We just wrapped up a visit with friends from San Francisco — and it was one for the record books.
My girlfriend who came, Kate, was a dear friend of my sister’s in college and we got to be friends when we both lived in San Francisco. We reconnected last fall with our daughters and they hit it off immediately and they came up this winter. Regular readers may remember that I shared some of the details of our trip back then.
I was so excited to hear that they were coming back up and we’d be able to show them what summer in Portland is like.
And with the football season starting, it’s really special for me to spend time focusing on Charlotte and the things she likes to do before she loves me to the couch for much of the next couple months.
First step always when gal pals come to town is to prepare the basement — and make it as cozy and cute as possible.
I put a lot of my favorite dining pieces down there (vintage blue pottery, Bakelite, favorite serving trays and can you spy the cute little piece Laurie Romanaggi crafted for me?)
plus candles and bunting and floating honeycomb balls and fresh cut flowers everywhere you look.
Plus what’s a hotel-like suite without a mini-bar?
Here’s more of what awaited them just outside their bedroom.
House ready, we swung by the airport to pick them up and got the party started.
Ah, all the tasty things we tried!
In case you’re interested in expanding your repertoire (or are coming here for some foodie fun), here’s a list of places or activities I highly recommend for visual interest, crafty goodness or just something smack-dab delicious.
ONE. Let’s go with the obvious. It’s summer — indulge in something decadent and sweet when the mercury soars.
This time we tried the really refreshing offerings at Wailea Shave Ice (across the street from Powell’s).
And there’s always Salt and Straw, which never fails to deliver.
Ditto Wiz Bang Bar, S & S’s soft-serve sister at Pine Street Market (we took them there last time).
This time though we decided to mix it up and we went to 50 Licks.
There are a couple of these ice cream shops now, but we went to their storefront on Clinton after nearly polishing off a whole Scottie’s Pizza.
I love the whole 50 Licks vibe, and while S & S gets so much of the local and national love, I think the former should still get a nod for their intriguing offerings. They tend to lack the off-the-hook inclusions and zany combinations of Salt and Straw but 50 Licks does really modern and scrumptious renditions of old classics.
And I’ve never had to wait for more than a minute or so at their Clinton location (as opposed to the ridiculous hour-plus waits at S & S seemingly on any sunny day).
The whole place is adorable with the letters on the wall with the flavors and the staff is always so generous with tasting samples.
After we all sampled several different flavors, Kate and our girls settled on Water Avenue Coffee, Chocolate as &@!, Blood Orange Creamsicle and Caramelized Honey and I had the Pineapple Basil sorbet.
Naturally we had to upgrade to fresh waffle cones because they are housemade and smelled divine.
It was 98 degrees as we sat in the shade and plowed through our treats, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to beat the heat.
TWO. You’re in Portland, and there’s no sales tax, so take a gander at some of our more unique, only-in-Portland boutiques and see if anything tempts you.
I think our daughters could have spent the entire four day vacation at the Couture Bridal Shop at Anthropologie
and I never tire of Powell’s, but it was so fun to visit some of our smaller stores, too.
I loved taking them to Collage (my favorite art store)
and I could stand for hours in front of their washi wall.
Here are some of the other shops we enjoyed.
Tender Loving Empire.
And of course, I had to introduce them to the Bins.
We actually hit both the Airport and the Ochoco location, and we found wonderful items both times, but that giant vintage turquoise urn/vase you see below was probably my favorite purchase.
And because we’re all such foodies, I had to take them food shopping.
We hit New Seasons for picnic provisions
and we went to Providore for cookies
and a little bit of eye candy.
THREE. Dive deep into our vast coffee and tea shop reserves.
This time we didn’t get to Never Lab, but next time it’s a must — their coffee is off the hook.
We did go, however, to another favorite of mine: Tea Bar.
I’m absolutely addicted to their Iced Mint Majik, a peppermint tea that gets its unreal color from a rare kind of green algae.
With the wealth of places in town, we also thought it’d be fun to try some new-to-us spots and we hit it out of the park with both.
First up, Barista.
There are a number of these coffee shops in town but we hit the one downtown, and it was handsome looking with the wonderful marble counters and gorgeous woodwork.
We got a round of various lattes and took them on the road.
My favorite is the one described on the bottom of this board:
Honey Marzipan Latte — I’m in love with you iced and I can’t wait to rediscover you warm — so almondy and rich. Scrumptious!
This shop is making superior drinks.
Another fantastic discovery was Tov Coffee.
Charlotte discovered it on Yelp and it had perhaps the highest rating of any coffee shop in the city and so we were intrigued.
Fantastic coffee in a converted double-decker bus with Egyptian memorabilia?
We were on board for that.
Located in a pod right on Hawthorne, we were intrigued as we approached it and couldn’t believe the smells coming out of the tiny counter in the back.
Here’s just a tiny bit of the menu.
We decided to get all of our offerings iced, and they were all mind-blowers. There was Mint Thing, an iced cold brew with a mint syrup and oversized cream ice cubes. Iced Caramel Mocha had a superb caramel at the bottom that tasted liked toffee and lingered on your tongue through the last slurp. We also sampled an Iced Latte with intriguing cardamom flavors. And I had the Iced Chai Latte.
These offerings — and the setting — made for one of the more memorable coffee experiences I’ve had in Portland (and that’s really saying something).
FOUR. Try some of the more interesting poke experiences in town.
If you have a car you can try some of the wonderful (and super inexpensive) offerings at Uwajimaya. For ten dollars you get a half pound of poke on your choice of rice (I like to add avocado and cashews at home to mine).
Or closer to central Portland, you could go to my new favorite poke place: Poke Mon.
I’ve been hearing about this place for a while but it wasn’t until this past weekend that I made it over there.
It’s a postage-sized cutie and I love its whole vibe.
The offerings are stellar and the execution flawless.
My Ahi bowl (on the left) was one I customized to my liking and it had grapefruit, cucumber, fried garlic and red radish.
This place is spectacular, and if it was down the street I’d probably be there every other day.
Another place we tried was Wasabi PDX. I’d had a straightforward (but delicious) bowl there just a few days before, and this time I returned for their sushi-rito, a roll that’s supersized and filled with poke.
Other places I’d recommend: SeaSweets Poke on 31st off of Hawthorne and someone told me that there’s a food cart in town that has a great one (I’ll keep you posted).
Lastly, I highly recommend that you take yourself (or lucky visitors) on a tour of some of our wonderful bakeries and pastry shops in town.
You could start with bread. My pals brought me a treasured loaf of San Francisco’s Tartine Bread (which we devoured in two days) and we returned the favor with some from Ken’s Artisan.
You guys know that I love me some Tabor Bread
and I also love anything that Little T American Baker is doing, too, whether it be their outstanding morning pastries, pretzel rolls and focaccia
or any one of their sublime cookies which this time we ended up buying at Providore and splitting amongst us.
I love buying pastries and cookies and then cutting them up so that everyone gets a sample of everything.
And there’s one last place we went to that you may not know about.
I don’t think that many people know about this little place on a second floor walk up in the Pearl, but they are offered at some of the best hotels, restaurants and coffee shops in the city and no wonder — they are perfection.
I love them so much that we chose a selection from here to top off our last shared meal together, and everything was exquisite.
Days later I’m still daydreaming about the intensity of that chocolate cookie and the unbelievable flavor of the Pistachio-Rose Croissant.
Before I knew it, our time together had come to a close and it was time to say goodbye.
So to our dear friends Kate and Grace, thanks so much for flying up here and spending your last treasured days of summer with us.
I loved all our time gallivanting around town and then coming home to do crafty things and play rom-com bingo.
Our downstairs She Shed feels so lonely and empty without you.
Come back soon! X.O.