Grassa, Portland, Oregon

In my high school days, I was a drama kid. As in, I acted in plays and musicals. And I both looked up to and feared one of my drama teachers, Jeff. I feared him because everyone feared that if you made him mad enough, he’d never cast you in a play again.

One time, I got asked to babysit his kids, which was essentially equivalent to being invited into the inner circle, I think. It meant he trusted you enough to trust you with his own children and thought you were responsible. In my 16-year-old brain, this translated directly into being considered responsible enough to play a leading role in some upcoming play.

I arrived at his house (getting to see where a teacher lived was always so weird and exciting), got my babysitting instructions and met the dog, and then he and Koleen headed out for the night. The kids were easy — a great age, pretty autonomous and I already knew them — and the job was going to be a slam dunk. I was convinced that if I could just be the best babysitter they’d ever had, I’d be his favorite student from then on. Lead roles straight through until graduation.

Job number one was to feed the kids. They had left me a blue box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese — easy. But somehow (and I do not even know how this is possible) I burnt it. Ruined it. And then I panicked. The kids had to eat something! I couldn’t put his children to sleep with empty bellies! What was I going to do?!

With the kids’ help, I started rummaging around in the pantry, looking for something else to feed them. I guess there wasn’t anything dinner-like that I knew how to cook, so somehow I settled on Pop-Tarts. Then I guiltily swore the kids to secrecy, knowing that my own mother would not approve of this as an acceptable dinner food. I feared I’d be watching every show from the wings if they found out I fed their kids Pop-Tarts for dinner. The burnt macaroni and cheese in the garbage can couldn’t possibly have given me up.

I put the kids to bed in the middle of a sugar high and spent roughly the next two months interpreting everything he said to me as a possible reaction to my poor babysitting skills. But they grew up pretty great, and Jeff is now my friend and not my scary teacher, so I’d say we made it through OK.

Grassa, Portland, Oregon

There is no sign of burnt macaroni at Grassa, in Portland’s West End district. The pasta here is creamy, delicious and handcrafted. We split an arugula salad with fresh ground hazelnuts, then enjoyed an order of the strozzapretti (anchovies, olives, capers and chilies) and the bucatini (with hazelnut pesto). It was a simple, lovely dinner and we’ll certainly be back again.

Grassa, Portland, Oregon

Grassa Handcrafted Pasta can be found at 1205 SW Washington Street in Portland’s West End district. All things handcrafted pasta on Twitter.

Bread & Broth

Bread & Broth, Portland, Oregon

We were just on the tails of a trip to Scandinavia to see our friends get married and we were short on money. Plus, I was sure we’d be exhausted after our wedding and that we’d just want to relax. So that’s why I suggested that we go to Arizona on our honeymoon. It was a short flight, it would be warm in October and we could just lay by the pool for a week. Foolproof plan. Right?

I was right in the beginning — for at least 36 hours, we were exhausted. But then, after we slept, we came out into the hot desert sun looking for something to do. And we weren’t coming up with much. We don’t golf, we didn’t have any money, we got bored after an hour of laying by the pool. We thought about going to the Grand Canyon, but I wasn’t old enough to drive the rental car and people drove so fast that making the drive freaked us out. We walked through antique shop after antique shop — we don’t like antiques. We bought visors and aviators as a joke. We drank margaritas. We kicked around the idea of driving our rental car over state lines and heading for Vegas. Then we decided it wasn’t a good idea.

After a week, we saw maybe three interesting things and we’ve never been so glad to be home. Sorry Arizona, but you’re not my jam.

Bread & Broth, Portland, Oregon

Even though the food is better, I always imagine that vacationing in Portland might be a little on the boring side. We don’t have huge tourist infrastructure (although, admittedly, it’s growing a lot now). I love living here, but would I vacation here?

If you’ve been downtown this summer, you know that people are legitimately on vacation in Portland. I usually spot them unsurely pedaling their way through our downtown bike lanes, not sure which direction they’re heading, or standing in front of the food carts at 9th & Washington.

The cart Bread & Broth makes a killer tofu sandwich: Tofu steaks with vegenaise, avocado and red onion on a perfectly soft baguette. This place is highly recommended — if you can fight your way through the tangles of tourists crowding the sidewalks.

Bread & Broth, Portland, Oregon

Bread & Broth is a food cart in the immensely popular pod at 9th & Washington, downtown. Find these sandwich-making dudes on Twitter and Facebook.

Have you eaten at Bread & Broth? Which sandwich/soup combo is your favorite?

Petunia’s Pies and Pastries

Petunia's Pies and Pastries, Portland, Oregon

We’re a real estate family, and as such, every year we visit the Street of Dreams. These houses are absolutely crazy visions for fancy lifestyles, and usually located on big plots of land far away from the city. You can walk through bedroom after bedroom, admiring high-tech home gadgets and over-the-top interior design.

The one that put it all to shame was the Tiffany nursery. It was at least five years ago, and in one of the houses, there was a bedroom. It was designed for a little girl, and the walls were Tiffany blue (matched exactly, I’m sure, to that signature shade). In the middle of the room hung an elaborate chandelier.

“I want this,” my sister Emily said, as she entered the room. She shuffled us all into the room and imagined it as her one-day nursery for a far-off twinkle in her eye. We looked, and then we moved on to the other houses. But not Emily. She kept that room locked into the vault of her mind for years and when I remodeled my house last year, a look came over her face as she walked through one day.

“What are you going to do with that chandelier?” she asked. I shrugged. “Can I have it?” And I saw the look — she was taking the first step to building a Tiffany nursery with a chandelier for a twinkle in her eye that might be a reality someday soon. I know she’ll create a room that’s sweet and perfect.

Petunia's Pies and Pastries, Portland, Oregon

That kind of sweet, girly charm is what I found at Petunia’s Pies and Pastries. What started as a farmer’s market stand a few years back has now snagged a prime location sandwiched between two of the cutest shops in the West End district and has made a soothing and seriously adorable little spot. Pink walls, vases of fresh flowers and gorgeous vegan and gluten-free pastries abound.

It’s a great place to take a decadent little afternoon break. Sit by the window, enjoy a salted caramel cookie bar (one of the shop’s best sellers) and an iced tea and dream about what the future might bring.

Petunia's Pies and Pastries, Portland, Oregon

Petunia’s Pies and Pastries, 610 SW 12th Ave., in downtown’s hip West End district.


Canoe, Portland, Oregon

It was way too late to still be at school, but we sat in the pickup truck together in the parking lot, under the glow of buzzing lights, as he told me that he didn’t like me in that way.

The day before is when I let my affections be known, through a note (which I thought of as romantic, but was really a way to tell him without getting up the nerve to look right at him). That day after our rehearsal, he asked if we could talk. We went out and sat in his truck until the sun set and it was just us in the parking lot.

A year younger than me, he seemed to be wise beyond his years and more compassionate than most high school boys. He looked me in the eye, and he told me the things he loved about me. He told me the traits I have that make me a great friend, and then — softly — he told me that he just didn’t want to date me. And he was sorry about that — I could tell how sorry he actually was.

As time wore on and our conversation bubbled into laugher, stretched into long silences and ended in a hug, I made my way from the truck back to my car and then home. The boy that I had in my sights for more than a year had said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and I somehow didn’t feel heartbroken. All because he was so classy about it. It was the classiest gesture I’d ever experienced, and that thoughtfulness hasn’t been matched many times in my life in the 12 years since it happened.

Canoe, Portland, Oregon

Classy and thoughtful, through and through — which is exactly how I’d describe Canoe.

Everything inside is lovely, purposefully arranged and accompanied by a little note that tells you about its origins. If you’re in the market for a thoughtful gift, this is absolutely the place to go. The staff tenderly wraps purchases, slips a little treat inside and provides care instructions for your gift. This kind of care is rare — appreciate it, like I did my friend who let me down so gently all those years ago.

Canoe, Portland, Oregon

Canoe, 1136 SW Alder Street, in downtown’s West End district. For more impeccable taste and curation, check them out on Twitter and Pinterest.

Blue Star Donuts

Blue Star Donuts, Portland, Oregon

He may have been 20 years too old, and he may have been my orthodontist, but that guy was hot. Every time I went in to have my braces tightened, my little fourth-grader stomach got butterflies. He looked like Paul Rudd. I would sit in his chair, mouth agape, trying to laugh at his jokes and be ladylike while he checked my teeth over. I’m sure it happened to him constantly.

The combination of Mr. Super Hot Orthodontist and what happened next made my early-morning orthodontist appointments totally worth it. I may have been the first patient in at 6:30, but after the hardware was taken care of for another month, my dad and I would head to Shirley’s Coffee House in downtown Beaverton, where I’d always have their signature coffee cake, which was dense and sweet and delicious. It was my favorite.

For twenty minutes, I got to enjoy a delicious, well-made baked good (and usually some hot chocolate) and some time with my dad. Taking a moment to sit with someone you love and eat something comforting is one of my favorite things.

Blue Star Donuts, Portland, Oregon

At Blue Star Donuts, you can find beautiful, comforting pastries and a quiet moment to sit. Pastry chef Stephanie Thornton makes her donuts warm, comforting and high-quality. All I know is, I’m never eating another donut in my life that doesn’t come from this shop.

I haven’t had them all, but each one I’ve had has been delicious. The main reason I haven’t had them all is because the second one I tried was a buttermilk old-fashioned and it was so good, it’s all I can order when I go back. I’d bet money that the hard apple cider fritter is just as delicious. At once sweet, milky and tart, this old-fashioned is like nothing you’ve tasted in a donut shop before. Wash it down with Stumptown coffee or Steven Smith tea. I recommend the chamomile.

Blue Star opens each morning with a fresh supply of donuts and stays open until they’re gone. For best results, come early and bring someone you love.

Blue Star Donuts, Portland, Oregon

The only donut you’ll ever need lives at 1237 SW Washington St. in downtown’s endlessly hip West End district. More donuts? Check out the Twitter feed.

Alder & Co.

Alder & Co., Portland Oregon

Due to a combination of overtiredness from the trip and nerves, I felt sick to my stomach as the plane landed in Barcelona. I was 17, I was going abroad for the first time, and I was about to meet the girl (and her family) that I’d be living with for the next month.

I needn’t have worried — I know that now — because that girl has been a friend to me ever since that summer. But before I knew her, her world was new and exciting and just a little scary. The next morning, Conchi came into my room to wake me up, speaking in the second language I had not yet mastered and way too fast to understand at half-asleep. I panicked. I had no idea what she was saying and I had no idea how I was going to get my bearings.

Alder & Co., Portland, Oregon

It all got better quickly from there — it was summer in Barcelona, and as high school students our job was to have fun, get to know each other and speak Spanish. Most days we’d head to the beach, or on a walk through the Barri Gòtic. I learned more in that month about the world, myself and new friendship than I ever had before, and that trip started a love affair with Spain that has seen me through five trips in 12 years and fostered a friendship with a family that treats me like one of their own.

That first summer, wherever we went, Conchi and my other Spanish friends all wore the same shoes — leather avarcas, which were worn-in, comfy and the ultimate summer sandal. On a later trip, I got my own pair, which I have long since lost, and I always have a pang of nostalgia whenever I see anyone wearing these sandals.

Alder & Co., Portland, Oregon

Seeing these avarcas for sale — imported from Spain — at Alder & Co. in downtown’s West End district, takes me back to that first summer, playing beach volleyball at Barceloneta and eating helado while “Asereje” blasted in my headphones.

Alder & Co. is a curated shop — but not like the very curated shop just a couple doors down. This place has a more accidental, even serendipitous, feeling. I love the collections, from brightly-colored books to rare finds like Swedish magazines and handcrafted housewares.

Alder & Co., Portland, Oregon

Alder & Co. is located at 616 SW 12th St. in downtown Portland’s west end district. If you’re not in Portland, you can shop online! Follow the shop on instagram for more eye candy.