Food and walking. If I was going to sum up our year traveling with the two activities we did the most of, these would be at the top of the list. A good chunk of the walking was undertaken as a way to find the food. So when we arrived in Portland and saw on TripAdvisor that the #1 attraction, of the 316 listed, was an epicurean walking food tour, I was in with both feet, and of course my stomach.
The tour, which is run by Portland Walking Tours, started at 2pm in the mezzanine lobby of the Heathman Hotel. After Herb, our guide, gathered up the group, we headed downstairs to the first floor retail chocolate shop, Cacao, where we were each provided a sample of European-style drinking chocolate. The drink was vaguely reminiscent of the discontinued Starbucks Chantico. Along with the drink we were provided information by the store manager about the origins of chocolate and the different growing regions for chocolate around the world.
Oil and Vinegar Mixed Together
The second stop, while not quite as sweet, was equally tasty. And since I have more of a savory than a sweet palate, Benessere Olive Oils and Balsamic Vinegars offered a great chance to sample fruity and aromatic olive oils from all regions and balsamic vinegars made from a wide variety of fruit combinations.
The silver canisters allowed for easy tasting and if you like what you sampled all you had to do was fill an empty glass bottle, cork it and bring it the register.
After a quick stop at the Flying Elephant Deli to sample their tremendous tomato-orange bisque, we headed over to Public Domain to have a cup ‘o joe. This was not any old coffee though, this was a cup ‘o Esmeralda Special Mario Carnaval, the most expensive coffee in the world, selling for over $120/lb. The beans come from a coffee plant known as “Geisha” that originated in Ethiopia in the 1930’s, with some of the seeds making their way over to Panama in the 1960’s. But it wasn’t until Daniel Peterson took over La Hacienda in 1996 that the beans were segregated from the rest of the plants on the farm. My final verdict on the coffee was that it was okay, nowhere near worth the price tag, and while I appreciate people that take their food seriously, the pretension at Public Domain was way over the top for me. Check out how serious the barista is.
Good Beer World HQ
The tour then wound its way from a spice shop to a Greek food truck, and then to my most anticipated stop: the Tap Room. There we had 4oz samples of 3 delicious local beers. I was very much looking forward to the micro-brews in Portland, because in 2008, Portland had 30 microbreweries located within the city limits, more than any city in the world. That’s right, I was in the good beer capital of the WORLD! Doesn’t get much better than that.
Despite being rather full and having just enjoyed a couple of very tasty beers, we still had three more stops. The first was a sandwich shop in Chinatown for a traditional cubano of sliced pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. Perhaps communism is the cultural connection? No time to solve that riddle – we were off to the next stop at the Oyster Bar for a small but sweet Tillamook oyster on the half shell.
And finally the tour drew to a close with a sweet ending at VooDoo Donuts, home of the Bacon Maple Bar, which is a raised yeast doughnut with maple frosting and 2 slices of bacon on top! While we sadly did not get to try one, our dozen sampler did offer a good variety of the unique combinations that has made VooDoo famous.
I highly recommend this tour if you are in Portland and have any interest in food. There is a reason they are #1 on TripAdvisor. The tour was jammed packed with 10 stops in all. Each one offered a great taste of the cuisine that makes Portland so special. And our guide was humorous, had a genuine passion for his hometown and regularly went out of his way to make sure all of the guests had a great experience.