Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Knitting Away: Portland(ia)

Last weekend I went to Portland and got into some serious trouble. Like, seriously.

Portland, this is why we can't be friends.
Portland was never one of the placed I lumped into my "I want to live here without ever visiting here," lists. Seattle was forever the only PNW city on that list and that was mostly because of how overly hyped Portland is. And, let's be real, it's got that crazy hipster level 9000 thing going on and that has greatly deterred me from ever wanting to go to there. Somewhere along the line that changed and, since I live on the West Coast now, why not? My flight was less than $200 and I was there in about an two hours. Times like this makes me want a job & disposable income again. Le sigh.

So yes, this Portland was never on "the list," though the other Portland was. The funny thing with "the list" is that I have since ruled out most of the cities on it in the past two years. (Other) Portland, San Francisco, Boston, in face the only place on the list that I didn't rule out was Seattle. And then I had to go & visit Portland and fall in love a little bit.

I strategically planned our visit over Oregon Flock & Fiber weekend. I'll be in Chicago for the last half of October, so I'll be missing ladies weekend at Rhinebeck. I decided OFFF would be my Autumnal fiber festival for the year, so I booked our trip and the excitement started, but I tried to keep my feet on the ground. This was Portlandia! Don't get too excited.

But it was wonderful! Portland was everything I had hoped for and more. And it rained the whole time!

I left a few hours before Matt did so that I could get the lay of the land & attend a local knitting circle. Public transit was great and it only cost me like $2 bucks to get from the airport to my airbnb (first/great experience) across the river. We ended up staying in the Nob Hill neighborhood and I could have easily spent a few days just exploring the blocks around where we stayed. So many restaurants & even a distillery! It's one of the safer/more expensive areas of Portland, so I'll probably not be living there anytime soon. Though I would love to. 

Like I said, it rained the whole time we were there and I was actually very happy about that. I haven't seen real rain in MONTHS and I'm the kind of person who enjoys opening the windows & curling up during a rainstorm. Out airbnb didn't have a tv, which I was kind of kicking myself over since our trip also coincided with the Breaking Bad finale, but oh well. It was lovely and it gave me a lot of time to read, knit & enjoy the rain. Look at those windows! 

Once I got settled in, I headed to the first stop on my "Ashley Tackles Portland" list: Deschutes brewing! The actual brewery is located in Bend, Oregon, which is several miles away (and on the Bend Ale Trail), so I had to "settle" for the brewpub in the Pearl District. Everything I tasted while there was amazing! Everything they serve in their restaurant uses local ingredients & is made from scratch (I think?). And it's easy to overdo it with your drinks because they have something like 20 beers on taps. I was lucky enough to arrive on the first day of their Fresh Hop Festival, so I nestled into a table and ordered a Fresh Hop Octoberfest with Pear (Washington pears!), goat cheese and hazelnut pizza. That shit was redonk!

Matt & I ate that pizza for the next two meals & I was still ready to go back for more. I powered through another beer (Fresh Hop Pale) and made my way to knitting night down the street at Pearl Fiber Arts, a place not originally on the list. And boy am I glad to have added it! Once I saw the wall of "souvenir yarn"I knew I was in the right place. They carry a lot of Portland area yarns, which is perfect since that's exactly what I wanted. I ended up buying a skein of Bumblebirch Heartwood in the gorgeous Mineral colorway and grabbed the last seat for knitting circle. And everyone was SO nice. It's always hard to just jump in with groups like that, where these people have known eachother for years, but they all made me feel welcome and not at all out of place. I only managed to chat with one or two of the ladies, but everybody made sure to say goodbye as I was leaving...with another skein that had been staring at me since I sat down. 

Being a knitter is hard, you guys.

By then it was time to meet Matt for a late snack at the Whiskey Kitchen down the street. Over 100 whiskeys with an all BBQ menu. We may have gone there twice over the long weekend. Whoops? I had my first Old Fashioned and felt like the fanciest of ladies. Matt had the Fremont whiskey from Washington (like the troll) and I even managed to enjoy it :) All in all we were fans of Southland

This is not an Old Fashioned
The next day was all about me. Matt requested to work remotely for the day, so I took on the city by myself. I decided to cross the river and work my way back to where we were staying. First stop? Happy Knits, the happiest knitting store in the world (ok maybe not, but it was pretty great). And, once again, they were all so nice! I spent like 30 minutes chatting with the girl who worked there and wish I had gotten her Ravelry name. Needless to say I got into some trouble.

Black Trillium, Black Trillium, Sunshine Yarns, Madtosh in "Happiness"
Yeah. They have their own Madelinetosh color. Black Trillium is another local dyer and the colors were so amazing. I could have easily snatched up 10 skeins of each base (here I have one sock & one worsted), but I wanted to pace myself as best I could. Meaning I shouldn't have even gone there, right? Right. While I shopped, the rain continued to come down and luckily for me the next stop was just a few blocks away. 

Oh you know. Just a little bookcase in the middle of nowhere

I hadn't heard of Cascade Brewing until somewhat recently, which isn't terribly surprising since I just started to like Sours within the past year. Cascade Brewing brews primarily sour beers and when I saw the tap list I about lost my mind. Do I order the one with the same name as my cat? The one with blueberries? Blackberries? This one sounds awesome! Then I realized they had a Live Barrel list, so obviously I had to go for one of those. I opted for a glass of the Cherry Vlad, something that I will probably never have the joy of tasting again. Bourbon & Cherry sour. Yummm. I also had what is potentially the best clam chowdah of my life. Better than MAINE CHOWDAH? Possibly. And, again, everyone was so nice.

The rest of the day was spent buying more yarn from a shop with a whole wall of Indie Dyed sock yarns INCLUDING Plucky (Twisted, we cannot be friends), falling in love with the most adorable trash cat who claimed me as his, prime bar seats on a Friday night at Deschutes & dinner at The Gilt Club, where Peter & Nance met Colin the chicken on the first episode of Portlandia. I ordered the chicken & was not impressed. Oh, and another trip to the Whiskey Kitchen.

Colin wasn't in. Once again, they were so nice.
The next day there was, you guessed it, more rain. I know I rag on Matt a lot and, as we are currently embroiled in a domestic war, I should note that he's still pretty great sometimes. Like when he rents a car and drives me to a wool festival in the middle of nowhere, Oregon. And then buys me yarn. Oregon Flock & Fiber Fest was much bigger than I was expecting. I've only been to a few festivals before (Rhinebeck, Maryland Sheep & Wool, Garden State Sheep & Wool), so I know the quality can vary a bit. I was impressed! The turnout was HUGE and though they didn't have crazy big barns like Rhinebeck, they had so many beautiful yarns to choose from. And the animals! 

I was actually pretty excited about getting Matt to go with me. He's never been to a wool festival and, though he doesn't knit, I knew he would love the animals. And he had a great time petting them. Every time I turned around, I would hear a, "Dear come here! Look at this goat! Look at those horns! Aw that one is so cute!" or something of that nature. I'm really glad he got some joy out of going with me. Who doesn't love farm animals? And I'm glad I never have to hide my stash or downplay my crazy around him. 

Portland, you stole my heart and my money. I still had another day and a half (Matt left early), but it was really more of the same. After lunch at the cutest pumpkin patch, I subjected Matt to yarn photos & general nerdery, as we do. We spent the rest of the night exploring 23rd street, starting with Bull Run Distilling (again. So nice) & Beer Flights at Lompoc Tavern and ending with the best gingerbread dessert in all of creation. Red wine soaked gingerbread with pears & vanilla ice cream. Yum. Yum. Yum. Oh and a nap because all that rain & beer? Ashley got tired.

Free tastings during the day. The only one I wasn't sold on was Pacific Rum, but I'm not much of a rum person. We left with a bottle of Aria gin, which is delightful with tonic and lime. The woman working there chatted with us for 20 minutes about what to do with the rest of our time.

Seasonal Tasting at Lompoc, where pints are $3
(Lompoc would be my Cheers if I lived there. They brew their own beers & have $2.50 on Miser Mondays. How sweet is that? And they're all good!)

After my nap I got a second wind (at 10pm), so we wandered down the street to the breakfast joint my airbnb host had told me about. Sure enough, they were out of most of the beers on their menu and some of the desserts. Lucky for me the one that I wanted, that gingerbread mess I described above, was still available. I'm still having dreams about it. No lie. We headed back to our place & passed out for the night. Matt left the next morning and I continued to lose my mind: Stumptown, Powell's (!!!!) & Rogue brewing. It was a peaceful and lovely final day to myself. I'm glad I stayed. 

In summation. Portland, I loved you and your people. We could be friends, maybe, if 1. I had a job & 2. You had less yarn. Someday you could be home. Because I kind of fell in love with you, just a little bit. Even with the rain.

P.S. Knitters, I am glad to "take one for the team" and buy all of the sock yarn to test for you. Expect links & reviews soon since I LOVE socks now. Finished my first pair in Portland & halfway done with my second pair.

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