Saturday morning, I woke up with a complete food hangover from yesterday. For those that have never participated in a food hop or food marathon, it is quite a caloric feat. It's what a foodie would do given a short amount of time in a new destination. We had only been in Portland for less than 24 hours and probably did 2-3 days worth of eating/drinking – yet it was the only beginning. We got up and Jeni immediately blurted out, "Stumptown Coffee" with a Tourette-like excitement. Again, as we waited in the elevator to slowly take us down to coffee heaven, I saw this sign again.
I thought about all the food we ate and we had to do something about it. We had recently purchased some bikes and took them with us to Los Olivos. The next best thing we could do in the U.S.'s most bike-friendly city is to go rent one. That way, we wouldn't feel so bad about inflating ourselves with delicious food for the remaining three days we had here in PDX.
We found a bike shop near the Burnside Bridge, which takes you over to the North East and South East side of Portland. It wasn't cheap but a lot more fun than riding a cab.
After grabbing some coffee, we took Ron's advice on visiting the Saturday farmer's market held at Portland State University. And I'm glad we did. The trek from the Ace Hotel to the farmer's market took 15-20 minutes, but went by quickly with the site of super green trees and cool weather. For a minute we didn't know if we had passed the market but the sound of street musicians and indistinct chatter suggested otherwise.
The farmer's market was filled with vendors selling the usual stuff and things I really wished we had down in Los Angeles. Like...
This gentleman representing the pickle company, Picklopolis. They offered interesting stuff like pickled fiddleheads, ramps and beets. Love the white suit.
And here was this young man selling eggs. Freshly laid eggs from his chicken farm about 45 mins outside of Portland. He was stoked to show us photos of his chickens/roosters in his album. Jeni really loved his hillbilly-suspender look.
Besides the usual farmer's market fare, there are quite a few hot food vendors serving breakfast, Mexican food and sandwiches. By far, the booth drawing the most attention was Pinestate Biscuits. Ron did not warn us on what we were about to experience. Jeni waited at the back of the line as I walked down the line towards the booth to investigate. I walked up to this guy and just watched in sheer disbelief.
In one hand, he held a plate with a fried chicken on a biscuit. He then placed two pieces of bacon and a slice of cheddar cheese on top of the fried chicken. Wait, I'm not done. He then tops everything with a big sloppy spoonful of sausage gravy. And finally, placing the other biscuit on top. He saw me shooting photos and smiled for me – knowing how unhealthy and decadent this creation was. It was almost like having a meal served to you by the Devil. Topped with butter, cheese, fat – all things that are delightfully bad for you. I was waiting for him to ask me if I wanted this super-sized.
It was time for the Devil to take our order and we went for the Gold Medal trophy of fatty food. We got the works which also included a fried egg!
And here it is, the Pinestate Biscuit with the works. Look at the stopping power. Even the people at McDonald's are running for the hills. If you want a diet version, you can just have the fried chicken topped with gravy and cheese.
Now it was time to taste it. With something as big as this you really don't know where to start. I gripped the beast with two hands, and gravy started to drip all over my plate. Nice. Where was a bib when I actually needed one? Jeni and I looked at each other with the "what are we doing?" look. I even saw another couple staring at me in bewilderment – getting ready to eat the biscuit vicariously. At that moment, my name wasn't Dylan anymore. It was Gus, the tow truck driver wearing a blue collared shirt and navy blue Dickies with full butt-crack showing. Tow truck drivers don't eat tofu crepes with strawberry parfait for lunch. They eat food with bold flavors and size. With my hairy arms and blackened finger nails from car grease, I picked up that thing like it was my bitch and bit into it – my protective eyelids rolling up like a Great White shark's.
And it was... seriously tasty. It didn't seem to make sense at first but when put together it was a delicious ode to what every Maxim-reading, college boy enjoyed eating. There was something grisly and barbaric about it; it was in fact, a man's meal. There was no herbal garnish to 'fancy' it up or a nice plate for presentation points. It was exactly what it was... a biscuitsandwichwithfriedchickenfriedeggcheddarcheesewithsausagegravy. I don't know when I would eat this again but it's one of those things that you can definitely say you've eaten. The guys at Pinestate Biscuits have seriously found an area right between pain and pleasure and slapped it in between two delicious biscuits. Note: can easily feed a small village in China or one hungry tow truck driver.
It was a good thing that Jeni and I shared that beastly biscuit, and rode our bikes to work that off. We cut through the suburban area and admired the beautiful houses on the tree-lined streets. We didn't bring any water with us but thanks to a kind young man named Riley, we were rejuvenated for a mere 50 cents. Notice how Riley has a hesitant look on his face. I think we were the first Asian people he's laid eyes on haha. Riley, I can assure you we are nice people – now give me that lemonade.
Again, I know it may seem ridiculous to readers on here, just how much we eat. You see, most people on vacation will engage in activities like shopping, site-seeing and amusement parks. We don't do any of that. We simply eat and drink all throughout town. After an hour of riding, the consensus (based on two voters) was that we needed to eat some more food. Ron, where do we go?
We rode our bikes down to a quaint Southeast sandwich shop called Bunk Sandwiches. According to Ron, sandwich shops are creeping on the town of Portland in a good way. In addition to Kenny & Zuke's, which is right next door to the Ace, Bunk Sandwiches draws a steady crowd during the 6 hours it is open. I remembered Bunk Sandwiches being mentioned in a magazine for its creative creations, such as the pork belly banh mi, but it wasn't on the menu the time we were here. "Get the pork belly and pulled pork," says the Ron located within my head.
Sandwiches are served with Dirty Potato Chips and Picklopolis pickles on a clean sheet of paper. All for only $8. NO TAX.
By far the best pork belly sandwich I've eaten. The cuts of pork belly were so damn moist and tender. The small amount of crisp lettuce and aioli really made this a perfect sandwich. To wash this down, may I suggest a "bunkmosa" for the extremely hip, skinny-jean wearing hipsters? An innocent cocktail made of Miller High Life and orange juice.
The pulled pork sandwich was served with a type of slaw on a poppy seed roll. Good, but I enjoyed the pork belly more.
Chef Tommy Habetz is pictured in the lower corner and is super cool. On my next trip here, I'll definitely be stopping by to see what other creations he has in store.
During the millions of emails sent by Ron and Kevin of Guilty Carnivore, we had thrown in the idea of possibly seeing a show. M83 sounds great, but we really didn't know how full/tired we'd be. We continued riding throughout the suburbs to kill time. We were about to meet Ron for the first time in two hours for a snack, followed by a formal dinner with some more foodies.
Guess we'll eat again. Unfortunately, this popular food cart called Potato Champion wasn't open. They serve french fries and a Canadian treat called poutine, which entails the dumping of gravy and cheese curds on top of your fries. I think I've had enough gravy-as-a-topping for a few years. Sorry Potato Champion.
We rode around longer to kill time and came across my favorite barber shop, Rudy's. Jeni and I looked at each other and simultaneously yelled, "haircut!" In addition to riding bikes/scooters on vacation, we like getting our hair cut by whoever because each city has its own hairstlye. I was convinced that I would be getting a 'normal' haircut compared to barbers I've had in Taiwan, Guilin and Buenos Aires. Heck, Rudy's is only FROM the Pacific Northwest so I'm in good hands.
We decided to meet up with Ron and his friend at Pok Pok, a popular Thai restaurant. But why eat Thai in Portland when we have Thai Town in Los Angeles? It wasn't until I saw Pok Pok featured in the May '09 issue of Food & Wine that I became interested in eating here. And to top it off, Pok Pok is run by an American by the name of Chef Andy Ricker, who goes to Thailand 2-3 times a year to learn/acquire recipes to bring back to PDX. To me, that sort of effort deserves a fair review.
We were surprised to see that Pok Pok was really not a restaurant, but more so, a house with outdoor/patio seating. It was 5 pm, the time of opening, and there were already a good 25 people waiting outside (im)patiently. The rest of the house had already been filled up – crazy. And the next door take-out order area, known as Pok Pok Whiskey Soda Lounge, was packed with PDXers.
There's peace of mind when you can trust the host to order delicious food for you and not have to look at the menu once. Ron highly recommended the Fish Sauce-flavored Chicken Wings. And they were super tasty – spicy, good amount of fish sauce and a nice crisp skin. I could have easily eaten a dozen of these with ice cold Thai beer.
I didn't catch the name of this dish but it involved a duck egg, warm noodles and herbs in a coconut milk broth. I was expecting a sour/sharp taste to the soup but was mildly reminded of the some of the delicate, well-balanced dishes I had tried at Los Angeles's Jitlada restaurant. Most mediocre Thai restaurants will offer dishes on extreme ends. Your food is either really strong on fish sauce, sour, spicy or sweet. Compromising taste to appeal to newer, less-adventurous diners only leads to bastardization. I can't remember the last time my parents ordered Sweet & Sour chicken or egg rolls in starchy red sauce. Anyway, all I could remember about Chef Ricker's food was how well balanced his tastes were. Not to mention the fact that his menu highlighted regional dishes I had never even heard of, more so than common dishes like Pad Thai or Tom Yum Soup. I have never been to Thailand but I got a good feeling when tasted the food here at Pok Pok.
We were in a hurry to meet for the formal dinner and only got to try three different things. I was quite bummed but this only makes Pok Pok an even bigger priority on my next trip. I highly recommend this place if you have the sudden urge to eat something non-Portlandish. Everyone we had talked to in Portland asked where we were going to eat, and we would tell them Pok Pok. We would get a nice, "Ah!" response. Apparently, a very good thing.
Note: Chef Ricker also has a skewer joint called Ping in the Northwest side of town.
We rode our bikes back towards the Northwast area, near the Pearl District, and Ron and a group of foodies for an izakaya meal at Tanuki. We walked into a small room lit with red lights and a TV playing some strange Japanese drama. Here we met Kevin of Guilty Carnivore, a wonderful couple that really enjoyed food as well and Nick, who joined us earlier at Pok Pok.
Before we could even start ordering food, we were poured sake as part of a welcome toast.
Again we let Ron, Kevin, Matt and Nick do the ordering. Tanuki is considered an izakaya for its smallish plates. But not everything was Japanese. There were hints of Chinese, Thai, Korean and even Pacific Islanderish in some of the dishes we ordered. All were done really well.
My favorites were the skewered duck hearts, skewered bay scallops, ahi tuna, fried egg udon and braised pork with fresh mango over rice.
Like Ricker's Pok Pok, I was very surprised to see that the food was prepared by this young lady – Chef Janis Martin. According to Ron, she studied in Japan (I believe Okinawa) for quite a few years, before coming back to Portland to run Tanuki.
Now it was time for dessert in a cocktail glass. The night before, we had awesome cocktails at Clyde Common. None were priced more than $8. But here at Ten 01, drinks are up to $10 and with good reason – it's purportedly one of Portland's best cocktail lounges. Ron mentioned that the owner sent all the stellar bartenders down to Tennessee for a lesson in Whiskey. Don't pull my arm, boss.
And this concludes another exhausting yet wonderful day of eating and drinking. Again, tomorrow will be a groundhog day for my wife and I. Again, we looked at the elevator sign, but smiled at each other. Hey, at least we rode off a ton of calories today. Thanks for reading.
Portland State University Farmer's Market
Saturdays, 8:30 am - 2:00 pm
(at PSU Farmer's Market)
Pinestate Biscuits (Restaurant Location)
3640 SE Belmont Street
Portland, OR 97214
621 SE Morrison Street
Portland, OR 97214
3226 SE Division Street
Portland, OR 97255
413 NW 21st Street
Portland, OR 97209
1001 NW Couch Street
Portland, OR 97209