gather

A great view of Portland from the rose gardens
"said" refreshment .... I'm having a truly spectacular time!

Shortly thereafter we embark on a tour of the founder of the “Oregonian” newspaper’s mansion and then a nice break for refreshment before we head out to the Columbia River Gorge.  More on this in my next blog.

Have a great day and never give up!

Mark (Sparky)

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