17 November 2010

The one where I went to Portland a month ago ...

* People of Portland: You realize this looks
like a big wang, right? Yeah? Just checking ... *
I probably mentioned that I was on my way to Portland, OR for a conference in mid-October.  And, if I did, you probably thought, "Where are all the pictures? All the great stories about the amazing things in Portland? All the hilarious anecdotes about how awesome engineers are?" Or maybe you didn't think that. Either way, I'm finally getting around to catching you all up.  Maybe I'll even regale you with my tales of Las Vegas before the year's end ... but let's not get crazy.

I started typing up my full five days in Portland, and realized that it would basically be a novel.  So here's part one, and part two will come up tomorrow.  I know, I know, you can hardly stand the anticipation.  But try.

One of my big problems with travel is eating in airports.  The food is usually not that great, it's insanely overpriced, and vegan options tend to be sparse.  I usually try to pack a snack or even a meal (like a sandwich and fruit and such).  But sometimes I just forget.  And then I'm stuck trying to find decently priced, decently tasty vegan food in an airport, which is no small feat.  Our layover to Portland was in the Denver airport, which has a few acceptable options.  This time I went for Itza Wrap Itza Bowl.  It's got mixed reviews, but I didn't mind it.  Sure, it's not the best thing I've ever had, but it's right up there for airport food.  I got some kind of asian-ish bowl with tofu and peanut sauce.  Then I doused it in sriracha for good measure, because everything is better doused in sriracha.

Regardless of food issues, we made it to Portland with most of the day ahead of us before any conferring began.  My colleague (read: a grad student in my research group), Michael, and I decided to wander the rough streets of downtown Portland, just to get acquainted with the area.  Here are some things we saw along the way:

* Michael was convinced this was a man. That might
be why he has trouble with the ladies ... *
* These utility things were all over the place.  They all look like
giant red hands.  You know you want to high-five one. *
* Kittens playing with lasers? AND wonder woman? Too cute! *
We did make the obligatory trip to Voodoo Doughnuts to try to get some vegan donuts.  But just look at that line.  You can't quite see the end of it here.  Now, I know donuts are awesome.  I love donuts.  I don't love standing around, though.  So we decided not to wait.  We actually made three trips by this shop and every time the line was at least this long.  So I never got a donut ... which gave me a big sadface.

* Why must you be so popular, Voodoo Doughnuts??? Curses. *
I didn't read the plaque, so I'm not really sure what this about.  But it's a tiny elephant standing on a big elephant. What could be cuter?

We also got to make a few trips to the famous Portland foodcarts.  My first trip down there landed me at Ziba's Pitas, at the suggestion of a friend from the conference.  I've never had Bosnian food, and I figure there's a pretty good chance that I never will again, so I had to jump at this.  I tried to get a photo of the lady in the cart, but she was so busy making all of our food, that I didn't want to distract her.  I got the tikvenica plate, which is a delicious little bread thing filled with zucchini along with cucumber salad and ajvar (grilled vegetable sauce).  The lady was very helpful in describing all the vegan options, and she even made me a pile of cucumbers without the sour cream sauce.

The whole meal was delicious, but the star was definitely the ajvar.  It was so delicious that I wanted to get a gallon of it to bathe in.  I am preparing to embark on a quest to make this dish at home, and when I do it will be along side every meal I eat for months, I'm sure.  I cannot describe how good this stuff was; English simply does not have adjectives appropriate for it.  Just trust me.  And if you're ever at SW 9th and Adler around lunch time, get some.  You won't be sorry.

* Ajvar, I still dream about you. *
So that's a few of the highlights from the first half of the trip.  Come back tomorrow for the shocking conclusion!  Including bars! more photos! an engineer who kind of looks like Sean Astin!

Has anyone else ever had this Bosnian dip?  Does anyone know how to make it?  If you tell me, I'll be your best friend. I promise.


  1. Looks like a really fun trip to Portland, I've only been a couple of times a long, long time ago on business. I certainly didn't get to see any of the interesting things you saw. :-)

  2. I've only been to Portland once and there was no chance to see much or visit food carts, so I'm enjoying your tour guide. About the dip — Trader Joe's sells a roasted red pepper with eggplant and garlic dip that looks just like the ajvar. I'm not saying it IS like the ajvar, but it might be. I think it comes from Turkey (the country, not the bird) but am not 100% sure. My husband used to be addicted to it but has eased off a little so I don't have a jar on hand to check.

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  4. I love Portland. I've only been there once (for a conference) but I spent every free moment at the food carts, at the farmers markets, at this amazing Lebanese restaurant, at the great raw restaurant/yoga studio, and at Powell's.

    Tha ajvar - I just googled it and it is, in fact, the same as the TJs roasted red pepper and eggplant spread. I have some in my fridge right now.

  5. Curses to all of you with a Trader Joe's!!! The closest one to me is about 3 1/2 hours away :(

  6. I've been forced, thanks to delays, to eat in airports the last few times I've travelled and (aside from the extreme overpricing) I have been pleasantly surprised. Once I got a falafel wrap which was not too bad, and once a tofu hoisin stirfry. And a few of the airports in Australia have Subway. I'll still plan on bringing my own food when I go places, but it's nice to know there are a few options!

    Shame about the line for the donuts, but cool hand-thingie!

  7. I'm dying to go to Portland. It seems like the coolest place right now.
    Also, if you're interested in my shin exercises check out my "shweaty" page. There's a video that shows you all of them. I hope yours get better.