I'm on location in Portland, Oregon, with a team to film video tours of the FitHouse. (See a sneak peek here, and stay tuned for our magazine story and online videos in August. It's still open for tours later this week.) After a 4 a.m. morning and a 5-hour flight, our first order of business was to find a steaming cup of good coffee.
We polled the locals. They answered with an unhesitating, authoritative consensus.
"Stumptown," they said, each and every one we asked. "Best coffee in Portland."
We lost no time in marching ourselves to a downtown Stumptown. It was exactly as a good coffee shop should be. Not too fancy, focused intently on coffee and relevant java accompaniments such as lovely scones. What a great way to kick off my first trip to Portland, the No. 2 city in our Cooking Light Best Cities Awards travel series.
My cappuccino and my colleague's latte came out with signature designs swirled artfully in the perfectly ethereal foam. This was the best cappuccino I've had in as long as I can remember. Rich, complex, and bold without bitterness. Stumptown's locally roasted coffee is served at restaurants throughout town, often in a French Press, my personal favorite.
The blackberry scone was also marvelous, moist yet crumbly, and studded with little bursts of berries and topped with just the right amount of sugar for my taste. In my book, it was second only a single, utterly memorable blueberry scone I ate more than a year ago at Customshop, a relatively new restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I tasted my way through more than 40 restaurants to find the Dish on Charlotte, the last big story I covered as a travel writer for Southern Living before joining the staff at Cooking Light.
Another great way to warm up on a cool and drizzly Portland day is to have a late breakfast (as in 2 p.m.) at Mother's Bistro and Bar. (Warning: Their web site plays music.) We're not the only ones to appreciate the great food here. We read on Chef Lisa Schroeder's blog that a certain presidential hopeful stopped by for a meal in May while in town for a recent campaign stop. (Chef Lisa's digital prowess is quite impressive. She hosts cooking classes and produces short food documentary-style vids on her Chef Cam TV site.)
We loved the cozy, friendly atmosphere at Mother's as well as Chef Lisa's fabulous brunch menu. My favorite way to do brunch is to order with a friend who doesn't mind sharing and pick one savory dish and one sweet dish. Lucky for me, my colleague was up for this. I ordered the intriguing crispy French toast, which is rolled in corn flakes before hitting the pan, an approach that adds some interesting texture and the dish's eponymous crunch. (Hey, wouldn't that make a great Indie band name?) Topped with fresh strawberries, it was a memorable dish. My pal ordered Mike's scramble, a savory delight with little wisps of prosciutto, curls of fresh basil, chopped tomato, and Gruyere cheese.