19 September 2007

Playing Tourist

I found the Portland Walking Tours site back when I was in research mode, before we moved here, and filed it for future reference. It seemed like a fun way to get to know more about our new home town, and I envisioned taking time off from unpacking and organizing our nest (in retrospect, whom was I kidding?) to unwind with a tour now and then.

Finally, two years after settling in, we've done the Best of Portland tour, the Underground (a.k.a. Worst of Portland) tour and the Epicurean Excursion, all within the last month. I can recommend each one, and will regale you with random factoids about the city for as long as I can remember them. But the Epicurean was, by its nature, the most entertaining. They promised at least 30 different tastes along the way, and I believe we hit 40 easily, starting with tomato-orange soup at the Flying Elephants deli, and ending up with gelato, coffee and chocolate nano-truffles at Via Delizia in the Pearl. In between: three varieties of Bridgetown beer poured on site by the brewmaster, a selection of PaleyBars (tm) (100% natural energy bars in various flavors, formulated by one of Portland's top chefs, Vitaly Paley, which is a great name for an energy bar impressario), thinly sliced Walla Walla onions marinated in rice wine vinegar, plus three boutique mustards and a sip of pinot noir at In Good Taste; slices of baguette and levain with EVOO behind the scenes at Pearl Bakery, where I took these shots (note the rakish angle at which Damon, our guide, wears his hairnet), followed by tastes of croissant, gibassier (perhaps the revelation of the trip, a Provencal breakfast pastry flavored with anise and orange peel), and melt-in-mouth chocolate bouchon, oh my. (This is starting to sound like an infomercial, but nobody is paying me, I swear. Note lack of hyperlinks when I could easily have done so.)

So. After all that carbo-loading, we headed briefly in the direction of Zenlike simplicity with a stop at the Tea Zone. There we sampled three perfectly-brewed teas -- Dragon Pearl jasmine, an oolong, and a lychee-flavored black tea, accompanied by tiny hazelnut and lemon-flavored cookies. We leaped back on the carbo bandwagon at the Ecotrust building, with Hot Lips roasted garlic pizza and blueberry soda, and an apple taste-off, organic vs. not. Finally, we wound down with the aforementioned gelato (three flavors -- orange cream, almond and someberry) plus chocolate nibbles and an extremely welcome cup of coffee.

En route, I got to fill in more of my mental map of downtown, especially the Pearl. Amazing how much construction is happening in the area. I assumed this was yet another condo complex going up, but apparently it's going to be a humungous new Safeway.

Hmmm, unless I've forgotten a stop entirely, I get almost exactly 30 different tastes, depending on how you count. Well, it sure felt like 40.

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