Portland is an up and coming city, with burgeoning music, design, culinary and literary scenes. It also happens to be the home of some of our favorite visual artists: Amy Ruppel, Evan B. Harris and Trish Grantham. And frankly, it's got to have something going on if Michelle Williams is up and moving there; one might even say that Portland is enjoying the darling-city status that Seattle had in the 90's. But are hip boutiques, cool art and nice city planning enough? No way: take us to the bakeries. Cakespy recently took a trip to the NW districts of Portland; here's what we found:
City Market: We can't resist a good-looking market, and we were rewarded by a lovely bakery section, which had an impressive array of baked goods from local bakeries. But what we found most exciting was getting a sneak peek at the wares of Pix Patisserie (which itself is located in the SE part of the city), a beautiful collection of tarts, gateaux and other French-style pastries which made us very eager to do a Cakewalk in SE Portland. 735 NW 21st Ave., (503) 221-3007.
Cupcake Jones: Unlike the retro-trendy cupcakes that are abounding right now, Cupcake Jones' wares leaned more toward a European style of cake, with cream fillings and rich, ganache-y frostings. The cupcakes are good, but in our opinion, not quite as good as those up the street at Saint Cupcake. However, this is just our opinion; if you do prefer the more rich and dense type of frosting, this might be your place. 307 NW 10th Ave., (503) 222-4404; online at cupcakejones.net.
Ken's Artisan Bakery: Beautiful artisinal treats presented in a large, high-ceilinged and lovely space, with rows and rows of European-style bakery cases that were like boulangerie meets patisserie, with a dose of American Comfort food. The leafy, buttery puff pastry was to die for; the hazelnut cake was rich, moist and crave-inducing. Cakespy Note: the Ken's camp also recently opened Ken's Artisan Pizza; even we know that sometimes you need to eat something savory to work up your appetite for dessert. 338 NW 21st Ave., (503) 248-2202; online at kensartisan.com.
Papa Haydn: This is the type of place that always gets awarded "best dessert"...and it's fully deserved. It's a sit-down cafe and a little bit pricey, but worth it: the cakes are made with precision, impeccably decorated yet still extremely inviting, and portions are extremely generous. The Baked Alaska was wonderful; dare we say it was "the bombe"? (sorry, just a little pastry humor). 701 NW 23rd Ave., (503) 228-7317; online at papahaydn.com.
Pearl Bakery: Their t-shirts say "Eat Bread", and we like that carbohydrate-friendly attitude. Their shortbread cookies crumbled just right, and their cakes are of the more muffin-y sort, a buttery delight. The large streetside windows are ideal for people-watching in the fashionable Pearl district; we couldn't imagine a nicer place to while away a chilly northwest afternoon. 102 NW 9th Ave., (503) 827-0910; online at pearlbakery.com.
Powell's City of Books: Sure, it's the Mecca for book lovers, but we were pleased to see that they didn't skimp on the baked goods in their cafe. Their pastries come from several local bakeries, and included several good-lookin' vegan options. Plus, there are always magazines and books to browse through. 1005 W Burnside St., (503) 228-4651; online at powells.com.
Saint Cupcake: It was love at first bite here once we were able to choose a flavor from the festive rows of sweetly decorated cupcakes . The taste was vaguely reminiscent of the cupcakes from elementary school class parties...but a major step up in quality. As a bonus, there's a cute legend of the patron Saint Cupcake on the wall to give you a little story to go with your cake. Cakespy Note: They also carry a nice selection of vegan and gluten-free cupcakes. 407 NW 17th Ave. (with another location in SE Portland), (503) 473-8760; online at saintcupcake.com.
St. Honore Boulangerie: This place was hella crowded when we walked in around lunch time, and it's not hard to see why. A beautiful selection of French breads greets you as you walk in the door, but we resisted the urge, instead going for the gorgeous namesake St. Honore pastries, the rows of glistening eclairs and a ridiculously perfect apple chiboust. 2335 N.W. Thurman St., (503) 445-4342; online at sainthonorebakery.com.
Sweet Masterpiece: Upon heading back to the Amtrak station to return to Seattle, this cute chocolate cafe was well-lit and inviting; we figured, one last stop couldn't hurt. And we were rewarded, with tiny but exceedingly flavorful little truffles that tasted so much bigger than their tiny presence would let on (and made us understand why they were so pricey per piece!). We hear their hot chocolate is excellent as well. 922 NW Davis St., (503) 221-0055
Whole Foods: A veritable best-of, Whole foods in the Pearl District features beautiful offerings from the Pearl Bakery, St. Honore Boulangerie, and many other local bakeries. But they also have a fine selection of their own made in-house pastries which are exceedingly good: cookie sandwiches with a maple frosting filling; creamy and adorably decorated cupcakes, and scones of all sorts. 1210 NW Couch St., (503) 525-4343; online at wholefoodsmarket.com.