Portland, Oregon was our next destination following New York! I first knew this city as the home of the Dandy Warhols, though in the past five or so years it's developed a reputation as one of the world's most vegan-friendly cities, and more recently still it's gained widespread fame through the TV show Portlandia.
On our first Portland morning we hit the Pearl District for breakfast, tracking down a cafe that came recommended by one of my colleagues. Prasad is set inside a yoga studio and is naturally full of raw foods and vege bowls with a sprinkling of dubious health claims. The only non-vegan ingredient I noticed in their menu was raw honey. Notes around the cafe request that guests respect the practising yogis with quiet behaviour, but the juicer is the most disturbing patron by far.
In stark contrast to his pancake bowl the previous morning, Michael took on the Lovejoy Scramble (US$9 ~ AU$9.60) - a bowl filled with smokey tempeh, mustard, maple roasted carrots, slow roasted tomatoes, kale, avocado and scallions on brown rice. It was definitely the right thing to do. I worked my way through the smaller, denser Rogue Oatmeal bowl (US$7 ~ AU$7.50) - gluten-free oats mixed with peanut butter, cocoa nibs, coconut flakes, peanuts, cinnamon and vanilla, garnished with banana. With regular dashes of almond milk, maple syrup and a little sneaky salt this was a very satisfying start to the day. I was really impressed by Prasad's Harlow Chai (US$3.50 ~ AU$3.70), too - it's based on coconut milk and real black tea, not flavoured syrup.
The Pearl District is also the home of Powell's Books, the world's largest independent book store. We could have easily spent hours in there, gazing at the titles and marvelling at the prices, but our luggage couldn't handle the extra weight of actually buying anything. The veg*n cooking section was large and diverse and a pleasure to browse. Here I came across the Dirt Candy Cookbook, which turned out to be a cute graphic novel, but the recipes required ingredients and equipment that I'll never access.
In the middle of the day we browsed the shops, cafes and gardens along Mississippi Ave in Portland's north-east. We spent a lot of our time and money at Reading Frenzy, a gorgeous independent press holding a variety of unique books, graphic novels, zines, prints and a modest gallery. We chatted to the friendly owner at length, and she kindly sent us off with a list of her favourite Portland businesses to visit (in addition to the zines, posters and badges we'd already bought). I got a kick out of this zine about one man's complicated relationship with food. (Here's a taste: "If the texture of a food is the same texture as I'd imagine alien wound juice being, that food is going to be a pretty hard sell for me. Puddings fall into this category.")
Michael had us on a course to collide with Homegrown Smoker, a vegan BBQ food cart. These guys have an extensive selection of burger, burritos, chili and fried things. I doubt you could do better than the Half Rack Rib platter we shared (US$7 ~ AU$7.50). These 'ribs' are applewood smoked tempeh basted in BBQ sauce, served with a hushpuppy, a tub of excellent remoulade sauce and our choice of side - sludgy, salty, savoury mac-nocheese. We accompanied it with an Arnold Palmer (US$2 ~ AU$2.10), the States' clever cocktail of iced tea and lemonade.
We took it easy for the rest of the afternoon - Michael watched with World Cup with a beer while I giggled over my food zine. In the evening we set out to Los Gorditos for dinner. While there was a Pearl District branch of this taqueria a short walk from our accommodation, our mate Matt convinced us that we needed to visit the one on SE Division. It seemed strange to travel for such an ordinary, takeaway shop-style setting, but we were rewarded with an expansive Mexican menu with clearly divided 'meat' and 'vegan' sections. These guys are stocked up with vegan-friendly cheese and sour cream plus a choice of tofu, soycurls and soyrizo.
We did our best to span the options, ordering a platter of tofu-stuffed gorditas (aka flatbreads, US$7 ~ AU$7.50) with rice and beans, a soycurl taco (US$2 ~ AU$2.10), and soyrizo-based sopes (US$6.50 ~ AU$6.90). We'd gladly recommend any of these dishes, though we suspect that soycurl-stuffed gorditas might be the optimal combination of Los Gorditos' enviable options.