Christmas in the Northwest: Powell’s Books

The day after Christmas, I met up with a friend for an evening out in Portland.  We have a traditional evening that we spend: we either go to a brewpub (if we want to eat) or Vault Martini (if we just want to drink and nibble), and then to Powell’s.

First a word about Vault Martini, even though we didn’t go there this time.  They have martinis that go far beyond your traditional gin or vodka with two olives.  Infused vodkas line the walls behind the bar, and the drinks menu is daunting in its size.  Their martinis are cleverly named; they have drinks named after the seven deadly sins and drinks with names like “Agent Orange” “Hot and Dirty” and “Botox”.  Try the Earl Grey martini, with tea-infused vodka, cream, and honey.  My favorite is the Scarlet Orange; with raspberry vodka, blood orange puree, and fresh lime, it is filled with flavor.  You can also get other drinks; my friend L likes the Blueberry Tea, which is a combination of black tea, amaretto, lemon and Grand Marnier, served warm.  Warning: this place is pretty small, and can get crowded.  It can also be a bit of a pick-up spot, but it’s great for people watching.  Get there early and settle in with some nibbly things in the best seats in the house, and stick around for the “scene” to begin.

L and I made our way to the Deschutes Brewery on Sunday night for a real meal.  L is a beer person; I am not.  However, I loved the ambiance of the place, and the excess numbers of “Eco-warrior” types hanging around.  It was plaid, fleece, and beanies as far as the eye could see.

We both had the Sweet & Spicy Baked Mac & Cheese, which is a pasta dish with Tilamook white cheddar and sweet chile cream.  We both agreed that the word “mac” was ill-used here, as the pasta was penne, but we’re picky like that.  It was amazingly tasty, with a little kick to it.  The side salad was delicious, and I had a great fume blanc.  Definitely a good choice for a winter meal.

Then we did the trek through Powell’s.  Powell’s is the best independent bookstore EVER, in my opinion.  I’ve never been anyplace like it.  The main store has over one million books for sale.  It is the largest new & used bookstore in the world.  It is well organized with different colored rooms for different book categories.  We usually spend more time in Powell’s than we did this time; it was broiling in the store on Sunday night, and I was not comfortable.  But we didn’t walk away empty-handed.  I convinced L to buy the entire Hunger Games trio of books in a boxed set; I finally found Jellicoe Road.  We ended up exchanging Christmas gifts–a.k.a. buying each other books that we wanted but were reluctant to buy.  She got me Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal; I got her It’s A Book (which is one of my new favorite books).  I actually bought so many books over this vacation that I’ve had to ship them home to myself, so I have nothing new to read yet.

It wouldn’t be a trip to Portland without a visit to Powell’s. It was crowded in there, too.  My favorite moment of the night was when a store associate came over the intercom looking for any associate who knew the name of a sci-fi book where a primitive society and an advanced society clash.  He described it so thoroughly over this announcement in such a deadpan voice; every single person–shopper and associate–stopped for a moment and thought “have I read a book like that?” L and I both wished we’d known the book.

So, to recap: alcohol, then Powell’s.  One will lower your resistance to the other.  Though I would challenge any reader to go to Powell’s and leave empty handed.

2 thoughts on “Christmas in the Northwest: Powell’s Books

  1. Oh how I love Powell’s, I bought the Hunger Games there this summer 🙂 I love their little section at the front with gifty things, little games, knick knacks, and general crap that you normally wouldn’t buy yourself but are happy to buy for others. I also love how much of a MAZE Powell’s is, anyone who’s said they could get lost in a bookstore, really REALLY could in here. The floors, rooms, elevators, and entrances/exits are all color coded & there are maps reminding you where you are at every doorway.
    I miss it.

  2. dood. powells is a MUST on our list of things to do, aka, bookstores we must visit throughout the world. i am jeal. not only cause you are get to frequent it regularly but also because you found jellicoe road. i need that book yesterday.

    ps– earl grey martini?!? sounds like heaven. 😉

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