If, like me, you are either set to host a gaggle of gals in Portland (or you’re planning to touch down here soon), here’s a recent round-up of tips from this past weekend, replete with old favorites (plus a few new finds).
This weekend we were fortunate to host a dear friend of ours from S.F. who’d never been up to Portland with her girls. Kate has been a dear friend of my sister Polly forever, and I got to know her a bit twenty years ago when we both lived there. We’d hang out with Polly and she’d often show up for my cooking classes.
I was so happy to reconnect with her this past October when my sister and I hung out in S.F– and Charlotte got to meet Kate’s two lovely daughters, Grace and Nora.
The three girls hit it off like gangbusters from the get-go and even though they only spent one dinner together this fall, they’ve stayed in touch and Kate surprised them with a trip up here as a Christmas present.
The five of us have been texting each other for the past month about ideas– and they finally descended here this past weekend and stayed until Tuesday night.
Despite the dodgy weather (it snowed twice briefly– a rarity here),
we packed it in and had a blast.
So with the joyous memories of our trip still fresh in my mind, here are my 6 Tips for the Perfect Girly Girl Weekend in Portland.
ONE. Start your time off right — Stock a Mini Bar.
Hear me out.
Honor Bar can mean anything and doesn’t have to be mostly boozy like at hotels; our version involved some of their known favorites (like salted dark chocolate caramels) and Peanut M & M’s plus other treats like Pringles, dried Satsumas and mango, salted almonds and cheese puffs (with San Pellegrino Italian sodas for the girls and Kombucha and red wine for the ladies).
Here’s what our Honor Bar looked like.
If you’re hosting, it’s easy to pull together some treats and put them on a tray but if you’re headed to a hotel, don’t let that location stop you. Just be sure to bring along some special things that you can nibble at back in the room without putting a serious dent in your wallet (damn those tiny portions and huge price tags!).
Also, think both savory and sweet — a good jar of salted cashews or local tortilla chips are just as desirable late night as a good chocolate bar (just saying).
You can also add to your treat station as you travel around the city, making your purchases part of the on-going feast that is Portland.
TWO. Pick one favorite item you like to eat — and deep dive that category.
Because tweens constituted the majority of our girl gang, donuts were a request and we hit a couple places while there.
First we hit the high end, fancy version at Blue Star Donuts.
We picked up a variety here
and over the next 24 hours we enjoyed them, first in the car, cut into little pieces on trays and enjoyed alongside Little Big Burger‘s outstanding Truffle Fries (donuts and fries were an inspired snack combo, if I do say so myself)
and more tastes the next morning alongside some spectacular chicken breakfast sausages I wanted them to try.
The next day we took a different path to donut exploration with a stop at Pip’s Donuts— a perennial favorite of every single person who visits me here.
Is it because the place is so cute?
Their Chai so extraordinary?
Or that their petite, made-to-order donuts are as adorable as they are addictive?
Either way, Pips was also a hit — and so fun to compare to the very-different Blue Star.
Other great foods to compare-and-contrast here in Portland might be burgers, croissants, or sandwiches. Or poke or fried chicken. And then there’s always ice cream, another thing we do very, very well in Portland.
Oh, yes, we did that too with a stop off at Wiz Bang Bar.
Sesame chocolate topped soft serve and a Coffee Caramel and Coffee Toffee topped Affogato?
Yes, pretty please.
THREE. Allow some time to explore Portland walking around— regardless the weather.
Don’t remain on the inside looking out.
Just check out this weekend’s rainbow.
It feels like we experienced fall, winter and spring within the three and a half days we shared, but no matter — it was all fun.
We hit the PSU Farmer’s Market— one of my favorite things about Portland.
Between drizzles we also hit the Tilikum Crossing. The views are so great and because it is car-less, it’s so much quieter and more enjoyable to walk than our other bridges.
It felt like the weather changed every few minutes: sun one minute, gray skies and a light downpour the next.
(It was so wonderful to see our daughters fall so easily into friendship and easy, drama-less conversations.)
We also hit some parks like Wilshire which felt moody and atmospheric with the recent snowfall.
Girls + snow = FUN.
FOUR. Try to discover something new in Portland together.
My friend Kate is an art teacher hence we share a love of all things crafty, so I decided it’d be fun to check out a few new-to-us-both places.
It turns out this place is a mixture of retail shop and workshop for private crafty events, and I could not have been more in love with the aesthetic and offerings here.
Kate and I both flipped over the particulars here. The vintage chenille stems! The old crepe paper! All the little pieces of ephemera!
I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to visit this place, and I have this visit to thank for that.
We also stopped by the candy store Enchante right next store.
It’s too simplistic really to call it a candy store; think of it more as a beautiful French feverish dream in which divine chocolates and confections rub shoulders with gorgeous tabletop items.
Oversized jars brimming with silvery treats. Cafe au lait bowls and Parisian inspired glassware and spectacular party supplies.
Oy, this store.
I could have emptied our bank account buying everything I lusted at in these two stores, but somehow I managed to keep my purchases small — this time.
FIVE. Head to two of my favorite Portland institutions: Powell’s Books and Elephants Delicatessen.
First off, I don’t know anyone who isn’t bowled over by this bookstore and doesn’t want to park themselves here for hours.
For those not familiar, Powell’s Books is allegedly the largest bookstore in the world, and it occupies one whole city block. Not only is it filled with new books but it also has used and vintage/collectible titles as well some toys, gifts and novelties.
In a word, it’s amazing.
Many of my favorite cookbooks have come from here.
Our friends got a huge stack of books to take home and they insisted on buying me the book I was eyeing.
Thank you, ladies — something tells me this book is going to fit right in.
And another place we had to show them was Elephants Deli on NW 23rd.
Now usually I’d take people there to grab a casual bite but we had food carts on the brain and I just wanted my pals to see it.
It’s such a lovely spot and even if you don’t have the time or stomach space to dive into one of the wood-fired pizzas, grilled sandwiches, signature Tomato-Orange Soup or Grilled Fish Tacos (to name just a few of the items that they do really well)
pop in to pick up a sweet for later or a lovely hostess gift.
Elephants is a family run place that’s been around since the late 70’s but even now this marble-bedecked space looks both modern and homey at the same time.
Whoever is doing their displays
and buying for their tabletop and gift section should be given a round of applause — it’s all so well-curated and beautiful to look at.
Again, I wanted to buy so much but I ended up buying just some pretty sparkly bracelets for the girls and some French cutlery from Sabre, a big fave of mine (and hard to find in this country).
And lastly, no Girls Weekend would be worth its weight without a visit to one of our most appealing attractions.
SIX. Hit a food cart at least once.
We had so little time and ate so many delicious meals both out and at home
that we only had time to hit the trucks for one meal and it was our last one together.
The weather conditions (cold, raw and sloshy) meant only half the downtown carts at 9th and Alder were open but no matter; we were still rewarded with some good grub which we ended up bringing home.
I’m not going to go into which food cart in town is best; there is neither the room here nor am I that familiar with the full breadth of trucks currently available.
I will say, though, that if you find yourselves downtown, this is my current favorite: Bing Mi.
This cart does only one thing, this savory crepe. Apparently they are a type of Chinese street food that are made to order and filled with black bean paste, a whole cooked egg, green onion, hot sauce and a spicy wonton cracker and they are FLIPPING delicious… every single time.
Sad thing is though, before we knew it, we only had time for a little more crafty and spa time
before it was time to wrap it up.
It felt like we had just begun to really hunker in — doing crafts,
tucking into the snacks at our Honor Bar and things we had brought home
and I still felt bad about not allowing enough time at our (and now their) treasured hot-spot, Collage.
But alas, our time had run out on this trip.
And so with a last hug — we said adieu to our dear foodie/crafty/Rom-Com loving gal pals.
Thank you for everything, ladies– the book, the ice cream, the spa products and those amazing loaves from Josie’s– my avocado toast isn’t the same without it.
And after these last tough weeks, we needed this love and laughter so much.
So until the next time, friends, we will hold our memories of you close.
Come back soon! XO.