Best Tea Monk to Get You Tea Drunk
Paul Rosenberg. Photo: vivianjohnson.com
You don’t just drink tea with Paul Rosenberg. You sniff its heady fragrance, examine its mouth-feel, lie back on pillows in his attic tea-ceremony chamber and soak in its aura, getting high on its tea-chi energy. Tea isn’t just a drink around here—it’s a way of life.
Rosenberg is the city’s only self-described “tea monk,” and his modest Southeast Portland home hides one of the foremost collections of rare teas in America—nearly 150 finds from all over Asia, some of which fetch up to $5,000 a pound on the open market. His house is also the headquarters for his Heavens Tea and Sacred Arts Center (230-0953, heavenstea.com), where the Jersey Shore native schools everybody from Eastern medicine practitioners to Floridian defense contractors on the ritual and power of tea in wine-tasting-style classes and private ceremonies.
“It’s a way to take my love of Asian culture and give it to people one on one. I can’t do that by selling tea,” says Rosenberg, who does sell and collect Himalayan Buddhist and Hindu art, and also spent time working at PDX’s Tao of Tea. “I love that you can really share every passion you have with someone in a beautiful way.” His ceremonies, which also take place in his hand-built teahouse in the backyard, are non-stuffy affairs that showcase teas from his collection—from a luscious 1980 Baozhong aged oolong that tastes of honey and makes your tongue buzz to an Imperial-quality cooked pu-erh that thrums though your veins as if you were mainlining Mother Earth.
For Rosenberg, who first fell hard for tea while living on an ashram for 15 years, tea is part of every aspect of his life: “Each tea has its own vibration,” he explains. “I drink 20-year-old aged shu pu-erh [tiny leaf buds picked in spring] in the morning.” Rosenberg will soon continue his hunt for tea sensations abroad. He’s flying to Taiwan—it’s actually his first trip to the tea-making areas of China—to seek out new, mind-blowing tea finds this fall. KELLY CLARKE.
Best Taste of Tehran
For citizens of the “Great Satan,” it’s a bad time to book an Iranian vacation, what with mass protests, Israel’s itchy trigger finger, and President Ahmadinejad’s vague threats. Luckily, authentic Iranian cuisine resides much closer and in a slightly less hostile environment: Beaverton. Tucked into Beaverton Town Square, Kabob House (11667 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, 672-9229) mingles with Izzy’s Pizza and Supercuts, but don’t judge it by the company it keeps. This is probably the best Persian food in the metro area. Each meal starts when the gruff and furry proprietor delivers complimentary flatbread served with onion, basil and butter. But don’t fill up on this oddly delicious combo; move on to tahdig: crisp, golden rice scraped from the bottom of the pot and smothered in the stew of your choice. And then, of course, a namesake kebab—chicken, filet mignon or vegetarian. ETHAN SMITH.
Best Mother’s Invention
Jessie Burke’s professional timeline goes something like this: She was a member of the U.S. fencing team for about 10 years, then a teacher, a case manager at a nonprofit and an investment-firm employee until this year, when she became a stay-at-home and opened Posies Cafe (8208 N Denver Ave., 289-1319, posiescafe.com), the first coffee shop in Kenton that’s crazy for Portland kids and their ’rents. In addition to Ristretto Roasters coffee, Jasmine Pearl tea, Florio Bakery pastries and cakes, and all sorts of housemade sandwiches and wraps, Posies has a chalkboard-walled, toy-filled room in the back where kids can work off sugar jitters from the $2 soft-serve. Posies is the realization of what Burke wanted as a professional whose career was detoured by motherhood—a laid-back coffee shop where she could take her daughter and be around other people, especially people who don’t pull on your pant legs when they want attention. LIZ CRAIN.
Best Chili-Cheese Fries
Authenticity is a worthy goal for ethnic food, but occasionally foreign and domestic staples combinejust so, and a strange and wonderful alchemy occurs. Such is the case with the chili-cheese fries at El Burrito Loco (3126 NE 82nd Ave., 252-1343). No sane person would order these fries; they’re clearly clearly a choice only an ignorant Anglo would make. And yet, you find yourself strangely drawn to this most un-Mexican of dishes. When they arrive, you guiltily crack open their Styrofoam egg and dig into the seething, cheesy mass with your plastic fork. But with the first bite all that white guilt evaporates. You realize you were united with these fries for a reason. You also realize that instead of standard chili, the potatoes are slathered in smoky, spicy, red enchilada sauce. They’re then dusted in cheese and melted into a heart-stopping delight—hardly authentic, but just loco enough to work. ETHAN SMITH.
Best Food for the Soul
Americanos, scones and catfish are not typical elements of nonprofit ventures, but North Portland’s Po’Shines: Cafe De La Soul (8139 N Denver Ave., 978-9000, poshines.com) and Northeast’s Full Life Coffee House (3331 NE Sandy Blvd., full-lifepdx.com) are making connections with community downright delicious.
Po’Shines’ rib-sticking meals at reasonable prices (chicken and waffles for $7.50, catfish baskets and fries for $5) are served by troubled young adults volunteering their time but getting much more in return. Without Po’Shines, which is an offshoot of the Celebration Tabernacle church, 18-year-old Calli-Rae Erz says she probably would have overdosed on drugs, would never have earned her GED and certainly wouldn’t be looking at colleges. “It’s my home and it’s frustrating and it’s hot…and there are long days, but it’s my family. I wouldn’t have had any chance of any future without them.”
Matt Boersma, a client of Full Life, a year-round camp for developmentally disabled adults, feels the same about Full Life’s decision to include a coffee shop next door. “I am a coffee fanatic,” Boersma says, adding that he one day hopes to work in the shop, which opened mid-May. The business started as a way for Full Life’s clients to learn job skills and gives them a venue where they can be more creative, and they benefit as the customer base expands. “It is their place in a lot of ways; it was opened for them,” says staff member Jesse Studenberg. The shop, also home to an Internet radio show and an art gallery, serves Peet’s espresso and hopes to offer Black Sheep pastries soon. HEATHER MORSE.
Best Coffee for Crackheads
Don’t be fooled by the disheveled loiterers and barred windows; the toothpaste-blue building at the corner of Northeast 24th Avenue and Alberta Street is not a methadone clinic. But it does provide some things the homeless and strung-out crave—namely, coffee, pie and acceptance, free of charge, in exchange for a floor-sweeping or a window-cleaning. The Star E Rose (2403 NE Alberta St., 249-8128), a decade-old coffee shop that predates the height of Alberta’s boom, is run by Louisa Heamish, known for her housemade pies and generous nature. Rather than vie for the coveted disaffected twentysomething demographic like so many nearby cafes, Star E Rose courts the freaks and bums, weirdos and freegans. It’s where the clowns hung out in the heyday of Alberta’s Clown House. In the emailed words of one employee, “it is a place where all walks of life come to feel safe, welcomed and comfortable.” For French-pressing coffee snobs who obsess over crema and micro-bubbled milk, there’s not much on offer. But for dreadlocked, fair-weather radicals, Old Portland burnouts and, yes, even crackheads, it’s a place to sit, chat or jabber over a slice of pie and cup of coffee, free from judgmental eyes. ETHAN SMITH.
Best Place to Find Cheesus
Grilled Cheese Grill. Photo by Kat Miller.
There’s a monster lurking at the bottom of the menu at the Grilled Cheese Grill (1027 NE Alberta St., 206-8959, grilledcheesegrill.com), Northeast Alberta Street’s monomaniacal school bus-based food cart/restaurant: The Cheesus, a terrifying hybrid that places a 1/3-pound hamburger patty between two grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with lettuce, tomato, pickles and grilled onion.
“I needed a man sandwich,” says Matt Breslow, owner of the Grilled Cheese Grill, in defense of his creation. “I already had the Jamie [‘mascarpone, Nutella and grilled banana on grilled cinnamon swirl’] and the Mrs. B [‘hot, melty brie on grilled cinnamon swirl bread, with a cup of apple sauce to dip it in’], and thought those were nice and dainty, and I needed something that was going to bring the dudes.”
And bring them it does—Breslow says the Cheesus amounts to “probably a quarter of our sales a day.” If you’re considering joining the followers of Cheesus, you might consider fasting before you meet your savior. We estimate the sandwich clocks in at nearly 1,500 calories—as the menu helpfully notes, “You won’t have to eat again for two days.” BEN WATERHOUSE.
Best Drive-Thru for Anglophiles
Designated drivers making a quick stop for a Fourthmeal at the Taco Bell on Northeast Sandy Boulevard at 50th Avenue may wonder if somebody spiked their soft drink: The drive-thru window at this tiny fast-food outlet opens on the passenger side of cars that pull up. This means a solo driver has to reach across the passenger seat to exchange money for chalupas—or put the car in park and walk around. How in the name of that talking Chihuahua did the lane get designed this way? A Taco Bell manager named Nimoul says the drive-thru was a late addition to the restaurant, which was planted at an angle that only allowed cars to approach from the east: “We can’t have it going out through the residential area.” Do customers mention the oddity? Oh yes: “They think it’s different, and they get confused.” Of course they do—they’re South of the Border and in the Twilight Zone. AARON MESH.
Best Repurposed Pig Farm
It sits adjacent to McMenamins Edgefield: more than 40 acres of county-owned land that served as a pig farm in the 1980s and, more recently, simply grew weeds. With a recession on, and Oregon ranked as the nation’s third-hungriest state, Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen’s staff combined Stumptown’s DIY ethic and the city’s collective-gardening fetish to dream up a better use—converting two acres into an organic farm and donating the veggies grown there to the Oregon Food Bank. Helped by hefty donations from McMenamins, Portland General Electric, New Seasons Market and others, plus hundreds of hours of volunteer labor, the cash-strapped county didn’t have to pay a dime of the $22,000 it cost to plant and irrigate the field. Now sown with tomatoes, sweet peppers, chiles, eggplant, cucumber and squash, it’s expected to yield up to 20 tons of fresh food for needy Portlanders this year. JAMES PITKIN.
Best Dork Palace
Single-screen movie theaters haven’t all been killed off by Regal multiplexes—but they’ve mostly been forced to the extreme measures of serving alcoholic beverages or showing The Secret of Roan Inish for a full year. When Greg Wood bought the 85-year-old Roseway Theater (7229 NE Sandy Blvd., 282-2898, rosewaytheater.com) on deep Northeast Sandy Boulevard last year, he was faced with the temptation to “divide it into four screens and start serving beer and pizza.” Instead, he spent three months refurbishing and upgrading his cinema into a gleaming, 340-seat all-digital screening room. Is it the best movie theater in Portland? Well, maybe. (There’s a lot of competition.) But with state-of-the-art sound, a massive screen, digital projection (with 3-D capability) and all tickets just $7, the Roseway is the only place to consider seeing Star Trek, Inglorious Basterds, or whatever the next geek blockbuster is. The theater is a blog darling, and has responded by hosting Cort and Fatboy-sponsored late-Friday “loud shows,” with the speakers cranked up to 11. “We turn up our sound system as much as people can handle,” Wood says, “and try and blow them out of the place.” Say it loud: We’re nerds and we’re proud. AARON MESH.
Best Sweet News
Cheryl Wakerhauser, Portland’s sweetest entrepreneur and owner of Pix Pâtisserie (3402 SE Division St., 232-4407; 3901 N Williams Ave., 282-6539; pixpatisserie.com), is in Nice at the moment working on a gastronomical guide to France, but before she bon voyaged for her culinary heartland she made a big decision: She took Pix off the market. Long live the Pix! Last August, Wakerhauser announced that Pix was up for sale, but got cold feet this spring after meeting with several would-be buyers. Portland sweet-fiends can rest assured that the Frenchy-licous enterprise’s elaborate confections and quirky events—like the Division location’s annual ice cream social, a daylong festival of all things frozen, Saturday, July 25, from 10 am to midnight. LIZ CRAIN.
Best Spot for Baker Swag
Hillsdale’s delightful Baker & Spice bakery has a new baby on board with SweetWares, a baking ingredient and supply shop that opened in late 2008 just eight doors up from the bakery (6306 SW Capitol Highway, 546-3737, bakerandspicebakery.com/sweetwares). Yes, there’s the Decorette Shop on Southeast Foster Road and loads of general cooking supply shops in Portland, but here you’ll find everything from decorating sugars, glass cake trays, local hand-loomed tea towels and Bauer pottery baking bowls to copper cookie cutters, Viking mixers and heavy-duty commercial bakeware. Added bonus: Cookbooks are 20 percent off daily. This summer, SweetWares launched its series of baking classes and workshops taught by Baker & Spice owner Julie Richardson, whose mother, Cheryl Richardson, co-owns and manages SweetWares. LIZ CRAIN.