Do do that Voodoo that you do.

Apparently mid afternoon on a weekday before 3pm is the perfect time to slip into this Portland culinary landmark, Voodoo Doughnuts. I had heard horror stories about hours-long lines. I slipped inside with only 20 people ahead of me. But by the time I walked out at 3:20, the lines started wrapping outside.

The selections are impressive. With over 200 donut flavors, the owners are constantly swapping them about and adding unique new options. I didn’t know where to start, but since I’m traveling with the wife and a friend, we can get several to share and try more varieties.

So let’s dive in. First we have a bacon maple bar. The cake is thankfully unsweetened, and the bar on the small side, both of which help balance what can usually be an overly sweet donut. The cake was slightly tangy, perhaps partially fermented like sourdough? The glaze was clearly made from real maple and not some medicinal artificial flavoring. The bacon, while nowhere near the best bacon, was perfectly cooked so that it had a chewy crumble texture without being burnt. How often have you eaten something with bacon that resulted in the entire strip pulling off when you took a bite? Not here.

Go coocoo for Cocoa Puffs? Don’t mind if I do! Chocolate cake with chocolate glaze and chocolate cereal.

Classic characters deserve classic donuts. The Homer is simple sponge cake with a pink strawberry glaze and sprinkles. Again, not overly sweet. Drooool…

This next one looks like an ordinary sugar donut, but it’s not. That’s actually a cinnamon and brown sugar dusting. And inside? Pumpkin cream filling with all the spice and goodness of pumpkin pie.

After that we have a bowl of kids cereal. A plain donut with a milk-white frosting is topped with Trix and Captain Crunch. While it looks fun, it’s just a mess of sugar, and in the Portland humidity, the cereal gets stale fast. I guess that might be a good thing though, since it means the Captain Crunch can’t fill its reputation for ripping up the roof of your mouth. Im sure this one is popular on Saturday mornings.

Viscous Hibiscus is a simple donut with a sweet and tangy hibiscus glaze and chocolate sprinkles.

And finally my last selection. Same donut base, but topped with Oreo cookies and a peanut butter glaze. This one is probably my favorite, but after the barrage of donuts before it, I’m almost tapped-out. I wish I had started here.

Sky-high views (and prices)

I certainly felt underdressed as we entered Departure on the 15th floor at the edge of old town Portland wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. Once clearing the elevator you’re greeted with a glowing mirrored lobby worthy of Space Mountain leading into a Liebeskind-inspired lounge. Wrapping around a central bar, you have fantastic views out over Portland and the river, but the elevation doesn’t justify the crazy high drink prices – $21 for Oban 14 as an example and $100 for the famous Yamazaki 18.

The food is a different story where they’re clearly taking dietary restrictions seriously. This is the first time I’ve seen a place with a “nightshade-safe” menu, and they  asked about a dozen times if my wife was OK with certain dishes, almost freaking out when she selected a dish that they hadn’t cleared. After the reassurances that she wouldn’t go into anaphylactic shock, we ordered some drinks and dove into the tapas-like Asian fusion menu.

The first plate to come out was crispy pork belly with a sweet and tangy chili sauce made from rice vinegar and honey. Topped with pumpkin seeds and cilantro, we’re in for a real treat if this is representative of the menu.

BBQ short rib buns have a luscious and tender shredded pork with a hoisin sweet sauce topped with a spicy buttery Mexican coleslaw that perfectly complements the fatty pork.

Next up a smoked salmon roll served with real wasabi. Crispy cucumber chives and salmon is tipped with a spicy smokey mayo that sears the tip of your tongue pleasantly. I’m not usually a fan of seafood, but I would certainly order this again.

Izakaya steak – 4.5 ounces of Wagu beef on a hot stone served with some sweet pickled vegetables. Dip the beef multiple times in the ginger-sesame-soy sauce and return it to the stone to keep it from overcooking and to build up an amazing caramelized and savory sear. DO NOT let this beautiful tender beef over cook. It is already perfectly done when brought to the table.

Then too fill us up, garlic fried rice with an egg on top. Delicious, but no crunchy bits and I would have doubled the garlic.

Overall very delicious and glad we came, even given the flaws. It’s worth the views, but perhaps not the price.

Brunch it up Portland-style

Wow we should have gotten up earlier. With a 2 hour wait, Tasty n Alder better be worth it. After Blue Star Donuts to tide us over, we finally slip in for a table after an hour and a half. Portlandians apparently love their brunching, so with a plethora of locally-sourced quality ingredients, we should be in for a treat.

The menu has about 40 distinct dishes, not to mention sides. Everything is served family-style, so come with a group to take advantage of the variety.

The place is a pretty impressive cocktail bar with a distinguished selection of spirits, so go for a breakfast libation n. Here we have a classic Bloody Mary with house-made pickled vegetables, and a unique “Dim Somemore” with hoisin, siracha, and ginger garnish.

The Bim Bop Bowl – a super hot stone bowl filled with rice. Stir it up for those delicious crunchy bits, gooey eggs, kim chi, and galbi bacon. What’s not to love?
Follow it up with the Cowboy Breakfast. Slices of perfectly seared flank steak sit on top of an amazing tortilla with an over-easy egg, delicious red beans, and a perfectly-spiced fresh salsa.

I’m not going to be able to eat for days after this. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely!

Starry-eyed for donuts

So while we wait for a table at Tasty n Alder, we’ll slip around the corner to Blue Star for coffee and donuts. One of a handful of Portland instutions that have recently expanded to LA, Blue Star elevates the classic coffee and donut counter to classy foodie status.

On Sunday morning any good donut shop should have lines like this, but luckily they aren’t Voodo Donuts long, so we get through quickly. The iconic white tile and blue trim interior makes one think this should be Portland, Maine instead of Oregon.

After ordering you step aside to fill your coffee while hipsters gently load your box, treating each donut as an individual precious object. This is the antithesis of a corner donut-slinging counter.

I’m a sucker for buttermilk old-fashioned, so I jumped on that option here. A nicely dense cake with a slight tang, it’s topped with a light sugar glaze with hints of cinnamon.

The other is a equally fantastic, a simple fluffy sourdough with a super gooey blueberry bourbon basil topping that gets everywhere.

Lastly, this place is famous for its coffee. While good, I don’t know if it stands out over other high-end small roasters. But their coffee does pair perfectly with their donuts. So even if I may not buy it separately, it’s a must-have when eating here.

Ramen in the Rain

Cold, rainy. Perfect night for ramen in Portland’s Boke Bowl.

Staring off with their seasonal bun, squash, is a delightfully savory and sweet combination of several different cabbages and squashes with punpkin wrapped up in a rice bun with a rice vinegar sauce.

But the main event with all its porky goodness is the draw. House-made al dente noodles fill a large bowl of a thin but umami-rich (beef?) broth with pulled pork. Top it off with some braised pork belly and bok choy, and you have a delicious savory soup for a cool night, even if it isn’t a traditional rich fatty ramen.

Only downside? Closes at 9pm so get in early.