Eating and Drinking in Portland - Aggressively Good

Our first big trip as a couple was to New York City in 2014. Neither of us did much research going into it. Each evening, we would look up a yummy-looking coffee shop in a different neighborhood and go from there. This non-plan resulted in great coffee, thousands and steps, and no stand out meals. Can you believe it?! A trip to NYC for many includes excellent food in addition to amazing experiences.

Fast forward to 2016 - Kevin had a conference in Portland, Oregon that ended on Friday, so we decided I would hop on a flight to join him for the final banquet and then we'd spend the weekend there. To safeguard against less-than-blah meals, I did a deep dive into researching all things food and drink in Portland. The result was a three-day whirlwind of amazing eats. As I took notes on my iPhone about what we ate and loved, I titled the list 'Eating in Portland - Aggressively Good.'

I am embarrassed to say that yes, it has taken me three years to write this post. The upside is that we've shared these recommendations with lots of friends who've also had great experiences. So... here goes!

Friday

Happy Hour - Altabira City Tavern at Hotel Eastlund

As conferences often are, Kevin's was hosted at a beautiful hotel. Hotel Eastlund is situated in Portland's fast-growing Lloyd District on the city's East Side. The funky chic decor extends from the lobby to the guest rooms and doesn't stop there.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Eastlund

Photo courtesy of Hotel Eastlund

Kevin was on an afternoon break from the conference when I arrived, so we decided to check out the hotel's bar and restaurant. We often do this when we arrive in a city to get our bearings, make a plan, and meet a local or two. We were happy to find out that Altabira City Tavern is no simple hotel bar. Floor to ceiling windows and a roof-top patio on the hotel's top floor offer stunning views of the city while their beer-focused menu by chef and restauranteur David Machado offers yummy bites in an upscale yet comfortable atmosphere. Let's remember that I'd just gotten off a plane people.


Saturday

Stumptown Coffee at Ace Hotel

On Saturday morning, we checked out of the beautiful Hotel Eastlund and headed downtown to check into hip Ace Hotel. We stayed in the London Shoreditch location when we got engaged and loved it so much, we couldn't wait to book another stay with the chain.

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Kevin and I share many interests, and a top one for both of us is coffee. I enjoyed Stumptown for the first time on that coffee-fueled NYC trip in 2014 and have been head-over-heels ever since. Every location is cozy, and the attention to detail means that every latte will be perfect, no matter where you are. (Read their story here.)

Many Ace Hotel locations have a Stumptown Coffee in them, which is such a treat. You always know that a fantastic pour-over awaits just a short elevator ride away. We suggest the Nitro Cold Brew or a warm mocha. Trust us.

Photo courtesy of Stumptown Coffee

Photo courtesy of Stumptown Coffee

Lunch at Jake's Famous Crawfish

After spending some time wandering in downtown Portland, the group decided on seafood for lunch. Kevin and I live near the Gulf Coast in Texas, so even though we have access to fresh fare, we always jump at the chance for east or west coast fish. That being said, I am not a huge fan of crawfish, so the name didn't exactly draw me in, but one look at the menu and I was hooked! (pun intended) With a gorgeous menu full of seafood and non-seafood options, our entire group was satisfied and stuffed.

Photo courtesy of Jake’s Famous Crawfish

Photo courtesy of Jake’s Famous Crawfish

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Aperitifs at Multnomah Whisky Library

According to their website, "Multnomah Whisky Library holds an exhaustive collection representing all major, and lesser, styles of distilled spirits known to the modern world." At first glance, MWL seemed open only to members with a couple's membership at $850 a year, but upon closer look, you have an option to purchase a Hall Pass, which allows non-members to make a one-time reservation, perfect for out-of-town visitors like ourselves and the friends we were with.

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As you might have picked up, we are book lovers, spending afternoons both while we travel and at home browsing big box book stores and second-hand shops alike, so the library theme was just up our alley. The dim room was lit only by green glass library lamps set along the center of long, dark wooden tables. Booths for bigger groups lined the large room, giving us a great view of everything. Reservations are required, both for members and Hall Pass holders, so the room did have a quiet air about it since no one was allowed to stand at the bar.

Although dinner is available, we focused on the drinks. I opted for a whiskey flight. These aren't set on the menu -- your knowledgable server asks questions about your tastes and price point to help you choose an array of options. The rest of the group ordered a cocktail from their libations menu, which offers a variety of spirits as a base, meeting everyone's taste.

A few moments after we ordered, a vintage library cart outfitted for mixing drinks was wheeled over tableside. The whiskeys I had chosen were presented to me with some information about tasting notes. Then came the fun -- the drinks were mixed in our view with explanations throughout! The service was impeccable and the atmosphere unique, making this stop a memorable one.

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If the Hall Pass doesn't fit in your travel budget, don't fret! Just downstairs from the MWL, you'll find The Green Room, which serves casual cocktails and light bites with the same attention to detail in an easygoing atmosphere.

Photo courtesy of Multnomah Whiskey Library

Photo courtesy of Multnomah Whiskey Library

However, you choose to enjoy MWL, with a membership, Hall Pass or in The Green Room, make sure to stop in for a beautiful experience.

Dinner at Saucebox

Whether traveling or at home, we do our best to rely first on recommendations, either from friend's previous trips or (especially) locals, then on what looks good as we walk down the street, and last on online/app resources. So, in the absence of the first two, we turned to Yelp to find a new plan for dinner after our first option was disappointing. (Travel Tip: If you walk into a place and don't like the vibe - find something else!)

As we wandered, hungry and ready to eat, I happened upon Saucebox. Any type of Asian cuisine will always be my first choice, so I called to check availability, and amazingly, they had a table for 6 ready and waiting. Saucebox is a deejay-cafe that entices all of your senses with flavorful food, yummy cocktails, glamorous ambiance, groovy music, and energetic staff.

Photo of Saucebox from Open Table.

Photo of Saucebox from Open Table.

Our group opted to order multiple dim sum and small plates to share so everyone could experience lots of flavors. Everything was terrific, but the stand out dish for me was the Tapioca Dumplings, filled with chicken and cilantro served with fish sauce, peanuts and garlic oil. Dear reader, if you go to Saucebox, please, order these. Don't miss out on this magic.

Sunday

Breakfast at Mother's Bistro & Bar

Mother's is where you go for slow-cooked comfort food the way your great grandmother made it. They make everything from scratch and use the best ingredients available. Although they do serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we heard that a morning trip was the way to go. With a full bar offering mimosas and bloody mary's (and pretty much anything else you could want) paired with Buttermilk Biscuits with Sausage Gravy or Wild Salmon Hash, you just can't go wrong.

We would love to go back for lunch or dinner, or at least coffee and dessert on our next trip. Homemade strawberry shortcake with fresh, locally-sourced strawberries... yes, please!


Liquid Lunch at The Big Legrowlski

After our gorgeous and giant breakfast at Mother's, no one was in the mood to sit down, so we decided to walk those biscuits off. We walked toward the water and were lucky enough to come upon the Portland Saturday Market. This local open-air market takes place every Saturday and Sunday from March through Christmas Eve. In addition to artisan crafts, there are food-tents-and-trucks-a-plenty, just in case you already need a snack.

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The Big Legrowlski's website is simply letting you know what they're about.

BEER. WHITE RUSSIANS. MUSIC.

This intimate music venue and bar offers varied but great experiences each and every time you go. The house band... check. White Russians complete with a count of how many have ever been ordered... check. A great beer selection in a bar with a great vibe... check.

We visited at a random time in the afternoon, so it was near empty, but I can see how this small space can get crowded, especially when they're a live band playing. I have never actually seen The Big Lebowski (eek... I know), but this themed bar is a treat whether you're a fan or not.

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Sizzle Pie

After saying goodbye to our sweet friends who joined us in Portland, Kevin and I headed back to Ace Hotel for one of my favorite activities... a nap! Our philosophy of travel is to go at a pace where you're genuinely able to enjoy the place where you are. Sometimes that means a quick dinner and movies in the hotel room. We decided on a three-minute walk to Sizzle Pie for some pizza and garlic knots.

We went with classic pepperoni, or as it's named at Sizzle, the Ace of Spades, but with vegan and veggie options galore, this place is sure to please a crowd!

Monday

Brunch at Kenny and Zuke's Delicatessen

Let me just begin by saying that Kevin and I still talk about how fantastic the service and homemade everything is at Kenny and Zuke's. With a no-cell-phones-during-dinner policy (and an expectation that they're on silent for the rest of the day) this place aligns with our love of gathering over a meal and being present, even if you're dining solo!

On our first visit (yes, we did go back for breakfast before we flew out the next day) we ordered their legendary house-made pastrami hash with over-easy eggs with fresh baked rye toast and man-oh-man, it lives up to the hype.

The next morning, I opted for Latkes, and Lox and Kevin went for a Pastrami sandwich on a Bagel. You guys, I was floored by everything we tasted here, as well as the kindness of their staff and other patrons. When we revisit Portland, a visit here will be a priority for sure.

Shopping and Ice Cream in the Northwest District

After all the eating, it was time to get out and walk! The Northwest District is a sweet, tree-lined neighborhood full of cute local boutiques and trendy chains that are worth the time. Some highlights for us were Goorin Bros. Hat Company and Will Leather Goods.

Our planned destination was Salt & Straw Ice Cream. During my research for this trip, I was drawn in by their Pots of Gold flavor where they literally hand separate Lucky Charms™ marshmallows from the cereal pieces to create this flavor. We still have not had the chance to try it, so if anyone would like to ship some to us, we'll gladly and gratefully accept!

With their classic and seasonal flavors, there is always something new to try! I opted for Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper and Pear with Blue Cheese on a waffle cone while Kevin went for Stumptown Coffee and Bourbon in a cup - he's so responsible that way.

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Salt & Straw has locations in Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, and Anaheim, and we suggest adding them to your wishlist in all of those cities!

Happy Hour at Clyde Common

We worked up an appetite spending multiple hours in Powell's Books, so we decided to head back to the hotel, which, in addition to a great coffee shop, is connected to a fantastic restaurant called Clyde Common.

Their menu offers both domestic and foreign fare and a vast array of nibbles and drink deals on their daily happy hour menu. We ordered popcorn and a couple of Bourbon Renewals and chatted with the bartenders about their city.

Dinner at Gilda's Italian Restaurant

Gilda's was recommended to us by one of the bartenders as a great place for Italian, which at this point seemed to be the only cuisine we hadn't yet tried. A quick ten-minute stroll got us here, and as luck would have it, they had a table for two available! However, they do suggest making a reservation to ensure space for your party.

Generous portions in a homey and comfortable space made for a glorious last night meal in Portland.

Nightcap at Pepe Le Moko

Another Clyde Common suggestion, Pepe Le Moko also made the list of places we will visit again when we return to Portland. You enter from the street and immediately proceed down a set of narrow stairs to a bunker-like wood-paneled room no wider than I am tall.

Once my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, I felt like I was transported to another era - lamp-lit tables, beautiful cocktails and the urge to lean closer to Kevin to whisper our favorite things about our time in Portland together to one another. We loved it.


Portland feels comfortable and kind, and all our food and drink experiences were in line with that. Let us know if you have other Portland favorites that we should add to our list for our next visit!

Londoners - A Film by Oliver Astrologo

There’s no place on earth quite like London. Truth is, it’s such a hard city to capture on film with its diversity of culture, ethnicity, architecture, lifestyle, and more. It’s a city best experienced in person but if you haven’t been, filmmaker Oliver Astrologo does a bang up job of giving you a glimpse.

Filmed over a two-year period, Astrologo calls this “one of the most demanding and challenging projects” of his career. He gets up close and personal with everyday Londoners and really captures the grittiness and the frenetic pace of life in the British capital.

I’ve always admired the attention to detail in Astrologo’s editing, especially his use of myriad cuts and bringing in native audio and sound effects. It really pulls you into the city he’s exploring. He also manages to capture the feeling and uncertainty that exists around Brexit by bringing in current news footage and using bluer, cooler tones that evoke a coldness to the opening sequences.

The simple narrative that is almost hidden throughout the whole film really makes for a satisfying look at life in London.

You can find more of Oliver Astrologo’s work on his Vimeo page here or on his website here. Check out some my personal favorite films of his on Japan here and Venezia here.

The Fuji X-T3 in New York City: A Travel Camera Review

For the last few months, I've played around with a Canon A-1 film camera to help gain some insight into the analog method of taking and developing pictures. The prism focus mechanism and the manual turning of knobs made me feel liberated, like I was the one creating the final product. That feeling can get lost in the hyper processing power of modern day DSLR and mirrorless cameras but shooting with the Fujifilm X-T3 is the closest thing I've found. From its vintage stylings, a hallmark of most Fuji cameras, to its ability to digitally recreate prism focusing, the X-T3 puts the fun back into shooting digital images.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 2500, f/3.2, 1/40sec.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 2500, f/3.2, 1/40sec.

Going All In With Fuji

In late 2017 I switched from a Nikon D750 system to the Sony a7Rii because it was a smaller system that came with better video options. I also owned a smaller Fuji X-T20 that I used for street photography, and in 2018 I began to enjoy taking more photos with the Fuji than the Sony. Since I already owned a few Fuji lenses, I sold my Sony a7Rii and bought the new Fuji X-T3.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 3200, f/3.6, 1/250sec.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 3200, f/3.6, 1/250sec.

The Fuji X-T3 in NYC

I recently took the X-T3 for a spin on the streets of New York City during a trip with our friends from Boozing Abroad. For most of the trip, I used the Fuji 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens, one of the best travel lenses you can own for street photography. It's light, tiny and takes sharp images, especially in the f/5.6 to f/8 range. Unlike the smaller X-T20 that we've had in the house for over a year, the X-T3 feels substantially more like a professional camera. It sports dedicated knobs for ISO, shutter speed, and exposure compensation that compliment the super quick autofocus system. The Fuji 27mm lens doesn't come with the traditional aperture ring that most Fuji lenses sport due to its small footprint, but the front and back scroll wheels of the X-T3 stand in quite nicely.

To turn the X-T3 into an even more digital/analog hybrid, I tend to turn off the screen and only use the electronic viewfinder (EVF), so I'm looking through the viewfinder, changing ISO, shutter speed, and the aperture through manual controls, and even focusing manually at times.

Fuji X-T3 with 18-55mm lens. ISO 3200, f/4.5, 1/250sec.

Fuji X-T3 with 18-55mm lens. ISO 3200, f/4.5, 1/250sec.

APS-C or Full-Frame?

I first chose Sony because of the a7Rii's full-frame sensor and video capabilities, but over time came to find that in the shooting that I like, full-frame isn't as big of a factor. The Fuji X-T3's APS-C sized sensor (a smaller size, compared to a full-frame 35mm sensor) is more than capable of providing a shallow depth of field.

Another perk of an APS-C sized sensor is that the lenses usually cost less than there full-frame counterparts. I picked up the 27mm pancake lens used for only $270 and just got a used Fuji 35mm f/2 lens for $350. Up and down their lens lineup, Fuji lenses cost less because it takes less glass to cover a smaller sensor area.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 250, f/7.1, 1/60sec.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 250, f/7.1, 1/60sec.

Functionality

One of my biggest complaints about the Sony a7Rii was the battery life or lack thereof. With the X-T3 I can get well above the 300-350 shots per charge that it's rated for and only changed the battery once while out shooting all day in New York City. It's a small camera, so the battery is still pretty small, but the key is to make sure you're powered off between uses. A great new power feature is the X-T3's ability to charge over USB-C, even while in use. This comes in handy when filming 4k video without the optional battery grip.

One thing the X-T3 does lack is in body image stabilization, which can make shooting video handheld a little hard. For most of what I do, it's not a problem, but it lags behind the competition in this area.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 500, f/2.8, 1/40sec.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 500, f/2.8, 1/40sec.

Adaptability

A few weeks ago I picked up a K&F Concept adapter that lets me use my old manual Canon FD lenses on the X-T3. I haven't gotten to do a lot of shooting with it yet, but early results are encouraging. I've found it very satisfying using an older lens on a new camera, especially in street photography. The Canon 50mm and 28mm FD that I use are small and blend right into the camera's vintage aesthetics.

Fuji X-T3 with 18-55mm lens. ISO 160, f/5.6, 1/210sec.

Fuji X-T3 with 18-55mm lens. ISO 160, f/5.6, 1/210sec.

Conclusion

If you're looking for a small camera that takes stunning pictures and has all the new video features that you crave, I recommend the Fuji X-T3. From its vintage look and feel to the ease of taking pictures that look great straight out of the camera, you won't be disappointed. Don't let the smaller sensor fool you; this camera has excellent depth of field and works well for landscape, portraiture, travel, and more. Plus, at only $1399, you'll save some money over the full-frame competitors and be able to afford some more lens options.

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Mini Berlin

When you’ve never been to a place, everything about it seems small and dreamlike. As a child, I used to go to Six Flags - Astroworld in Houston and was overwhelmed by the enormity of it. Flash forward ten years and walking across the entire park only took 15 minutes. Not only had my height changed, but so had my perspective of the world, even though Astroworld stayed the same.

As we prepare for our trip to Berlin later this year, that same feeling has hit me. Every bit of Berlin I’ve experienced has been second hand through books and film. The thing is, I’m eager to keep that childlike wonder about me as I roam Kruezberg and Potsdamer Platz. Sure I’ve been to other places in Europe, so the scale of the city won’t surprise me, but I want other things to.

I ran across this new video from filmmakers Efim Graboy and Daria Turetski that uses tilt-shift lenses and photography to picture a mini Berlin, people teeming about like toy models. It reminds me of watching a Wes Anderson movie and only makes me want to visit the city sooner.

You can see more from Efim Graboy and Daria Turetski here.

Slowing Down in a Digital/Analog World

There's a romanticism around old things. Film cameras. Record players. Mid-century modern furniture. Things our grandparents owned. Some of the nostalgia comes from a burgeoning digital world built on smart devices, notifications, instant gratification and whatever I want on demand. It's almost too easy.

With the advent of Apple's new Screen Time feature and even a way to track your Instagram habit, in-app of course, there's a growing feeling that maybe all the screen time we currently enjoy isn't good for us. The question is, haven't we been here before?

In his short film "Peripheral," cinematographer Casey Cavanaugh tells a story entirely through the viewfinder of a Hasselblad 500C/M camera. It touches on themes of being present in your life and the time-tested mantra of "pic, or it didn't happen."

I struggle with taking too many photos of big events, especially while traveling. There's a fine line between documenting your life and living it that is hard to straddle most days. Smartphones haven't helped the matter, but they are just another piece in a long line of addictive tech and behavior that can take us out of the world around us.

One of the reasons I like film photography is for its ability to slow down the process and make me think about what is going on around me. With only 36 exposures and the rising price of film and development, each shot seems more precious, thought out. I tend to talk more about what I'm shooting with the people around me since I can't just show them on the screen after the fact.

I’m currently reading Henry David Thoreau’s “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” (which is an excerpt from his book ‘Walden’ published in the Penguin Great Ideas series) and I’m struck by his tone of indifference to the world around him. In the chapter on the economy, Thoreau lays out his reasons for choosing Walden as his site of retreat from the world and of his mistrust of people and common life. I’ve always wanted to live a simple lifestyle but not at the cost of abandoning those around me.

I believe that the people around us shape who we are and how we live our life. Sure we may have to course correct every once in a while, but I’d rather live with people at the moment.

So whether it's an old hobby or a new-tech experience, remember that we live life with the people around us and that all the other things are meant to enhance that, not take away. When you're traveling or just out to dinner with friends, put that smartphone, old camera or whatever it is, away for a second. Live deeply. That should give you plenty to take photos of later.