What’s wet, hairy, wears a beanie, and smells like beer? You got it – Portland! It’s my first time in town and I’ll be soaking up some of its food, beer and culture over the next few days. Literally……..soaking……get it, yes, it’s going to be raining every goddamn day I’m here. Welcome to the NorthWest!
Some whacky and weird facts. Did you know Portland’s not into religion? 42% of its population registered religiously unaffiliated. Very few churches and guess what, it all makes sense to me!!! Especially when the entire town is practicing Voodoo. I mean what kind of town sticks pretzels in Voodoo donut dolls? Along with a city slogan of “Keep Portland Weird” – shit is weird and I’m hungry.
And did you know Portland has more breweries/microbreweries than any other city in the world? Really!!!! It’s ranked as the #5 beer destination in the world as well. And when you’re competing against towns who have been making beer for 1000’s of years, those Bavarian Lederhosen wearing drunks have been put on notice. WTS (Wikipedia That Shit!) that’s a stat!
Today as I checked into my hotel I dropped my bags and immediately left and hit Pok Pok, Portland’s first Michelin star’d restaurant owned by Andy Ricker, one of Anthony Bourdain’s boys. And guess what type of food it is? Guess?? Fondue?? No … Ummm …. burgers?? Nope…. Thai food??? Nailed it!!! What a surprise Jim … you just constantly keep us guessing, would never have guessed another Asian restaurant…….
Andy the owner released a Thai cookbook rightfully named, Pok Pok and I own it (click on the link to order the book, its worthy) the recipes are detailed, the food innovative and the stories fun to read. And if you think Thai cooking is too complex, let me change your mind, his number one selling dish at Pok Pok – Chicken Wings. He has restaurants all around Portland and another Pok Pok in New York. (The name, Pok Pok is derived by the sound made when you hit down into a mortar with a pestle). Andy, also recently released his follow up book to Pok Pok, The Drinking Food of Thailand (click on link to order ) which is another great read, with lots of easy recipies and I would buy it for the photography alone.
Giddy with anticipation my Uber drove me up SE Division Street, lined with grocery stores, bars and a large number of restaurants; Inter mixed with condos, homes and some industrial. A true mixed-use neighborhood. As I rolled up to the restaurant, I was happy and surprised the place was a converted single-family home with a retro funky Haight Street decor. Mis matched interior, metal seats, small paper napkins and blaring Thai music. As I sat at the bar I felt I was transformed back to Thailand but a retro funky one. I kinda liked it.
The menu was a complex array of innovative Thai cuisine. So complex I had to read the entire description of each dish to know exactly WTF it was. Boar collar, chicken wings, catfish, total excitement. I ordered a BBQ half chicken that was supposed to be spicy, NOT (This is typical – most Asian restaurants go low on heat even when you ask for it- they assume, rightfully so, that most Americans think they know spice but end up returning the food because its to spicy- you know the guy that wants his Bloody Mary extra spicy but returns the drink because it has too much horseradish?) The second item I ordered is an Isaan (North Eastern Thailand) favorite, Beef Larb with sticky rice (again not spicy which it should have been, next time Ill be more specific about the spice) I enjoyed my meal with a few “Chang” Beers (Thai Beer with higher alcohol) Both dishes were reflective of a dish prepared by a street vendor in Thailand, perfection. (outside off the spice) and Pok Pok is a place I’ll visit again and you should too.
Tonight, another Michelin star restaurant is set for dinner but for now I think Ill grab a few beers and see how many REI, Patagonia and Columbia stores I can find.
If you love Portland as much as I do, check out this story on the food truck scene, Portland Food Trucks!