Portland Favorites – Eden: A Garden of Opulent Curiosities

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In this season of buying gifts and the occasional party outfit, I’ve been focusing on buying from local independent stores. I like supporting our local economy – it’s better for local people who make and sell things here, it’s better for the environment (in contrast to that sweater made in China I had my eye on) and I think it fosters a sense of community. In the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve, I’ll highlight a few of my local favorites, starting with Eden: A Garden of Opulent Delights.

This little shop in the Pearl is so much fun to wander through. The proprietress, Cindy Rokoff, stocks the stores with a nice selection of books, jewelry, perfume, vintage clothing, and wonderful ephemera and oddities. The salespeople are really friendly but not at all overbearing or pushy.
It’s hard to know where to start. The store has a nice selection of fragrances, including  Serge Lutens. The great thing about the store’s perfume displays is that they type up little cards that list the scents in each perfume. I can skip right by anything with patchouli or jasmine in it – really, such a great idea.There are scented candles, fancy shampoos, green lip gloss, and lovely soaps. The librarian in me likes looking at the nice selection of books, mainly art, fashion and design. You can also find bottle openers in fun shapes, Bolivian shawls, colorful pillows, a small selection of candy, and rugs.

My favorite merchandise to drool over is the small but stylish selection of vintage clothes, the jewelry, and vintage accessories. There’s a rack of Little Black Dresses of all kinds with a decent variety of sizes, a rack of vintage kimonos, and a rack of pretty coats. The prices are reasonable and you’ll be wearing something unusual and recycled. They just published their annual Holiday Look Book – it’s beautifully done.

They also carry Sonia Kasparian’s stunning Urchin Re.Design dresses, which she creates (upcycles?) from old vintage pieces. They’re couture quality, and beaded and decorated by hand, truly works of art.


Then there’s the jewelry – it’s a nice variety ranging from modern silver cuffs to hand-crafted jewelry from local designers to vintage pieces. I tried on a vintage 1920s necklace with amber glass stones, and the modern statement necklace above by Kiowa Rose that incorporates old findings and stones.

My recent visit was a gift buying foray so I’m not going to reveal what I bought just yet. The store is great fun to wander through – if you’re near Powell’s, it’s just a few blocks away. Right now they have some interesting Christmas ornaments – scarabs, birds, and Chinese lamps. You can always find something curious to look at – the oddest is the stuffed peacock but the resin raccoon skull is a close second.

Eden Door crop

Eden: A Garden of Opulent Curiosities
221 Northwest 11th Avenue
Portland, OR 97209


Dining Adventure – Tasting East

9 Flavor Chicken – photo by Tasting East

Ms. A and I had our most recent dining adventure at Tasting East, or TE, as the sign outside says. It’s located in the Paramount Hotel in the space Dragonfish used to be in – the restaurant on one side of the lobby and the bar on the other.

The drink menu was interesting – we were torn between the Rising Sun Mojito, which had raspberry vodka, a few crushed berries, sake, and mint, and the Feng Shui Me, which has sujo (Korean spirit), basil, cucumber, and elderflower liqueur. The Rising Sun won out – it was refreshing and not too sweet.

The restaurant focuses on small plates for sharing, similar to a tapas bar. The food is Asian influenced, including Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai and ranges from street cart specialties to “haute cuisine.”

Our server was helpful, attentive, and knowledgeable. We started with two protein plates and a bowl of rice. The 9 Spice Chicken was really good – we ordered it mild and it had just the right amount of “bite” for us. There are bowls full of chili oil on the table so you can add as much spice as you want. We also ordered the Stir Fry Ginger Vegetable with beef; I thought it was pretty bland and I didn’t taste much ginger. We weren’t quite sated so we ordered the Shanghai Egg Fried Rice with pork, which was tasty.

The decor is modern with really neat paper lanterns made by a local gallery, HiiH Gallery. It was a little noisy but not unbearably so. We’ll definitely go back!

909 SW Park Ave.
Portland, Oregon
(503) 243-5991

Dining Adventure – Urban Farmer

While plotting our next dining adventure, Ms. A. suggested Urban Farmer, one of two restaurants at the Nine’s Hotel. She’d hosted a dinner for friends there a couple of years ago and really liked it. It’s a steakhouse with an emphasis on Pacific Northwest cuisine. Last year we ate at their other restaurant, Departure, and though the food was decent, the experience overall wasn’t spectacular. I don’t recall what I ate but I do recall the place was noisy and the tables were uncomfortably close together.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived at Urban Farmer was that it was much roomier, and much quieter than Departure. I admit, I’m unhip, but I want to be able to chat with my friends when I go out to eat. The cocktail menu caught our eye, a fun list of interesting concoctions with witty names like the Rude Barbie and the Man Crush. We both ordered the Feast of Love, a combination of Clear Creek cranberry liqueur and prosecco with a lemon twist. We both agreed it was a delightful libation – not too sweet but very flavorful. It was pretty, too.


Since Urban Farmer is a steakhouse, I decided I should order red meat of some sort. The menu had a wonderful selection of steaks, but I chose the prime beef tartare. It was elegantly served in a little glass bowl on a plate with homemade chicharones (fried pig skin), fennel, parmesan cheese, and garlic toast. I’d never had steak tartare before but I am now a convert. The flavor was a succulent combination of raw meat, salt, and a light touch of leek or shallot. The chicarones were tasty, too – crunchy, salty, porky goodness.

Ms. A. ordered the Dungeness crab salad, which was a scoop of crab with heart of palm and carrot decorating the plate. She liked it because it was mostly crab and wasn’t bound together with lots of mayonnaise or other fillers.

For our second course, we both ordered starches – Ms. A. had the macaroni and cheese and I had the twice baked potatoes. They were both really flavorful and very hearty.

Baked macaroni and cheese
Mac n cheese

Twice baked fingerling potato tart

The dessert menu looked interesting but we were both full and happy, and settled on cups of coffee. It was one of our best dining adventures yet- delicious and interesting food, great service, and a pleasant atmosphere we could actually talk in.

Urban Farmer
525 SW Morrison

Dining Adventure – Mucca Osteria

Photo from Mucca Facebook page

For our first dining adventure of the year, my friend Ms. A and I went to Mucca Osteria for dinner. It’s a fairly new Italian restaurant in downtown Portland. Simone Savaiano opened the place last summer with the assistance of his friend Pietro Biondi; both men are professional Italian sommeliers.

The decor and lighting is pleasant, and the mirrors and huge chalkboard with gilt rococco frames add an elegant touch. I like that they’ve exposed the brickwork on the walls; I think it adds to the warm vibe of the space.

The cocktail menu is small but interesting. I had a ginosa – gin, basil, and orange. There’s one made with Campari that I might have to try next time. It was a subdued, refreshing drink. The bread is delicious – it’s a rustic, hearty, dense bread. Some reviewers don’t like the texture but it’s not supposed to be light and airy; it’s peasant bread.

Our server brought us an amuse-bouche of sour cabbage soup. It was a delightful creamy puree with the taste of potatoes with a slight bitter aftertaste of brussel sprouts or cabbage – I couldn’t tell which.

For an appetizer, we shared the lamb carpaccio (carpaccio di agnello). The kitchen plated it separately for us, which was a really nice touch. It was artfully arranged on the plates in small circles, and was topped with pecorino, celery, and the smallest splash of  truffle oil. The lamb was very thinly sliced, and when I took the first bite, I was amazed at how sublime the flavor and texture was. I’ve never had carpaccio but I’m now a convert. And I don’t usually like lamb but this was incredibly delicate and tasty.

We both ordered glass of sangiovese with dinner but I was too focused on the food to pay much attention to the wine; it was very good but once I had a bite of carpaccio, I forgot about it.

For our main courses, I chose one of the specials of the day, risotto with radiccio and goat cheese. Ms. A had the fresh shell pasta with gorgonzola and walnuts. My bowl of slighly purple risotto was the perfect comfort food for a chilly night. The goat cheese was mild but the radiccio added some bitterness which worked well together. Ms. A’s pasta was handmade with the perfect texture. We both enjoyed our entrees.

The dessert menu was lovely though we were pretty sated by the end of the meal. I decided to try the cantucci and vin santo as the perfect end to a graet meal. An Italian women whose house I stayed in a few years ago made cantuccini one day and we dipped in vin santo after dinner. Cookies dipped in sweet wine – heavenly! Mucca’s were tender but had more chocolate chips that I thought they needed. Heresy for this chocolate glutton, I know.

Our charming server was helpful and knowledgeable and had a great Italian accent. The food was great, as was the wine. We’d both been here at different times for lunch and really enjoyed it. I had the wild boar ragu pappardelle (pappardelle al ragù di cinghiale) at lunch time and will defintely have it again.

Our one complaint was the music; we were sitting right under a speaker, and the music was too loud; we could barely converse. Our server did turn it down a bit but it was still too loud – the concrete and brick interior don’t muffle the noise at all. I think sitting away from the speaker would help.

If you haven’t been to Mucca Osteria, please go check it out. We’d like to see them succeed!

Mucca Osteria
1022 SW Morrison

St. Jack Dining Adventure

For our latest dining adventure, A. and I decided to go to St. Jack restaurant for dinner. I’d been there before for lunch and was really looking forward to dinner. We both agree this was the best meal we’ve had together since we started our dining adventures more than a year ago.

Fisherman's stew

Gratin de macaroni

The decor is simple but I love the lighting, which is a mixture of low electric lights and candles. But they’re not just ordinary candles; they’re mountains of white wax made from the drippings of melted candles. I’m not describing this very well but the effect of the lighting was very flattering, both to the food and to les femmes d’un certain âge. 

I started with a glass of sparkling wine and A. started with a white wine. The server’s suggestions were spot on. My bubbly was not too sweet, but more of an aperitif.

The menu was a delight to read – simple Lyonnaise dishes, not too many choices, and good descriptions of each. One of the specials of the day was beef heart, which our waiter assured us was tender and delicious; I was tempted to be adventurous, but ended up ordering from the menu.

For our appetizers, I chose frog leg’s persillade, and A. chose the salade Lyonnaise frisée, one of her favorites. It had plenty of bacon lardons, and bacon fat croutons, balanced with curly endive. She really liked it.

I had only eaten frog’s legs once before, as a child. I don’t recall much about them except I was tricked into eating them. (Dad!!) This might be my new favorite food. They were dipped in flour and gently sauteed, and served en persillade, a parsley lemon sauce. They were served over potatoes, or rather, a potato puree. (I’m sure there’s a name for it but it’s eluding me at the moment.) I could have ordered a second helping for my entree – they were that delicious. The meat was succulent and juicy with just the right amount of tartness from the persillade. The potatoes balanced the lemony parsley sauce perfectly. Scrumptious.

For our entrees, A. ordered the fisherman’s stew and I ordered the gratin de macaroni Gruyère, cheddar, Rogue blue, and bacon. We both ordered a house red wine but I don’t remember what it was – I was too focused on the food. The wine was very good, and our entrees were delicious. My macaroni was incredibly rich and flavorful and perfect for a cool autumn day. 

The servers were friendly, efficient, unobtrusive, and knowledgeable. The vibe is informal, not fancy. This would be called a “bouchon” in Lyon, where they serve traditional, hearty food. Now I just need to try out their happy hour and some of their interesting drinks. How one resist “The Guillotine?”

St. Jack, 2039 SE Clinton, Portland, 503-360-1281

Favorite PDX Places – Fyberworks Boutique

I have had two amazing interactions with the owner and staff at Fyberworks in the past few months; their customer service is some of the best I’ve ever encountered.

I’d rarely ventured into Fyberworks much because on my first foray a few years ago, my impression was that they sold pricey comfort clothes for middle aged women; it seemed to be a place my mom would shop at.

Fast forward a few years later when a minor shoulder injury made it necessary to find attractive, loose, comfortable clothes for work (and real life.) My usual tailored skirts and slacks and fitted sweaters no longer worked because I couldn’t zip my pants and skirts, nor could I button up my shirts. I also couldn’t lift my arm enough to put on a tee shirt or sweater. Other than a couple pairs of yoga pants, I haven’t worn elastic waist pants since 1980. I’m just not a sweatpants kind of girl. What to do?

One of my very stylish friends buys some beautiful clothing at Fyberworks, and she always looks pulled together and original. There is nothing matronly about Colleen. She’s a real estate broker in Portland, and she has a bohemian but not too off beat look. She’s also small – this isn’t a plus size shop but they do have plus sizes. I decided I needed to check them out again when it became apparent my regular clothes weren’t working.

I arrived at Fyberworks at 5:25…and they close at 5:30. Whoops – I hadn’t done my research. The owner, Cindy Zielinski, very nicely said it was no problem if I came in and shopped for a little while. I asked one of her employees to help me find something to make my visit more efficient. She graciously spent time finding me a few easy-on, easy-off comfortable pieces. I tried on what she found, which takes much longer when one’s arm and shoulder don’t really work. No problem – I never felt rushed, and in fact, the staff and owner went out of their way to make me feel welcome.

Cut Loose linen ruffled blouse

Kleen linen lantern pants

As it turns out, they do sell comfortable clothing but it’s sophisticated, flattering, and  made from quality fabrics. My choices on my first visit were brown Kleen linen cropped pants, a Vine Street fuchsia (!) hoodie in a light jersey fabric, and a beautiful Cut Loose linen blouse with a ruffle down the placket. I wore these pants for weeks, even to work.

I had such a great experience the first time that I decided to go back and really look around and see what other treasures they might have. They stock an amazing variety of jersey pieces with interesting cuts. I bought a long jersey Apropos brand skirt in purple that flatters and fits really well, and was perfect for work those days my zipping and buttoning skills were off. The selection of t-shirts and camisoles was overwhelming – pretty colors, lovely modal and cotton fabrics, nice (not junior sized) cuts. I bought a berry colored long sleeved Turkish cotton tee that is so soft.

The shop also sells lots of pretty jewelry, some of it made here in Oregon. I really only scratched the surface of the place – there are so many pretty things to look at. The owner is a clothing designer but I didn’t even get to her stuff. And did I mention there’s an excellent sale room in the back? If you’re looking for great service, a fun space, and comfy clothes that are a notch (or 20) above your rattty sweatsuit, this is the place to go!

Tuesday-Saturday 11-5:30
Sunday 12-4:00
4300 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR 97215
(503) 232-7659