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I stopped by this small, independent student coffee shop in Reed College, Portland for a chamomile lavender tea. There was a decent selection of loose leaf teas to choose from, and what looked to be a legitimate coffee/espresso/cappuccino operation as well. I was advised that the sizes all cost the same for tea, and went with a medium. While there was no honey, they did have sugar in the raw, which is surpassed only by that powdered honey stuff you can get at Law Coffee. There were the requisite funky velvet lounge chairs and Victorian glass lanterns on the ceiling. My visit occurred during Reed’s spring break, so the cafe was in immaculate, deserted condition.

Reed College (SW corner of student union), 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd., Portland, OR 97202 USA

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Andina; B+

You’ll find this trendy Peruvian hotspot on the edge of the developing Pearl District in Portland – but be sure to make reservations first before strolling in. We managed to squeeze into the stylish bar area at 8:45pm for small plates and drinks. The (other) diners were hip, our server was polished and unflappable, and there was live ethnic-sounding music – I don’t pretend to know anything about Peru, but my humble ears were willing to believe that it was Peruvian. As a side effect, the guitarist’s amplifier made small talk difficult.

I was less than impressed with the actual food, though this might have been due to expecting more Spanish or Basque flavors than Peruvian; the bread basket and dessert ended up being the highlights of the evening. Instead of a commonplace dinner roll with butter or olive oil, we were started off with peppercorn bread accompanied by three different sauce-like salsas of varying piquancy. While our small plates were generously portioned, they were not seasoned as vibrantly as those initial salsas. Our favorites were the curled Serrano ham and the quinoa-stuffed red peppers; the yellow and purple potato salad and the cheese-stuffed yucca both seemed bland in comparison. We tried two of the specialty drinks but finished neither – the preprandial purple corn drink was non-alcoholic, but so thickly sweet it might as well have been; in contrast, my postprandial “authentic” Mayan Xocoatl tasted like alcohol-heavy Swiss Miss. Dessert saved the evening, as the chocolate gelato was rich and chocolaty and the cinnamon chocolate cake was very light and moist.

1314 NW Glisan St., Portland, OR 97209, USA

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Nestled in a restaurant-rich street in the NW quarter of Portland, you’ll find Paley’s Place. Walk up the porch and go inside where the hostess will seat you with homey charm. The interior is like an upper middle class house, and the careful servers make diners feel like welcome guests. The entrance boasts a 2005 James Beard award, and their 2008 cookbook is available at the hostess table. Menus change daily, but the general theme is local sustainability.

The crusty, rustic bread basket and butter was a welcome start to the evening. We then shared a julep cup of hot, crispy hand-cut fries with coarse mustard aoli as an appetizer and each got half portions for our entrees, as dish sizes are very generous. My sweet breads were crispy, but the Spätzle and sauce were a bit greasier than I would have liked. We concluded the evening with chocolates and confections, which was a pleasant selection of candied citrus peel, truffle, ice cream cake, and brittle.

1204 NW 21st Ave., Portland, OR 97209, USA

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It somehow seems appropriate that this tiny cash-only, counter service doughnut place is located next to an adult theater by the seedier part of town. Voodoo Doughnut, a local institution, is an alternative doughnut bakery between downtown and the Pearl District in Portland. Branded clothing proclaiming that “the secret is in the hole” and bumper stickers admitting that “I got VD in Portland” should clue one into the general vibe of the place, as should the walls plastered with obituaries and zombie paraphernalia. A steady stream of old and young customers, some of whom commented that they’d driven out of their way especially to try one of the VD donuts, flow in and out. Rumor has it that even Reed College regularly offers their donuts at their internal meetings.

Voodoo donuts are just slightly more expensive than those at low-end fast food joints, and with their colorful PG-13 (13 ans+) titles, inventive sweet toppings, and anatomically correct shapes are definitely worth the extra dollar. Half of the menu is vegan and the current offerings are paraded about a rotating display case so one can visually inspect each pastry before making final selection. I enjoyed a vegan Old Dirty Bastard, which was a plain doughnut drizzled with chocolate and peanut butter sauces and encrusted with Oreo pieces, and a “butterfingered” vanilla-glazed devil’s food doughnut. They’d run out of chocolate milk, so I settled for a small apple juice instead.

22 SW 3rd Ave., Portland, OR, USA

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This mediocre sushi restaurant in downtown Portland was rated subpar for two major reasons:

Reason 1: Mystery food. My pickle salad appetizer had pickled daikon, pickled ginger, and a mass of mysterious beet-dyed pickled slivers that I thought might be pickled plums. It didn’t taste bad, but I prefer informed eating. The waitress didn’t know what it was, the cooks couldn’t identify it – I was going to have to wait for the manager to come back for identification. As the manager hadn’t returned by the time I was ready to leave, I’ll never know.

Reason 2: Bad rice. It’s glaringly obvious when rice is poorly cooked, and the rice here was gluey and unpleasant in my mouth. The fact that it was slightly warm under each piece of fish, which I usually prefer in sushi dishes, did not help the fact that it was overcooked using too much water.

606 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205-3401 USA

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This is a popular high end West Coast coffee shop chain which apparently precludes Starbucks. This particular store is conveniently situated in downtown Portland, on the corner of SW Broadway and SW Washington St.. Baked goods include expectedly bland and doughy scones, coffee cake, and muffins, but it being the Northwest, there are several decent vegan options as well. Coffee is good (so says my husband) and perfectly heated, rich-yet-not-too-rich hot cocoa is actually good as well. The convincing green tea freddo, a delicately sweet ice and milky drink run through a blender, is also enjoyable. “Taste” each loose leaf tea option by inhaling each spice-sized container by the door.

508 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205 USA (close to Pioneer Place)

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