Portland is a city known to be a tad “left of center,” if you will. Exactly why I love it: I’m a little left of center. That’s called symbiosis: we have a complementary relationship. I appreciate the quirky, and the Rose City is excellent at dishing it up. Case in point, and one I’ve mentioned before: Voodoo Doughnut. Their maple bacon bar has become infamous. It was probably the oddest food combination I’d eaten around town…until yesterday, when I found myself plowing through a single-scoop cup of Pear and Bleu Cheese ice cream.
Which, by the way, was not the weirdest flavor on the menu. (That award goes to either the Brown Ale and Bacon or the Three Berry Barbecue). The purveyor of this frozen madness? Salt & Straw Ice Cream, a food-cart-turned-brick-and-mortar ice cream shop that was recently voted as a runner-up in a list of Portland’s best ice cream joints. I’ve always been an adventurous eater, so I had no qualms about ordering such a uniquely flavored ice cream treat. And the verdict? Delicious, of course. Creamy and smooth, riddled with chunks of diced pear and just enough bleu cheese to offer a tangy contrast to the sweetness of the cream and fruit, I was hooked from the first bite. Delicious! And I pretty much never order ice cream in the middle of the day – especially an overcast day in which the temperature is hovering in the mid-sixties – but I couldn’t resist the allure, and the positive press, of Salt & Straw.
I spent a good portion of the afternoon hanging out at the Alberta Street Fair. This funky, artsy neighborhood in northeast Portland has become one of my favorite haunts this year, and I find myself returning often. Every August they close down thirty blocks of the street for a fair that includes arts and crafts vendors, juggling, magicians, music, food carts and booths, and even – be still my heart – belly dancing. How could I pass up that sort of lineup?
Answer: I couldn’t.
The best part of the street fair is probably the people watching. Alberta is home to a colorful parade of hipsters, bohemians, hippies, goths and skaters, all intermingling comfortably with more straight-laced types. There were plenty of families present, as well, small kids in tow who were happy with the offerings of balloons and face painting. A little bit of something for everyone, as it turns out, including a beer garden and three “stages” with a rotating series of entertainers throughout the day. I watched a magician/juggler who would have been right at home on America’s Got Talent – the dude contorted his body through a stringless tennis racket (it helped that he was super skinny, but still, that’s quite the feat); watched a camouflage-bedecked guy give a tarot card reading to an Asian kid; enjoyed a musical set from a three-piece outfit called The Bottlecap Boys who were so good I gave them money; dined on garlic and lemon chicken from The Horn Of Africa; and drunk in the sexy allure of a belly dance troupe called the Gypsy Heart Tribal. Turns out one of the dancers – by far the most sensual – totally wanted me. Think I’m kidding? Check out this look she’s giving me.
And don’t call it “wishful thinking,” either. I see the desire in her eyes!
There was even an author there – or, to be technical, the wife of an author – who had set up a booth and was selling her husband’s self-published novel. I struck up a conversation with her, telling her that I had just published a book myself and was thinking of buying booth space and trying to sell it at a similar venue in the near future. She said they were there last year and sold “a ton” of books, but this year there’d only been one buyer by the time I stopped by, so it’s a real hit-or-miss proposition. I should have bought a copy of the book – support your fellow writers and good Karma and all that jazz – but I didn’t have much cash on hand. Oh well, food for thought.
All in all, it was an excellent way to spend a Saturday afternoon. A funky, fun festival in the city that I love. I even ended up with a “People’s Republic of Portland” hoodie and a “Put A Bird On It” t-shirt that were a steal at $30 total. Who could ask for more?
- World’s Biggest Doughnut Box: Voodoo Doughnuts Is Hell-Bent On Making Us All Obese (huffingtonpost.com)