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Travelzoo Experience: Eating My Way through Portland

One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.

It literally rained the entire time I was in Portland. Every. Single. Minute. This put a damper (ha!) on my plans to explore the city on foot and turned into a three-day tour to savor some of the goodies Portland is known for … from the safe dryness indoors. I booked a two-night package to River's Edge that left me with three days of eating. Perfect.

Day one:

Suffering a three-hour delay leaving San Francisco after work, my friends were forced to cancel our dinner reservation. Don't worry about us -- we went straight from the airport to Salt & Straw, a gourmet ice creamery.

Unlike those places where servers scoff if you ask to sample more than one flavor, here they showed endless patience and even suggested more flavors to try! From the unique (Honey Balsalmic Strawberry with Cracked Pepper) to the even more unique (Pear with Blue Cheese) to amazing versions of classic combos like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, I would have probably happily stopped my trip here. I ended up getting a half-scoop of Peppermint Mocha (a new seasonal flavor) and a half-scoop of their most popular Sea Salt Ice Cream with Caramel Ribbon. Ahh-mazing!

Day two:

I woke up refreshed and ready for one of my favorite weekend pastimes. Even back home, I take brunch very seriously. Here in Portland, we checked out The Side Door and patiently waited for a table (while sipping iced coffee spiked with Bailey’s). This Southern-style restaurant had dishes I was familiar with like cheese grits and biscuits and gravy as well as some that were unfamiliar. We split several dishes, both sweet and savory. My favorite were the Pumpkin Ricotta Fritters … and I'm still regretting our choice not to try the Red Velvet Griddle Cakes.

Dinner brought us to Toro Bravo. Because they don't take reservations, we headed upstairs to a neighboring bar called Secret Society for our wait. It had a speakeasy feel and an attached ballroom where a live band played as couples practiced swing dances on the hardwood. We, however, sat on the sidelines… and snacked. They served incredible popcorn flavors as well as super fresh drinks with silly names like Bee’s Knees and Hot Grammy.

Eventually it was time to head to dinner. The restaurant had some dishes that were too adventurous for my primarily non-meat eating palate but I’d highly recommend the Grilled Flat Bread with Black Truffle Cheese & Arugula and my friends raved about the Harira Moroccan Lamb & Lentil Stew.

Day three:

The deal I booked came with a dining credit to Aquariva which we used to check out the onsite restaurant for brunch which consisted of delectable beignets and oatmeal with raspberries and brown butter.

Lunch was at a classic spot in Northwest called Papa Hayden. It was time for a salad. Convinced that it counted as something healthy, we then nabbed a couple desserts to share later as the restaurant is known for its sweet treats including an incredible Banana Coconut Cream Pie.

While I did still get a chance to explore "The Pearl" from the dry safeness of a car, and shop a bit at Pioneer Place, forget leaving my heart in San Francisco, I'd say I left my stomach in Portland.

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Deal Expert, New York