Published on: August 12, 2016
by Kevin Coupe
I post MNB this morning from home in Connecticut, where I've finally arrived after a week of driving cross country from Portland, Oregon. Summer session at Portland State University is over (save for the grading of finals ... that's what is on the agenda for this weekend), I've packed up the apartment I rent there each summer, and come home.
As always, the drive cross country was amazing. The weather was great, and so most of the time I had the top down on the Mustang. I spent a lot of time listening to podcasts and satellite radio, and I have to say that the counterpoint was jarring. The discussion and discourse about government and politics seemed too angry, and yet the landscape - my route took me through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio (where I met up with Michael Sansolo for a speaking engagement in Cincinnati), Kentucky, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut - seemed so full of promise and optimism.
Two points about this. One, I recognize that the gorgeous landscape of America may not accurately represent some of the discontent that may lie beneath the surface.
And two, I didn't realize until I just wrote all the states down that I actually traveled through roughly one-third of the US states on this one trip cross-country. And that doesn't count the fact that during the summer I also drove through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Washington and California - which means that this summer alone I've been in almost half the states.
This is actually the sixth time I've driven cross-country, using various routes and I recognize that it is a privilege to have the time to do so. To be honest, I already am looking forward to doing it again next summer, and I recommend the experience to everyone. This is a great country, no matter what anyone says ... and one cannot help but feel the sense of possibility when one sees it from the ground.
I'm glad to be home. I got to take a walk with the girl of my dreams last night, my daughter cooked me an amazing meal, my son gave me a hug before he went off to work, and the dogs are so glad to see me that they are wrapping themselves around my feet.
But I do miss Portland, especially the opportunity to get up in the morning in relatively humidity-free weather and go for a long bike ride or somewhat less long run along the Willamette River. And there are two meals that I want to tell you about that absolutely characterize the region.
One was at Grassa, which has two restaurants in the city, and I've described this as just the perfect summer meal. I started with a chilled cucumber and tomato salad, which had a sprinkling of feta cheese and a harissa and greek yogurt dressing. Then, I luxuriated (and this is not too strong a characterization) in a chilled pasta dish - black squid ink pasta served with grilled squid and octopus, cherry tomatoes, fried shallots, sweet chili sauce and a touch of mint. Washed it down with a half bottle of very cold rose made from a Willamette Valley Pinot noir. It was perfection.
The other meal was enjoyed at the Altabira City Tavern, which sits atop the Hotel Eastlund, in the Lloyd District with an outdoor patio and a beautiful view of downtown Portland. (It actually contradicts Calvin Trillin's first law of restaurants - that food quality usually is in direct inverse proportion to the view.) Altabira is highly beer-centric, and so I washed down a pizza - made with fennel sausage, caramelized onions and parmesan - with a spectacular Oakshire Brewing Amber Ale. It was wonderful.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.