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Family Fun, Gardens, Oregon, Outdoor Activities, Pacific Northwest, Portland

It’s Time to Stop and Smell the Roses in Portland

August 31, 2017

A visit to Portland’s world famous International Rose Test Garden is truly a treat for the senses. The heady fragrance of thousands of roses greets you even before you see them. Here on 4.5 acres in the city’s Washington Park, high above Portland’s hustle and bustle, visitors will delight in the sights and aromas of more than 10,000 individual plants and 650 different varieties of gorgeous roses.

About 700,000 people visit Portland’s International Rose Test Garden each year.

With whimsical names like Angel Face, Candy Cane Cocktail, Carmel Kisses, Champagne Wishes, First Crush, Falling in Love and Jump for Joy, giant blooms and tiny tea varieties give approximately 700,000 visitors a year something to smile about.

How about Gold-medal winning Sunshine Daydream to brighten your day?

These beautiful blooms are a delight to the senses.

Barbra Streisand, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Pope John Paul II, Dale Chihuly, Ingrid Bergman, George Burns, Coretta Scott King, Dick Clark, Marilyn Monroe and England’s Queen Elizabeth are among the luminaries who have a namesake rose here.

Well-known people from around the globe including artists, philanthropists, world and religious leaders have namesake roses here.

While the peak month for rose viewing is June, our visit in August was sensational. According to the Portland Parks & Recreation Department, which owns and manages the Rose Garden, roses are in bloom from May through October.

These floral favorites were glorious even in August.

Plan accordingly–we arrived in April one time and were disappointed to see we’d come too early. We enjoyed a stroll through the lovely Japanese Gardens across the street instead (see earlier blog post).

More than 650 varieties of roses are grown here.

“Hot Cocoa” seems right, even in the summer.

The oldest continuously operating public rose test garden in the U.S., Portland’s International Rose Test Garden just celebrated its 100th birthday. The centennial was marked this August with music and other activities.

Portland recently celebrated 100 Years of Roses– that’s why it’s called the Rose City.

During its 100 years of operation the Rose Test Garden has served as just that—a testing ground for new varieties of this floral favorite. During World War I, the Garden also became home and protector of European-grown rose varieties threatened by bombing.

Admission is free and so are guided tours given at 1 p.m. daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

To get the most from your visit, download a self-guided tour from the Rose Garden website www.portlandoregon.gov/parks or join one of the free guided tours offered daily at 1 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Enjoy the roses during your visit but remember, absolutely no plantings or cuttings can be removed from the Garden.

Dick Clark’s namesake rose won “Portland’s Best Rose” last year.

 

Admission to the Rose Garden is free. There is limited metered parking available but it can be a challenge to find due to construction in Washington Park. Consider taking public transportation or a ride share to reach the Garden. Take Trimet MAX to Washington Park and then use the free shuttle from the station that runs throughout the Park.

The next time Portland, Oregon is on your itinerary, treat yourself to a visit here and find out why it’s called the Rose City. And take time to smell, the well… you know!

 

 

 

Dining, Oregon, Pacific Northwest, Portland, Restaurants

Let’s Eat—Downtown Portland: Departure, Mucca, Andina, Irving St. + Imperial

June 6, 2017

Portland is known as a food lover’s paradise and for good reason. The Rose City has something for every palate and budget from food trucks to fine dining. Every time we visit, and it’s pretty regularly, the big decision is always where to eat next.

It’s hard to beat the views and ambiance at Departure Lounge on the rooftop at the Nines Hotel.

If the weather is nice and the skies are clear, begin your evening at Departure Restaurant + Lounge www.departureportland.com on the rooftop at The Nines Hotel. There are splendid views—some of the best in Portland, by our reckoning– to accompany your beverage of choice.

Head upstairs for beautiful views, a lively happy hour and tasty Asian-fusion cuisine.

There are appetizers to order and you can take a peek at their rooftop herb garden. The rooftop is hugely popular so go early or be prepared to stand. Seating is limited but no one seems to mind. Happy Hour takes place every day from 4-6 p.m.

Cheers!

If you’re looking for dinner, as well as drinks, inside Departure you’ll find an Asian- fusion restaurant with good food and attentive service. The menu features a fine assortment of sushi, salads, dim sum, kushiyaki dishes, wok fired items, and chef’s suggestions. They offer lots of small dishes good for sharing, which is what we did. There’s plenty of seafood to choose from, like the wildly popular poke, as well as meat and vegetarian selections.

Order dinner at tables or the bar inside Departure Restaurant + Lounge.

There are plenty of sushi options from traditional to vegetarian rolls available.

The wings in a sweet chili glaze were tasty, as was the steamed short rib bun and the pork shumai. The chili prawns were a little salty and we thought could have used more heat, but flavorful, nonetheless. Crispy Striped Bass was a highlight, served with mango, cashews and a chili lime sauce.

Chicken wings were crispy and delicious.

Chili prawns were perfect for sharing.

Departure Restaurant + Lounge has an interesting wine list with plenty of wines that have been selected to pair perfectly with the food. They also offer a full compliment of cocktails, as well as spirits, beer, saki, teas and interesting sounding “no proof” libations. Knowledgeable staff are happy to help with decision making.

The wine list has lots of fun choices that complement the menu nicely.

Mind your step– you may well feel like you’re aboard an aircraft, especially walking down the long hallway towards the restrooms.

For views, atmosphere, beverages and a bite to eat, it’s hard to beat Departure.

Prepare for a delightful dining experience at Mucca.

If you’re in the mood for delicious Italian cuisine prepared with care and graciously served in a charming, intimate setting, try Mucca- www.muccaosteria.com.

Enjoy a taste of Italy with a Sicilian flair in Downtown Portland.

The prosciutto and burrata is a great starter and easy to share, as is the insalata barbabietole (beet salad) with ricotta and hazelnuts. Try the excellent scallops with Parmesan fondue, if you’re looking for something richer.

A generous portion of creamy burrata is hiding inside this delicious nest of prosciutto.

The pastas are all terrific (we’ve tried just about every one here), especially the tortelli ai funghi—a beautiful dish of fresh pasta stuffed with mushrooms and ricotta, and topped with asparagus in a light and lovely cream sauce.

The tortelli with mushrooms is a personal favorite at Mucca.

The papparadelle with boar ragu is a hearty dish, full of flavor and reminds us of Tuscany. For an interesting take on risotto, try Mucca’s preparation with elk sausage.

This braised rabbit ragu with olives and pine nuts is typically served with a red beet tagliatelle. Here, we substituted pici pasta for the tagliatelle.

Elk sausage makes Mucca’s risotto delightfully different.

If you have a big appetite, opt for the pork shoulder, which is slow cooked, and falling off the bone. It’s served with creamy polenta. The daily fish special is always a winner, too.

Mucca’s wine list features producers from across Italy from Tuscany to Sicily.

Enjoy a digestivo after your meal. Mucca has many excellent ones to choose from.

With the exception of some French sparklers, the wine list is all Italian, from regions throughout the country from Piemonte to Sardinia. Knowledgeable servers are happy to help with your selections. In our experience, Mucca never disappoints.

Marvelous Andean cuisine awaits at Andina.

If you have a taste for amazing Peruvian cuisine try Andina www.andinarestaurant.com. You’ll find South American cooking in both traditional and contemporary, or NovoAndean (as they call it here), style at this big, bustling eatery.

We always say “yes, please” to the empanadas at Andina. Both the beef and vegetable versions are terrific.

Empanadas are just one of Andina’s “don’t miss” tapas dishes. Several superb preparations of scallops, shrimp, and other seafood, vegetable dishes, soups and stews, plus cerviches make up the extensive list. There are so many great sounding options it can be overwhelming to choose.

Pimento Piquillo Relleno, stuffed with quinoa, cheese and Serrano ham, makes a very tasty starter.

A classic Tortilla de Papa brings potatoes to a new level.

The tapas are meant to share so be sure to bring friends. That also gives you the chance to try more of their tasty dishes. There have been times when we have selected so many tapas; we could barely eat our entrees, which we would also recommend sharing.

Crunchy, crispy Chicharrones de Langostinos are perfect for sharing.

Among Andina’s entrees, we recommend the lamb shank, which is perfectly prepared and served with traditional accompaniments. It’s a very large portion. The fish dishes are also very good, especially the tuna, which is served with red lentils and a gooseberry sauce. There are numerous vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options here, too.

Quinoa turns up in a number of dishes, including this delightful presentation of Quinoa con Verduras.

Though walk- ins are welcome to dine downstairs or in the busy bar area on a space available basis, if you want a guaranteed table, it’s essential to reserve. You’ll be glad you did.

Another award-winning downtown dinner spot to try.

 Named one of Portland’s 2016 Best Restaurants by The Oregonian, Irving Street Kitchen is right down the street from Andina in the Pearl District. Irving Street is going for an “elegant casual” vibe and it seemed to be very of the moment on the Saturday night we dined there.

Everyone seemed to be having a great time at Irving Street Kitchen.

They have a terrific “wines on tap program” so you can sample a bunch of local wines you might not have heard of—we hadn’t– without breaking the bank. There were four whites, six reds and a rose on tap, all from Oregon and Washington, when we visited.  In addition to the wines and beers on tap, there are craft cocktails and a nice wine list with lots of choices from the Pacific Northwest.

Sample a few selections from the “on tap” wine program featuring wines from independent producers in Oregon and Washington.

Irving Street has heartier starters like the charcuterie or cheese selections, Manila clams, and meatballs, for example, but we began with salads, which were fresh and crisp. We had the baby lettuces and the Bibb wedge—classics, updated with additions like wildflower Riesling dressing and candied bacon with pecan nibs, respectively.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

We started with several crisp salads, including the Bibb Wedge shown here.

The double pork chop was superb and enormous, as was the buttermilk fried chicken. Both were extremely satisfying and big enough to share. The carrot butter poached halibut sounded awfully tempting but we went for the salmon this time and weren’t disappointed.

The succulent double pork chop was redolent with a smoky flavor throughout.

Crispy buttermilk fried chicken was a winner.

A peek inside Irving Street’s kitchen.

Irving Street Kitchen is hip and happening so definitely book in. Get one of their curtained booths if you can, or stake out a seat at the buzzy bar. Irving Street Kitchen also serves brunch on weekends and has a Happy Hour. Check it out!

Another downtown favorite is Chef/Owner Vitaly Paley’s Imperial. This casual and always crowded restaurant has been one of our Portland “go tos” for years. http://www.imperialpdx.com.

The award-winning Imperial is popular for good reason.

Though former Top Chef finalist Doug Adams is no longer in the kitchen, his signature fried chicken is still on the menu, served with house-made hot sauce and honey. (Word has it that Doug is opening a new place in the fall–we’ll keep you posted).

The signature fried chicken is a standout!

 Though we don’t love paying for bread and butter, the Parker House rolls with Jacobsen Sea Salt are always on our table at Imperial, along with a big basket of their terrific fries.

Imperial’s fries are irresistible. Maybe it’s their “secret sauce.”

The sunflower seed brittle on the kale and vegetable salad makes that one special. The duck meatballs are a terrific starter, too.

Sunflower seed brittle gives this kale salad a satisfying crunch.

The duck meatballs deliver big on taste.

Some of the other “don’t miss” dishes are the barrel planked pork secretto, roasted half chicken, any fish done la plancha-style, and the fried rabbit with bacon, though we haven’t seen that dish on the menu lately.

Perfectly prepared Planked Pork Secretto from Tails & Trotters, is served with a fantastic Romesco sauce.

The grilled halibut is simply delicious.

The wine list features plenty of French selections but Oregon, Washington, and California wines are also well represented. Italian wines, along with craft cocktails, reserve, draft, and bottled beers, and ciders are all on offer.

There are always new and interesting wines to try on Imperial’s list.

Though we missed seeing a few of the friendly faces that always made dining at Imperial a bit more special, we still had a wonderful dinner on our most recent visit. Imperial serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Try their Happy Hour, too– the food is terrific and the prices are a real deal.

These are a few of our downtown favorites in Portland. We’ll be back with more dining recommendations in another post. In the meantime, let us know about your Portland picks!

 

 

Family Fun, Gardens, Oregon, Outdoor Activities, Pacific Northwest, Portland

A Walk in the Woods—Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum

May 22, 2017

If you enjoy a walk on the wilder side, visit Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum. Just up the hill in Washington Park from the refined and well-manicured Japanese Garden, nature lovers will find 12 miles of rustic trails that run through the 187-acre park.

Visitors can explore 12 miles of rustic trails, many fairly rugged. There are two miles of trails suitable for strollers and wheelchairs.

Trails are well marked and lead to “family” groupings of trees.

The Hoyt Arboretum boasts 6,000 plants and trees representing 1,100 species and it’s free to visit. The trees, first planted in the 1930s by John W. Duncan, are grouped with others they are related to, in areas closest to their natural, native habitat.

The Hoyt Arboretum is a nature lover’s paradise in Portland’s Washington Park.

Visitors can meander down the Magnolia Trail to the Magnolia Grove or view a broad array of holly on the Holly Loop. You’ll find Oak Trail, Beech Trail, Maple Trail, Hawthorn Trail, Walnut Trail, Redwood Trail, Bristlecone Pine Trail— you get the picture. If you have a favorite kind of tree, chances are you can find it here, along with its closest relatives.

Volcano Vista is one of many scenic spots in the 187-acre “living museum.” Mt. Ranier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood are off in the distance.

Be aware that many of the trails are fairly rugged and not well suited to people with ambulatory challenges. There are, however, two miles of trails appropriate for strollers, wheelchairs and less sure-footed visitors. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes for your Arboretum adventure.

The Magnolia Grove was a personal favorite. There are so many varieties of this beautiful flowering tree to enjoy at the Hoyt Arboretum.

The Hoyt Arboretum hosts 90-minute tours on many Saturdays, but it’s best to call or check the website www.hoytarboretum.org to confirm the schedule. In the autumn, there are Fall Color Tours and during April, which is Arbor Month, volunteer docents guide visitors on the Magnolia and Spring Blossom Tours. A $3 donation is suggested for the tours.  Check with the Arboretum for other tours and events throughout the year.

Check out the guided Magnolia and Spring Blossoms tours, held on Saturdays in the Spring.

The Hoyt Arboretum is pet and family friendly.  We encountered a number of families with cavorting canines and energetic children frolicking in the meadow areas.

Daffodils, a sure harbinger of Spring, were blooming in the Winter Garden during our recent visit.

The Visitor Center, which includes a small nature center and a research library, was closed when we visited, but the restrooms were open. There were brochures available, which included handy trail maps.

There was something to delight the eye in every area of the Hoyt Arboretum. This is a view of the Winter Garden.

There is a Winter Garden to explore and a picnic area when you’re ready for a break. There are no cafes or restaurants on the Arboretum’s grounds so come prepared. We often stop by Elephant’s Deli on NW 22nd Avenue. It’s a great place to pick up provisions on your way to Washington Park. You can order everything from pizza to black bean burgers, prepared while you wait, or order ahead for sandwiches, sack lunches, full picnics, and platters. They also have “grab and go” items, a full bakery, and plenty of specialty foods and gift items. A complete menu is available at www.elephantsdeli.com.

Specialty foods, full picnics, platters, pre-packaged salads and sandwiches, side dishes, baked goods and more are on offer at Elephant’s Deli.

Get a pizza, fried chicken, burgers and other entrees to bring to the park or enjoy before you go. There are no dining facilities at the Hoyt Arboretum so be prepared.

There is a small pay parking lot at the entrance to the Hoyt Arboretum or take the free Washington Park shuttle bus up from the transit center (Max Red or Blue lines to Washington Park). The complimentary shuttle runs around the park from April through October. For current information, please visit www.explorewashingtonpark.org and enjoy your walk in the woods in this remarkable spot in Portland.