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Big Pimpin’ in Seaside

It is my belief that Lewis and Clark,

Soggy and suffering from a recurring strain of malaria, were looking for one thing and one thing only when they stumbled into Seaside, Oregon. It wasn’t money or fame, or even a decent bed or the company of a good (hopefully syphilis-free) woman. It was the thing we all seek at one point in our lives. The thing that brings us together, binds man to sea and potato to shellfish.

That’s right. Clam Chowder.

“WELL WHERE THE FUCK IS IT???”

-M. Lewis, January 8, 1806

It wasn’t the chowder specifically that brought Yean and I to Seaside a couple weeks ago, but I will say that our journey did involve a lot of food hunting. Portland’s turned a bit chilly by now, but Seaside was still a comfortable mix of sunny and breezy. I always feel bad when we head to other places on the coast like Astoria, because we end up passing through Seaside without a second glance. We scoff at the Pig n’ Pancake and outlet shops and go on our merry way. But there’s more to seaside than whet you see along the highway! This is alarming to me, as someone from a beach town that’s pretty much exactly what you can see from highway 1.

Seaside is kind of like if Monterey and Santa Cruz had a baby. And then that baby started banging Pier 39. It was October, so it was a little on the dead side, but there’s a long touristy street with bright ice cream and fudge shops and semi-shady nautically themed restaurants/bars. At the end of that is a little turnaround with the statue from the top of the post, and a looooong hotel-lined boardwalk extending in either direction. We walked up and down it exactly 5,000 times.

I’m not ashamed to say our first stop was The Buzz On Broadway, an enormous candy shop boasting fudge, gummies, and A LOT of bacon-related goodies. Now, I am not one to be swayed by candy shop selections. I work with sugar all day. I’ve seen it all. And there’s no nostalgia factor for me because my parents did not let me eat that shit. But I am strangely taken with these gummi cola bottles, which smell like ass but taste delicious. Also there is a massive fudge selection. You can get a “6-pack” of fudge, ensuring you’ll never have a real six pack but oh who cares it’s buy four, get two free, or B4G2F. Faced with the undeniable bargain of B4G2F, Yean and I bought six initially impressive pieces of fudge which we of course had no desire to finish after day three. We liked pumpkin the best, creamsicle the least. Peanut butter swirl was good but needed more peanut butter. Chocolate-walnut and milk/dark layered were good but nothing to write home about, and maple pecan was…sweet. Very sweet. And the nuts could have been fresher. I gained five pounds regardless.

Then we went to the Aquarium! To see seals! The Seaside Aquarium is one of those old-timey boardwalk attractions that has somehow survived despite the fact that it looks like a place where fish go to die. But hey! The aquarium has octopus and a giant lobster exoskeleton and a thriving Harbor Seal breeding program. These are no loose seals.

Is it wrong to say that I found this really enjoyable? The dorky laugh at the end of the video is me being alarmed at the splashing of some frustrated seals who had HAD IT UP TO HERE with the tourists next to us, who were being indecisive with handing out the little fish you can buy at the ticket booth. Sadly, it had the opposite effect the seal intended and we all ran away giggling instead of giving up the tasty snacks. Later they had a “real feeding” with bigger fish, and the noise was fucking ridiculous. I found myself jealous of these seals. “Those fat bastards.” I thought. “I’d like to swim around all day while people give me treats. I guess it would get boring, but then you could just go hump something.”

We really needed a vacation, is what I’m saying.

Then we went for a nice little walk on the beach, which was surprisingly clean and condom-free. There wasn’t even a Taco Bell to interrupt the view. SERIOUSLY, THIS BEACH TOWN GIRL IS CONFUSED. You actually use your beaches for recreation? And people are okay with that?

We rounded out the day with linner at Norma’s Ocean Diner, which had sub-par chowder but DE-FUCKING-LICIOUS fried oysters. Even the tartar sauce was amazing, and I am not necessarily a big tartar sauce person. Yean had a salmon BLT, which she claims was exactly as wonderfully decadent as it sounds. I didn’t try it because I didn’t want to share my oysters. Sometimes it’s like that when we eat.

I can’t even feel bad about the chowder, which was a tidge skimpy on the clams and very, very potatoey. But I knew from the start it wouldn’t be my One And Only Chowder. It says right on the menu that it’s pork-free, and me, I’m a pork girl. The search continues! Side note: why do saltines taste so good in soup? They’re so bland otherwise. But put a soup cup in front of me and I go all Napoleon Dynamite.

“You gonna eat your ‘tines?”

Yean gave me hers. She didn’t even make me bark for it. I did slap my belly, though.

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Just A Bite

Portland is cold, and we are broke.

So today Yean and I made another excursion to the Rose Test Garden, which is free (free!) and very pretty. It’s rare that I end up in the 23rd-ish area of Portland, which is a shame because Ken’s Artisan Bakery, my favorite bakery in Portland, is there. On our way down Burnside to Washington Park this exchange occurred:

YEAN: Oh, aren’t we near Ken’s?

EMMY: Omg, yes.

(moment of silence)

YEAN: You wanna swing by there?

EMMY: OMG YES. I mean, I am a bit peckish.

YEAN: (makes wild right onto 21st.)

I always tell people Ken’s makes the best croissants in Portland. I have not sampled all the croissants in Portland (though that would be an AWESOME THING TO DO) but I do know that Ken’s bakes theirs nice and dark, which is not common! You know those anemic Costco-type croissants that are all floppy and pale? I know, I’d totally still eat them too, but to me the proper way to bake a croissant is nice and dark, helped along with a healthy egg wash. It gets all nice and flaky, but still stays chewy and yeasty in the middle. Basically, if you’re not making a huge crumby mess when you eat it, you’re doing it wrong.

And yes, my hand is that tiny and cute. It’s a gift.

Yean got a morning bun, which reminds me of the ones I used to bring herĀ  from Grace Baking and La Farine in Oakland. It’s a Bay Area staple, but in Portland they do it a bit different. Is that raw sugar I spot on the outside?

Yean says there was some sort of lemon zest mixture in the middle, but I can’t confirm that. I didn’t try it.

When it comes to pastries, we don’t share. We’re cruel like that.

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Call Your Mother

Mommy was in town last week.

Some people don’t like the word “mommy.” Some people, I’d even say, are sickened by it. But I feel all right using the word at 24 because a) it’s not that unusual in Asian families, b) I’m pretty comfortable with my level of independence from my mother, and c) If I stopped now, I’d break my mother’s heart. Well, that’s not fair. My mom’s a hearty sort of woman; I’m sure she’d understand. But to me, she’s Mommy. I can refer to her as “my Mom” to other people, but on the rare occasion when I get to see her, she’s Mommy. Name: Mommy. Occupation: Mom. She also has a real name and occupation, but look at her. She’s just so dang cute.

Such a Mommy.

So the first thing we did, of course, was take her to Mother’s Bistro, a restaurant in downtown Portland. I hate that I like this place so much. It’s big, it’s in the middle of the city, and you can always see the chefs taking a smoke break when you’re waiting for a table. I hate that. I had a teacher in school who refused to enter Jake’s Grill downtown for this same reason. But the food at Mother’s is so, so good. The egg dishes are gorgeous. The biscuits and gravy is rich and meaty. And they make an eggs benedict that jiggles like an angel’s boobies. I don’t even care about the nicotine-sucking cooks (like RIGHT OUTSIDE THE DOOR). They make a bangin’ hollandaise.

I have to try very, very hard not to get biscuits and gravy every time. Or eggs benedict. But I’m also in love with this stuffed fritata, which is essentially an omelet with broiled cheese on top.

The next day, we went to the Rose Gardens in Washington Park. I’ve actually never been before, despite the fact that I used to live one MAX stop away from it.

I took a lot of pictures. A LOT. And it was very bright, so I couldn’t quite see what I was doing. But some of them came out okay! Actually, most of them. I guess you can’t go wrong with pretty roses.

Let me tell you, that place is huge. If it wasn’t for the fact that we’d just gone to the Japanese gardens and at that point were severely hungry, I could’ve wandered around for hours. Did you know there’s a Julia Child rose?

And a Karl Lagerfeld one?

All in all it was a nice way to spend the afternoon. And it felt fitting. Roses for Mommy, because she’s awesome. Even though she’s not fond of receiving flowers, and also I think it’s illegal to bring Oregon plants into California. As I am writing this she’s just called my sister and told her that she’s home safe, even though she couldn’t sleep in her hotel last night because the woman in the room next door was making loud sex noises.

That’s my Mommy. I miss her already.

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