December 31st, 2011 — Reviews, Work
I’m famous on the Xero blog again! To finish off the year with a nice personal post seeing as most of the rest of Xero is off on holiday in New Zealand or Australia where it’s summer I did a piece on the coffee I’ve had in the States on the trips I’ve been on for Xero in the 4 months since we’ve been here.
It was fun to write and it’s getting a few comments and suggestions which is very pleasing! Take a look – Coffee in the USA.
May 8th, 2011 — Reviews, Travels
I was really pleased to find Water Ave coffee after my big walk across the drawbridge by myself on The Mister’s last day of conference. My sinuses were cleared out by the open-air walk but I felt a little thrill when I could smell the coffee roasting when I turned onto the block. I mean, here I was in the city of coffee and I hadn’t yet smelled any actually roasting! I stepped through the door of the ground floor low-rise warehouse and was greeted by a very cool shiny wood interior and blue neon sign. Coffee.
My cappuccino had gorgeous glossy milk, and tasted quite sweet on first sip, then mellowed to an almost neutral taste which I would’ve possibly been critical about but as it was my third coffee of the day it was just what I felt like. As I drank down the cup I had this epiphany that it tasted just like water – that slight taste that cool naturally running spring water has – I had a small debate in my head … I’m not sure it was by design that they crafted it to taste like water, Water Ave is just name of the street! Or is it?
Eventually I found their wi-fi – had certainly come to expect it by now. Couldn’t resist bringing back a bag of beans for my coffee friends at Supreme – hard to resist the orange.
Water Avenue Coffee, 1028 SE Water Ave, Portland @wateravecoffee
May 8th, 2011 — Reviews, Travels
Hadn’t been over to this part of town but I had a work meeting arranged in the railway station, meeting someone coming from Seattle, so decided to go via one of the 2 Baristas. It was a really cool part of town, lots of trees and brick buildings with raised footpaths in some areas and almost cobbled village traffic.
I was greeted in what looked like a lofty entrance-way in the brick building – a few tables and a rather long line of people waiting for takeout. I didn’t realise until I got there and saw the sign that they used Intelligensia beans. I got in line and ordered an 8oz latte – they made their take out cappuccinos in the traditional 5oz cup and I didn’t feel like something so strong. Might’ve been a bad choice because it was the weakest coffee to date and the most bubbly. Mind you we had takeout lattes from Public Domain and they were OK so not an uncommon thing to order. A really funky part of town – would love to have had more time and if we’re back in Portland I definitely want to go and sit in the cafe and experience the great surroundings and undoubtedly better coffee in a porcelain cup – mine still tasted good though! Just compared to the others so far this week it was a little disappointing.
Barista Pearl District, 539 NW 13th Avenue, Portland @baristapdx
May 7th, 2011 — Reviews, Travels
Courier Coffee is a tiny cafe-slash-art gallery – very friendly people, tiny work space, their own roast. I went here on my own one of the afternoons The Mister was in a conference. When I ordered my coffee I was upsold on a delicious choc chip cookie – I should’ve declined as it was more choc than cookie – I don’t mind a tiny bit of choc when it’s mostly cookie.
Coffee was weakish compared to the other cafes we visited but still really good and in the proper espresso style. Most in the cafe were having pour over made in a preserving jar that could be shared into cups! The place felt quite new and perhaps still struggling a bit, like an art store in a small town that no one much goes into. Their sign was handmade and hard to see but I overheard they’ve only been open 8 months so perhaps they’re still building up their place in the neighbourhood.
I also overheard the wi-fi connection and password – otherwise I couldn’t see it offered and it wasn’t clearly help yourself like other cafes. Before I left I had a bit of a New Zealand chat with someone drinking coffee at the bar – it was that kind of friendly place
Courier Coffee, 923 Southwest Oak Street Portland
May 7th, 2011 — Reviews, Travels
After having excellent coffee at Stumptown in New York we were really excited to be in their home roasting town where they have several cafes and the roastery. We went to more than one!
First stop was the Sunday we arrived, to the closest cafe to our hotel, Stumptown Downtown (went here a few times). Such a cool funky place, pastries in the cabinet, people on laptops and it was so great and familiar to order a couple of cappuccinos.
Second cafe to visit was their one on Stark Street which turned out to be really close to the hotel as well – joined to the Ace Hotel which we didn’t realise until we got there – very similar vibe with the cool hotel lounge and wood panelling in the cafe.
Third cafe visit meant a trip to the burbs on the bus out to the roastery – they were undergoing renovations so we didn’t get to see much but it was a really nice community/neighbourhood space with people there for ages on their laptops and people wandering in and out with coffee looking at the art work on the walls.
All their cafes were great! Good consistency, smaller traditional 5 oz cappas, free wifi and the Downtown cafe seemed to be the local hang out for tattooed bike couriers – I almost didn’t feel cool enough to be there!
Stumptown Coffee Roasters @stumptowncoffee
- Downtown – 128 SW 3rd Ave
- Division – 4525 SE Division St
- Stark – 1026 SW Stark
May 6th, 2011 — Reviews, Travels
We were really surprised to find this cafe in the middle of the city, I didn’t have it on my coffee map – Public Domain. It was just a block away from our hotel and right on Broadway, nice and accessible – most of the other cafes I’d researched and put on my coffee map are slightly out of the main shopping area so I was a bit suspicious that this place might be a wannabe – it didn’t seem so funky and ‘alternative’ and was quite modern and new. NOT SO! It’s great and went on to become a hang out during the week.
Our first visit was on Sunday afternoon when we arrived. They have a very cool coffee station with 2 espresso machines side by side – one a Slayer. I could barely contain my excitement. They also had this cool stainless drip tray for jugs with those little pressurized water spouts you often see in bars where they pressed the upturned jug onto the stand and water sprayed up to rinse out the jug.
The coffee was excellent. Nice malty flavour, really well made and consistent every time we went there.
They had great hours – open until 8pm every night and 7 days a week – quite often they had a line out the door and like other places, really enthusiastic about their coffee however with them it was to the point of espresso happy hour and public cupping. Food on offer was mostly pastries including plain croissants which were great for a takeaway breakfast a couple of days. Also, as with most other cafes, offered free obvious wi-fi and one day I sat there for 2 hours working. It’s what you do! Last coffee of Portland was had there this morning.
Public Domain, 603 SW Broadway Portland, @pdcoffee
May 5th, 2011 — Travels
Last day of conferences for The Mister today (NodeConf) – this time he had to go way out the other end of the main city for it. I had a meeting set up with an accountant who was coming down from Seattle to meet me so I didn’t go on The Mrs activities for this conference – although it was a food tour and I knew by now that Portland is a bit of a food town so I was a bit sad to miss out on it.
We had breakfast together at Public Domain and I ended up staying there working for a couple of hours before heading to the edge of the city to Union Station to meet the accountant. I wandered through the rather pretty Pearl District.
I was pretty amazed this accountant would come all the way (3 hours drive) to meet me. It was a great meeting too – she was so enthusiastic about Xero and I learned a bit about how she runs her business and why she loves Xero. Lucky I had some Xero goodies to give her – the keep cups were a huge hit! I’ll probably put a post and video up on the Xero blog when I get back.
In the afternoon after a bit more work back at the hotel I went on my own adventure back over the river – still a couple of places on my coffee map to see and I didn’t feel like working out the bus so I went to one that was quite close on the other side that I could walk to. Took me a while to figure out how to get up onto the bridge and after some initial panic that it was cars only I saw a guy heading towards it so followed him!
This evening I met The Mister half way between the hotel and his conference, which was back in the Pearl District and after a dinner that was not that impressive despite the very cool Italian brick restaurant (too much cardamon in my pasta) we went home on a route that took us past the cupcake shop I’d seen on my walk earlier. YUM – Cupcakes Jones – snaps for being open in the evening and snaps for having mini cupcakes – just a couple of mouthfuls as a sweet treat after dinner.
May 4th, 2011 — Travels
Today was a day off between the 2 conferences The Mister was attending so after we had the morning on Xero business and going to a meeting we had lunch with the locals at one of the strips of food carts.
The afternoon was an adventure – we went on a bus over the river to visit the Stumptown roastery and spent a couple of hours there drinking coffee and using their wi-fi!
Dinner that night was at Mother’s Kitchen and it really was in some oversized dining room!
The food was American I guess, sliders (burgers), duck and beans, house salad etc and much to my delight, key lime pie which I always see reference to in Patricia Cornwell books but felt like I’d never yet had it in the States – this was proper homemade stuff. Such a huge slice though!
May 3rd, 2011 — Travels
Today was the second day of Mrs activities – City day.
We started out with a really great walking tour of the city – makes me want to go on the one in Wellington to see if our guides have got as much to say about Wellington and as many interesting little factoids as the Portland guide Adam did.
Here are a bunch of random things I took in from the tour and regaled to The Mister later – he was so impressed that I’d remembered so much!!
- Could’ve been called Boston over a coin toss.
- The show we watch, Leverage, is filmed here even though it’s set in Boston.
- Largest stand of elm trees in US is outside the Portland Art Museum – originally a park area it was cleared in the days of Sunday walks in your Sunday best as the rest of Portland was covered in trees, then replanted in elms many years later after the rest of Portland city had been cleared and they had no wooded area left – whenever Dutch Elm Disease happened, it wiped out all other elms on other side of the Rockies leaving this group in the Northwest as the largest group.
- Portland is known for it’s sustainable and green initiatives and alternatives including the first gold class (or whatever the ranking system is) green hotel, Hilton.
- In the 70′s the city was fined every 3 days for bad air quality – pollution from cars – and that’s when they got together as a population and decided on a town plan which seems to still be at the heart of everything, they seem to vote and stick to it every couple of years.
- No-one in Portland uses an umbrella – that’s how you can tell a tourist – locals just wear something with a hood and deal with it!
- Shop and building signs aren’t allowed to stick out over the sidewalk – for pedestrian convenience supposed to be able to see 5 blocks in any direction when crossing the street (you can, I tried it!)
- Portland known for 3 liquids water (unfiltered ) beer and coffee – the beer and coffee is good because of the water.
- No pigeons in the city because falcons live under the bridges and peck them off if they are anywhere other than a couple of the enclosed city parks.
- Smallest park in the world maintained by Portland parks and rec is in a traffic island – Mill Ends.
After a lunch we rode the free inner city train to China Town for a wander around the Lan Su Gardens that were crammed into one city block. It was nice and tranquil and I got chatting to one of the wives who wanted to hear all about New Zealand as she was trying to convince her husband they should move there. I also got to see my first ever hummingbird – it was really close to my head and easy to see on the orange-coloured tree but it buzzed away by the time I got my camera zoomed onto it.
That evening we went with this couple to the top of the tallest building in Portland (that we’d had pointed out from the bus yesterday) to have cocktails at sunset. It was a great view from up there and a really clear evening that we were really lucky to get!
May 2nd, 2011 — Travels
Today was the first of the ‘Mrs Days’ of JSConf – more typically known as the ‘Significant Other Track’ – while the conference-goers are choosing whether to attend talks on Track A or Track B, their partners can be entertained by the conference organiser’s wife.
Our first day of activities – Nature Day.
After a bit of getting-to-know you just after dropping our partners off at the conference we all boarded a bus for a trip out of the city to some falls and a tour of a historical mansion. I was almost last on the bus and it was amazing how quickly others had formed a click – I sat towards the back of the bus for an excellent vantage point of the groups forming up front. If you know the movie Miss Congeniality, you’ll know what I mean when I say it was like the bus trip that left the Alamo for the Miss United States Pageant! I noticed that the majority of the group were dark-haired and all extremely chatty “and like, my friend, like, is totally hooked up with, like the latest shops in her neighbourhood but I’m like, “girlfriend it’s one and a half times the cost of living in that neighbourhood, I put our expenses through one of those calculators and like it’s totally out of reach”". There was a much older couple on the bus and I wondered if they accompanied their son to the conference and were eligible for the Significant Other Track. The wives were all so chatty – I wonder if it’s because we’re all married to geeks who just sit in dark rooms and code all the time … I met one girl who was new to knitting and using a round needle on the sleeve of a sweater she was knitting she was able to walk, talk, stand and knit so the sleeve grew heaps during that first day.
The trip out of the city was pretty – the day was a bit misty and we followed the river along the border between Oregon and Washington states. We wound up into the hills to a vantage point and then onto the amazing Multnomah Falls – the second highest all year round falls in the States (assume Niagara is the first?)
We had lunch in the lodge at the falls – a giant corned beef on rye for me – had to take most of the meat out – it was enormous! It was freezing at the falls, I guess the spray kept the area around the water cool.
After the falls we toured the Pittock Mansion – an early settling lumber family in the region. I don’t really have much patience for listening to tour guides talk about old stoves and bedrooms and faucets and customs but it was quite cathartic to show some interest and let it wash over me. The house wasn’t that spectacular compared to some of those I’ve seen in Europe but interesting enough. (Gosh that sounds a bit snobby and well-travelled!)
Dinner tonight was at Clyde Common joined to the Ace Hotel. A place with a daily fresh produce menu where everyone sat at long shared tables. We sat up at the bar and after finding out that the bar tender was from Melbourne, we ate there rather than at a table. It was a great fresh meal – I had wholemeal pasta with asparagus, broad beans and other vegies and The Mister had “the best f’ing pork chop ever” (Ed. note later … turned out to be best meal of the trip). Another guy came to sit at the bar by himself and eventually we found out that he was from Australia (and knew the bar tender it turned out … who knew Australia was so small?) and had been attending the conference too so he and The Mister geeked on for a while, ordered port and cocktails, while I nodded supportively like a good wife and pretended that I was still present in the conversation while I checked Twitter and email (yaaaay for free wi-fi!).