Posts Tagged ‘Portland’

Portland’s own “coffee experience”

September 29, 2008

So, on the recommendation of both locals and online guides, I had to check out Stumptown Coffee Roasters.  Stumptown bills itself as Portland’s answer to Starbucks, a distinctly local, independent-minded coffee chain for the vociferously free-thinking Portlanders.

I stopped by the downtown location at 128 SW 3rd St. for its proximity to Powell’s Books, which I planned on hitting up later in the afternoon.  By coffee shop standards, the place is ginormous.  The front is floor to ceiling windows and the shop extends back in a cavernous expanse of polished concrete floors, exposed brick walls, and 20ft ceilings with open duct work and dangling illuminated globes.  There is a long bar, reminiscent of a mid-century diner (complete with wood veneers and stainless steel top.)  There are actually 7 or 8 bar stools and the staff behind the counter are friendly enough that it would be an acceptable place to enjoy a cup of coffee and conversation on occasion.  Ironically, for such a huge space, there isn’t a ton of seating, just a row of utilitarian tables opposite the bar and two low-slung ikea sofas in the back.  The overall impression is one of excessive amounts of open space, not ugly but somehow underutilized.

Of particular interest to me was a dj booth in the back corner.  There were two turntables and a selection of records on a shelf behind the booth, and I wonder what kind of atmosphere this place has on a Friday or Saturday night.  The shop is only a block and a half off of Stark St, Portland’s center of LGBT life, and I suspect it is a draw for pre-club activities.  Perhaps all the open space is to accommodate larger crowds on the weekends?

The menu here is simple and only slightly pretentious.  Double shots of espresso are served in 8 or 9 different ways, including macchiato, con panna, and free-poured cappucino and lattes.  I witnessed a fair amount of artistry in the free pour; the barista made an effort to “design” hearts or swirls in the foam on his hot drinks.  My request for iced espresso was met with surprise, and there was some question over which type of cup it should be served in.   I realize that iced espresso is a little less than traditional, but it shouldn’t be so foreign as to cause consternation over glassware.  There was also a decent selection of loose leaf teas to choose from, and based on the coffee, I could forsee myself enjoying tea here more often than coffee or espresso.

As for the coffee itself, the espresso was delivered with a very high ratio of crema.  It was so frothy, even iced, that it almost looked like milk had been added.  I am a fan of frothy espresso, so this was a pleasant surprise.  Of course, I think it was also because the barista had a habit of pulling 3/4 shots.  I know that a 3/4 shot is “best” for maintaining the integrity of the espresso flavor, but over the course of four shots, I end up with the equivalent of a triple and not the quad I had ordered.

Besides, this espresso could have used some mellowing.  The flavor was so piquant, it tasted like a lemon had been squeezed into it!  It was beyond the citrus accents of most Latin American coffees; this espresso was downright tangy.  I do like a splash of milk with my espresso to counteract any lingering acidity, but I went for the more heavy-duty cream to bring this roast down to palatable levels.  After my tongue got over the initial shock, I was able to see why this could become an acquired taste.  However, I won’t be doing any acquiring myself.

This is in part because the espresso was not to my taste but more so because Stumptown is a uniquely Portland coffee house, and I just don’t see them expanding far beyond the PDX any time real soon.  Portland is a city that revels in its uniqueness and even demands individuality from both its inhabitants and its businesses.  It’s easy to see why Stumptown has found an audience here: it’s coffee as unusual as the city that drinks it.  However, it may be a little too unusual for the less risque palates of everywhere else.  Besides, if everyone started drinking Stumptown coffee, than it wouldn’t be “Portland’s own” anymore.  Right now, Stumptown is a Portland only creation. . .and that is exactly how Portland likes it.

Wall*E wins Palm d’Or at “Cans Film Festival”

September 26, 2008

Today I took an old friend and her five year old daughter, Emma, to see Wall*E at a mall in downtown Portland, OR.  This was especially fun because it was Emma’s first movie in a movie theater!  What an interesting experience!

I had heard that Portland is a very progressive city and full of cool ideas to benefit the greater good.  The movie confirmed the reputation for me: we went because of a promotion called the “Cans Film Festival,” where three canned goods earned you a movie ticket and small popcorn!  The three of us got to see the film and gorge ourselves with popcorn for less than $9.  (Could have been even less, except I splurged and picked up the Kraft Mac & Cheese instead of the store brand.)  This is a brilliant promotion to help the Oregon food bank; they probably should up it to five canned goods, but I’m good with three!  The movie was very fun (I had already seen Wall*E and declared it one of the best of the year) but watching Emma on the edge of her seat for 90 minutes (the edge because she is so short she had to sit there in order to see!) was fascinating.  The mind of a five year old is foreign to an adult.

Anyway, Wall*E reminded me how exceptionally moving animated movies can be.  I have multiple friends who either refuse to see animated films or dismiss them as child’s fare.  Yes, of course Wall*E is constructed to appeal to children; Pixar knows its core audience, but there is no doubt that the film plays on a deeper, subtler, more complex level than most “grown up” films.  If there is any justice, Wall*E will get a best picture nomination this winter.

But an animated film of such high quality is hardly unusual.  Nor is excellent animation a monopoly of Disney (and Pixar.)  As it turns out, the excellent website http://www.rottentomatoes.com has a compiled list of the fifty best reviewed animated films.  I took a look and it’s really a good list.  Check it out.  As often happens with lists like these, my favorites tend to fall in the 11-20 range as opposed to the top 10.  Where does your favorite land?