Fireside

Fireside Restaurant, Portland, Oregon

Have you ever tried to describe Portland cuisine to people who haven’t been here? Usually I end up saying things like, “Lots of pork belly,” “New American” or “Comfort food.” It’s hard to define sometimes, the places that we love here in Portland who aren’t serving a style of food, per se, but food that we like. It has fresh ingredients, it’s prepared with care and we often get to enjoy it in well-designed, cozy spaces with people we care about. We are lucky to live here, indeed.

Fireside Restaurant, Portland, Oregon

I was introduced to Fireside (in what used to the the Music Millenium building on NW 23rd) by some clients of mine. I had a bowl of their leek and potato soup, and I came back three days later for lunch because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Fireside does that Portland thing well — comforting, well-prepared food from stellar ingredients, served in a cozy space. The people watching is good, the menu selections are delicious and varied and I’ll be back for more very soon.

Fireside Restaurant, Portland, Oregon

Fireside is at 801 NW 23rd Ave. Go for lunch, happy hour or dinner and for the love — have some of the daily soup.

Quin

Quin candy shop, Portland, Oregon

At the tender age of 2 years old, I broke my arm. I don’t remember exactly how it happened because, as we’ve already covered, I was 2 years old. It was something about a swingset accident — normal kid stuff. The point is, it’s really pitiful to see a 2-year-old with a tiny little cast. I would imagine it’s akin to seeing a kitten in a cast (which I did actually see once, and I can vouch that it’s pretty heartbreaking).

Quin candy shop, Portland, Oregon

Being a laid-up 2-year-old with her arm in a cast raised great sympathy from my community. My uncle Dave (who was not really my uncle, but a good family friend) showed up at my bedside later in the day bearing gifts. He brought with him two bags of M&Ms.

“Hopefully these will make your arm feel better,” he said. I ate them, relishing the attention and the chocolate, and proclaimed that they did, indeed, make my arm feel better. And from then on, whenever a kid in my family was hurt, the magic cure was M&Ms. Stitches from a nasty fall? I’ve got just the cure. Had to have a tetanus shot? You’re getting M&Ms too.

Quin candy shop, Portland, Oregon

Candy has a way of making everything feel better (and boy, I’m sure my dietician friend could tell you how this particular parenting strategy did a number on my relationship with food). The cheery, tiny little candy shop Quin, in the city’s West End district, is pure joy. It’d pull anyone out of a funk. This candy is handmade here in Portland, packaged in pretty little containers and ready to bring happiness to the world. My picks are the coffee orange caramels and the tangerine gumdrops. The artisan marshmallows have a reputation for miles around.

Quin candy shop, Portland, Oregon

Find Quin at 1025 SW Stark St.

What’s the Scoop?

What's the Scoop?, North Portland, Oregon

When I was little, my dad had a BetaMax camera that he used for gathering family memories. He had a signature style — narrating from behind the camera, asking his kids lots of questions in order to illicit the most adorable responses and actions, and having long, drawn-out goodbyes at the end of each segment.

A few years ago, for Christmas, we had all the old BetaMax tapes updated and put on DVDs as a surprise for my mom. She loved them, and we sat around for hours that Christmas reliving all the hilarious (and sometimes monotonous) daily goings-on of the Gray household in the 1980s.

In one particularly cute interchange between my dad and I, I sit in just a diaper in an oversized high chair, hair in a very fashion-forward mullet style. My dad cues me with a call-and-response song:

Do you like ice cream? I said:

Yes, I do!

Do you love ice cream? I said:

Yes, I do!

Would you like some? I said:

Yes, I would!

Cause it’s good, good, good.

What's the Scoop?, North Portland, Oregon

Clearly my childhood was filled with lots of this frozen treat. It’s a good thing since I live in a city that values their ice cream so much. I recently found a new and absolutely delicious spot on N. Williams Ave. — What’s the Scoop? Their signature flavor is the brown butter almond brittle (every bit as delicious as it sounds). Pair it with a housemade, fresh-off-the-press “fortune cookie” cone and you’ve got a winning pair.

What's the Scoop?, North Portland, Oregon

Run, don’t walk, to What’s the Scoop?, located at 3540 N. Williams Ave. Follow them on Twitter for more of the sweet stuff.

Popina Swimwear

Popina Swimwear, NW Portland, Oregon

I need you to understand something about me: I love water slides. I think they’re just about the most fun you can have. I trace this love of water slides back to being a kid, when I was too scared to ride most roller coasters but water slides were just my speed. I also grew up swimming, so when I’m on a water slide, I’m in my element.

One of my favorite places on the planet is Wild Waves, near Seattle. Yeah, I know it’s a little gross to be all dripping wet and barefoot with a million kids and their wet band-aids, but when I’m there, I’m on cloud nine. We used to go up there from time to time when I was a kid, and when I was too little to really ride water slides all by myself, my dad would always take me down the infamous green slides (which are so not the best slides anymore). My dad, like me, prefers his feet to be on the ground when it comes to thrill rides, but he definitely appreciates the laid-back and fun nature of a water slide.

Who wants to come with me on a nationwide tour of water parks? We could hit Schlitterbahn, Water World and Splashin’ Safari?

Popina Swimwear, NW Portland, Oregon

The only challenge to all that water slide fun is, of course, finding an acceptable bathing suit. Fear not, Portlanders — we’re covered. I know it doesn’t make a lot of intuitive sense that we’d have our own local swimwear designer, but we do and she’s awesome. Pamela Levenson, owner of Popina Swimwear, designs super-cute vintage-inspired swimsuits and shopping for them is actually fun. Bring your man friend — they’ll make him feel like he’s already on vacation with free Hawaiian beer while he waits for you to decide between suits.

Popina Swimwear, NW Portland, Oregon

Popina Swimwear is located in the Pearl District at 318 NW 11th Ave. and in the Hollywood District at 4831 NE 42nd Ave.  Follow the owner on Twitter, and let me know if you’re up for my awesome national water park tour!

Local Choice Market

Local Choice Market, NW Portland, Oregon

I decided it was finally time to take Eric to Madrid. I studied abroad there — and he’d patiently take my calls at all hours because of the time difference — but he’d never walked the streets I loved, tasted the tapas, drank the wine and strolled through the Puerta del Sol.

For a week, we wandered. I walked him past the apartment I lived in, the school I attended and the spots where I used to meet my friends for dinner and drinks. And then, once the trip down memory lane concluded, we went off in a new direction, looking for a spot we could call our own. We found it in Chueca — a large, four-story gourmet grocery store with a restaurant on the top floor. We walked past fresher-than-fresh seafood onto an entire floor lined with small stalls. One sold hamburgers, another traditional tapas. Twice we ate dinner there, relishing the food, the view and the experience.

Local Choice Market, NW Portland, Oregon

I hadn’t seen anything quite like this grocery store in Portland until I happened on Local Choice Market. They offer seasonal veggies and high-quality meats, then have a special area for wines and beer (pull up a stool and taste something!) a deli section and an area with an espresso bar and fresh-squeezed juice selections. Pull up a chair and make some new Portland memories.

Local Choice Market, NW Portland, Oregon

Local Choice Market is located at 830 NW Everett St. in Portland’s Pearl District. Do your shopping, or stop in for a juice, lunch, coffee or wine tasting. Follow their blog for more.