For years I watched shows like Unique Sweets and The Best Thing I Ever Ate feature countless eateries in Portland and Seattle. It was an exercise in self-torture, since I knew that an opportunity to visit one of these distant cities in the Pacific Northwest would probably never arise. Lucky for me, I was gifted a trip to this area for my 21st birthday last spring and was able to embark on the food-filled vacation this December. Each day was planned to maximize the number of restaurants and bakeries visited, and these are the highlights!
Blue Star Donuts in Portland was undoubtedly my favorite stop of the whole trip. I had seen their pear, pine nut, sage, and caramel fritters (yes, that’s all in one fritter) featured on Unique Sweets many moons ago, and that particular item always stuck with me as my #1 must try. I had actually forgotten that it was from Blue Star until I walked in and saw the little display sign that read, “Pear Pine Nut Fritter.” Words cannot describe my level of awe and wonder as this realization sank in. This miraculous fritter lived up to my lofty expectations, and each component offered its own flavor and texture while still complementing each other to make the sum better than its parts.
The Buttermilk Old Fashioned was the other standout doughnut here. It was slightly crisp on the outside and was surprisingly flavorful. The combination of the glaze and the cake had an almost cake-mixey flavor that worked really well here and made this basic doughnut feel like something very special. Blue Star was the only place that got a repeat visit on our trip!
Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe was an unexpected and delicious surprise. We were walking around Portland’s Alphabet District one stereotypically rainy morning when we came across this shop. It wasn’t until I saw their display of chocolate bars that I realized I had been purchasing their chocolate at grocery stores in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA for years and was already a huge fan of theirs. One of my all time favorite movies also happens to be Moonstruck, so clearly it was fate. When I saw that they had macarons, a huge selection of truffles, and hot chocolate, my excitement multiplied. I ordered malted caramel hot chocolate and it was divine. I also tried their cookies and cream cone truffle (filled with buttercream!) and their gingerbread macaron.
Since one can’t survive entirely on sugar (at least not for long), I needed to find some savory spots that could match the caliber of the bakeries I had found. I had been craving ramen for a while and was delighted to accidentally stumble upon Boke Bowl. I got their caramelized fennel broth ramen and ordered a side of fried pears. Everything was delicious – the noodles, the eggplant, and especially the rice tots.
I first found Salt and Straw ice cream at Joan’s on Third in L.A. and knew that I had to visit their flagship store at some point. I got their snickerdoodle and pecan pie ice creams, but really, you can’t go wrong here. They put so much care and consideration into each of their flavors and come up with some really unique combos. They now have a full store on North Larchmont in L.A. as well!
On a whim, we decided to take a ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Here, we spotted Mora Iced Creamery next to the crepe place we stopped at for lunch. Their store is gorgeous and impeccably clean, and they carry flavors that I haven’t seen anywhere else. I got a cup of speculoos (!) and white chocolate ice cream, and it was so good that I ate it even though I was completely full from my banana-nutella crepe. It reminded me a lot of gelato and rivaled (your highness) Grom in terms of quality. The best part is that you can mail order it, which of course I have done already since returning to the East Coast. I would also highly recommend their dulce de leche with shaved chocolate flavor.
An adorable ice cream shop called Parfait offered up one of the most expertly crafted ice cream sundaes that I have ever had. I chose a scoop of their chocolate chip cookie ice cream and their caramel brownie ice cream and topped it with caramel, homemade hazelnut toffee pieces, homemade whipped cream, and white chocolate shavings + rainbow sprinkles. This sundae tastes even better than it looks, and it was a stunningly gorgeous sundae. The ice cream somehow melted at exactly the perfect rate to allow for a relaxed pace of sundae consumption, even after being hit with the hot caramel sauce. They also had a ton of other unique and enticing ice cream novelties, like s’more ice cream pie and gingerbread ice cream sandwiches, which I hope to have the opportunity to try someday.