We have a family tradition here, begun with Sophia, that when a daughter turns sixteen, there is a trip to Portland for a long weekend. The fixed parts of the trip are a visit to The Perfume House to choose a signature scent, and my sister hanging out with us all weekend. Beyond that, the daughter in question chooses the activities.
Clara adores fashion, and has been our chef and baker since Sophia began college classes, so her trip centered around fashion and food. Conveniently enough, since Portland is a mecca for both.
We headed out on a Friday morning
in the driving rain just after breakfast and arrived for lunch downtown. We ended up having some mediocre sushi and looked at shoes at Nordstrom Rack a bit before meeting up with my sister. She manages a wonderful apartment building downtown and she’d set up a vacancy for a little vacation spot, as well as having stopped by Crave Bakeshop to pick up cake pops.
Off to the Perfume House
There is a wonderful woman there, who helped us find Sophia’s signature scent as well. Each time we go, we regret not having asked her name! She is just fabulous; taking us on a tour of fragrances, educating each daughter’s nose, and helping her to narrow in on what it is she likes and dislikes in a scent. The Perfume House is “the world’s largest collection of real fragrances” and is such a treasure. The original owner, an official “nose”, assisted me 22 years ago in finding a signature scent.
Sister and I functioned as extra arm space for testing various scents and notes for Clara, and we finally left, smelling delicious and feeling as though we’d been in a magical country for hours. Clara had found a scent that she loved, although we have to laugh at the somewhat mortifying name of it: “Cute Blue” by Mandarina Duck. Her runner up perfume was “Fairy Dance” so that was just as bad!
We then shopped vintage and thrift stores up Hawthorne Street and Clara bought a fun charm bracelet watch. Hungry, we decided to re-visit a Thai spot we’d hit on Sophia’s birthday trip. Great decision. Food was wonderful and reasonably priced, and decor had been bumped up since our last visit.
After dinner, we shopped for some nail polish and headed back to the apartment for mani/pedis:
Up bright the next morning for our main fashion day. Clara was excited to head toward the inspiration offered along Alberta and Mississippi Streets and their more indie fashion spots, so that was where we were headed. But first, to a boulangerie for breakfast. These are from the amazing St. Honoré Bakery.
I will add the disclaimer that we did have something healthy prior to leaving the apartment! Thus fortified, we headed off to be inspired by fashion.
Salt and Straw, an artisanal ice cream shop is oh so conveniently located for when energy flags:
After yet more shopping, we were ready for lunch. Podnah’s Pit Barbeque makes many lists of “don’t miss while in Portland”, and was nearby, so that’s where we headed. Bananagrams was just the ticket for waiting for our order:
Which was another delicious meal. I have to agree with reviewers – great food.
When we ran out of fashion, we talked Clara into a “quick” trip to Title Wave. This is where Multnomah County sells their used library books. The sun popped out for a moment as we arrived:
After awhile there, we abandoned our original plan of hitting a food cart for dinner (still being stuffed) and opted instead to do a salad and leftovers back at the apartment . . .
. . . before heading out for contra dancing. My sister really stepped in where I couldn’t, as there were many moments that I had to sit on this trip. Her gift of energy was so appreciated. I worked on some handsewing for a Nisqually dress for Clara while I watched, and tapped my foot, and felt like Mrs. Bennet! Clara had a very good time contra dancing and found it similar enough to what she does at Nisqually to catch on quickly, and she never lacked for a partner.
We finally left at 10:30, when an overly enthusiastic gentleman spun Clara so that her feet were off the ground to his knee level, then crunched down on her toe as she hit the ground!
The next morning after a healthy bit, we made the really quite unavoidable decision to return to St. Honoré, then headed downtown for more mainstream fashion. Went to Nordstrom Rack, then across to Pioneer Place, which also includes a huge Forever 21 and H & M.
Don’t need pictures of this . . . you’ve been mall shopping dear reader, right?
Back to the apartment to change, then another very anticipated highlight of our trip. Clara had chosen the type of cuisine she’d like to have for a special dinner out, and had chosen French. We were so privileged to eat at Little Bird Bistro. Chef Gabriel Rucker was the 2011 winner of the James Beard Rising Star Chef Award for the best chef aged 30 or younger and Little Bird is his second Portland restaurant.
We had decided beforehand that we’d feel uncomfortable bringing the big camera in, and chose to just concentrate on the food. We shared an appetizer of Goat Cheese Creamed Kale, and sister had a salad. Clara ordered “Poussin Au Vin, fried leg, bacon & mushroom pot pie”, my sister ordered “Grilled Trout, clam & bacon stew, soft boiled egg”, and I had “Roasted Veal Breast, buttermilk spaetzle, mushroom ragout, foie gras”. But there is no way that words will tell you how delicious this food was. My sister, about fifteen minutes into dinner, said, “You know how when you eat some really good food, you might say, ‘mmmmm’ with the first few bites? I just realized that I’m over halfway done with this and I’m still saying, ‘mmmmmm’ with every single bite!” My veal was in a perfect, melting square which sat atop the spaetzle, ragout, and foie gras for the most perfect unctuous, complicated combination of flavors. Sigh.
After Little Bird, we went back to the apartment to do henna tattoos. I’d bought a different brand than our usual, finding one at JoAnn’s before leaving. I mention this because it was a disaster. The instructions were different from the kits we’d used before, and it turned out so runny that it would only make huge thick lines. I started to draw designs on Clara but got banned and sister rescued the whole thing.
The next morning was Monday, and we were all heading out, but after we packed the cars, we decided to get in one more stop with my sister. We’d been talking all weekend about stopping at Cacao for Clara to have an amazing cup of hot chocolate.
After which, we said a very sad goodbye to my sister. Clara and I went home via the Portland IKEA and she got in one last little shopping bit, finding a dress at a Dress Barn next door to IKEA. We had lovely weather on our drive home, and as always when I leave, the Patriarch had the place spotless on our return.
It was wonderful to spend this special vacation with such an amazing young woman!