Cooking Light Best Cities: Portland, Oregon

Life is good in our second-ranked city, thanks to its seemingly endless supply of outdoor activities, cutting-edge restaurants, and vibrant environmental consciousness.

The City of Roses

Douglas Merriam

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Portland is called the City of Roses for its proliferation of brightly hued blooms, but the color that best describes this city is green. Portland prides itself on being environmentally friendly, boasting an award-winning public transportation system, 277 miles of bike paths, and city planning that minimizes sprawl.

The soft seasonal drizzle that falls over the city (actually, there's more annual rainfall in Atlanta) makes it literally green as well. Consequently, Portlanders enjoy 227 parks and 146 miles of lushly forested hiking trails, rain or shine. The climate also nurtures the fabulous food and wine produced here, helping make Portland fourth in the nation in per capita farmers' markets and top for its number of organic restaurants.

Portland earned the second spot on our top 20 list of Cooking Light cities because it also ranked highly in the following categories: acres of parkland per capita; percent of population that reports to be in good or better health; percent of population that exercised in the last month; and its walkability.

Best farmers' market: It's possible to buy produce direct from farmers five days a week at 38 different farmers' markets in the Portland area. The largest gathering of vendors takes place Saturdays at the Portland Farmers' Market (503-241-0032) on the Portland State University campus downtown. Well into December, vendors offer a wide array of Oregon-grown ingredients, such as truffles, hazelnuts, and velvety pinot noir from the nearby Willamette Valley.

Best slice with a mission: David Yudkin started Hot Lips Pizza (503-224-0311) in 1984 based on a philosophy of sustainability. Four locations and 23 years later, Hot Lips is still keeping the faith-pies are delivered by bicycle and electric car, excess heat from the pizza ovens warms the restaurant's hot water, and toppings are homemade or based on seasonal ingredients. Don't miss their homemade soda, which is flavored with local marionberries, a sweet-tart hybrid developed by Oregon State University.

Best locally grown fare: Park Kitchen (503-223-7275) chef-owner Scott Dolich is so dedicated to locally grown food that he's on the board of directors for the Portland Farmers' Market. His passion for all things local continues at his restaurant, in the chic Pearl District, where the menu changes daily based on ingredients procured from as few miles away as possible. Sample the flavor of the Pacific Northwest with inventive dishes like black trumpet mushrooms tossed with handmade noodles, Columbia River sturgeon with house-cured bacon and native oyster root (also known as salsify, this root vegetable has a delicate oysterlike flavor), and a wine list that reads like a "best of" guide to Oregon pinot noirs.

Quick tip: Taste what the city has to offer on Portland Walking Tours' Epicurean Excursion (503-774-4522), a four-hour walking/tasting tour of the breweries, bakeries, and gourmet shops that helped put Portland on the culinary map, including a behind-the-scenes tour of BridgePort Brewing Company (503-241-3612), Oregon's oldest microbrewery.

 

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