Local cider, killer food, waterfront charm; a must-eat piece of Portland…

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Portland proved to be the perfect city to explore for this brief visit and lived up to its unknown hype of being one of the places I was most looking forward to visiting on this roadtrip. Its gentle, ‘out-there’ vibe allows the locals freedom to do and be what they want and the tourists a chance to experience one of America’s freshest and hippest places without fear or confusion. Everywhere we roamed gave us the opportunity to see a neighbourhood that was different from the one before and each made us feel as welcome as if we’d been there every day of our lives.

By the end of our time here, our hot little feet were in need of a rest and our parched little throats were in need, quite frankly, of a good alcoholic beverage. Something cold, crisp and with fizz. Wandering along the beautiful waterfront and through the Tom McCall park, named after the Oregon governor who supported the revitalisation of the area, we came across a string of restaurants all looking out along the Willamette River as joggers, cyclists and dog walkers took full advantage of the setting sun, the warm evening air and err, the sounds of a bagpiper sharing his music lustily with the world.

Odd? Yes. Unexpected? Maybe. Portland? Absolutely.

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Q: How do you fill your belly with 24 hours in Portland? A: You start with cheese & ice-cream…

Grilled cheese and ice-cream and donuts and duck and kale and figs and cider…this is my prescription to you for sustaining yourself through a day in Portland.

Do not eat it all at once. Do not expect it all to be in the same part of the city. Do not concern yourself with thinking about how you’re going to eat all of this and not end up a) the newest and squidgiest contestant on ‘The Biggest Loser’ or b) horizontal on a park bench somewhere clutching your tummy and whispering to yourself ‘How did I get here? How did this happen?’. Trust me when I say you will easily walk it off; in fact after 24’000 steps spent personally trotting around this oddly charming, hip and I-don’t-really-care-what-you-think city, I guarantee it.

When J and I put Portland on our road-trip map earlier this year, we were both really looking forward to seeing what it had to offer – it’s notorious for being a bit artsy, a bit hipster, a bit laid back – but I was especially excited because the food scene in America’s 29th most populated city has literally exploded over the past few years, leaving food trucks and independent cafes and world class restaurants in its wake. With literally too much choice for the time allowed, decisions had to be made about what we’d be eating otherwise, frankly, it was all going to end in my confused-and-overwhelmed-and-over-stuffed-tears.

With a critical harshness that would make Simon Cowell give me a slow hand clap, we ended up with the Grilled Cheese Grill food truck, Salt & Straw farm-to-cone ice-cream, classic-brioche-with-an-unexpected-twist Blue Star Donuts and Veritable Quandary, a local landmark in Portland’s restaurant scene since 1971.

This post is going to cover the little comers of Portland devoted to cheese and ice-cream so first, who’s up for the best grilled cheese of their lives at Grilled Cheese Grill, a nonchalantly-cool-but-casual converted school bus…?

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