New York. Chicago. Los Angeles. Las Vegas. Boston. Houston. Dallas. Miami. Washington DC. Raleigh. San Francisco. Delaware. Salt Lake City. Columbus. One can keep going as Nigerians have been to all and many more not mentioned. In fact one only has to throw a dart at a map of the United States of America while wearing a blindfold and Nigerians have likely visited any state the dart lands on. Except for Portland, Oregon. You wouldn’t be blamed for going to Google right about now as it is actually quite hard to meet a person who knows about Portland, talk less of visiting the city. Well, except for this writer that is, and recently a friend who visited on business but more on that later.
So what have you missed? Portland, official nickname being the City of Roses (or Rose City) due to an ideal climate for the growing of the classic flower. The city is the headquarters of Adidas in the United States from where they plot their battle against Nike with the help of stars like Kanye West — Yeezys anyone? Also known as Silicon Forest due to the presence of over 1200 technology companies. The consulting firm Mercer ranked Portland as the 42nd worldwide in quality of living in a 2009 survey. Portland’s location is beneficial for several industries. Relatively low energy cost, accessible resources, north–south and east–west Interstates, international air terminals, large marine shipping facilities, and both west coast intercontinental railroads are all economic advantages.
All the above is the technical stuff. So what is the good stuff? What makes Portland attractive to the reader of this column who is used to the good life? Portland is recognised as one of the world’s most environmentally conscious cities, and for several reasons. Firstly, it is a highly walkable city unlike most cities in America where you need taxis or have to drive to get from one place to another. Ergo, great for your health. Secondly, it is one of the most bicycle friendly cities on the planet where motor vehicles actually have secondary right of way. Of course there’s a large community of cyclists. Indeed, Portland is very, very good for your health. There’s a large network of transportation options so you can get from one place to another with ease. There’s also over 10,000 acres of public parks meaning you are spoilt for choice with regard to where to take that romantic walk with your significant other.
And now for the piece-de-resistance… Portland is also well known for its farm-to-table dining. Let me say that properly. Portland is one of the biggest foodie destinations on the planet. In 2015, a Washington Post critic set out to rank America’s top ten food cities, visiting more than a dozen destinations and taking in each location’s restaurants, bakeries, farmers markets, cocktail bars and more. The clear winner was Portland. The name of the critic is Tom Siestema of the Washington Post and we will reproduce his comments as published in The Oregonian below.
“Most of all, I love the ingredients here — 300 kinds of truffles, berries so delicate they don’t leave the state — and what a small contingent of talented chefs does with them. One of the scene’s few missing ingredients: fine-dining establishments. “Portlanders prefer places where they feel comfortable in their hiking boots and fleece,” says Michael Russell, the restaurant critic for the Oregonian. Personally, I’d pick first-class farmers markets or some of the country’s trailblazing Asian retreats (hello, Pok Pok!) over a place that charges triple digits for dinner. Admittedly, I picked summer to visit, when Portland’s flavours are peaking. But superb coffee, wine and bread – crucial building blocks of any gastronomic destination – know no season. And it doesn’t hurt that everyone, fellow customers and servers alike, is Minnesota Nice. In one week, I never once heard a car horn.”
The commentary needs no further interpretation and if you are a proper foodie, I imagine the glimmers of a travel itinerary slowly forming in your mind as you read. However, we are not done yet, so hold those horses just a bit. Cointreau filled doughnuts happen to be on a list of the Portland Food Bucket List: 50 Things You Need To Eat Before You Die. Published in 2016, this list was published because there’s so much great food in the city and icons can easily get overlooked. You can Google the list if you are planning a visit.
For even more foodie indulgence, you will definitely need to try street food as sold from food carts / food trucks. There are over 500 of them available at any one time. They also have their own website aptly titled foodcartsportland.com. There really is no excuse for not eating well in Portland, regardless of your dietary preferences ranging from fresh street food to amazing cuisine.
A brief segue to talk about this writer’s visit and my friend’s visit. Needing some serious R & R, I chose to go to Portland on the basis of some reading I had done some time back. I was attracted to this destination for its foodie credentials along with the very friendly cycling culture. I easily rented a bicycle at the hotel with a helmet (safety first). Finding my way around was pretty easy as the city is laid out in a grid format. It was certainly a surprise to see motor vehicles stopping to give me the right of way on a bicycle! I will confess to spending a large part of my visit sleeping as the visit was during winter, but I managed to get to a few foodie destinations that were indoors. One in particular, Salty’s, was quite memorable for its world famous clam chowder. It was a great trip that was too short and that was a couple of years ago… So I was having a conversation with a friend over a month ago who informs me that he is going to Portland on a business trip. As he spoke I realised he was not in the know, as many people aren’t, about the delights to be had in the city. So I gladly inform him. Some days later, I get a message with a caption “you should be here!” He had chosen to go on a wine tasting trip — yes, that’s the next thing we look at — and he had found some amazing wines. The particular picture he chose to share was a bottle from the types accompanying this article. A glass of this Pinot Noir is apparently sold for $500 in Japan (I checked via Google and it is a fact).
The first winery in Oregon was established in 1933 shortly after prohibition was repealed. It is still around. Oregon boasts some of the best Pinot Noir vineyards in the world. Yes, the world. Even though the State of Oregon ranks third in the number of wineries in the US (905 vineyards, 545 wineries), it took a pioneer like David Lett to plant the first Pinot Noir in 1965 and establish the Eyrie Vineyards. But it was only in 1979 at the Wine Olympics in Paris, when a blind tasting with French judges won Eyrie the first place in the Pinot Noir competition, that the world acknowledged the quality of Oregon Pinots. There was no looking back after that. Today, the most expensive Pinot Noir from the region is the incomparable Domaine Serene Monogram at $275 per bottle.
Now if only one can get a visa…
Written by Babatunde Olaoluwa Jeje and published in This Day Style.