Monday, July 15, 2013

Seattle to Portland

Pike Place, Seattle, Washington
Alas, staying in Seattle is not our fate. There are other places to see, although we vow not to wait another 12 years for our next visit.

We take one final stroll to the famous and, on this day, claustrophobic Pike Place. The last time we were here, we ate lobster rolls while listening to a street musician sing and play Bruce Springsteen's “Tunnel of Love” on acoustic guitar.

We find a booth that serves Mexican food. I am skeptical of Mexican food north of San Francisco, but the people here are from Mexico and we can see everything.

Sandra orders scallop and prawn ceviche served with tortilla chips and guacamole. Although the seafood tastes fresh, it is drowning in tomato sauce. Nothing against tomato sauce, but the stars of this dish should be the scallops and prawns. (This recipe, which I haven't tried, sounds much better.)

I have banana leaf tamales with diced pork and spicy tomatillo sauce. The tamales are moist and flavorful, as is the pork. The tomatillo sauce is surprisingly spicy. As a pasty white guy well-versed in the ways of Thai, Indian, and Szechuan cuisines, I've grown accustomed to being disappointed by claims of spiciness. This delivers.

Thus satisfied, we continue trudging through the market. It is Butchart Gardens crowded and so after picking up a copy of Jon Krakauer's Eiger Dreams (he has been recommended to me by several people) at one of Pike Place's bookshops, we return to the hotel and check out.

Between Tacoma and Olympia, we pass Sleater Kinney Road, made famous in some circles by a band of the same name. Singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein has since gone onto greater fame working with Fred Armisen in the quirky sketch comedy television series Portlandia.

After quick stops in Chehalis for gas and at Gee Creek Rest Area to stretch our legs, we arrive in Portland just in time to clean up and grab dinner. We are staying at the Inn at Northrup Station, a quaint hotel in the northwest part of town, near Nob Hill and Pearl District. The inn is next to the station after which it is named, where the Portland Streetcar stops to take folks downtown.

That's not quite true. The Northrop Street stop is for streetcars traveling toward 23rd Street. You'll need to walk two short blocks to Lovejoy Street to get downtown.

We walk the other direction instead, toward a restaurant suggested by the front-desk clerk. It sounds like a place we might enjoy; unfortunately it is closed this week for renovations so we explore the neighborhood on foot and stumble into Dick's Kitchen.

It's almost impossible to get bad food in Portland. Same with coffee and beer. People love their food and drink, and visitors benefit from the local obsession with all things delicious.

The menu is simple–burgers and “not fries”–but delicious. The beef is from Oregon, and the “not fries” are air-baked potatoes. I don't know what the exact process is, but the results are satisfying. We order ours with a Cambodian garlic sauce that should be a controlled substance. The stuff is addictive.

I wash down the meal with a Vortex IPA, from Astoria's Fort George Brewery. The beer is a tad hoppy for my taste, but so are most West Coast IPAs. Then again, it helps offset the garlic sauce.

After dinner we wander around before returning to our room. There we open a bottle of Pelican Doryman Dark Ale procured some days earlier in Pacific City. This beer is more my speed.

The air is cool and crisp. Streetcar sounds outside our second-floor window remind us of the movement of travel while we remain still after a day in motion. The clacks and dings promise to deliver us into the city tomorrow, once we have slept off today's drive.

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