July 26, 2016
I didn't try Back to Eden Bakery until my last trip to Portland mainly for one reason: It was vegan. While I have nothing against someone's choice to be vegan, for me personally, I believe my friend Adam explained it best: "If I have to give up gluten, why would I also take great things like dairy out of my diet by choice?". I couldn't agree more and while I have a borderline obsession with French butter (...and French yogurt and French cheese...sorry, vegans), what matters to me most is that food still tastes amazing while allowing me to eat safely with a massively-restrictive auto-immune disease. When I finally conceded and tried Back to Eden, which is both vegan and gluten-free, I was so shocked you could have knocked me over with a feather. This was the best vegan food I'd ever tasted!
As a gluten-free baker, I am very particular about the taste and textures of what I make, working hard to make them feel like their gluteny counterparts. But take out the eggs and butter, and it just feels hopeless. Every time I've tried vegan baked goods, I've experienced what many people do when they taste one of the many sub-par gluten-free treats out there - it just tastes too vegan, in the sense that it's off or unsatisfying. Back to Eden single-handedly proved to me it is possible. Flakey, delicious pie crusts? Check. Fluffy, spongey cakes? Yup. Scones with the perfect crumbly-yet-moist texture? They've got that down too. Somehow they got a buttery vibe in things without using any butter. I was blown away. And my family, who couldn't be further from vegan, was too. Very much like the goal for my cakes is for gluten-eaters to think it doesn't taste like it's gluten-free, everything I tasted here I felt similarly about: I couldn't even tell that it was vegan.
I always feel apprehensive about recommending vegan spots, as it's not my area of expertise, but I am confident in saying this place is a tremendous bakery for gluten-free fare and if you're vegan, then even better. When ordering the biscuits and gravy, I let myself be talked into adding the vegan sausage made of walnuts and was impressed at its non-meat meatiness and satisfying addition to the dish. Having the sweet tooth that I do, my other stand-out favorites were the scones (both the savory pizza scone and the sweet iced citrus-ginger versions), the incredible chocolate cream pie I'm pretty sure my step-father had no idea was vegan at all and of course, that chocolate doughnut topped with root beer icing and dusted with cocoa powder that started it all for me. I dream about those doughnuts!
Until next time, PDX...
Back to Eden Bakery
2217 NE Alberta Street, 97211
also a truck at corner of SE Division & SE 28 Place, 97202
1 (503) 477-5022
July 24, 2016
One of the things I love the most about Berlin is the street art. The creative vibe around the city is just so inspiring. So how lucky did I feel when I realized that my new home-away-from-home is a city that fills public spaces with art as well? A bit more polished than Berlin, Portland's art is no less impressive or creative, from the giant murals of the Alberta Arts District to The Horse Project, it's like a giant living, breathing art gallery.
With organizations like the Portland Street Art Alliance and Forest For The Trees advocating and creating public art in the city, it's easy to see why it's thriving in this Pacific Northwest spot. So just like in Berlin, one of my favorite things in Portland is to just wander around, seeing what urban art I stumble upon. Any idea what/where some of these pieces are in the city...?
July 14, 2016
So I only ditched my platinum locks about six months ago in favor of something a bit more natural... and already I'm itching for a change. Surprise, surprise. It doesn't help that I've joined up with the roller derby crowd, with heads awash in a rainbow of vibrant colors. My natural, ashy blonde shade, complete with my first visible greys (eek!), just feels so 'blah' in comparison. I miss my days of pastel pink and lavender...
Perhaps it's just my impatience getting the better of me while my poor, overworked hair takes a much-needed break - but life's too short for lackluster hair, am I right? In addition to considering warmer variations on my current situation, in both a more golden blond or coppery tone, I'm also really into Meg's recently faded, true orange locks or bright tips. I had dark blue on the ends of my auburn hair several years back and loved it, so I can't deny this is the way that I'm leaning...
What do you think? Should I go more dramatic or keep it neutral? And what about you? Do you change your hair as often as your clothes or have you had the same haircut since grade school? I want to know!
image credits, clockwise:
Getty Images via Huffington Post
Max Doyle for Vogue Australia via anyonegirl
July 12, 2016
I've known about Pacifica for many years, believing it was purely a company with positively decadent candle scents. So when I discovered that this Portland-based brand offered so much more on my trip there last month, I was completely smitten. In addition to the candles and rollerball scents I knew from many years ago, there is also a complete line of make-up, skin care and hair products. They offer most products on its site, but also sell many items at places like Whole Foods, Target and Ulta in the States.
In addition to smelling divine, these products are gluten-free, vegan and one of the most sustainable product lines out there. As if that weren't enough, just look at that packaging! Who wouldn't want an entire shelf of such beautiful products lining their bathroom shelves? I, for one, wouldn't mind
Lucky for us Europeans, it looks like some of the line can be found through sites like Amazon, though many items include absolutely outrageous shipping fees. My advice? Book a trip to the great city of Portland and stock up! And bring some back for me, would you please..?
July 6, 2016
For any of you who are gluten-free and have visited Portland, you know there was no way for me to keep this month's gluten-free round-up to just the five best. Impossible, for sure. Even if you don't have to be gluten-free, I promise you will not be disappointed by this list and even more impressed once you taste some of it.
It's so good in fact, it made my return to Berlin a little bittersweet. Even at the Bio markets here, I'd pick things up to read the label, and sigh. Nope, not safe for me. Here, I'm relegated to the veg/dairy/meat sections (not that that's a bad way to eat, but sometimes it's nice not to have to make everything from scratch). It was a jolting reminder of how far we still have to go for the gluten-free community here in Germany. Portland, you spoil me.
So for now, I will dream about my next visit... planning to wear exclusively elastic-waist pants, of course.
1. Cinnamon Rolls from Kyra's Bake Shop
I tried a few cinnamon rolls while in Portland, but this was the only one that brought back pre-celiac-diagnosis memories of decadent mall Cinnabons I indulged in when too often while working the retail circuit. Yeasty, cinnamon-y and perfectly iced, these were perhaps my very favorite treat of the trip. Rave reviewers consistently praise Kyra's baked goods for not tasting at all like gluten-free and these are no exception. I have yet to make homemade cinnamon rolls (I mean, all that work...), but these might be just the push I need to give it a shot.
2. Seattle Cider Basil Mint Cider
OK, so here's where I had to break with only featuring food here, because the whole drinks scene is so good in Portland, it's worth adding to the list. There was a plethora of good gluten-free beer, but it was this crisp, summery cider that had me swooning. I'm still mourning the bottle that was left at my parent's house, forgotten to be put in a suitcase for our crack-of-dawn departure. I'll come back for you cider, I promise.
3. Back to Eden's Chocolate-Rootbeer Doughnut
Let me just preface this by saying my first gluten-free doughnut was the maple-bacon weekend special at Kyra's, and while it was indeed amazing, it had that overwhelming feeling on one's gut and psyche that my friend refers to as The Doughnut Sadness. Enter Back to Eden's slightly healthier, baked vegan treat graciously recommended to me via Instagram. Now, I'm a firm believer in fried doughnuts, but this chocolate-y moist doughnut iced with perhaps one of my favorite flavors from childhood was neither too sweet nor overpowering, and made the perfect accompaniment to that good, Portland coffee. Let's just say I ate far more of these than I should have.
4. Chile Verde Tamale at Tamale Boy
Of all the Mexican food that I love, tamales reign supreme for me. After the one restaurant in Berlin that made them stopped doing so (for reasons I can only assume about Germans not knowing or understanding the wonder that is the tamale), I felt a gaping hole in my life. So when I discovered that there was an entire location in Portland dedicated to these, I knew I had to plan a visit - or three - to this spot. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. After enjoying the best horchata I've ever tasted, I determined this place is a definite winner, receiving high marks from everyone I brought here during my stay. A close second to this amazing tamale? The chipotle refried beans with bacon, ham and chorizo were almost the best thing on the menu. Almost. (note to celiacs: many items are noted gluten-free on the menu, but after inquiring about shared cooking spaces with gluten, some were clearly unsafe for us 100% gluten-free folks, so exercise caution when ordering)
5. Kyra's Award-Winning Cupcakes
What PDX food list would be complete without the only baked goods to win the Food Network's Cupcake Wars a record four times?! I mean, this girl is clearly a goddess of gluten-free baking, and to have gone up against bakers baking with gluten is really telling, I think. So huge props to this lady for changing the world's perception of gluten-free cake! Being the glutton that I am, I tried almost every cupcake that was available during my three week visit. While the award-winners that were featured during that time - cherry balsamic black pepper and apple fritter - were nothing short of incredible, I want to say the simple Ding Dong, made to resemble a Hostess childhood staple, was one of the most impressive. It took what was, let's be honest, a rather shit quality product and elevated to gourmet proportions. Kyra has single-handedly proven why I don't need to live in Portland: I'd easily weigh 400 pounds.
6. Eliot's Adult Peanut Butters
In the words of Gwen: This shit is bananas. No joke. I was intrigued when I picked up a jar of the Honey Chipotle flavor and found a recipe for rice krispies treats made with the stuff (which are the perfect pairing with Oregon's recently-legal herbal refreshment, btw). After one spoonful, I was hooked. These are most definitely adult, the Honey Chipotle the perfect marriage of sweet and spicy, and the Spicy Thai straight out of your favorite Thai dish, with notes of lime leaves and lemongrass. I picked up a couple to bring home, but I already fear the day when my jars are empty. I used to request Jif from all my US visitors, but now, it's going to be this stuff.
7. Cream puff at New Cascadia Traditional Bakery
There's something about fluffy French pastries that I've always had a soft spot for. Finding good gluten-free ones, ones that really nail that texture is like the unicorn of gluten-free baking. New Cascadia Traditional Bakery has always blown me away with the textures on its baked goods - from pizza crusts and cakes, to French bread and Challah - I can't say that I was surprised to be bowled over by this delicious dessert. Admittedly, I'm more of a custard-over-cream kind of girl, but this vanilla-flavored filling was nothing short of extraordinary nestled between two pieces of impressively delicate pastry dough. I'm going to dreaming about this one for awhile.
8. Coffee at Upper Left Roasters
Too many good coffee shops, too little time. This was the mantra of my trip. While I enjoyed coffee at Barista, Coava and Water Avenue Coffee, this spot might have been my favorite. In addition to having a fantastic cappuccino with an extra shot - my drink of choice since flat whites are not as ubiquitous here as in Berlin - the decor was something of a Scandinavian dream. My mother was even compelled to ask where the light fixtures came from (Europe, ironically). While they do offer gluten-free bread for their tasty-looking-yet-simple breakfast plates, the food prep area looked too cramped to allow for safe separation of gluten and non-gluten, though to be fair, I didn't test this theory. I was perfectly happy to stop by Back to Eden for a doughnut or scone as the perfect accompaniment to such great coffee.
9. California Pizza Kitchen's BBQ Chicken Frozen Pizza
Can I just say: Who knew?! CPK not only makes frozen pizzas for the comfort of your own home, but even makes gluten-free versions?! OK, those of you lucky enough to be living in the States knew, but I was blown away when I spied these at the grocery. Even more impressive? My mom shared the first one with me and declared the crust was way tastier than the gluten-filled version she'd bought before. Now that's a ringing endorsement, if I ever heard one. Wonder if they'd consider shipping overseas...?
10. ButterSCOTCH ice cream at Fifty Licks
Salt & Straw may be the darling of Portland's ice cream scene, but I think Fifty Licks is actually where it's at. Just a few blocks down from Salt & Straw's Division Street location, this quieter spot has flavors that pack more of a punch than it's competitor. Coffee made from Water Avenue's caffeinated good stuff, lavendar-mint chip, and blood orange creamsicle are all nothing short of amazing, but it's the boozy flavors this place is known for. My last visit over the holidays, it was Noggin Boots, an eggy, spiced ice cream spiked with with rum and brandy. This summer? The hangover-inducing scotch ice cream run through with ribbons of butterscotch, which might be my new favorite flavor, period. Add to that, gluten-free house-made waffle cones and it doesn't get much better. I mean, any place that names its basics 'Vanilla-' and 'Chocolate as @#$&' has the life-long devotion of this foul-mouthed ice cream lover. Go getchu some!
And because there's that much good stuff... Here are my runners up: Back to Eden's ginger-citrus and pizza scones, New Cascadia pizza (which I've raved about before) and French bread, Teote's arepas and mimosas with house-made agua frescas like pineapple-lime and strawberry basil, Whiskey Soda Lounges's Mango Alexander, Heat Ray and Lord Bergamot cocktails (I swear I didn't drink all three in one go), Thai Iced Tea gelato at Bassotto Gelateria, Hi-Wheel fruit wines, Green's Tripel Blonde Ale (from Belgium!), Kyra's doughnuts on the weekends... Seriously, just go eat in Portland!
July 1, 2016
If you haven't been to Portland yet, you are missing out. It's got city, it's got mountains, it's got more beer and coffee options than one could drink in perhaps a whole lifetime. I lucked out when my parents moved here a few years ago and I was introduced to this Pacific Northwest gem. It's a major city with a neighborhood-centric, welcoming feel. It's gorgeous, it's green and, most importantly for a food-lover like myself, it's filled with some of the best eating an drinking one could ask for. I'm proud to call Portland my US home base and always look forward to my next visit.
Here are my top 5 reasons why you should visit Portland (as if you need any persuading):
1. The Food
Oh, the food in PDX... so, so good. Coming from San Francisco, I admit my standards are pretty high, but Portland delivers. Everything from the renowned - Pok Pok's award-winning chef, Salt & Straw's swoon-worthy, oft-Instagrammed ice cream flavors and 4-time Food Network's Cupcake Wars winner Kyra's Bake Shop - to the smaller, more diet-specific and neighborhood staples can be found - and enjoyed.
Whether you choose to eat vegetarian or vegan, or must follow a strict gluten-free diet like I do, Portland not only has a plethora of options, but the people in food service here are unbelievably knowledgeable and willing to help you find the food that you need. I was often asked about the particulars of my needs by waiters if I requested an allergy menu, and even pointed in the direction of other safe establishments if one didn't offer what I needed. Portlandia did a great sketch poking fun of how allergy-friendly Portland is, but it's truly a treat for those of us who constantly fear the pitfalls of eating out safely. I just call it my gluten-free mecca.
2. Always Something To Do
The first time I visited Portland, I was rather taken aback by how small the downtown area was. The Nordstrom was laughable. Malls were practically shutting down. But capitalism isn't Portlanders main concern, enjoyment of life is. In addition to all the nature surrounding the city (more on that below), there are so many things to within the city itself: kayaking on the rivers, visiting countless tap rooms and coffee shops (also below), and two of my favorite things while I was there - playing ping pong at Pips & Bounce and watching the Rose City Rollers kick some roller derby ass. Portland always has something going on.
Just look at any Pacific Northwest-related hashtags on Instagram (#theNWadventure #northwestisbest), and you will have a feed full of green. Forests, waterfalls, mountains - it's a nature-lover's paradise. Sure, you've got to get out of the city proper to reach a lot of the more spectacular sights, but there's still plenty of green within the city limits in various parks and the dreamy International Rose Test Gardens situated overlooking Portland. Just 20 minutes outside the city is the spectacular Columbia River Gorge and string of waterfalls, completely with hiking trails. The coast is just over an hour away. Washington's greenery is just across the river. The unreal-looking Mount Hood towering over the skyline, with its surrounding lakes and forest, is a couple of hours drive. When visiting Portland, it would be a crime not to get out and be one with nature!
4. Coffee and Beer Capital
When looking at great coffee and beer capitals of the world, Portland ranks pretty high, some say it's even better than Seattle, the oft-believed US capital for the caffeinated. Whether you're looking for a pick-me-up cup of coffee or that next microbrewery's glass of ale, Portland has it all - in spades. Sure, somehow there are still Starbucks on every corner, but seek out the gems serving up truly great coffee (there's also fantastic Chai in this city, too!) and pouring beers that owners are passionate about making. One noteworthy spot: Coava's team has placed first in several Barista Competitions, not to mention its Brew Bar shares a large, warehouse space with bamboo workers, who have transformed it into a warm, modern-meets-industrial space.
If you're gluten-free like me, don't fret about being left out of this great beer city. The US's only dedicated gluten-free brewery is in Portland, complete with a gastro pub serving only gluten-free fare. With beers like Campfire (aged Dark Ale with rum soaked French oak, vanilla, and cacao nib) and Ollalie (ale brewed with blackberries and rose hips), not to mention classic IPAs, it's a must-stop for any gluten-free beer fans. Even Whole Foods has an impressive assortment of gluten-free beers for your backyard BBQ. And don't even get me started on all the amazing ciders...
5. The Creative Vibe
Just take a walk down the main street in the Alberta Arts District and it's easy to see the creativity all around you: sprawling street art, independent food and drink spots, shops filled with wares by local artisans. While it's a bit more polished, not to mention expensive, than my more rough-around-the-edges home in Berlin, it retains that same up-and-coming, artistic atmosphere. There are many pockets like this around the city, filled with art, great food and a homey, neighborhood vibe. Don't miss the Portland Saturday Market - the nation's largest continually operating open-air arts and crafts market - for more of what this city's creatives has to offer!
Stay tuned for more from Portland on the blog this month! Just like May was all about France, July is going to be all about PDX!