As you know from our epic two-week cross-country road trip this summer, we strive to eat local food whenever we can. In some areas, this proved harder than others (a certain stop at Subway in Pennsylvania comes to mind, as does a highly disappointing sandwich shop in Sun Valley, sadly our only option after 11 p.m.).
Thankfully, our ultimate destination also happens to be perhaps the easiest place on the planet to find restaurants that serve locally grown food. Seriously, you don’t even have to try. You just choose a place that sounds good, take a seat, and chances are as you’re browsing the menu you’ll notice a blurb about how the restaurant sources as much of its produce and meat locally.
Take today, for example. One of our favorite childhood friends is in town with her awesome 2-year-old daughter, Annie, so we’ve been indulging in some serious restaurant time. We kicked off the day with breakfast at The Country Cat, a cool little restaurant in the Montavilla neighborhood. The chef, a Missouri native (yay, Missouri!), uses fresh, seasonal Oregon ingredients to prepare the type of food he grew up eating during his Midwestern childhood. He’s especially famous for his fried chicken, fried in a cast-iron skillet, which is some of the best we’ve had, ever. It’s available at any meal, including brunch, but this morning we decided to indulge our sweet tooth with the Hazelnut Pancakes served with a house-made citrus butter, a little powdered sugar, and maple syrup. Holy amazing. The pancakes were the perfect texture—not too spongy, not too doughy—and the citrus butter was the perfect complement to the local hazelnuts scattered on top. We also ordered a side of bacon—cut extra thick and full of flavor—and helped ourselves to some of the home-fries on Annie’s plate.
After a good walk in Mt. Tabor Park and—full disclosure a pancake-induced nap (or should we call it a Country Cat nap?)—we headed to Staccato Gelato. To be perfectly honest, we picked this place because we had a Groupon voucher for it, not because we had any knowledge of what kinds of ingredients it used. But when we checked out the website to find the address, we noticed that the shop uses local rBST-free milk and cream and local produce from local suppliers. Score! We had trouble choosing from the 18 flavors (they rotate new ones in all the time), but we finally decided on a double cone: salted caramel with peanuts, and triple chocolate. Truly perfect. We also had a taste of Lauren’s Root Beer Float flavor, which tasted exactly like the real thing. We thought about sampling Annie’s vanilla, but she looked so into it that we didn’t dare deprive her of a single bite.
You’d think that would have been enough food to last us a while, but, as you probably know by now, we’re champion eaters. For dinner we headed to Biwa, a Japanese restaurant that’s so adamant about using fresh, local ingredients that they change their menu regularly based on what’s in season. We started with a seaweed salad and moved on to a steaming bowl of ramen with pork shoulder (locally sourced, of course), seaweed, and a fresh local hard-boiled egg. Perfection.
A stellar food day? Absolutely. But as far as Portland is concerned, it was a normal food day. This city has been eating locally for a good 30 years, not just because it’s the hip new thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do. Let’s hope more cities follow in its footsteps!