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June 24, 2005

Pizza in Portland -- The Bike Tour

Last Tuesday I went on a group bike ride touring 6 pizzerias in Portland (led by Shawn of Urban Adventure League). Between 24 riders, we sampled East Coast Style cheese pizzas all over town.

The ride stopped first at Tributes, a real New York style joint. The place is small and casual, with a big screen TV in one corner and a bus-your-own-plate policy. I was ravenous, but Tributes' pizza didn't hit me as all that wonderful. The crust was good, but the sauce was somewhat lacking and the cheese was on the bland side.

Moving on, we hit Escape from New York a few blocks away. They are reputed to offer the "most authentic" New York-style pizza in Portland. To my palate, this pie tasted very good with a balance of flavors, but judgment may have been distracted by the rain and socializing with other cyclists.

Next was Hot Lips, my current favorite local joint. I'll spoil the rest of the story now by saying Hot Lips won my highest marks of all 6 pizzerias. The basil on the cheese pizza really stood out for me. Their cheese blend is also very flavorful, perhaps because they use all local, organic ingredients. The ride paused here for about half an hour to wait out a sudden downpour.

After that, we rode across the river to start our East Side tour. Pizza A-Go-Go on N. Williams seemed popular with the other riders, but the pizza crust was cardboard-like, and the seating layout was like a 1960s fast food joint. This may appeal to hip cafeteria-chic diners, but I found it a little distracting from my goal of enjoying a slice in good company. While we were eating, a car broke down across the street, so some of the group members ran out to help push the car into a safe parking spot. Bravo!

Bella Faccia, our next stop, made a much stronger showing. Besides a very pleasant lighting scheme and artistic decor, the pizza was well crafted. I think the cheese blend was a little spicier than the others we visited, and the crust and sauce were good competitors. Strongly in Bella Faccia's favor is the appetizing drink selection, which includes the excellent Laurelwood Free Range Red Ale.

Out of our original group, only 12 hardy souls stuck it out to the very end of the ride, at Stark Naked Pizza (SE 28th and Stark). Stark Naked is only a few months old. They don't serve beer, something of a drawback, and we got there near closing time, so all the chairs had been put away. The crust of this pie was pretty awful, with some spots that had gone beyond golden brown into blackened. I probably won't be back until they become more established.

Posted by mara at 3:05 PM | TrackBack

June 22, 2005

found art + vending machine = pure genius

While browsing oregonlive's shop oregon blog, I came across this entry documenting a recent experience with the Museum of Modern Materialism. I visited the MMM in February while it was located inside the eclectic Wacky Willy's store on NW 24th and Vaughn. My friend Adam obtained a capsule containing a clothing label and a variety of ammunition shells.

'Lex', the mysterious curator of the MMM, has successfully blended the thrill of found art with the convenience of a vending machine. Price of entry to the Portland Art Museum too steep? Can't wait until First Thursday to get your art fix? The MMM is a fount of instant satisfaction, priced at a sliding scale of $.25 to $.50. You even get to keep the exhibit.

The MMM can currently be found near NW 21st and Glisan. I will attempt to locate it in the next few days and give an update on the quality of the exhibits.

Posted by mara at 3:43 PM

June 14, 2005

give me those wide open bike paths

Saturday morning, I packed a lunch and headed out early to get away from the Grand Floral Parade. Probably the most well-attended Rose Festival event, the GFP always generates a huge mass of crowds, traffic, and general annoyance. My destination was the Columbia Slough Cycle the Wellfield event.

For most of the year, the City of Portland is supplied with water from the Bull Run Watershed. During the hottest summer months, the usual rainfall declines, as does the snowmelt from Mt. Hood. Supplemental water comes from a system of groundwater wells located on the far NE side of Portland, near the Columbia River. For this ride, people from the Portland Water Bureau and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council teamed up to lead a very educational ride through the wellfield area. We even got snacks along the way, free tote bags and t-shirts to commemorate the ride! I felt like a very pampered bike tourist. We also received a wealth of information about how the groundwater wells work, and how the local government works together with the community to protect the water supply from contamination.

First we visited a well site near the airport and learned about the geological composition of the aquifers used for groundwater wells. As we progressed along to subsequent stops, we learned about levees, the topology of the Columbia Slough, contamination from industrial and recreational sources, and how the business community is working to repair old contamination.

The farthest stop in our loop was at Blue Lake Regional Park. Blue Lake is an interesting part of the Columbia Slough system. The lake has no inlets, and is believed to be fed from springs at the bottom of the lake. Since the springs and the groundwater system are intimately connected, the water bureau keeps a close eye on the water quality of the lake. After an outbreak of illness last year, bubblers were put in to help circulate the water in the swimming area. Studies showed that the illness was caused by coliform bacteria, which probably originated from toddlers using the swimming area (eww). Now, signs are posted informing park visitors that children under 5 are not allowed in the lake. This is good news for other Blue Lake swimmers, as well as the groundwater system.

To close our loop, we rode on the Marine Drive bike path right along the Columbia. All in all, a terrific ride, and we only got rained on twice! I've posted a small gallery with more pictures from Cycle the Wellfield 2005.

Posted by mara at 12:23 PM

June 9, 2005

Here, Fishie, Fishie

Last night I walked along the river with my boyfriend, and we saw some people fishing off the gazebo pier. Just as we walked by, they caught a small fish. I wrinkled my nose at the idea of eating anything out of the Willamette. He teased me about tomorrow's sushi.

Today, I did a little research, and as it turns out, people do catch and eat fish from the Willamette, even right off the seawall in downtown Portland. Apparently some anglers even fish during their lunch break. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife keeps an updated report on fishing conditions in this region.

Yesterday also marked the start of Fleet Week, when ships from the Navy, Coast Guard, and Canada dock by the waterfront, sometimes offering free tours. I have a spectacularly busy weekend ahead, with a community bike ride, graduation and a bridal shower to attend, but I hope I can fit in at least one ship tour!

Posted by mara at 1:09 PM

June 6, 2005

Portland By Starlight

Saturday was the Rose Festival's Starlight Parade. The Rose Festival centers around the waterfront, my new backyard. This is where living downtown came in really handy -- I didn't have to fight the crowds on buses, MAX and automobile to get to the parade. I walked to 6th and Burnside, hung out for a while, taking pictures and enjoying the loud, amusing commentary from a nearby couple. When the parade ended, I hightailed it back home on foot (with a stop at Backspace for cafe au lait).

I usually feel "if you've seen one parade..." but it was neat to see the Starlight again. The last time I saw it in person, I was probably 3 or 4 years old. At that young age, being in downtown Portland at night was an immensely exciting experience. I'm sure I fell asleep before the end of the parade. This time, I started out feeling too cool for the parade nonsense, but I was soon waving and yelling and feeling excited with all the other kids. It was lovely. I could wish for a faster camera lens, but I'm happy with a few shots.

No caption necessary here.

The Rose Festival Court was dressed in matching pink tracksuits, and had their own lighting crew!

A tuba player from the Benson High School band.

The Cloud City Squad Star Wars roleplaying group was my favorite group. They have much better parade pictures on their website.

Posted by mara at 8:15 PM