Identifying the location for my brother’s bachelor party was one of the most challenging first-world problems I’ve ever encountered. Cue sad horns, and over-exaggerated frown. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but in all sincerity it was quite the quandary. Ideally the location would be equidistant from San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Boston, and New York. And unless we were headed to Lebanon, Kansas— a city best known for lynching gays, and being the exact center of the contiguous United States—some outliers would be schlepping from across the country. It had to offer both activities during the day, and, for those interested, drunk debauchery at night. The weather had to be good, which in August eliminates anything too humid or too hot. And as the best Best Man, I wasn’t about to put my name on some trashy cliché of a weekend, so Las Vegas was out….in fact, any place known for meathead frat guys, fist pumping, smoking indoors, or house music was pretty much off the list.
I passed on Los Angeles out of fear I’d subconsciously turn my brother’s bachelor party into a typical rainbow themed weekend in WEHO (West Hollywood) where we hit up all my favorite gay bars until last-call and then shamelessly flirt with the middle-aged Russian waitresses at Canter’s Deli on Fairfax until we sober up.
My brother and his fiancé had just spent a long weekend with friends bathing in Tex-Mex cuisine and BBQ sauce, so Austin wasn’t an option either.
“EUREKA!” I shouted on the phone to my brother, “we’ll go to New Orleans. It’s perfect! It’s central, they have a vibrant jazz scene, the Cajun and creole cuisine is out of this world, and the bars give away “roadies” so you can finish your alcoholic beverages in public. Done and done! New Orleans it is. From the bayous to Bourbon Street, we’d eat, drink and be as merry as a bunch of straight guys, two party girls, and a gay couple can be.
“Sounds great, but we can’t go there,” my brother said. “I promised Annie that we’d only go somewhere she’s already been to or doesn’t have an interest in going to in the future.”
“Well that sucks!”
A back and forth like a metronome we went for weeks. I’d propose some fantastic new idea, and my selfish-soon-to-be-sister-in-law-who-I-now-love would shoot it down. Until the day we floated the idea of Portland.
“It’s actually on her list,” my brother said, “but it’s not at the top.”
So we locked it in and started planning. Which is a good thing too, because we were approaching game time and I wasn’t about to let my brother get shackled without one last hurrah of independence!
Portland ended up being the perfect destination for a bachelor party. An inexpensive Southwest flight away for anyone on the west coast, it offers the perfect combination of activities and gluttony, oh and there’s no sales tax! Hitting its stride in the locavore movement, Portland chefs put a skinny-jeans spin on culinary classics while serving refined flavors in a rustic sort of way with side of body odor and natural streaks of gray hair. It’s true, a lot of younger local Portland hipsters reek of BO, which is organic. And from what I observed, organic is the new natural, and natural was the new synthetic…..which somehow makes it okay to offend strangers with our stinky pits and swampy crotch.
And let’s not forget the beer and all its micro-brewed glory. Quintessential to the success of any “typical” bachelor party—though my brother is anything but typical—is the consistent flow of booze. Fortunately, Portland’s teeming with breweries ranging in size from teeny tiny to giant, most of which are within a reasonable walking distance from one another, making walking brewery tours an ideal evening activity for a group looking to drink their way across the city.
But taking home trophies for the most strip clubs per capita, the most microbreweries within a city limits, having the largest independent book store in the world, the smallest park within city limits (2.5 feet wide), oh and the fact that it’s the “whitest city in the US,” played nothing into our decision making. The ability to take a day trip up the mountains to go white water rafting on the White Salmon River is what actually sealed the deal for me.
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s a great bonding experience that none of us would forget, especially since we did it with a naked blow-up doll wearing a “Vagina, it’s what’s for dinner” tanktop named Shandy tied to the front of our raft like a nautical figurehead carved into the bow of a ship. I’ll explain how “Shandy” came to be in a future post, but Portland (Oregon in general) is one of the few cities in the US where you can bring a blow-up doll everywhere you go, and the locals will give you a thumbs up and a smile….and that’s what makes it awesome! Here’s a few shots of one of our rafts going down the river…..with Shandy of course.
We had an amazing time on the river and highly recommend the fun and professional folks at Wet Planet Whitewater if you’re looking to book a rafting trip. In addition to getting us all down the river safely, they also served us a delicious lunch picnic afterwards!
Pok Pok Pok Pok…Pokaw!
One night we made dinner reservations at Portland’s most famous Thai restaurant Pok Pok (they only take reservations for large groups). We had no idea what to expect, and when we arrived at the restaurant, we sort of thought we’d written the address down wrong. Pok Pok is known for their authentic Thai cuisine, but the fragile-looking assemblage of corrugated metal roofing held up by wooden stilts with splashes of bamboo around the sides and back, make you feel like you’ve temporarily transplanted to a makeshift restaurant on the edge of a river in Chiang Mai.
Pok Pok is all about the food and less about the ambience, though, having spent a few weeks traveling through Thailand, I’d say they have the glamour of the countryside all figured out. Though everything is a burst of flavor, with hints of cilantro, citrus, fish sauce and chilies, what you’ll want to make sure you order plenty of are the famous Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings. Having been to the restaurant twice now, I can honestly way they’re the best chicken wings I’ve ever had. And when I get a third chance to dine at Pok Pok (fingers crossed I’m headed to Portland at some point in the next few years), I’ll have learned my lesson, and I’ll just order two plates of wings for myself. Because that’s what happiness on a plate is. They’re what you wait in line for when you go to Pok Pok in Portland, or in Brooklyn if you happen to be waiting for a table at their recently opened Manhattan or Long Island locations.
Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings: half dozen fresh whole natural chicken wings marinated in fish sauce and sugar, deep fried, tossed in caramelized Phu Quoc fish sauce and garlic and served with Vietnamese Table salad.
And to wash those down we ordered a round of the drink special, which was a white sangria inspired by the flavors of Southeast Asian.
Yam Makheua Yao: smoky charcoal grilled long eggplant salad with spicy dressing of Thai chillies, lime, fish sauce and palm sugar; topped with roughly chopped boiled egg, dry shrimp, minced pork, prawns, shallots, and grispy garlic.
This is one of those dishes the waitress said people either love or hate, and she was spot on. There is never going to be someone who falls in between on this dish. Either you love eggplant and the unique combo of smoking it with dried shrimp, boiled egg and pork, or you don’t. If you’re lukewarm on eggplant, I would just skip this dish altogether. I happen to love eggplant and smoky notes in the most random of places and this dish grew on me like fungus in a wooded 24 Hour Fitness steam room.
Sai Ua Samun Phrais: Chiang Mai sausage with herbs. Burmese curry powder and aromatics. Charcoal grilled and served with Naam Phrik Num (spicy green chile dip), Khaep Muu (Thai pork rinds) and steamed crudités. Rustic and spicy, should be eaten with stick rice. Having been to Chiang Mai I felt nostalgic and ordered this dish, and it reminded me of something I paid $1 for from a street vendor during one of the night market celebrations just before the winter holiday. Just imagine eating it on a stick, while wearing Chocos sandals and linen pants while walking down a crowded street in 80° weather. Magical, right?
Cha Ca “La Vong”: Catfish marinated in turmeric and sour rice in turmeric oil with scallions and dill, served on rice vermicelli with peanuts, mint, cilantro and mam nem. This dish is very light and refreshing with the mind ad the sour rice. The kind of dish you can eat all day and never feel full from.
Sii Khrong Muu Yaang: Carlton Farms baby back ribs marinated in lao jiin, soy, honey, ginger, and Thai spices. Slow roasted and served with 2 spicy dipping sauces. This was the only dish I wouldn’t chose to order again. Sure it was tasty, but I’d prefer a bigger meat to collagen/bone ratio when I eat short ribs. I know some people enjoy gnawing on their bones and grizzle, but I have sensitive teeth, so….well you know how it is.