Ever since I started following Tim Ferriss and watching the Twilight movies I have been fascinated by the west coast. Tim always talks about San Francisco and the beautiful forest scenes in Twilight were filmed in Washington. (Like when Edward shows Bella how he sparkles in the light:) While I know these are completely separate areas, having not been to the west coast, I connected them in my mind. Like when people say they want to go to Europe and that any country will do. It is the general area that we think of. To me, the draw of the west coast is the idea of something different and new. A place with beautiful scenery, amazing food, and free-spirited folks.  

Along with this fascination has been a desire to join groups and contribute in other ways. I was looking at several professional organizations to join and one of them was the World Food Travel Association. I had messaged the founder of the association, Erik, on LinkedIn about ways I could contribute and he mentioned their upcoming conference in Portland in April. That was in December and since then I was helping promote the conference. Food and travel are passions of mine so it was a great fit!

If you have been following our Facebook or Instagram page, you may have seen photos from my trip to Portland. The first thing I did on arriving was go to a vegan restaurant and had a huge salad with kimchi, seaweed, avocado, and other greens. It was actually pretty good. It was late with the time change for me and I just wanted something to eat so my friend recommended Harlow.

Apparently brunch is the thing to do on weekends and made plans to meet friends who had moved to the area for breakfast at Fern. We met early since places are normally crowded but this one was empty when we arrived and left. Either way, the food was great. It really embodied the Portland spirit, it was a small restaurant attached to a yoga studio and the wifi login was breathe/good karma. I also took a chocolate chia seed pudding to go for our next adventure!

Since I was only exploring the city for 2 days and then would be in the conference for the other 2, my friends took me on a road trip. We went outside of town into the Columbia River Gorge. It was very misty and all the trees and rocks had moss covering them. Through the occasional break in the fog, you could see the beautiful river and just make out water falls on the other side. It was eery yet breathtaking!  

We stopped at Hood River (a city) and went into a hip-looking winery/art gallery for a tasting. The art was disturbing (Frida Kahlo esque) but the wine was great. We had a very nice lady serving us (long wavy hair and wire framed glasses with a bright smile and outgoing personality). She also taught us how to sip wine and taste the flavors with the bottom part of your mouth, kind of holding it and breathing in. The trick was to not let it dribble out of your mouth or breath in too fast and choke. I got it eventually.

After that, we headed back to Portland for my first taste of kava tea. It’s a plant that is supposed to make you feel relaxed without feeling drugged. Like having a few glasses of wine with a clear head. We were a little skeptical when the gentlemen at the counter kept on referring to it as earthy though. After ordering our drinks I can confirm that earthy is code word for “dirt water”. Not only did we not feel relaxed, it numbs your mouth and taste like dirt. Oh well, it was a Portland experience and we played Sequence after enjoying our drinks. (They did give you the drinks in a cool looking tiki cup with a pineapple on a toothpick, kudos for presentation.)

I wish I took more photos of the people. While I have traveled to different parts of the country and world, it was the first time that I truly felt like a midwesterner in a foreign land. We really do have a great work ethic! People in Portland were nice, but a lot of them seemed kind of spaced out. It could have been from smoking too much pot, but it seemed to be deeper than that. There was an aloofness, a general uninterest in life that I noticed.

The fashions were interesting as well. I would have liked to see more of the crazy customs I heard people wear but what was more common was beige, grey, and white with very square cuts. Think women with square baggy pants that cut off at the ankle. Very different from the rich colors and fashionable clothes of Florence.  

I digress though from the rest of the trip. The next day I had a wonderful food tour of downtown. It was with other event attendees and with all of us being foodies in a foodie town it was great! I was fascinated by the food cart culture in Portland. There are over 600 in the city! It makes for a very competitive market for both the carts and restaurants with many people coming to the city for the food in particular. Another fun fact, 93% of all travelers take part in food tourism. Anything that is food related outside of dining out can be counted, for example going to a local craft brewery or taking a food tour.

I am so glad I had the opportunity to go to Portland! I would love to spend more time in the surrounding area and explore the countryside. From the little I saw, it is stunning. The area exceeded my expectations of beautiful scenery,  the food was amazing, and the folks certainly were free-spirited. I also left with a greater appreciation for the food scene in Northern Michigan and my midwestern upbringing.  While there are certainly not as many options in the Petoskey area, it is equally fresh and embodies the local people, qualities that were prominent in Portland. Next time I need to visit San Francisco to see how that lives up to the image I have of it in my mind!

For fellow foodies, here is the full list of places I visited.