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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 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 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.


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-

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 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.

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 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

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 and enjoy your walk in the woods in this remarkable spot in Portland.


Architecture, Art, Cultural Attractions, Family Fun, Outdoor Activities, Outdoor Art, Pacific Northwest, Portland

Seeking Serenity at Portland’s Spectacular Japanese Garden

May 9, 2017

Gorgeous grounds, stunning views and an authentic Japanese experience have been delighting visitors to Portland’s spectacular Japanese Garden since 1963. Now, the beautiful 12-acre oasis, which includes five separate gardens with plenty of peaceful seating areas for reflection, a Japanese Tea House, tranquil ponds, and meandering paths perfect for contemplation, has even more to offer. Last month the new $33.5 million Cultural Crossing opened to visitors.

Follow the footpaths, steps and bridges that lead to each of the separate and distinctive garden spaces within Portland’s Japanese Garden.

The new $33.5 million Cultural Crossings expansion project includes new exhibition space, library, tea house and additional garden areas, all designed to enhance the authentic Japanese experience for visitors.

Designed by respected architect Kengo Kuma, the Cultural Crossing’s new buildings provide the perfect showcase for traditional Japanese arts and culture and serve as a venue for family-friendly activities and interesting demonstrations. An already popular attraction is even more appealing with the new expansion project. No wonder the lines for tickets are long. Purchase tickets online and check-in at the membership desk, exchange your voucher for a ticket there, and avoid the serpentine lines that are sure to continue for some time.

Minutes away from Portland’s busy streets, the Portland Japanese Garden is an oasis of tranquility.

Many visitors take the complimentary shuttle up to the gardens and walk back down to the parking area along the paved pathways.

Visitors can either take a complimentary shuttle bus or walk up the pathway to the open and airy Japanese Arts Learning Center–the heart of the new project with performance space, library and classroom.

Young visitors take a break on the steps inside the new Jordan Schnitzer Japanese Arts Learning Center.

The ground level Tanabe Gallery currently hosts an exhibition of ceramics, calligraphy, and sculpture by former Japanese Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro.

A delightful display of ceramics, calligraphy, and sculpture by former Japanese Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro are currently on exhibit in the Tanabe Gallery and Pavilion Gallery.

The expansive display, Hosokawa Morihiro: The Art of Life, a Rebirth in Clay, continues in the Pavilion Gallery, which also includes a portable teahouse.   Two additional “Art in the Garden” showcases, one featuring Kabuki costumes and the other, Noh masks and costumes, are scheduled for later in the year. The Japanese Garden will host related events and activities associated with both.

A portable tea house with the implements needed to perform a classic Japanese tea ceremony are part of the current exhibition. Noh masks and costumes and Kabuki costumes will be featured in the galleries later this year.

Now, to explore these magnificent gardens! The Strolling Pond Garden was our first stop, after a visit to the Learning Center and Gallery. Visitors can walk across the “iconic Moon Bridge” over the Upper Pond and enjoy the views.

Stroll the “Zig-Zag Bridge” over the Lower Pond which is surrounded by iris. It had not quite bloomed at the time of our visit, but was close. The aptly named Heavenly Falls provide the perfect backdrop to the Lower Pond and were a popular “selfie stop.”

The Heavenly Falls provide the perfect backdrop for contemplation or photo opps.

Follow the rough stepping stones along a lantern- lined path through the beautiful Japanese Tea Garden to the authentic Kashintei Tea House. Typically, the tea garden is a place to appreciate nature’s beauty and “the art of living in harmony” while leaving the cares of the world behind. This is certainly the case at the Portland Japanese Garden—it is so serene it’s easy to forget you are mere minutes from busy city streets.

Visitors are invited to leave their worldly cares behind when they explore the authentic tea garden and Kashintei Tea House.

The Kashintei Tea House, which is where tea demonstrations and related events are held, was brought to Portland from Japan and reassembled here.

Contact the Japanese Garden to learn when tea demonstrations and other events are scheduled for the Kashintei Tea House.

The Portland Japanese Garden has a lovely Sand and Stone Garden, created by Professor Takuma Tono, the Garden’s chief designer in the 1960s. These “dry landscape” gardens are sometimes called “Zen Gardens” because they are often found at Zen monasteries and are meant to invite quiet contemplation. The Sand and Stone Garden here illustrates an important Japanese concept—“the beauty of blank space.”

Enjoy your moments of Zen at the Sand and Stone Garden.

Recent additions to Portland’s Japanese Garden include the Natural Garden, which features local plants not typically associated with Japanese gardens and depicts seasonal change.

The cherry blossoms were in full bloom during our recent visit to Portland’s Japanese Garden.

The small courtyard garden (Tsubo-Niwa) and the Ellie M. Hill Bonsai Terrace are both new and located near the Tateuchi Courtyard in the Cultural Village.

Visitors are treated to an exquisite display of bonsai at the new Ellie M.Hill Bonsai Terrace.

The Flat Garden, which highlights each of the four seasons with specific plantings and trees is popular with visitors. The weeping cherry tree on the left represents spring while a 100- year old maple depicts autumn.

The Flat Garden is meant to be viewed from a single angle either from inside a home, where the door or window serves as a frame, or from a verandah, as these visitors are doing.

The gravel stands in for water, signifying summer in the Flat Garden.

After you’ve finished strolling around the gorgeous gardens and interesting exhibitions, stop in and sample the fare at the new Umami Café. During our visit, just a week after the April 2 reopening, the café was not yet serving food but was offering complimentary samples of four delicious teas from Tokyo-based Jugetsudo Tea Company. We were told that light snacks and sweets would be offered in the near future.

Stop in the new Umami Cafe for a restorative cup of tea and authentic Japanese sweets and snacks.

During our visit, guests were offered four different and delicious teas as part of a complimentary tea tasting.

When His Excellency Nobuo Matsunaga, the former Ambassador of Japan to the United States, visited the Portland Japanese Garden, he proclaimed it “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan,” according to the organization.

Tranquil settings such as this one near the Upper Pond, have been drawing visitors since 1963.

They currently report more than 350,000 visitors annually, a number that will surely grow with the addition of the new Cultural Crossroads expansion. Be sure to add this spectacularly beautiful and serene spot to your Portland itinerary.  Visit for the most up to date information on tickets, events and hours.


Dining, Pacific Northwest, Portland, Restaurants

PDX Hits and Misses: Muscadine, Nonna, and Din Din

October 12, 2015

Portland has become one of our favorite food cities and we’ve been fortunate to visit frequently over the last few years. There are so many terrific restaurants–we have to force ourselves to branch out from our favorites and give other places a try. That was our goal on our most recent excursion to the Rose City.


Try Muscadine for delicious Southern cooking.


Southern food is enormously popular in Portland, especially when it is as well prepared as it is at Muscadine muscadine.  We stopped by for lunch a scant 30 minutes before closing, yet were warmly welcomed.  It was a beautiful, sunny day so we opted for one of the picnic benches outside the casual restaurant.


Choose one of Muscadine’s outdoor tables on a sunny day but get there early for the fried chicken!

Sadly, the fried chicken, which we had been anticipating hungrily, was sold out.  We had been warned that that could happen to late arrivals. Never the less, there were ample appealing choices on the menu and the four of us settled on several portions of catfish, the salmon croquettes and the BBQ cup.


Muscadine’s tasty BBQ Cup…

The BBQ cup turned out to be a nice big biscuit filled with tender pulled pork in a tasty BBQ sauce topped with cheese and baked in the oven.  So delicious, I soon forgot about the chicken.


…delicious, tender pulled pork in a fluffy biscuit.

The catfish had a crunchy, crispy crust and was moist and tender on the inside. It was served with a “come back” sauce much like a traditional home made tartar sauce with a kick—a perfect foil for the fish.  The salmon croquettes were flavorful and included two ample croquettes


Crispy catfish, fried okra and crunchy cornbread.

The mains came with three side dishes and there were fourteen to choose from. The sides could also be ordered separately for $4 each. We sampled several–perfect corn bread; fried potatoes; tasty, crispy fried okra (I’m not usually a fan of okra but this was really good); a sweet and sour coleslaw—different but flavorful; extra crispy bacon; braised local squash; grits; and biscuits with excellent preserves and butter. The preserves were great with the cornbread, too, and our server was happy to bring more.


Salmon croquettes, grits, squash and fried okra.

Service was attentive and gracious and though we probably overstayed our welcome, were never rushed– in fact our waitress kept our coffee cups filled right up to the time when we finally pushed ourselves away from the table. We’ll be back for sure.




DOC’s casual sister restaurant Nonna.

We were excited to try this casual offering from the popular and well-regarded DOC next door. Nonna  nonnapdx has a casual vibe with a large bar area and simple, wooden tables. There is another equally casual dining room just beyond the bar.


Nonna has a large, welcoming bar.

Nonna also has a cozy and charming patio in the back, hung with clothes lines and a few items of clothing that were certainly not going to dry on the rainy Friday evening we dined there.  It would be a wonderful place to gather with friends and enjoy some good Italian cooking and a beverage on a pleasant Portland evening.


A small, charming patio would be a great gathering spot in nice weather.

Like many Portland restaurants, Nonna’s menu is locally focused and changes often.  We ordered four appetizers to share between the four of us, as suggested by our server. We chose the octopus, polenta, golden beets, and spaghetti with chilies and breadcrumbs. Everything was nicely prepared and presented.


Charred octopus reminded us of Sicily.

The octopus was tender and delicious with a nice char and served with a lemony aioli, olives, peppers and potatoes–just like the octopus we had enjoyed many times in Sicily. This was my favorite of the starters we chose.


Polenta with pesto.

The fried polenta with pesto was tasty, though not terribly exciting.  The roasted beets on the other hand were sublime – a beautiful, big bowl of golden beets with walnuts, chevre, mache, with tasty tarragon vinaigrette.


Golden beets received a generous topping of chevre and hazelnuts.

The pasta dish was small but perfect for sharing.  The chilies had a nice zip and the breadcrumbs added welcome texture.  We did feel that three appetizers would have been sufficient since we had each ordered an entree as well.


Piquant peppers and toasted breadcrumbs made this spaghetti dish special.

We felt dinner was off to a great start and were all happily enjoying our shared plates when halfway through the appetizers, our entrees arrived.  We were surprised, especially since the room is so small that anyone who had even glanced at our table could see we were nowhere near ready for our next course.   We cannot account for the lack of communication with the kitchen on this score.

With no place on our small table to put them, the server pulled up a smaller table and rather unceremoniously plopped the four main plates down– we commented that we were not ready for the entrees and were in no rush.  Our server replied we could eat the mains when we were ready and walked away.  We quickly dispatched the appetizers so our main courses wouldn’t be ice cold when we began.


Perfectly prepared halibut was a hit.

There were three main courses or “secondi” to pick from and we selected all of them. Two of us chose the halibut, which was served with wonderful caramelized fennel wedges and grapefruit segments– a great compliment to the fish in both flavor and texture.   The halibut was crispy on the top and perfectly tender and moist inside– cooked just right.

Another in our party had the pork chop with the Romesco sauce served with nice bitter broccoli rabe and roasted potatoes — a large plate with a nicely done chop. We shared a bottle of 2014 Domaine de la Fouquettee —a nice Rosé that worked well with everyone’s meal. Two in our party enjoyed local craft beers as well.


The pork chop was perfect.

Our other dining companion chose the enormous burger served with crispy fries and topped with cherry tomatoes, provolone, aioli, and mixed greens– a step up from the usual accompaniments.  He pronounced it the perfect burger.


Non-traditional toppings made the burger a standout.

I have to think our dining experience would have been greatly enhanced had the food service been better timed. Several online reviews alluded to service issues. If they can work out this problem, we’d happily return for the delicious and deftly prepared food. In the meantime, we’re adding DOC DOCpdx to our list for next time.


DOC looks inviting.


Din Din


Din Din’s “Supper Party” is held one weekend each month.

We had wanted to try Din Din dindinportland for several years– ever since we had gone in search of brunch one weekend only to find the place closed.  Note to self–always call first.  We were delighted to secure a reservation for our party of four for their Saturday night Din Din “Super Party”. One weekend each month the restaurant hosts small groups– about 12 to 14 guests at a time, for a fixed price menu, wines included. Dinner begins at 7:30 p.m.


A lovely Rosé got things off to a great start.

We were greeted in the bar area by our hostess, Courtney, who provided us all with a nice glass of Schloss Gobelsburg Cistercien Rosé and a passed appetizer of roasted Persian Star garlic, Silver Queen corn, and Fiore Sardo on pain d’épices. Ours was a festive and friendly group and several of the guests had dined at Din Din before.  They raved about their experiences and we were all eagerly anticipating a splendid evening ahead.


Our group was lively and friendly.

Everyone introduced him or herself and we chatted amiably until Courtney directed us to the communal table, set with vintage silver and china, in the center of the casual but charming room.


A beautiful buttercup squash soup started our meal.

Our first course was a delicious buttercup squash soup garnished with a Costata Romanesco zucchini salad. The soup was accompanied by a glass of Chateau d’ Orschwaihr Pinot Gris ’13. We were surprised that the soup was served at room temperature but still enjoyed it very much.

The wine and conversation flowed nicely but the meal sadly did not.  There was quite a long gap between the soup and the next course and it became clear that Courtney had to prepare, plate and serve the food singlehandedly. Our fellow guests who had dined at Din Din on other occasions were very surprised that she had no assistance and commented that there were usually two or three people working together on the meal.


Salmon with a Chartreuse sauce was next.

Next up was a lovely 
salmon with a Chartreuse romaine sauce and baby carrots, served with a glass of Domaine de Juchepie Anjou sec “Les Monts” ’11. The salmon dish was also served at room temperature, bordering on cold, and it was pretty evident it should not have been. I can imagine that had it been the proper temperature, it would have been delicious. Nonetheless, the conversation continued to be lively, more wine was poured and a helpful guest made sure everyone’s water glasses stayed full.


The meat course would have been delicious had it been hot.

After another lengthy lull, the meat course was served– to half the guests. Finally, we all had our plates– flank steak with a sauce of Melrose pepper Tulsi basil cream, cucumbers and brussel sprouts with lime. I believe this would have been a wonderful dish had it been heated, but the entire entree was cold. The vegetables were still tasty though cold but the meat and sauce suffered badly.  This was accompanied by a very good glass of
 Domaine de la Bonne Tonne “Les Charmes” Morgon ’13. At this point our fellow guests were assuring us that ours was not the typical experience at Din Din and counseling us to give it another try.


Conversation and wine flowed freely but the meal’s pacing was problematic.

Next up was a crisp salad of simply dressed greens.  While we ate our salads, I noticed Courtney in the kitchen quickly slicing fruit.  Finally, dessert was served– thinly sliced Seckel pear with Cointreau caramel
 and gruyère cheese. Personally, I was disappointed.  The sparkling rose—a Foss Marai “RooS” brut rosé NV served with the dessert compensated somewhat– it was delicious and an excellent finish to an uneven and puzzling dining experience.

By the time we had dessert and the final glass of wine it was nearly midnight and our fellow diners began requesting their checks.  The party was clearly over and it seemed no one wanted to be the last to leave.

I followed up with Courtney several days after our meal and learned that her colleague, who usually assists in the kitchen, had been taken seriously ill and so she was left to create the Din Din experience alone. With this in mind we’ll give it another try sometime.








Family Fun, Museums, Pacific Northwest, seattle

The Museum of Flight: An Aviation Adventure

July 28, 2015

Air Force One, the Concorde, the Space Shuttle Trainer, the first fighter plane, and many more remarkable aircraft are just a short drive south of Seattle in Tukwila, WA, home of the largest private non-profit aviation museum in the West.


Seaplanes to space craft are all on display at the Museum of Flight.

The Museum of Flight is located at the King County International Airport on Boeing Field and has more than 150 aircraft plus interactive exhibitions, rare photographs, films, newsreels, memorabilia and much more. Exhibits take visitors on a fascinating journey from the earliest days of aviation, to the moon, and back to the present.


Military aircraft make up a significant part of the Museum’s collection.

After purchasing tickets inside the Museum of Flight, come back outside and climb aboard some of the most iconic aircraft to ever take flight.  The outdoor exhibits close before the museum does.


The very first Air Force One jet.

Just outside on the Boeing Field, the first jet used as Air Force One, a specially constructed Boeing 707-120 called SAM (Special Air Missions) 970, is open for touring. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon and numerous dignitaries traveled the world aboard this particular aircraft. Kennedy’s pipe rack, Johnson’s hat rack, the safe where the president’s secret nuclear codes were kept, “Press Section” seating and the president’s private quarters are all on view.


This area was the president’s private sitting area and popular for naps, we were told.


Personal memorabilia from several presidents are still onboard.

The world’s fastest commercial jet, one of only 20 Concordes ever built, is on display outside the Museum, too. Courtesy of British Airways, guests can tour this compact aircraft. We were surprised at just how narrow the cabin was.


One of only 20 Concordes manufactured.


Speed was more important than spaciousness on the Concorde.

At the other end of the spectrum, guests can visit Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, one of the most fuel efficient commercial airliners to take to the skies, according to the company.


A wide array of aircraft are on display and open for touring. Helpful docents are on hand at most.


There’s plenty of room to relax on this Boeing 787, at least in the forward cabins.

Also on the field is a US Air 737, which now serves as a theater for those interested in viewing Time Flies: Century of Flight.

Back inside the Museum, guests can trace the history of aviation from its earliest days right up to the present. The Red Barn, where the Boeing Company began, is part of the Museum today and gives guests an excellent historical perspective on the development of commercial aviation.


Inside the Red Barn.


Visitors can learn about the men and women at the forefront of aviation in America.


Rare photographs, news stories, film clips and more tell the story of flight.


Memorabilia from Boeing’s beginning.

The Museum has displays of every imaginable aircraft from the Taylor Aerocar III—AKA the “car plane”, which actually did take flight as a film clearly shows; to all manor of military aircraft, including the first fighter plane, the Italian built Caproni Ca.20; to planes used to deliver mail in Alaska and newspapers in the Midwest and much more.


The Aerocar was one of my favorite aircraft. The wings folded into a handy trailer for driving after landing.


There is a hole in the floor of the plane for the pilot to drop newspapers through.

There are even miniature planes. The Holtgrewe WWII Model Collection has more than 400 1/72 scale models of military aircraft used by most of the countries who became combatants in the second world war. Another marvelous miniature is the 1/10 scale model of the Montgolfier Brothers’ Balloon on display in the Museum’s lobby.


A model of a Montgolfier Brothers Balloon greets visitors in the lobby.


Military craft from many nations attract visitors’ attention.


A Vietnam War era helicopter.

The U.S. Space Program is well represented, too. Visitors can track America’s race to space from its earliest days to the present. There are photographs, magazine and newspaper articles, films and news reels, exhibits on the animals used in space program, space suits worn by U.S. Astronauts and Soviet Cosmonauts, and a vast assortment of memorabilia from moon rocks to the cowboy boots worn by a famous test pilot. Apollo 17 Mission Models and the only Mars Viking lander still here on Earth are also at the Museum.


Here’s how the cosmonauts suited up for space.


Primates and pups launched before our first astronauts.

Guests can also walk through the Space Shuttle Trainer Crew Compartment where U.S. astronauts trained for every Shuttle mission. A separate 30- minute tour of the Trainer is available for an additional fee for visitors 10 years and older. Tours of the Boeing Field are also offered for an additional fee.


Apollo 17 models are just some of the fascinating exhibits on space exploration.

There are numerous flight simulators, exhibits on every aspect of aviation including rocketry and “spacebots”, a research library, aviation advertising, and so much more for visitors to see.


Aviation advertising from the days when flying was fun.


An American Airlines advertisement.

There is so much to see and experience at the Museum that many visitors will not be able to enjoy all that is on offer in one day. Happily, discounted return tickets are available so take your time and come back again.

Pacific Northwest, Restaurants, seattle

Wild Ginger: Seattle Standby

July 27, 2015

Wild Ginger has been part of Seattle’s restaurant scene since 1989. We have visited the Asian eatery and satay bar several times during numerous visits to the Emerald City. This time, we chose it for lunch.


Wild Ginger can accommodate large groups in its multi-level downtown restaurant.

The downtown location (there is also one in Bellevue) is huge and has multiple dining rooms on two levels. Wild Ginger offers an expansive menu with dishes from Thailand, Vietnam, China, Indonesia and Malaysia. You’ll find lots of traditional favorites on the menu, including gluten free and vegan options, which should appeal if you have a large group. There were a number of these at our recent visit.


The expansive menu has vegan and gluten free options.

Starters include Siam lettuce cups at $18.50/ $22.50, traditional Chinese potstickers for $9.50/$13.50, and Vietnamese style chicken wings for $13.50. We began with fresh and tasty “Buddha rolls”– spring rolls served with a pineapple dipping sauce, $9.50.


Tasty Buddha Rolls started our meal.

We decided to skip the soup and salad category which ranges from squash and sweet potato stew $5, to green papaya salad $11. Though many of the main dishes, like the fragrant duck $16.50/$28 and green curry chicken $13.50/$17.50, sounded delicious, we opted for several luncheon specials, which we shared. Luncheon specials rotate regularly, about every other week. These typically include poultry, fish, meat, and vegetable options, and a “chef’s special” fried rice dish.


The chicken curry was delicious. We wanted more.

Our waiter recommended the special yellow chicken curry with bok choy $14, and told us he ordered himself any time it appeared on the menu. We agreed it was delicious! He also touted the grilled prawns $15, which sounded tasty, but we found the dish pedestrian and disappointing. If you’re planning on sharing, be aware that servings were quite small, at least among the dishes we chose.


Seafood, poultry, meat and vegetable options are available as lunch specials.

If you’re interested in imbibing, Wild Ginger has a large, well thought out wine list as well as cocktails, beer, and of course, teas and soft drinks.  Overall, Wild Ginger offers a wide variety of good Asian food, but if you don’t choose wisely, you’ll find yourself with an expensive tab at the end of the meal.

Pacific Northwest, Restaurants, seattle

Super Seattle Supper at Terra Plata

July 27, 2015

We chose Terra Plata for our Sunday supper and we’re glad we did. This Capitol Hill restaurant features a large bar and rough-hewn wooden tables mostly filled by groups of young people and families all obviously enjoying their meals and beverages. It was another warm summer Seattle night but the big open windows helped to keep it cool inside.


Terra Plata has a fun, casual vibe.

There are cocktails and a nice selection of beers and ciders on tap or in bottles, including local brews from Washington and Oregon at Terra Plata. The reasonably priced wine list features plenty of good choices from the Northwest, Italy, France and Spain. We began with a glass of sparkling rose from Chatau Moncontour in the Loire Valley for $13, and a round of Bale Breaker IPAs at $6 each. We chose a refreshing rose from Chateau Teulon in Costieres de Nimes at $32 to accompany our meal.


The large bar area filled up as the evening progressed.

Terra Plata’s menu is divided into snacks and starters, earth, sea, and land. Like at many Northwest restaurants, sharing is heartily encouraged. Starters ranged from Moroccan olives at $6, to $13 for blistered Shishito peppers or roasted grapes with olives, walnuts and crostini, and topped out at $22 for the generous charcuterie plate.


Serrano ham and cherries punched up the flavor profile of this tasty salad.

The butter lettuces served with Cabrales dressing (a blue cheese), cherries and crisp Serrano ham from the “earth” category was $14 and perfect for sharing—which we did. Other choices included beets with sheep’s cheese, arugula and pistachio at $20; a radish plate with English pea butter, anchovy butter and “roof top” herbs for $11; or a risotto with peas, mint, mascarpone, parmigiano and pea leaves for $26.


We would heartily endorse the halibut.

We opted for our own entrees, though shared tastes of course. The halibut with skordalia, charred garlic scapes (a member of the green onion family), crushed olives and lemon tahini vinaigrette was perfectly prepared and beautifully presented. It was well worth the $32. The others at the table enjoyed the succulent roast pig with chorizo, clams, hot smoked paprika, chicharron and “bay scented” potatoes. The $30 roast pig was so large that two people could easily have shared one portion.


Crunchy chicharron were a perfect foil for the succulent roast pork.

Once again, we were too full for dessert, but several at our table chose to sample a few of the Madeiras ($7 and $9 per glass) on the wine list–a perfect ending to a delicious meal. Terra Plata’s wait staff was very friendly and knowledgeable and gave us excellent guidance throughout the evening. We will definitely return!





Desserts, Pacific Northwest, Restaurants, seattle

Emerald City Eats: Bar Sajor & Cupcake Royale

July 27, 2015

Bar Sajor is owned by the same people behind Sitka and Spruce, along with several other Seattle eateries We enjoyed one of our first communal table meals there several years ago—a very popular concept in the friendly Northwest. Bar Sajor has an open kitchen with a large wood burning fireplace on which a number of dishes are prepared. The room is open, airy and has a very casual vibe but there is an undercurrent of hip pretentiousness, which didn’t bother us. It was a warm evening but the windows were open wide to allow in the welcome breeze.   The restaurant was busy but still fairly quiet for a Saturday night.


Bar Sajor’s airy, casual dining room.

Bar Sajor, like Sitka and Spruce is dedicated to the farm–to- fork concept using local purveyors for nearly everything on offer. The menu, which changes regularly to reflect seasonally available ingredients, is meant for sharing. Diners are encouraged to choose a selection of dishes to share with the entire table. Many dishes are available in several sizes to accommodate larger groups and appetites. Food is served as soon as it is ready in the kitchen, typically in no particular order. If you have a desire to receive your dishes in a specific order, you can ask, or just order a few items at a time, pausing between orders, which is what we did.


It’s fun to watch the chef preparing dishes in the fireplace.

We started our evening with beers (local drafts and foreign and domestic bottles are served) and a nice glass of rose—perfect for a sultry summer evening. Bar Sajor is another of those restaurants that charges $5 for bread but theirs is “naturally leavened” and served with the very “of the moment” cultured butter and flake salt. It was really tasty and the cultured butter, which had a nice tang, was served in an oyster shell.


Cultured butter in an oyster shell adds a touch of whimsy.

The “simple” salad was anything but. It featured crisp snap peas, Shunkyo radishes, fava beans, and fiddlehead ferns– which added a nice texture and an earthy element. All of the vegetables were perfect. The green goddess dressing was light and balanced, unlike the gloopy goo that was poured from bottles many decades ago. The salad is available in two sizes at $13 or $17. It made a delicious first course.


There’s no excuse not to eat your vegetables when they’re this good.

Next, we enjoyed a beautifully presented “Grand Aoili” with dipping vegetables including seaweed, hard cooked egg, and a nice assortment of local fin fish and shell fish including Dungeness crab, shrimp, and house-smoked mussels. My only complaint—the dish could have been heavier on the seafood and perhaps the largest sized platter is. This dish is available in three sizes at $30, $55 or $95. We had a nice flinty Sancerre with the Aoili.


The Grand Aioli brought back memories of France.

Our meat course was a juicy, perfectly prepared ribeye. The meat was cooked over coals and served with baby squash and Meyer lemon. It was a pricey $56 but certainly satisfied the carnivores at the table and their voracious appetites.


The ribeye was a meat eater’s delight.

The Sequim strawberries and warm coppa arrived at the same time as our ribeye. The berries were perfectly ripe and the ham was an excellent compliment to the fruit. These were served with lavender and black sesame seeds. Delicious! The price was $16.


The coppa complimented the berries beautifully.

With the meat and berry courses, we enjoyed a bottle of Domaine Philemon, a red varietal made with Braucol grapes from Gaillac, in the Southwest of France. The wine has a nice spiciness and a woodsy, floral aroma, perfect with those dishes.

We were much too full for dessert. Besides, we had our dessert much earlier in the day when we stopped at Cupcake Royale Highly recommended to us by a Seattle friend, Cupcake Royale has multiple locations. We stopped in at the one near the Pike Place Market


No need to choose between cake and ice cream at Cupcake Royale. Try both.

The small storefront has delicious cupcakes in seasonal flavors like Raspberry Pavlova, Blackberry Brown Butter and Blueberry Lavender Honeycomb, and at least a dozen rotating ice cream flavors. You don’t have to choose between cake and ice cream here—have both. They also have coffee drinks– this is, after all, Seattle. There is limited seating available inside.


Cupcakes and ice cream worth the wait!

If you haven’t satisfied your sweet tooth after Cupcake Royale, pop into the wine and chocolate shop next door. While we were enjoying our ice cream cones, one of our traveling companions took advantage of the complimentary wine tasting going on there. Next, another day, another delicious dinner.



Art, Museums, Pacific Northwest, seattle

Art, Yoga and More at Seattle’s Frye Museum

July 7, 2015

Welcome to the Charles and Emma Frye Art Museum.

Charles and Emma Frye began collecting art in 1893 focusing primarily on French and German artists from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The couple built an impressive Founding Collection of 230 paintings, now on permanent display at their namesake museum in Seattle’s Capitol Hill area. The museum is open to the public at no charge, as the Fryes intended when they established the Charles and Emma Frye Free Public Art Museum in 1952.


The museum has expanded and been updated since it opened at its current location in 1952.

The Fryes had a particular interest in German painters of the mid-19th Century Munich School including Wilhelm Leibl, Franz von Lenbach and Max Slevogt whose works, along with other prominent painters of the period, are part of the Founding Collection.


Henry Raschen’s 1913 portraits of Emma and Charles Frye hang in the Frye Salon.

The Frye’s Permanent Collection includes not only those works collected by Charles and Emma, but also later acquisitions made by the Frye Foundation. These later aquisitions expanded the collection to include American artists as well as European painters other than the French and German artists the couple built their original collection upon.


Acquisitions by the Frye Foundation expanded the collection to include American artists.

Gilbert Stuart and John Singleton Copley’s Colonial Period paintings hang alongside the American Realism works of Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins. Mary Cassatt, James McNeil Whistler, and John Singer Sargent are among the ex-pat painters whose Impressionist works are displayed.


Paintings are hung as they once were in the Frye home gallery.


Portrait of Chief Seattle by Henry Raschen, 1916.

The vast collection of paintings covers every wall in the Frye Salon with the works hung as they once were in the Frye’s home gallery. The Frye Salon is reminiscent of Boston’s Isabella Gardener Stewart Museum. In other words, there is not much space between the works and they are not hung in any apparent order— historical, religious and allegorical paintings hang beside portraits, landscapes and seascapes. There are several copies of a hardcover guide available to visitors in the gallery that identifies and describes each work and artist.


Visitors reference gallery guide to identify paintings and artists.


The helpful guide is available only in the gallery. There are several other books about the museum and its collection for sale in the shop, but not the gallery guide.

In addition to the Permanent Collection, there are several changing contemporary exhibitions.


The Frye features contemporary art as well as European and American paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries.

We enjoyed the two Andy Warhol exhibitions currently on view. During the 1970s, Warhol recorded a reported 40,000 Polaroids documenting his personal and professional endeavors. Warhol’s Little Red Book #178 is a collection of 19 Polaroid pictures of his friends and other celebrities taken in 1970 while he made his film L’Amour.


Little Red Book #178 has 19 of the reported 40,000 Polaroid photos Warhol took in the 1970s.

From 1964-1966, Warhol recorded hundreds of visitors to his studio, called The Factory, using a Bolex camera. Warhol’s 12 Screen Tests features artists and celebrities who were instructed to sit still for the length of a 16 mm film—about three minutes. Subjects featured in 12 Screen Tests include Dennis Hopper, Edie Sedgwick, Susan Sontag, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Marcel Duchamp and Brooke Hayward. Not everyone was capable of the task assigned. Bob Dylan’s Screen Test shows him smoking a cigarette and fidgeting throughout.


Hundreds of Warhol’s Factory visitors were filmed for his series of “Screen Tests.”


Subjects were meant to be still for the three minute films, but Bob Dylan fidgeted and smoked throughout his “Screen Test.”

Also on view is Structure and Ornament, a multi media exhibition of Leo Saul Berk’s work based on the iconic Chicago-area Ford House, his childhood home.


Berk’s dream about sleeping on the floor at Ford House was the inspiration for “Heat Signature.”

The artist refers to his work as “a riff on the house,” which has historical significance and was designed by architect Bruce Goff. The exhibition includes the history of the home, photographs and films, along with Berk’s sculptures and other works, based upon the unique structure and the artist’s memories of living there.


Leo Saul Berk’s childhood residence, the iconic Ford House, was the basis for the “Structure and Ornament” exhibition now on view.


“Cone Twelve,” Berk’s aluminum composite and stainless steel sculpture.


“Mortar and Marbles” is a to-scale representation of a section of the Ford House’s curved coal walls.

Also currently on view is: American Portraits: 1880-1915– a selection of portraiture by artists whose works are included in the Founding Collection.


Museum visitors relax and enjoy the “American Portraits: 1880-1915” exhibition.

The Museum has a nice little café with an outdoor garden. Sandwiches, soups, sweets and other simple but satisfying offerings are available at very reasonable prices.


The Frye’s cafe has a lovely garden area and is a nice option for lunch or coffee.

When we arrived at the Frye Museum, we were told that one of the galleries was closed for yoga, but would soon reopen. Every Sunday morning, a yoga class takes place there, accompanied by local experimental musicians—just one of the creative classes the Museum hosts along with art classes for everyone from pre-schoolers to life-long learners, meditation, film presentations, lectures, performances and creative aging programs for adults suffering dementia. A complete program listing is available at

Charles and Emma Frye would no doubt be pleased to see their wish– that the public enjoy free access to art, that ‘perfection of good-nature,’ continues to be a reality today, thanks to their free art museum.