In many places, summer is when people leave town to enjoy greenier, sandier pastures.
But in Portland, it seems like people stick around more often than not because we’ve come to enjoy what many people believe is the best summer weather in the country.
Sure it gets extra hot here sometimes, but never for more than a few days in a row and there’s rarely humidity (with very few bugs).
There are so many lovely days, warm nights– and spectacular produce to enjoy around the clock.
The berries in particular are sensational right now.
I bought these blackberries at the farmer’s market and spread them straight on Spelt Biscuits from Tabor Bread (with a little French butter for added richness) and they were wonderful.
One of my favorite summer occurrences each year is our annual Block Party.
Portland makes it extra easy to host block parties every year; you can legally shut down your block for a half day or evening (providing most of your neighbors are okay with it) and just put out tables or whatever you like in the middle of the closed off street to enjoy with neighbors and friends.
Some streets get entertainment or bouncy houses or more elaborate set ups but we keep it simple on our street. Quite a few of us have long tables folding tables and we usually just line them up back to back so it’s like this long feasting table. We add tablecloths and seating and rugs and blankets for the kids (who ride bikes and scooters) and we set up a separate buffet table, drinks wagon and dessert area for everyone’s offerings.
It’s all about delicious food, lots of conversation and the key is to keep the cold beverages coming when it’s hot.
People usually bring their own sizable potluck dish and personal plates to use but this year I offered up a huge selection from my own stash — including some of my favorite plastic plates and Bakelite serving pieces.
I love my neighbors and this party is always such fun. Everyone is so generous and happy and it’s a great way to catch up with someone down the street you don’t see as often as you like.
Young and old, side by side, just the way I like it. A village.
What else can I show you?
Summer hospitality in general here is pretty special. And it’s really true that Portlanders really are a very friendly, sociable group.
Case in point.
An old friend from my San Francisco days called me up to tell me he was in town and he invited me over to his host’s house to sit and catch up.
We ended up on that porch for hours, gabbing away, and that family, a stranger to me before, was unbelievably kind (offering up refreshments) and I left them with granola and we parted with the promise that we’d all get together next time my friend is in town.
In that same vein of Portland hospitality, I was contacted by a reader and Instagram follower (whose feed I’ve always liked) for suggestions for her visit in Portland.
We ended up texting over the process of a day and on a whim, I ended up offering her a couple hours of my time to show her around to some of my places.
Normally that’s not something I usually do for strangers– or have time to share– but the stars aligned and I knew we’d get along like gangbusters so I picked up her, her mom Mary and her daughter Claire and we wheeled around for a few hours, and it was a wonderful half-day together.
I took them first to Tea Bar in the Pearl.
I’m obsessed with these Mint Majik Iced Lattes. I mean, C’mon — look at that color.
(Allegedly the color comes from a very rare spirulina.)
Then we piled into the car and drove over to Elephant’s Delicatessen
and we shared pizza and fish and chips and burgers and fries.
We spent a leisurely half hour sharing food and getting to know one another by sharing life stories. It was so natural and enjoyable and relaxing — I can’t believe we’d just met.
Afterwards we wandered about Elephant’s and oohed and aahed over all the beautiful housewares and gift items for sale.
Knowing that we were short on time and the ladies loved sweets and great markets, I next drove us to Providore.
They bought a number of pastries there from Little T American Bakery
and then because they are dog lovers, they wanted to meet Porter.
We came back to my house to pick him up and then we took a walk around my neighborhood so they could get a sense of what living in Portland feels like.
Before I knew it, it was time to say goodbye to our new friends.
We may have just met but I felt like Michelle left as a friend — and I look forward to keeping in touch with this Kansas City doll and her family.
Here she is hanging out with us on my front porch.
(You know you’re comfortable with someone when you don’t care about reapplying lipstick or adjusting messy hair, am I right?)
And lastly, I have one other really wonderful Portland summer + food experience to share with you.
Another PDX Food Swap.
Regular readers will remember I went to one of these first-come, first-serve food exchanges a while back.
And here is what I came home with after that time.
For one reason or another I haven’t been able to attend another food swap in a while (or get in fast enough onto the sign up sheet), but when I heard that this past weekend’s swap was going to be at a farm on Sauvie Island, I jumped onto that train fast– and kept my fingers crossed that I’d be picked for one of the precious few available spots (only about 30 people can attend each one).
The setting was gorgeous and the late afternoon light and heat intense.
One sweet family opens this farm (people call it The Croft) and they not only offered up their adorable open-air barn at no cost for the event, they also participated in the swap.
All the details of this place were perfect.
This swapping time in particular I was blown away by not only the caliber of goods offered, but the amazing variety as well.
These swaps are like a silent auction. You check out all the offerings (often tasting samples of featured items) and then pick the items that you’re interested in. You write your name on a list and you mention the items you are willing to trade for them. Everyone is walking around with a name tag and the group is fairly small so it’s not hard to meet up later with matching willing food barterers.
I’ve been collecting vintage Mason Jars for a while, and Charlotte and I made an enormous batch of granola just prior to the event.
I love granola because it’s so versatile (it can flex to almost whatever you have on hand) and it keeps a good long time. Also, it’s like money in the bank for busy mornings.
Like this one.
Here’s what it looked like in those jars — and I offered what I think to be a very generous amount in those quart jars.
The other offering of these cookies were chosen as they are one of my absolute favorites.
These hold a very special place in my heart because they are foolproof and so rich (and I had the feeling others might dig them too).
I liked how they looked with the fleur de sel on top and how pretty they looked on the vintage ceramic aqua plates that were part of the gift.
I was especially excited for the tags for these; I’d made them out of 1950’s vintage gift wrap that I’d had copied onto sticker paper and they were the perfect aqua color to go with the plates.
The spread at this Croft Farm was a knockout with so many lovely items offered.
By the end, I had a wonderful assortment of goodies to bring home with me: both duck and chicken eggs, jams (tomato and Green Gage plum/vanilla), fresh pasta, grapefruit curd, a hand-knit tea cozy with teas plus a giant bag of peppers, dried figs and two containers of humus made with red lentils.
What a blast– and a bounty!
So that’s how I’ve been keeping busy — with a full calendar, heart and belly.
Not to mention a sumptuous new addition to my breakfast repertoire.
Can you guess where I’m going with this?
Bonus points for you if you guessed correctly.
Fried Duck Eggs alongside Tabor Bread Spelt toast.
(It was marvelously rich and the yolk was divine.)
Until the next time, I’m sending big love and tasty bites from my little corner to yours.