I should start by saying today was a bust on the apartment hunt.
But I will share good news.
The food in Portland is bangin‘.
This morning, feet still sore from yesterday’s trek across the this little big town, my mother and I set out as hopeful seekers of a Portland apartment.
Our first stop was at my favorite coffee shop of the moment: Barista on NW 13th, a charming and delicious third-wave hole in the wall. It’s so hip I can barely stand it.
It would be a lie to say we did anything less than guzzle our cappuccinos, thrilled at their quality of espresso and milk texture. My little barista heart sang with glee.
But the real task was at hand. Apartments. Living. Right.
Unfortunately, I tend to be woefully underprepared for life’s little intricacies. Most complexes, I had quickly discovered, required proof of employment.
I had exactly one paystub from my last restaurant in my purse, and it was a little rough around the edges. On the back I had scribbled two phone numbers and Jeremiah 1:9 – 10, which (in case you were wondering) says,
“Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Words which, as a writer, soothe my soul. I love knowing that whatever words leave my mouth (or keyboard) have already been spell-checked by God, who knows exactly who will hear them and how they will affect people. Takes a lot of the pressure off.
But leasing offices don’t really care about Jeremiah 1: 9 – 10. Leasing offices care about rent.
Anyway, after stumbling around neighborhoods, prowling Craigslist, creeping on bulletin boards and asking literally every person we interacted with, the result was very loud radio silence.
No luck. No home.
Far from discouraged, as strange as that may seem, the only logical thing to do then was cease the hunt, take a breather and eat.
I may not have a home. But I have a full stomach and a light heart.
We ate at Mediterranean Exploration Company, a cheery, bustling restaurant exactly one block away from Barista on NW 23rd.
The food was incredible. Everything served in shareable, tapas-style order; the dishes kept coming until we literally could eat no more.
We began with beef bacon wrapped dates, each date costing us two dollars. I can attest, upon finishing mine, that it is the best two-dollar bite I have ever consumed. Sweet, savory and texturally satisfying (a Marcona almond in the center of each date added just enough bite) I seriously consider it one of the best singular bites I have ever taken.
This was followed by a dish of scallops with perfectly tender, pale flesh in the center and a crisp, golden seared crust.
Before we’d even finished, the scallops were overshadowed by what was easily the best dish of the night: plump, flavorful mussels served with juicy, bright tomatoes and enough broth to drink as soup. Two crisp slices of bread had been thoughtfully added alongside to sop up the delicious remaining juices.
“I believe I have some mussels here,” our food runner said, handing us the bowl. My mother, in typical fashion, responded with a grin and a food pun.
“You do,” she said, pointing at his bicep. He laughed as if to say, I’ve never heard that one before, and departed to the sound of our childish giggles as we cracked ourselves up.
When we were met with the next dish — grilled octopus with dill — our stomachs had begun to near the fill line.
“Alright,” my mother said. “Hand me a tail.”
“Tail? You mean tentacle?”
“Close enough,” she replied. “All ten of them. I mean… eight. Whatever.”
(This is how you know it’s been a long day– my mother is the smartest woman I know and sharp as a tack. Usually.)
Finally we reached the last of our tapas, decadent lamb chops cooked to medium-rare perfection.
“There are secrets to this,” my mother said, awe in her voice. She was right. There were secrets in the lamb.
When we had finished and paid the bill, we took a long walk to the light rail, realizing that although no apartment was in sight, the day had been filled with valuable knowledge and really good food.
And if I’m being honest, that’s what I came to Portland for.
So today was a success.