Six Month Road Trip
August 27, 2012
So, I need to catch you up on something…
In falling slightly behind on some CPB posts, I also fell behind on telling you about the way awesome trip we’re on. A while back, Taste Tester and I came up with this nice idea to go on a two-week delayed honeymoon down the California coast. Then one day he asked if maybe we should go for a month. The next thing I knew, we were packing our bags for a 6 month “work-cation”. Basically, we are traveling all over the country (and Canada) for 6 months, working normal hours during the week and enjoying our new amazing scenery on the nights and weekends. We are both incredibly lucky to have jobs that allow us to work remotely and decided to go for it. And let me tell you - best decision ever. With friends and family located across the country, we’ve had a lot of great visits and experiences with them and have taken full advantage of their insider tips.
Among the many benefits of this trip, the one that pertains to you and this blog is that I’ve gotten to try a host of new bakeries and food brands. Since I slacked for the first part of the trip (I’m sorry for that, but there was quite a bit of driving between NJ and Seattle, with two side trips to Canada), here’s the Cliff Notes version:
Niagra Falls, Canada: Full of happy people with funny accents, tourist traps and crazy awesome waterfalls. We rode The Maid of the Mist in a thunderstorm. It was a nice start to our crazy adventure.
Fargo, SD: Yup, we visited the famous wood chipper. They supply you with the hats and post your pic on their visitor center Facebook wall. No joke.
Mitchell, SD: Any trip across the country would be time wasted without a visit to the epic Corn Palace. They’ve redecorated the exterior with different designs made of corn every year since the early 1900s. That’s dedication.
The Badlands: It was extremely hot the day we were there, but awesome. One of the weirdest landscapes I’ve ever seen.
Devil’s Tower: We watched a couple of people scale this. Yeah… we hiked around instead.
Glacier National Park: Seriously, this is so pretty it looks fake, no? Such a cool place.
Canmore, AB: One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We drove through Kootenay and Banff National Parks on the way there- if you haven’t been, go to there. Everyone keeps asking what our favorite place has been and it’s hard to say, but this area had one of the more incredible landscapes we’ve seen.
We hiked up a big mountain - not as big as the above one, but big nonetheless. You can see that I was tired and ready for a donut break, but it was breathtakingly pretty.
Tillamook Forest Center (Oregon): Me with Smokey the Bear. Is it embarrassing that it felt like I was meeting a celebrity? Hey, I’ve seen a lot of his commercials!
Portland, OR: Taste Tester and I dining on a lovely vegan lunch (photo cred: The Baking Bird! - more on her in a sec). We pretty much ate constantly in Portland, so this seems like an appropriate pic for our time there.
And now, onto the food!
Not to diss my city, but I think NYC has kind of a false pretense of being the end-all be-all of food. But everywhere we’ve gone in the whole northwestern area of the country, we’ve eaten amazing things that could easily hold up to NYC standards (minus the sticker shock). And between all the coffee roasters, micro-breweries and small-batch chocolate makers and bakeries across the country, we’ve had our hands (er - tummies) too full to be too nostalgic for our home-based foods. At least thus far.
We were lucky enough to spend 3 whole weeks in Portland, which has a pretty incredible food scene. Of all of places there, the one that was on my list for far too long was - you probably guessed it - Voodoo Donuts.
I did a bad thing though- I walked in there blindly. I didn’t do my usual thorough research and didn’t have my winning flavor picked out before we even got there. Which was bad- because they have TONS of flavors! I was totally overwhelmed. As a newfound vegetarian, I passed on their signature Bacon Maple Bar (later finding out that it’s “amazing” - oops!). I also found out later that the donut pictured behind the Bacon Maple is The Memphis Mafia, which is, “fried dough with banana chunks and cinnamon sugar covered in a glaze with chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts and chocolate chips on top”. What a goof. How did I miss out on that?
We picked up a handful of donuts which included the Old Dirty Bastard (a raised yeast doughnut with chocolate frosting, Oreo’s and peanut butter) pictured below, and on a whim- an apple fritter. The Old Dirty Bastard was actually better the next day, when the oreos got softer and the whole thing tasted like more of a cohesive creation than a donut with things stuck to it. I enjoyed it, but I really enjoyed the apple fritter. It had a caramelized, glazed exterior and a soft apple-filled interior. It made me wish I had tasted the Memphis Mafia, since it’s fried the same way and topped with my favorite things- but not to worry- I have faith that we will some day be back!
I also later received an insider tip that their vegan donuts are great and actually maybe even better than the regular donuts. Who did I receive such a tip from? None other than the awesome Kylie of Baking Bird!
After following her adorable blog for so long, it was really cool to meet her and get to chat about blogs, food, Portland, life, etc. in - what else? - a cute little bakery. She’s fairly new to the town herself, but confirmed that our 3-week takeaway was accurate: Portland is a really cool city with lots of ground to cover.
This yummy Mini Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Bread from Back to Eden Bakery was one of many tasty treats I acquired based on her advice.
Shall I share some more? How bout this chocolate and peanut butter Charlie Brown Bar from Sweet Pea Baking Co. (also vegan):
One of the cool things about the Sweet Pea Baking Co. is that it’s located in a “Vegan Mini-Mall” with a vegan grocery store, vegan clothing store and even a vegan tattoo parlor! Vegan tattoos - who’d have thought?
The above CPB bar of course reminds me of the below CPB bar, which was from Crema Bakery.
Both CPB bars were great. With an increasing sensitivity to animals, I really enjoy partaking in vegan treats and this one was sweet and indulgent. The Crema version was made with house-made PB (nice!), good dark chocolate and had a crunchy base that I think may have had granola in it. Oh, and their chai latte was kickass too. Their bagels and other pastries looked great, but they’ll have to wait til next time!
Before leaving town, we snagged some Chocolate Potato Donuts with crème anglaise at Tasty n’ Sons:
The donuts were piping hot and the sauce was rich and refreshing. Our brunch there was pretty awesome all around. You have to get there at least 20 minutes before opening to beat the crowd, but it was well worth it. “Auntie Paula’s French Toast with with mixed-berry maple & whipped cream” was wonderful as well. So many amazing brunch places, so little time!
And the last spot in Portland that I have to show you some pics of was The Meadow, a chocolate and salt shop in the super hip Mississippi neighborhood.
I wish I could have just purchased this entire wall straight up and have it installed in my apartment. Wow.
There were many awesome flavors that I’ve somehow never seen before.
Such a cool shop. Felt like a mix of fancy food shop and old school pharmacy.
Even though I had just bought three local bars the day before, we still walked away with all this. I may need an intervention, but I don’t care. That Apple Pie Bar is where it’s at.
Whew, this has really turned into a doosey of a post, but as you can see - we’ve had a lot going on. Before I go, here’s a mini list of some of my other favorite eats in Portland. I know, it’s a lot- but judging from my conversation with Kylie and a related Portlandia skit, noting Portland eateries to be visited at a later time is just kind of what you do. So here goes, in no particular order:
- Sindy Chocolate from Helvetic (purchased at Barista, maker of excellent lattes)
- Bakery Bar: Everything we had there was great, but specific callouts go to the homemade granola and amazing buttery Sharp Cheddar-Scallion Scones
- Waffle Window: Peanut Butter Chocolate Dipped Waffle - picture here!
- Farm Cafe: Dinner / Cocktails - esp. the corn fritters with green tomato jam
- Vita Cafe: Thai soup (vegan)
- Hair of the Dog: Fred beer
- Ken’s Artisan Pizza: Spring Onion Pizza - and that’s coming from a NJ/NY’er
- Off the Griddle: Vegan Cheeseburger w/Housemade Pickles - best veggie burger I think I’ve ever had. After resorting to some other dismal veggie burgers on the road, this one made me so happy I almost wanted to cry.
- Salt and Straw: Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache Ice Cream
Yeah. We ate really well there.
And now we’re here! (That’s Seattle behind us if you can’t make out the Space Needle on the left). I concentrated mostly on Portland in this post, but we really did have an amazing time everywhere and eat wonderfully delicious things the whole way out. If anyone has any Seattle recommendations, shoot them my way! Because if it’s one thing we’ve been reminded of on this trip, it’s that time flies - and we want to make the most of it.
If we’ve made you jealous, I’m sorry. If you think we’re crazy, just check out this guy. And if you want to see more, stay tuned! Big thanks to Kylie and all of our truly amazing family and friends along the way for helping make this adventure a crazy great one.