The stodgy newsletters most wine shops send out to pimp their Pinot Noir are as intimidating as the price tags on their bottles. But the email updates oenophile Bruce Bauer sends out every week to promote the deals at his Sellwood wine shop, Vino (1226 SE Lexington St., 235-8545,, ditch the musty talk of "leather musk" and "spice on the nose." Instead, Bauer goes for vinegary, anti-Bush rants with descriptions like "full throttle" and "jammy." Bauer's "it's wine, not brain surgery" philosophy makes for the most bizarre, entertaining, non-stuffy wine missives in the biz. Recently, the current-events grape crusher even included a company testimonial--from Saddam Hussein. "Listen to me, infidels. Do not let these chains and this Abraham Lincoln beard fool you," Bauer wrote. "I am the still President of Iraq and I command you to go to VINO tomorrow."

In an age of chemically synthesized medicines, Grandma's herbal home remedies are going the way of the dodo. Three Graces Garden of Healing (7056 N Atlantic Ave., 289-3128), a diminutive North Portland front yard/nursery of natural antidotes, fights to preserve traditional therapeutics tested by time, not lab rats. Eye-rolling skeptics of granny pharmacology may be quick to doubt the science of it all, but plant caretaker Jeffrey Goodman is no garden-variety green thumb. Goodman's precision-balanced soil minerals and expertise in Chinese herbal treatments make Three Graces more about cure research than recreational horticulture. With the garden still in its infancy, remedies for sale are limited in quantity. But don't worry--you can grow 'em yourself. Goodman or Mary Helen Beveridge (above) will even show you how.

With a candy-cane porch, cupcake chandelier and cookie banister not even a Boy Scout troop could dismantle, Keana's Kandyland (5314 SE Milwaukie Ave., 230-7976) looks good enough to eat. This saccharine splice of Disneyland and Willy Wonka--once a '40s boarding house for Union Pacific employees--is candy store, bakery and restaurant rolled into one. Co-owner Tanea Storm took over the family catering business in 1997, envisioning a place that "let everyone be children again." Candyland is reopening this month after a year of renovations, and it's sure to induce a sugar high in its young and young-at-heart customers. "You haven't lived 'til you've done a tea party as the Queen of Hearts in 4-inch stilettos," says Storm. Take it from a professional.

"The most important thing in making good poundcake," Anita Smith says with motherly seriousness, "is the time you put into it." She should know. Smith, a.k.a. Miss Anita, owns and operates Hannah Bea's Poundcake and More (3969 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 282-6334). Hailed by locals as the sweetest spot for the spongy stuff, Hannah Bea's poundcake recipe even won over an illustrious out-of-towner: Today Show weatherman Al Roker. The once-portly gent taped an episode of Roker on the Road at the Northeast eatery following a persuasive visit by the show's producer. HB's segment is scheduled to air Oct. 12 on the Food Network.

The Columbia River town of Kalama, Wash., is known for its antique stores, but it's also home to another old-fashioned treasure: the Antique Deli & Pastry Shop (413 N 1st St., Kalama, Wash., 360-673-3310). Owner Darrah Perryman knows her pie: She makes her crust "by feel," and that touch creates flaky, just-right-salty crust that's a perfect foil to the sweet filling. Pies like caramel cream and French apple crumb or desserts like the blueberry angel food cake, all topped with homemade whipped cream, will set you back just $2.50 a serving. One way you can tell how good this place is: The entire crew of the Kalama fire department are regular customers.

The novelty of sucking tapioca balls through a cartoonishly large straw has made the strange-looking bubble tea a beverage sensation. Although it first started to appear in phó houses around town, one of the best places to try to this sweet treat is the Tea Zone (510 NW 11th Ave., 221-2130). Offering these golden globules in the middle of the Pearl District, TZ has more than 100 different varieties, all using top-quality loose-leaf teas. Popular combinations have catchy names, including "Papa Honey" (organic honeydew tea with papaya syrup). And with Tea Zone employees dreaming up new flavors all the time, this is one iced tea that will never get tepid.

Introduced for Valentine's Day but back by blissed-out demand, the Chocolate Bliss treatments at Nirvana Apothecary & Day Spa (736 NW 11th Ave., 546-8155) involves being dipped in, swabbed with and buffed by several chocolate-scented concoctions (and don't worry about splashing your white pants--none of these potions are milky brown). The real pièce de résistance--a double dip of hot paraffin wax scented with chocolate essential oil--is guaranteed to make your skin as silky-soft and sweet-smelling as devil's-food cake. Should the aroma send you into a sugar-craving tailspin, the good folks at Nirvana thoughtfully provide a handful of purse-sized Hershey's bars to munch on.

Genuine beer geeks and Pearl District posers alike have a common interest in Henry's 12th Street Tavern (10 NW 12th Ave., 227-5320), where the taps boast more than 100 beers and ciders and servers know exactly which brew to recommend (an expertise that's worth the wait to get in). On the site of West Burnside Street's old Blitz-Weinhard Brewery, it's an urban hangout ideal for arriving during happy hour, snagging a $3.95 cheeseburger and amusing yourself all night--especially at the bustling bar, which boasts an icy tray intended to keep your glass cool, thanks to an automated process that thaws, drains and refreezes every day. Entertainment at Henry's can include billiards, flirting with the stylish hostesses and sneaking cigarettes on the patio--but nothing beats triple-dog-daring your frat buddies to stick their tongues to that frosty rail of ice, the only one of its kind in the entire Northwest.

Who swipes free bags o' bagels left on the street for the needy? Hungry downtown workers in need of a quick carb fix? Perhaps all those people who line up at WW for free movie passes? Who knows. All we know is that we don't want to catch you helping yourself to the tempting bags of one- and two-day-old bagels left outside every afternoon for close to a decade by the kindly folks at Broadway Bagels (735 SW Alder St., 241-9232)--unless you really need them. Instead, pop inside and fork over a whole two bucks for an big bag of day-old discs, still soft because the dough is made fresh on the premises. Broadway's breakfast hotspot knows how to perfectly toast everyone's favorite jalapeño and cheddar bagels perfectly, then top them off with your choice of 10 housemade schmears. We're all in need of that.

To experience Chicago in Portland, head to Michael's Italian Beef and Sausage Co. (1111 SE Sandy Blvd., 230-1899) where owner and Windy City native Michael Zokoych, 53, has been serving a taste of the City of Big Shoulders since 1976. The "Italian Beef" is thinly sliced, marinated in a gravy of its own juices, and served in an Italian roll (dipped in the gravy on request) with optional sweet or hot pepper. It's one of Zokoych's best sellers, among both the locals who have learned to love them and the Chicago ex-pats who Zokoych jokes will never let him go out of business. Priced at $6.45 ($3.40 for a half), this huge working-man's sandwich will fuel you for the day, whether you're laboring at a foundry or sweating over a hot keyboard.

Bait and coffee beans--two great tastes that generally don't go together. Well, that is, anywhere else but North Portland's Java Joe's, located in G.I. Joe's (1140 N Hayden Meadows Drive, 283-0318). Beyond the candied coffee drinks and sugary sodas, this cafe counter offers menu items not normally associated with a double espresso: worms. And not the gummy variety, either, but the real-live dirt-dwellers themselves.

In fact JJ's offers a smorgasbord of fish-enticing treats like worms ($2.49), sand shrimp ($2.39) and herring ($4.99), not to mention squid, sardines, eggs and of course, mealworms. While the early-bird crowd may be looking for more than just the proverbial worm, shoppers can sip until 5:30 pm weekdays and 6:30 pm Sundays, thereby seizing that much more of the weekend.

The Quick Stop (602 NW 21st Ave., 228-8722) has its fair share of the typical convenience-store snacks our stomachs have rubberized to endure. But instead of hawking barely carbon-based nachos under radioactive heat lamps, owner Farzad Larki dishes out a homemade family recipe those 7-11 suckas can't touch: baklava. Larki's wife and mother whip up the savory triangles ($1.25 each) with eight natural ingredients (none of which is potassium benzoate). The Larkis occasionally distribute the flaky pastries at local restaurants, but now you know the freshest place to get these exotic desserts is across from the video games, next to the lollipops.

Yes, it's a mega-store with organic pretensions in the middle of the ultra-hot Brewery Blocks, but Whole Foods (1210 NW Couch St., 525-4343) is still the best clean room for food-allergic homo sapiens. Corn-allergics can celebrate all summer long with root-beer floats thanks to a recent overhaul of private-label brands 365 Days and Whole Kids, which eliminated all genetically modified ingredients. Now plain old sugar sweetens soft drinks, ice cream and fruit popsicles instead of the ubiquitous corn syrup. Binge on no-sulfites-added wines, lactose-free dairy products, soy-free snacks, and wheat-free deli items.

For your best four-legged friend, Healthy Pets Northwest (1402A SE 39th Ave., 236-8036) features soy-, wheat- and corn-free dog and cat food, raw organic liver bits, and free-range beef. Round out Spot's menu with supplements such as dried kelp, flax oil, MSM and Bach Flower Remedies. If those don't work, be sure to ask about acupuncture.

Come sunset, the dining room at Fife (4440 NE Fremont St., 971-222-3433) basks in an amber glow. Sienna-colored walls, mahogany furnishings and soft candle glow reflect warm light throughout the welcoming space, where as much precious attention to detail is paid the decor as the ever-changing menu of regional American cuisine. Chef-owner Marco Shaw spent six months carefully designing Fife's interior, using a light box to precisely determine the autumn tones best suited to the architecturally award-winning building. Shaw handpicked oversized hanging lampshades to complement the high ceilings and brought in a few centuries-old furnishings to meld the old and the new. Such thoughtful gestures, as well as the "no cell phones" rule and the use of local, organic ingredients, create a memorable dining experience that ensures days later you still can taste the sweet, nutty simplicity of coconut sorbet dripping down your throat.

Tucked away in a quiet Sellwood neighborhood is Share-It Square (Southeast 9th Avenue and Sherrett Street), home to the 24-hour T-station--a wooden sculpture with mugs hanging from branch-like pegs, a pot of hot water and bags of tea. Also featured in the square is a sidewalk tree house, which acts as an information station and a place to swap local produce. The intersection-turned-public gathering place was the first of many community-oriented projects driven by local nonprofit City Repair ( Neighbors keep the stations stocked and clean for passersby and biking visitors.

For 30 years, ramen noodles have been the breakfast/ lunch/dinner of last resort for every starving college student. In honor of this lowly meal's trans-generational status as dormitory survival gear, nine Portland Community College students let the noodles fly this summer at the school's second Ramen Bowl. PCC's Rock Creek campus was the battlefield that crowned the ultimate ramen concoction. The big winner, according to the taste buds of The Oregonian's Shelby Oppel and other judges? Liz Rubalcava's whipped-cream-on-noodle creation--it not only proved tastier than it sounds, but it also scored Rubalcava a hundred bucks off her tuition bill. With a Safeway Club card, that'll free up enough cash for at least 1,000 dry blocks of sustenance next semester. Dig in.

Inside "Best of Portland 2004"