Greetings Internet Stranger! Sometimes it can feel like we’re surrounded by miserable, unkind people all day. Everybody’s cranky from our co-workers to our neighbors to the three-headed sloth that haunts our nightmares. Wouldn’t you like to escape to a city where everyone is kind and full of crunchy goodness? Then 24 hours in Portland Oregon is the perfect destination for you!
Join me for a day of beautiful art, socially conscious food, and enough books to occupy even a three-headed sloth for a lifetime’s worth of reading! Everyone in Portland Oregon might not be exactly like Jess Day from New Girl, but it sure seems that way to this New Yorker!
24 Hours in Portland Oregon
Where to Stay?
Portland is a very cool city, so for your 24 hours in Portland Oregon, you need to stay somewhere equally cool. That’s why I recommend the Ace Hotel Portland. It has a central location, a delicious breakfast included every morning, comfy beds and robes, and plus you get freshly baked local goods as an amenity!
See! I told you people in Portland were friendly!
24 Hours in Portland Oregon
Morning: Portland Art Museum
For me, the perfect day would involve one museum, one walking tour (either self-guided or with a group), and one delicious dinner with a tasting menu. Fortunately we’re going to get all three today, Internet Stranger. We’ll start our 24 hours in Portland Oregon with the Portland Art Museum. (Not to be confused with the museum in Portland, Maine.) You can get information about prices and hours on their website. Keep in mind that though Portland has a hippy-dippy reputation, the museum is not at all free.)
For a small art museum, the Portland Art Museum packs a big punch. There are several floors of collections ranging from classical Asian to contemporary American. If I were to explain every piece in the museum, we would be here all day. So instead, I’ll limit myself to…
Three Fun Facts: Portland Art Museum
1) What Were You Saying About Classic Asian Art?
The Portland Art Museum has an incredible Asian art collection, especially the ceramics. But I was most fond of this 19th century Japanese woodblock print advertising the play The Ghost Story of the Moon at Kasamori. Ghosts? Moons? Giant Swords? Truly this play has everything I like.
According to the docent notes at the museum, the GSOTMAK is about a young woman named Osen who works in a teashop. Her sister is murdered by her lover (the sister’s lover, not Osen’s lover), so Osen decides to wreak bloody vengeance on her sister’s behalf. It’s like Kill Bill, but the original version! And with much more tea, one assumes. I feel like this play could be a huge hit on Broadway. Someone needs to get on that. And I only ask ten percent of the gross!
2) What Were You Saying About Contemporary American Art?
Kehinde Wiley might be the most famous contemporary American artist showcased in the Portland Museum of Art. He is most famous for painting the official portraits of President Obama and First Lady Obama. Wiley often paints people of African descent in poses from classic European paintings and sculptures. In this painting, a young Afro-Brazilian man is posed like a giant statue of Cuauhtemoc, an Aztec emperor. The original statue is in Rio de Janeiro, and it was a gift from Mexico to celebrate Brazil’s independence from Portugal.
I think Wiley is pointing out that even though Brazil is independent from Portugal, you can still see the influence of colonialism in Brazil. Young men like the one in the portrait are trapped in impoverished neighborhoods called favelas and not enough attention is being paid to them. But now I expect to get an angry email from Wiley telling me I am Very Wrong. That’s always the danger when you try to infer an artist’s message.
3) What About Artists From Oregon?
Any artist from Oregon worth his/her salt is going to attempt to paint the state’s most famous natural wonder: Mount Hood. This work, from 19th century painter Albert Bierstadt, is one of the most famous portraits of Mount Hood. Apparently he was more interested in being romantic and impressive than accurate because it’s not possible to get this view from one single place in Oregon. Also Mount Hood is not that big.
I wonder what Bierstadt would have to say in his defense, if he hadn’t died in 1902. I imagine he’d point out that the paintings were popular and if people wanted a scientific portrait of Mount Hood, they should go see a mountain scientist.
24 Hour Treasure
I got a kick out of this trompe l’oeil painting, amusingly titled “Peanuts” by De Scott Evans. Just don’t try to eat one of the peanuts, even though there’s a note on the painting that says “Free Sample. Take One.”! They’ll definitely kick you out of the museum for that!
24 Hours in Portland Oregon
Afternoon: Downtown Food Tour
Now that we’ve spent a serious and thoughtful morning at the Portland Art Museum, it’s time to get out and get wild! On the Forktown Downtown Portland food tour, which you can book here, we’re going to stuff our faces with meat, fat, chocolate, and ice cream. There will be day drinking! There will be decadence! But first…there will be salad!
Approximately Top 5: Portland Oregon Food Tour
1) Nel Centro
Our first stop on the food tour was an upscale restaurant called Nel Centro. It serves what our guide, whom I shall call Jess Day, called Riviera cuisine. Basically that means French-Italian fusion. The ingredients are locally sourced and seasonal. Jess Day said that farm to table cuisine is really big in Portland because everyone who lives there is a big hippie who grows their own artisanally infused weed in their backyard. (I made have inferred that last part.)
But you’ll never hear me complain about farm to table cuisine when it’s as yummy as this beet salad with housemade ricotta. After all, beets are nature’s candy! And lest you worry this stop was too healthy, we also got to sip on a cocktail with Prosecco (Italian sparking wine) and St Germain (a French elderflower liqueur). That’s Italian-French fusion at its finest.
2) Meaty and Melty Food Cart
This is probably the least surprising Portland Oregon fact you’ve ever heard, but food trucks are very popular here. Jess Day said they took off after the recession because people couldn’t afford the rent on a brick and mortar store. Now there are over 600 food trucks in Portland.
After that refreshing beet salad, it was time to indulge in a warm sandwich from the Meaty and Melty Food Cart. It was made with Olympia smoky ham, local Cheddar, and a delightfully sweet and spicy apple and pear mostarda. (No, I’m not misspelling mustard. Mostarda is an Italian condiment made with candied fruit and mustard syrup. It sounds kind of nast, but it was truly the perfect compliment to the ham and cheese sandwich.)
For the final main course, we settled in with a warm bowl of pasta at a local Italian restaurant called Grassa. I’m pretty sure that’s Italian for fat! But most people don’t go to a pasta restaurant to be on a diet anyway. And you don’t want to spend 24 hours in Portland Oregon and miss out on this beautiful handmade pasta.
Our dish here was house-made rigatoni with “Sunday ragu” sauce. I assume this means that some poor soul spent all Sunday cooking the meat sauce. But what if people want to order this dish on a Saturday? Will the ragu just have been sitting in the fridge all week? Or is “Sunday ragu” just a metaphor?
Well, even if the ragu is a metaphor, it’s a delicious metaphor. And the pasta was perfectly al dente. Afterwards our main course stomachs were all full. It was time to move on to the dessert stomach!
Our first dessert was at the craft chocolate shop Cacao. Chocolate is one of those wonderful treats, like pizza, that’s more delicious when it’s made with top-notch ingredients and love, but is still pretty tasty even if made with trash ingredients and indifference.
We sampled three different kinds of chocolate. The first was a single origin Peruvian chocolate, which means that all the beans came from Peru. It tasted kind of fruity even though nothing was added.
Cacao is famous for its experimental chocolate bars, so we tried one made with sourdough and olive oil. That sounds like an Italian appetizer, but it was actually sweet, sophisticated, and scrumptious.
My favorite thing at Cacao was the drinking chocolate which reached Scrooge McDuck levels of richness. I’m glad there isn’t a Cacao near my house or I’d never drink water again, only drinking chocolate. Then I’d get dehydrated and all my hair would fall out or something.
5) Ruby Jewel
The main dessert was ice cream sandwiches at a local chain called Ruby Jewel. Ruby Jewel has three locations in Portland, and when I visited they were planning to open a fourth. Blah blah local producers, blah blah seasonal ingredients…this is Portland! We’d expect nothing less! But most importantly the sandwiches are amazing.
One of the best things about a food tour is that you get to sample more flavors than you would on your own. We bit into two sandwiches. The first was a refreshing lemon cookie with lavender and honey. The second was a decadent chocolate cookie with salted caramel. If you put one sandwich on each shoulder, it would be kind of like those cartoons that has an angel sitting on one shoulder and a devil on the other. But I recommend eating the sandwiches instead.
24 Hours in Portland Oregon
Late Afternoon: Powell’s City of Books
You might think I’m strange for suggesting we go hang out in a bookstore. But Powell’s isn’t just any bookstore. It’s a city of books! It’s the world’s largest independent bookstore! You could spend several hours exploring. They have every genre imaginable. Don’t believe me?
They have an entire section devoted to nautical fiction. It has a sign and everything! Portland isn’t even on the ocean! No 24 hours in Portland Oregon is complete without a stop here. Just be sure to leave yourself plenty of time at check out because the lines can get long, and we can’t be late to dinner.
24 Hours in Portland Oregon
Evening: Dinner at Beast
As a female entrepreneur, I always like to support other female business owners. I also really like to eat! And fortunately, one of the best restaurants in Portland, Beast, is run by a woman named Naomi Pomeroy. Eating at Beast is like going to an amazing dinner party in someone’s home. There are two seatings per night. I recommend going to the later seating so you’ll be hungry again after the food tour.
Your seat will be assigned at the restaurant, and I was seated at a big group table surrounded by couples. But I didn’t feel lonely! Most people were curious about me and my strange life spent eating my way around the world! So I made lots of friends, and by friends I mean people I talked a lot with for one evening and will never see again.
Beast serves a six-course prix fixe menu, so it’s not for picky eaters since you can’t choose what you get. The menu changes every two weeks, so you definitely won’t get what I got. But I can give you an idea of what to expect with….
Approximately Top 5 Beast
1) Coquilles St Jacques
This was an indulgent start to the meal: diver scallops topped with mushrooms and gruyere. Chef Pomeroy introduced every dish by explaining what it meant to her personally. She said with this dish she wanted to break the rule against combining dairy and seafood. Let’s all break rules more often if it’s this delicious!
2) Chicken Gorgonzola Scarpinocc
I’m a pretty widely traveled eater, and I had never heard of scarpinocc before this meal, but it’s just a type of pasta shaped like an old shoe. With the first of the season asparagus and nettles this tasted just like a perfect spring day. It’s winter as I write this, but crocuses just started blooming in my room as I thought about this dish. That’s how springy it was.
3) American Wagyu Striploin Roast
I was surprised to get the beef so early in the menu, but it turned out to be the perfect choice. The portion size of the meat was flawless, so I really didn’t feel too full afterwards to enjoy the rest of the tasting menu. And that’s pretty impressive considering the beastie was served with a decadent curry hollandaise sauce.
4) Red and Green Endive Salad
This salad was stuffed full of goodness. Aside from the bitter endive, there was umami from Pecorino cheese, sour citrus vinaigrette, some sweetness from the mint, and a salty fried night smelt. (I resisted the urge to say “Whoever night smelt it dealt it.” This is a classy joint, Internet Stranger!)
5) Vacherin Fribourgeois L’Ancienne
Any restaurant that has a cheese course gets bonus points in my book! This Swiss cheese was paired with Swiss cider, a thing I had never tried before. But Chef Pomeroy explained, “What grows together goes together,” and indeed the cheese and cider tasted amazing swirled all together in my mouth.
6) Black Sesame Creme Bavarois
At last! Our third dessert of the day! The black sesame made this dessert taste a little like halvah, one of my favorite candies that’s made with sesame. But the real rock star of this dish was the milk and honey ice cream. The phrase “land of milk and honey” refers to the Promised Land in the Book of Exodus, and indeed heavenly was the only word to describe this dish.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Portland Oregon!
What would you do with 24 hours in Portland Oregon? Is the nautical fiction section at Powell’s very popular? And where are my fellow New Girl fans at? If you’re a New Girl fan, please respond in the comments with the correct answer to “One, two, three, four, JFK!” Thanks!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while this article is about how to have a perfect 24 hours in Portland Oregon, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have 24 hours in Portland Oregon. If you’re looking for another 24 hours in Portland Oregon, click here.