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Eastern Oregon and Chicago – Travel Thursday

Eastern Oregon and Chicago – Travel Thursday

I haven’t posted a travel round up in a while, and I was waiting to cover all of November at once, thinking I had one more trip in November when that trip was…cancelled.  Is it too wrong to be delighted about that?  I have to admit and it’s hard for me to admit that I just might be, just a smidgen, totally and completely traveled out. 

So let’s go back to the beginning of November, shall we?  November was a whirlwind of travel to three locations – two in the PNW and one outside the PNW.  I went to Sunriver, Oregon sometime in early November and then back to Bend, Oregon in later November with Chicago sandwiched in between.

I’m going to start with the east side of Oregon.  Bend is a hip little place along Highway 97, east of the Cascade Mountains.  Sunriver is a little further south of Bend and is a resort complete with its own golf course, air strip, and shopping center.  Both are sandwiched between multiple volcanoes, because after all, what else would you expect in a state that is technically along the ring of fire?  It’s hard for me not to drive past Mt. Hood on Highway 26 on the way to Bend and not think to myself, hm, I’m driving along an active volcano.  Wonder what would happen if it pulled a Mt. St. Helens? 

Eastern Oregon reminds me so much of New Mexico, where I lived for four years.  Though I love living in the rainforest ecosystem of the Cascades, I do miss these kinds of sunsets:

eastern-oregon-sunset

Though Bend has many restaurants, it just so happened on the first trip that we were hungry enough to pull off in Redmond, which is about 20 minutes north of Bend.  We discovered a charming Mexican place called Diego’s Spirit Kitchen and ate dinner there the first night…and then went back for lunch…and then went there again for lunch when we went back to Bend two weeks later.  Here’s why:

chicken-with-mole-verde  fish-tacos-redmond carnitas-ravioli

From left to right: chicken mole verde; fish tacos, carnitas ravioli

Plus on the first night, each table had these gorgeous little yellow mums that played so well off the brick red walls:

 restaurant-flower-in-redmond

Redmond was looking all festive already and I positively love this pic:

 small-town-holiday-decorations

There was a little stopover in Sunriver for business and then I turned around and went back home.  On the first trip, we stopped at a rest stop on Hwy 97 to check out a canyon.  This is not a place that is for the faint of heart when it comes to heights.  Especially when you can’t stop thinking about that active volcano thing and all the potential for earthquake activity along the Cascadia fault zone.

bridge2

I rested up for a weekend for the next trip – did some laundry and repacked.  Then it was off to Chicago.  I’d been to Chicago once, about 20 years ago with my ex-husband.  This was back when I was younger, stubborn, and absolutely petrified of flying, to the point that I insisted we take the train to Chicago and then drive a car to Appleton, Wisconsin to meet the ex’s family.  I have four memories from that trip: 1) I should have been more worried about train wrecks than plane wrecks, because the train hit an unloaded flatbed and nearly derailed (no one was injured), 2) reporters in rural Iowa must be really, really bored, because they tried storming the train as we sat there waiting for a replacement engine car to show up to get eyewitness stories; 3) only having time to go to the gift store at the Chicago Art Institute will eventually lead to a relationship break-up; and 4) we went to the most amazing haunted house experience I’ve ever had in Milwaukee – it was in an old 1900s house with actors and was incredibly scary and good. 

My more recent trip to Chicago was much less eventful.  I was there for work, of course, and stayed in the Palmer Hilton Hotel.  If you are at all into art deco architecture and style, this is place is a must see.  There is a spectacular peacock door at the entrance and murals on the ceiling in the lobby – it’s breathtaking. 

peacock-door

ceiling-detail

The food was really good, too – and not just from room service – the conference food was good (trust me – that’s a rarity). 

pavlova caprese-and-greens salmon-caesar

From left to right: berry pavlova, caprese salad, salmon Caesar salad

I slipped away from the conference for about an hour during a social time and went to the Chicago Art Institute.  This time, I actually saw the exhibits (not just the gift shop).  This was a powerful moment for me, as I was traveling the day of the US election, so was in Chicago both during and after and will confess that the state of the country was weighing heavily on my heart.  I’m not here to get into politics, but will say that wandering the halls at the Art Institute made me feel heartened by the extraordinary beauty and creative power of human beings: from the anonymous sculptures of Buddha to the Hopper painting “Nighthawks”, I just felt at peace.  It was a perfectly timed visit for me.  I also left my phone in my purse and didn’t take photos – art museums to me are nearly holy places and I just wanted to absorb.

But I did get a picture of the lions outside the museum, all decked out in their Cubs caps. 

art-institute-lion

Then it was back to Oregon and one more time to Bend.  It had started to snow over the pass on Highway 26, so I got this beauty of a picture, which made me just the slightest bit nostalgic for Colorado, where I grew up.

snow

We had a little change of pace with dinner, going to a pizza place in Bend that served great beer (and great pizza, too).

pizza-and-beer

On the way home, we had just enough time to stop by this really cool roadside attraction – the Erickson Aircraft Collection in Madras.  Despite my youthful fear of flying, I’ve always been a little airplane obsessed – I know, weird, right?  I love going to aircraft museums and just taking in the ingenuity and engineering that goes into airplanes.  The Erickson collection is a private collection of mostly World War II era planes.  I particularly loved the pinup girls painted on some of the planes.  There were several more but they were a little too NSFW for this post.

tangerine-tango madras-maiden

So – my short summary to a long post.  If you happen to get to the east side of Oregon, there are some great things to do and places to eat.  I can’t stop raving about Diego’s Spirit Kitchen – it’s rare that we keep going back to one restaurant when traveling, especially when there are lots of options as there are in Bend.  Chicago is such an utterly different kind of place, but as far as I could tell, it had a bit of the PNW vibe, which I really appreciated.  It’s high on my bucket list of towns to back to for pleasure rather than for business, and I will definitely be spending time at the Palmer Hilton again, because, just wow. 

And that should be it for a while for travel.  I’m looking forward to some staycation time in Portland, with maybe a trip or two to the coast.  Until then, feel free to share some of your great travel adventures in the comments below – I’d love to read them!

Travel Thursday: Indianapolis and Atlanta

Travel Thursday: Indianapolis and Atlanta

I’ve been traveling a lot in the last two weeks – two trips, essentially back to back to Indianapolis and to Atlanta.  Both were for work and both involved flying in, hopping into a taxi, going to a hotel and staying in the hotel for two full days, heading back to the airport and going home.  So, sadly, this post is primarily about airport food and room service menus, as well as what you can see from various windows.

I’ve been traveling for work for the last thirteen years.  Some years involved one or two flights and some years have involved four or five trips – it’s depended on the job and organization.   The one thing I noticed this last round of trips is that airports seem to have really upped their game when it comes to food.  So in my Travel Thursday round up this go around, I’m starting with the Minneapolis airport, which is where I had a three hour layover on my way to Indianapolis.

negroni lobster-blt

I started off by wandering around the terminal in Minneapolis, scoping out my options.  I was impressed to see a deli that sold fresh fruit – farmer stand style.  I had three hours though, so opted for a sit down option and eventually ended up at Mimosa – a bar and restaurant that let patrons order and pay from a tablet on the table.  I opted to start with a Negroni, which was incredibly heavy on the gin, but really tasty in a bitters and aromatic kind of way.  The sandwich pictured above was a variation of a BLT with lobster – really, really tasty with thick cut bacon and a farm fresh tasting tomato.  This was my first time flying into Minneapolis, and I was really impressed.

My end destination was Indianapolis.  I had a pretty good view from my hotel room.

indianapolis

I also had a chance to actually leave the hotel to get dinner the second night I was here.  (The first night, I had a room service salmon Caesar salad – tasty, but not very photogenic).   A colleague of mine and I went to Nada, a restaurant that bills itself as “Modern Mexican.”  We indulged in really good guacamole to start and I ordered sangria – which I was warned by the waitress was very booze-forward.  It definitely had curacao and brandy in it, but it was no more boozy than most of the sangrias I make at home.  It also very much complimented the trio of tacos I had for dinner.

booze-forward-sangria traco-trio-nada-indianapolis

There’s the boozy sangria.  Next pic are the tacos – from upper left and going clockwise: a fried avocado with pepita pesto taco, a Baja fish taco, and a pork belly taco with a fried egg.  The pork belly taco with the fried egg was my favorite – the egg was just enough runny yolk to mix with the salty pork belly to make it the perfect brunch food (it was great for dinner, too).  If you happen to be in downtown Indianapolis, I highly recommend this restaurant.

Then it was back to the airport and back to Portland.  I spent several hours in the Indianapolis airport so had time to go to Wolfgang Puck’s Express and try out the chicken salad sandwich, which was the perfect autumn combination of chicken, apple, and grapes on wholegrain bread.

wolfgang-puck-chicken-salad-sandwich

My flight was in the evening, so I was able to catch a bit of the sunset on my phone from 20,000 feet or so as we were taking off.

airplane-sunset

I had a few days at home, just enough time to stretch out the kinks in my back from my flights, and then left for Atlanta.

My room view wasn’t quite as exciting in Atlanta as it was in Indianapolis.

atlanta

Room service was better than the view.

green-tomato-blt crab-cakes

The first night (the picture on the left) was a BLT with fried green tomatoes, bacon, lettuce and tomato jam.  It wasn’t a very photogenic sandwich, but it was so tasty.  Even better, it came with sweet potato and parsnip fries.  The second night (picture on the right), I had crab cakes served over a poblano aioli, with a jicama and mango coleslaw and potato wedges.  Black sheep definitely approved of that meal.  I’d also bought a small bottle of King Estate Pinot Gris on my way out of the Portland Airport, which was a little bit of home with my dinner each night.

pinot-gris-and-black-sheep

My time in Atlanta was, unfortunately, consumed with work.  I really wish I’d had time to see something of the city and hope to go back someday for fun.

I’ve had connecting flights before in Atlanta, but before this trip, I never realized how big the airport is (5,000 incoming and outgoing flights a day should be a clue).  I had a few hours before my flight home, so walked the distance of all six concourses rather than taking the train that connects to each.  I don’t recommend doing this in heels, but on the other hand, I needed the exercise after those room service meals!  The great thing about doing this walk was I encountered this in between two of the concourses – airport art!

atlanta-airport

This was sculptural art on the ceiling between the concourses – I assume it represents the rainforest, as there was water projected on the floor in places and the sound of tropical birds and insects throughout.  It was well worth the walk to discover this.

My flight was scheduled out of the international concourse, which has a great selection of restaurants.  I settled on eating at the Pecan Bistro and finally got shrimp and grits – one of my absolute favorite Southern foods.

shrimp-and-grits

It was a good two weeks of food and travel, but I was incredibly glad to be back home and be back to cooking and blogging.

Travel Thursday – Eating in Hotel Rooms

Travel Thursday – Eating in Hotel Rooms

I’ve mentioned before that I do a lot of travel for my job.  For the time being, most of that travel is around the state, so I’m able to drive to where I need to go.  The advantage of having a car is that I can track down a local grocery and picnic in my hotel room, thus better controlling what I eat and at least making some efforts to being healthy.  It also gives me a chance to try out various small servings of wine.

I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve picked up as I’ve been doing this over the last few months.

First off, if you can find a Trader Joe’s, so much the better.  They have great salads and a good selection of affordable wine, particularly in smaller sizes.  The Underwood wine is a good wine for being in a can: I liked the Rose but was especially fond of the Pinot Gris, as it had a nice fruity, grapefruit tone.  Here are pics of both:

black sheep and pinot gris black sheep and rose

I also like the Bota Minis – this is pretty standard wine and will do in a pinch:

black sheep and bota box

I wasn’t trying to be particularly classy here with my plastic wine glass – I just didn’t particularly trust the glassware in the hotel I was in.

I usually aim for comfort food for my entree for my hotel meals.  I think it is because I don’t actually like traveling all that much – I miss my nightly routine that involves snuggling with a dog, being walked over by several cats, talking with my husband, and watching TV shows on Netflix and Hulu.  I gravitate toward Amy’s entrees – as you can see in these photos, I especially like the mac and cheese.  The pesto tortellini in the photo below is Trader Joe’s brand and I didn’t like it – the pesto just wasn’t flavorful.  I also like Evol’s Truffle Parmesan Mac and Cheese.

pendleton klamath falls

bend dinner 1 bend dinner 2

I always, always aim for having a salad with dinner.  Most grocery stores will have some sort of basic salad, and I’ve found that health food stores or Trader Joe’s tend to have a better selection.  Top left photo was a mozzarella and tomato salad from Fred Meyer.  Top right was a spinach salad, also from Fred Meyer, that came with bacon, cheese, and dried cranberries. I’d already had a turkey wrap for lunch that day, and decided to keep the spinach and cheese, skip the bacon, cranberries and salad dressing, and add raspberries.  Bottom left was a green salad with beets and apples and the bottom right was a kale salad with edamame, tomatoes, and green onion.

I confess that I also always seek out dessert when I’m having a hotel meal. It’s a comfort thing – since we don’t usually eat dessert at home, it’s a little change that makes traveling a bit better.

As far as hotels go, I usually check first to make sure that the hotel I’ll be in has a mini-fridge and a microwave.  I’ve had good luck with Holiday Inn Express and Suites as well as with Comfort Inn.

So to sum up – good wine, comfort food, a salad and dessert are great ways to make a business hotel stay fun.

Happy travels!

 

 

Tips for Healthy Travel

Tips for Healthy Travel

This week, there won’t be any little lunches.  I’ll be out of my office all week long, traveling.  I’ve spent a large part of my adult life traveling: I lived for two years in Majuro in the Marshall Islands and made the trip to and from the US four times during that time period, flying thirteen hours each way.  I’ve also traveled internationally in other spots of the world for vacation, traveled quite a bit in the US for work, and now spent much time traveling throughout Oregon both for fun and for work.

At first, when I traveled, I was a fairly strict vegetarian.  This often made lunch, particularly grabbed in an airport, complicated.  I learned to find specific spots in airports I frequented so that I was guaranteed food.  A particular BBQ place in Houston that served a very good baked potato comes to mind.  Though I’m not a vegetarian anymore, I’m still pretty picky about what I eat, so I don’t want to succumb to eating fast food as I transfer planes.  Last year, I traveled to Baltimore and, for the first time, packed my lunch.  It was such a good alternative to trying to find fresh and healthy food, I’ve done it ever since.

So here’s what’s in my carry-on luggage this time.

travel bag components 2

salami wrap oatmeal

Top: Umpqua Oats Oatmeal, In a Pickle Popcorn (Trader Joe’s), instant coffee from Starbucks, a salted dark chocolate bar (also Trader Joe’s), and trail mix (combination of peanuts, Brazil nuts, dried apricots, dried cranberries, dried edamames, and chocolate covered raisins).

Bottom: Salami, provolone cheese, hummus, and lettuce wrap in a tortilla.  These can all handle going unrefrigerated for a while so I’ll eat this between flights, right around lunch time.  Umpqua Oats Oatmeal, wrapped in a plastic bag in my carry on to prevent getting dried oatmeal everywhere on my clothes).

When I get through security at the airport I’ll buy water.  I’ll be well hydrated and well snacked throughout my flights and in the several nights at the hotel.  On the flights back, I’ll take my chances with airport food.

Adventures in Food – Southeast Portland Style

Adventures in Food – Southeast Portland Style

mochi_love

I’m in the process of searching for a new location at which to eat my little lunches. In other words, I’m searching for a new job. It’s a long story and has nothing to do with food, so isn’t worth recounting here. However, I’ve been engaged in the process of job-hunting and was fortunate to have an interview in Southeast Portland, OR this week. Southeast Portland is, I think, one of my new favorite food haunts.

Clay and I stayed at a hotel in Portland that’s close to the Portland Airport called Aloft. It’s in a quirky shopping center that includes a massive Ikea. The Ikea has been near the airport for some time, for at least the ten years we’ve been flying in and out of PDX. Sometime in the last two or three years, the Ikea has acquired friends, including the Aloft hotel, several restaurants, and a number of chain retail stores. The first night there, we went to Famous Dave’s BBQ. I’d originally wanted to go to wood fired pizza/burger place, but am currently evaluating restaurants based on whether or not the seating hurts my back: in this case, I couldn’t stand sitting in the booth of the wood fired pizza/burger place, so Famous Dave’s won out. The food was ok – I still wrestle with my former vegetarian self in places that serve a lot of meat. I had brisket tacos and then ate one of the ribs that Clayton had and secretly wished I’d ordered the ribs. The beer was great, though – the very typical Portland beer list with many, many microbrews on tap.

The next day after the interview, we explored the area around SE 82nd Avenue and SE Division St. I had some familiarity with this area from a meeting a few years ago, so knew that Salt and Straw, which is a lovely artisan ice cream shop on SE Division St., was a must. I also realized that Fubonn Supermarket, which is a very large Asian market one of my foodie friends has highly recommended, is located on SE 82nd Avenue. I couldn’t resist. I’m on a perpetual search for two items from my time spent in the Marshall Islands and Hawaii. One is mochi, which is a Japanese rice cake, often filled with red bean paste. The other is a crispy fried snack made out of fava beans. After wandering the aisles of Fubonn for a while, I found the mochi, but not the fava beans.

mochi

I also found bitter melon, durian, pandan extract, lemon grass, and a number of other items that I wish I had the time this weekend to work with. I didn’t leave empty handed though: I brought home a package of mochi, a package of roasted chestnut kernels, and a can of masaman curry paste. The mochi is nearly all gone and the masaman curry paste will get used sometime soon. The roasted chestnut kernels are an acquired taste I haven’t yet acquired. Not sure what I’m going to do with them yet.roasted_chestnut_kernelmochi_packagemasaman_curry_paste

After an hour in Fubonn, we were hungry. We decided to wander down SE Division St. until we decided what to eat. It was tough to choose – this is a section of Portland that boasts multiple Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese restaurants. We eventually made it up to around SE 32nd Ave. and landed at Sen Yai Noodle, largely because noodles sounded good and there was actual parking in front of the restaurant. It didn’t dawn on me until I got home and started doing additional research that Sen Yai Noodle is part of Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok restaurant wonder. Pok Pok is an equally stunning Thai restaurant on SE Division Ave, very close to Sen Yai Noodle. I only took two photos at Sen Yai – one of the condiments, which included some very spicy peppers, and one of the cranberry drinking vinegar. thai_condimentsdrinking_vinegar

I ordered Lakhana’s Kuaytiaw/Mee Krob Lat Na and was so hungry, and so enamored of the food…well, I ate it all without taking a picture to post here. It was a creamy, egg-y, sauce-y, dish with pork chunks and vegetables over a crispy fried wide noodle. Suffice it to say I devoured it and was satisfyingly stuffed. Not too stuffed to still go to Salt and Straw though!

I’m hoping to make it back to Southeast Portland soon. I’m definitely looking forward to trying Sen Yai Noodle again and shopping at Fubonn with a few recipes in mind. And if we don’t land in Portland on this leg of the job search, I’m sure I’ll have a few more adventures in food coming up.

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