Paris for a Bargain

Dear Liza,

One fun thing about Portland is that there are so many wonderful places to eat!

I have had spicy Ethiopian food, luscious vegetarian burgers, and some really indulgent Portland brunches. Last night, however, I had dinner at the best French restaurant outside of France. In my humble opinion, of course.

We took a Lyft car to Bistro Agnes at the corner of 12th and Alder, downtown.

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The Wine

Grandpa Nelson only ever orders French fries (or pommes frites, on the French menu) but he made up for it by ordering a very nice bottle of wine from the Rhône Valley. It was scrumptious.

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Grandpa Nelson talking wine

Auntie Bridgett was very excited about the restaurant’s dozen or so Absinthes and got some advice from Justin, our waiter. He said that the Jade 1901 was the most authentic old-time Absinthe, since it was copied from absinthe in bottles from that time. A lady came by to do the special presentation, with ice water dripped over a sugar cube and into the glass, and it all felt very fancy. Bridgett declared it smooth and sweet, totally delicious.

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Absinthe Presentation

We had escargot and mushrooms for an appetizer, served with wonderfully crunchy bread. We were glad we shared! There was so much!

While we were eating, we were treated to the greatest show on earth, the people of Portland out and about. Bistro Agnes has large windows that let us watch umbrellas, stylish coats and wooly hats go by in the drippy evening.

For dinner I ordered the Mussels Mareniere , which are mussels served in a buttery garlic sauce with MORE crusty bread. I would take a bit, have a sip of that delicious red wine, then go in for another. Yumm!

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MMMMMMMussels

Bridgett ordered a Winter Vegetable Pithiver, which was vegetables and cheese in a beautiful puff pastry. It was so gooey and tasty, she couldn’t stop eating it, even when she was full.

But even the good wine and great food weren’t what made Bistro Agnes the best French restaurant this side of the Atlantic. It was the people, and their attention to making us comfortable, informed, and relaxed. A lady at the door took our coats and umbrellas. Justin asked about food allergies and explained the dishes, including how long Bridgett’s puff pastry would take to cook. The absinthe and dessert presentation were delicious and beautiful.

We stayed two hours, incredibly long for an American dinner, but just about right for France. We never felt rushed or awkward, because every single person there was charming and welcoming.

We won’t be going to Bistro Agnes often, of course, since it is not an inexpensive dinner. But as a stand in for a trip to our home-away-from-home country, it is cheap at twice the price!

Love,

Grandma Judy

North to Alberta, Part 2

Dear Liza,IMG_0548.jpg

After I had explored old buildings and seen monuments, I found what I had originally headed north for, a fabric shop called Modern Domestic. It is bright and well laid out, and carries the variety of fabrics I have been looking for.

Martha, who is the ‘new kid’ at the store, and I had a wonderful conversation about the colors of Portland, and what I would need to do the city justice in my quilt. Greys, for the clouds, she said, and reds for the bricks. It was nice to talk to someone who understood what I was aiming at.

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Martha

After moving bolts of fabric around, I found a perfect Easter Egg, a collection of Fat Quarters from Robert Kaufman in the colors and textures I had been looking for. I tucked it under my arm and continued looking, because the collection was lacking a forest green. Martha helped me find it, hiding in a corner across the shop. Everyone was so helpful, even letting me recharge my phone while I shopped.

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Treasure!

Then I headed off in search of lunch! It is amazing how hungry I suddenly realized I was. I knew Martin Luther King Jr. was a main drag, so I just walked north, knowing something would turn up.

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Tile decoration outside Aberus

And something did. Aberus Ethiopian Food was on the next corner, a small restaurant,  totally empty the whole time I was there, but the food was delicious. I told the lady (cook and waitress) that this was my first time eating Ethiopian food, but that I wasn’t afraid of spice. She recommended Doro Wat, a chicken and chili dish served on a large disc of spongy bread, a hard boiled egg, cheese, and salad. It was spicy, messy, and a wonderful experience. I left with leftovers.

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Ethiopian Feast

Now sated and ready for home, I caught the number 6 south. Walking between Grand and MLK, I found a fellow leaning against a building who seemed to need the leftovers more than I did, so I  gave them to him. We chatted for a minute, then my bus came.

After I had rested, Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. I keep finding new things! Did you know gingko trees have nuts? I didn’t! But now I do, and here is what they look like.

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Gingko nuts!
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Silly Mousekin

The rest of the evening was spent watching the Giants beat the Padres and playing with Mousekin.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Up to Our Eyeballs

Dear Liza,

I am sorry I haven’t written for a few days, but we have been working so hard that by the time we are done, I am too tired to think. The moving truck with all our things came Saturday morning at 7:30. We were still in our jammies! Fortunately, we are fast dressers.

We each took a job: Auntie Bridgett directed where all the boxes would go to be stored in the basement, Grandpa Nelson checked off boxes as they came off the truck, and I made sure the fellows put the furniture in the right rooms upstairs. There was also a lot of lifting, sliding, shifting, and screwing things together. Did you know the legs could come off our piano bench? Neither did I.

After 5 hours of hard, hot work, the team of Francisco, Kenny and Rick finished up and packed up their truck. We walked to Babydoll Pizza on Stark for much-needed sustenance. Their arugula and goat cheese pizza and Thai basil soda gave us the will to go on.

Every day since then has been the frustrating job of opening a box, unwrapping it, piece by piece, to see if there is anything we need in the next year, and then re-wrapping most of it and putting it back in the box. This has been a lesson in the definition of the word “need”. How many coffee cups, really, do we need? How many wine glasses?

But we kept at it. Grandpa Nelson got the tv, internet and computers hooked up, Auntie Bridgett has her office almost the way she wants it, and I can cook in the kitchen and write in my office. We can find towels, toothpaste, and socks. Still no sewing set up, but that will come. My mosaics will probably have to happen in the basement, to save the new floors upstairs.

In between working like dogs, we have enjoyed walking around our Laurelhurst /Kerns neighborhood. Old Victorian and Craftsman style houses, huge trees, lovely little parks, friendly dogs, and great shops and restaurants are all over and make getting from here to there so much fun! We have had a delicious Bangkok bowl at Canteen on Stark Street, ice cream at Fifty Licks and Gelato Staccato, and beer and peanuts at Migration Pub. I have cooked fresh caught salmon with smoked goat cheese (!) and organic chicken with tons of garlic.

We have also discovered our local movie theater, the Laurelhurst, up on Burnside. For $5.00 a person ($2.50 for seniors like me), you can watch a movie while eating pizza and drinking wine, beer, or soda. There are about 6 screens, mostly second run movies, but very affordable, fun, and delicious.

When you come up to visit, I will show you all the fun things here. I miss you very much.

Love,

Grandma Judy