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Eat and walk your way through Northwest cities

Our Whidbey Island correspondent shares her favorite way to explore the food and atmosphere of Portland, Vancouver, and Seattle.
Seattle, seen from the Pike Place Market.

Seattle, seen from the Pike Place Market. Sue Frause

Terra Breads in Vancouver

Terra Breads in Vancouver Sue Frause

On the Portland walking tour. (Sue Frause)

On the Portland walking tour. (Sue Frause) None

There's something afoot in the culinary tourism world. They're called culinary walking tours, and they combine two of my favorite pastimes: eating and walking.

In the past two years, I've managed to chow my way through Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, B.C. It's now become one of my favorite ways to experience a city, whether it's my debut in a town or a repeat visit.

Bon appetit!

It seemed a bit strange to have a guy with a Brooklyn accent give a tour of the Rose City, but David Schargel's energy and enthusiasm for his adopted city is contagious. He's the owner of Portland Walking Tours, which offers two Epicurean Excursions in the Pearl District. We signed up for the morning tour; there's also an afternoon version that's heavier on the sweets and sips.

After passing out bottles of Oregon Rain water ("This is Liquid City!"), Schargel takes us to the Flying Elephant Deli for a sample of tasty orange-tomato soup. From there, we board the Portland Street Car to the Pearl District, where we'd spend the next three-and-a-half hours indulging in more than 20 sips and bites.

Our first stop is Bridgeport Brewing, the oldest brewery in Oregon. We disregard the early hour and sample Blue Heron, IPA, and Rope Walk brews. We also get to go behind the scenes before the brewery opens to the public, including a gander at the "hop room." Drinking ale in the morning is not such a bad thing.

The Pearl Bakery is next, and one of my favorite casual dining spots in Portland. We get an inside peek into the bowels of the bakery, sampling sourdough bread, baguettes, croissants, gilbassier (a sweet bread with citrus and anise) and bouchon (a chocolate-type cake).

By now it truly is Liquid City outside, and we run through the raindrops and slide into the comfy chairs at In Good Taste, a cooking school and gourmet shop. Here we sample three different mustards, along with a Mayasara 2002 Estate Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley.

It's on to The TeaZone, a casual and non-hoity toity place where we taste a trio of teas: green, oolong and black. Schargel's info bites continue, and I learn that tea is second only to water in worldwide consumption. What, not wine?

After all those liquids, I'm feeling a bit peckish, and happy to hear that Hot Lips Pizza is next on the menu. Located in the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center, the former 1895 warehouse underwent a green restoration and reopened in 2001. Today, it's a community-friendly and environmentally sound building.

We sit down at large tables and dig into one of Hot Lips' artisan pizzas, this oen composed of potatoes, broccoli, and onions. It's unusual but tasty, with no tomatoes or cheese in sight. The pizza goes down nicely with a Hot Lips-handcrafted soda of apple, cranberry, and ginger.

Our final stop is for something sweet. Via Delizia is a dessert and coffee house where we indulge in gelato and sorbet. A perfect ending to an entertaining epicurean excursion.

Grazing on Granville Island

As a frequent visitor to Vancouver, B.C., sometimes I think I've seen and done it all. But after my husband and I went on one of Edible British Columbia's Chef-Guided Market Tours, I learned a lot more about the food culture of this Canadian city.

Eric Pateman, founder of Edible B.C., is our guide on the three-hour Granville Island Market Tour. The other chef-guided tours feature Chinatown and the Italian district of Commercial Drive.

Our first stop is La Baguette & L'Echalote. As Vancouver's first French bakery, people lined up for blocks when it opened in 1982. It's known for its signature baguettes, pain au chocolat and French sour cranberry and pecan loaf.

South China Seas Trading Company is a favorite spot of local chefs. As a chef and self-described foodie himself, Pateman is a regular. The ethnic specialty store offers such unique products as Meyer lemons, green papaya, lemon grass, and kaffir lime leaves.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 11:16 a.m. Inappropriate

Wow!: I can't believe that guy in Portland let you take a picture of him in that jacket. How many Hyundai hatchback vinyl seats did he have to skin to make it?

George

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 11:53 a.m. Inappropriate

Naughty Nelliie refers to Nellie Curtis: As noted in HistoryLink.org Essay 1602

"Among those who stepped into the void at Pike Place Market was an enterprising businesswoman named Nellie Curtis. She catered to a different but no less basic need than food, namely, sex. Curtis took over a Japanese American family's lease on the Outlook Hotel at the foot of Pike Street and renamed it the "LaSalle," possibly after the General Motors' luxury automobile. Her attempts at discretion were thwarted by as many as 1,000 sailors lining up at the door for a "ride." Curtis kept the motor running for nearly a decade before selling the hotel to new Japanese American owners, who, to the disappointment of many a lonely mariner, turned it into a legitimate hotel. "

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 2:11 p.m. Inappropriate

Love that gibassier: Sue - My husband and I took that Portland tour last October. We had such a delicious time that my mouth watered as I read your apt description of it. The gibassier at the Pearl Bakery is so wonderful that I've taken every opportunity to get to Portland to buy them. In consistency, they are the closest thing I have ever tasted to Pan de Muertos (the delicious Mexican pastry made during the Day of the Dead celebrations in late October/early November), but the orange-anise flavoring is unique and surprisingly good even for someone who does not like licorice.

Thanks for the tip about the tours in Seattle and Vancouver.

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 5:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Regarding that jacket: I think it's called pleather. In person it didn't look quite so dramatic, in fact I don't recall being mesmerized by it whatsoever! It sort of perked up the grey, rainy day in PDX. Appreciate your fashion commentary, however :-).

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 5:37 p.m. Inappropriate

RE: Love that gibassier: Yes, I'm going on Portland's newest addition in a few weeks, the one that features more chocolates and beverages. If you ever go to New York, I went on a wonderful tour there with Enthusiastic Gourmet. I wrote a feature for The (Daily) Herald and you can read it here.

Posted Thu, Aug 14, 8:29 a.m. Inappropriate

Experiencing a hood on foot: These walking tours sound like a great way to linger in a neighborhood long enough to notice the colorful umbrellas and people-watch, pleather included.

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