Summer is a bad time for baking in a house without air conditioning, but it’s a great time to travel around and see what kind of sweet things other people have to offer. With that in mind I agreed to spend a girls weekend in Portland with my friend, Eleanor.
Long before I went I knew I wanted to visit Moonstruck Chocolate. They had a shop in the San Francisco area years ago that I loved, but it closed after maybe a year. I knew they were based in Portland, and maybe that’s why I’ve had this desire to go there.
Moonstruck was our very first stop after checking in at the hotel, but Portland wasn’t cooperating with my chocolate tourism plans. While I had envisioned escaping the California heat to enjoy the mild warmth of Oregon, what actually happened is that Eleanor and I arrived to find that Portland was in the middle of a heat wave. Like, sweat-dripping-down-our-faces-and-our-backs-and-into-our-shoes style heatwave.
We spent the afternoon, and most of the weekend, looking for shade and iced drinks, so I got to Moonstruck excited to try something new, but also thinking that chocolate sounded way too heavy. I got two truffles but passed on the hot chocolate. It smelled divine, but I just couldn’t take the heat.
After dinner at some of Portland’s diverse food trucks the weather started to cool off, so we made our way to Cacao. If you want a cozy place to drink chocolate, eat chocolate and buy lots of chocolate to take home, this is the place.
The two guys working there were super friendly and cute and Eleanor and I both enjoyed the rich and creamy hot chocolate. This isn’t the kind where they dump a little chocolate into some hot milk. You can see the chocolate being churned in containers and they pour that right into your cup. It’s the good stuff.
By the evening it seemed safe to buy some fancy chocolates without having to make a mad dash for the hotel, and just look at the assortment they have at Cacao:
They carry several Portland-area chocolates, including Woodblock and Cocanu, which I’d never heard of before. I love the little square packages with the fancy sealing wax:
They also have plenty of chocolates from the rest of the country, including Askinosie, from Missouri. I first heard of Askinosie at a tasting held at Bittersweet Chocolate here in the Bay Area where they were held up as an example of sustainable, fair trade chocolate. Mostly though I remember that their white chocolate is made with goat’s milk. It’s not a taste you easily forget.
Our destination on day two was Voodoo Doughnut. You can’t go to Portland without visiting Voodoo, if only to say you’ve been there. It’s located right next to the Portland Saturday Market (which also has all kinds of foods and sweets), but when we went by the line was really long. We did some more sightseeing, going up to the International Rose Garden and Japanese Garden (both lovely) and came back later in the afternoon… when the line was just as long.
Waiting 45 minutes for donuts sounds crazy, but it’s the kind of crazy thing you do on vacation. And I’ve been to Comic Con, so put into that context, this line was pleasantly brisk. It was still about 132 degrees outside though, and by the time we got inside the shop I think we were far more thirsty and sunburned than we were hungry.
Caught up in the thrill of finally getting to the counter, Eleanor briefly entertained the idea of getting a dozen donuts, but we agreed that three each would be more than enough. The Mango Tango was fantastic, and the other donuts were good, if not spectacular. I don’t think the heat helped them any, and the ones we saved for breakfast the next morning were a bit limp. I think I would have enjoyed them a lot more if I hadn’t waited outside in the blistering sun for almost an hour to get them.
That night we decided to get some more walking in and have dinner in the Nob Hill area. Well, we decided to have ice cream at Salt & Straw, but figured we should eat some real, non-donut food before that. While walking down NW 23rd Street to find a good restaurant I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw The Meadow.
I guess I didn’t Google or Pinterest hard enough before my trip, because this place should have come up in any kind of search for chocolate in Portland. The whole length of the shop is shelves and shelves of chocolate from all over the world, and the back of the shop is filled with jars and slabs of more kinds of salts than I even knew existed.
I’ve seen shops that sell wine and chocolate, but this was my first salt and chocolate store. I walked out with a bag of chocolate bars to try and Eleanor left with a bag of salt rubs. We paid for them first, of course. We would never just *walk out* with stuff. That would be wrong.
Finally, after a long, hot weekend of food and lines, we made it to Salt & Straw. Where there was a line. And it was still kind of hot. At 9:30 at night. It was only about a 20 minute line though, so not nearly as bad as the one at Voodoo. And this one was more worth it. I got the salted caramel ice cream and it was incredible.
I’ve had other salted caramel ice cream and gelato before, but usually the whole thing is caramel flavored with a slight salt taste. This was super fresh and creamy vanilla ice cream with a ribbon of smooth salted caramel running through it. It was vibrant and intense and absolutely perfect. I’d wait in that line again in a heartbeat.
On our last day we made a second trip to Powell’s Books (because once is not enough) and about a block away from there I saw a sign for Little T Baker. I’d just read about them on some travel blog so I popped in to see what the fuss was about.
The first thing I noticed was how many little black gnats and other flying things were landing on the food. I’m not sure why a bakery would ever leave their door open, especially when their baked goods are just sitting out on a counter and not in a case, but it didn’t get my appetite going. Still, I was there so I bought three different cookies to try. They were ok, kind of dry and crumbly. I wouldn’t go back, but maybe their breads are better than their sweets.
Right in the same little shopping complex, just a few feet away is Quin, a handcrafted candy shop that sells fancy caramels and other things that will travel well if you need to take something back for your coworkers. I got a small bag of salted caramels and another of chocolate caramels. They were tasty, but very pricey.
At this point, Eleanor and I swore we would never eat again. We were beyond stuffed. We’d broken every healthy eating rule either of us had every tried to follow. We were done.
The we realized we were just around the corner from Blue Star Donuts.
Well, as long as we were right there…
Blue Star is donuts for adults. The line here was far more manageable, maybe a 5-7 minute wait. Most people we talked to around town told us that while Voodoo is the fun place for tourists to go, Blue Star is where the locals and anyone serious about pastries goes. And they were all right. The donuts here were lighter and far more flavorful, and while the selection included standard chocolate and powdered options, they also have Blueberry Bourbon Basil and Dulce de Leche.
If you go, don’t leave without trying the Passion Fruit Cocoa Nib. I still have dreams about it. Another coworker was there the week after me and brought me one back. Even a day old it was still mouth-wateringly delicious, and he is now my favorite person in the office. Yes, I’m that fickle.
I went home from Portland with a bit of a tummy ache, but it was worth it. All 12,837 calories of it.
Fried and battered,