The fun side effect of writing a book full of over 100 date suggestions specially tailored for my fellow Oregonians is that everyone who finds out will ask you what they should do for [insert birthday/anniversary/any random Saturday afternoon] which I genuinely love to oblige. The ask comes through to my brain like I imagine a quarter goes into a fortune-telling machine and the gears begin to grind and clank until a little slip of paper spits out of my mouth with the idea printed upon it, to hopefully delight and entertain the recipient. But add in the complications of our fair city in her, how shall we say, more challenging
winter months (not to mention a global pandemic) and the gears in my fortune-telling brain machine go into overdrive to accommodate. Though the idea of dates might seem superfluous as we creep towards Year Two of This Thing, I’d contend they’re more important than ever as working from home on top of each other, lack of vacations, fiscal worries, and general mind-numbing stress can make even the best of us forget to appreciate the ones getting us through this. So, take the time for each other, for yourself, and an extra special shout-out for those trying to go on first dates in this wild world. Here are three adventures to tackle this season.
Mount Hood is a winter sports paradise, but hurtling down mountains at high speeds isn’t for everyone. Especially for those of us who feel the need to announce their big move from the dining room table to the couch. We can still get in on the powdery action by renting a pair of snowshoes and moving at our own speed.
Grab your rental gear from The Mountain Shop
(locally owned for over 80 years!) as you cruise up to Trillium Lake. There you’ll find an excellent 4-mile-ish trail appropriate for total newbies and expert trekkers, with stunning views and friendly gray jays that might actually land on your beanie for the ultimate magical day. Whether or not you get caught in flurries or make a birdie friend, you’ll still feel like you’re in a snow globe. After you come down from the nature high, make sure to squeeze in a visit to Koya Kitchen
to warm your bones with a steaming bowl of hot ramen. Order from the truck out back and cozy up to your bowl o’ noodles in their heated outdoor area.
Now this is totes doable as a day date, but if you need to escape the one-stop home/office/school/gym/restaurant we’ve all been living in for the past 10 months, then turn it into an extended trip with a stay in a Steiner Cabin. Henry Steiner and his 13 kids left their mark on Mount Hood by way of building 100 log cabins over three decades beginning during the Great Depression. Each of the cabins are different with the family slowly coaxing trees into clever archways and river stones into grand hearths. Amazingly, a handful of these lovelies are available to rent directly from the individual owners on any of the big name rental sites. Before heading up the mountain, pick up the quickly addicting card game Illimat, created in part by local stalwarts The Decemberists and illustrator Carson Ellis
, and a box of Dino Dig Hot Chocolate
from Portland’s Only Child Chocolate, which has a tiny, white chocolate dinosaur skeleton buried inside powdered hot cocoa “soil.” Yes, it’s adorable and makes you feel like a kid again. You both deserve that.
A Post-Pan Plan
The cursedness of 2020 is behind us and a look to the future and possibility of 2021 seems mighty fine right now. So let’s just indulge it with some post-vaccine dreaming which works regardless of your financial situation as this dream vacation can be for next year, in five years, or a milestone birthday in 2030. But the plans all start the same: getting your travel partner on board.
Begin by meeting in the zen world of the Portland Japanese Garden
, where an hour’s stroll will deliver the ultimate result in peace, harmony, and tranquility (they’ve even rerouted the paths into one-way routes for COVID safety). Former Ambassador Nobuo Matsunaga once called this “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan” which means it’s a great place for each of you to lay out your case of what would make the ultimate dream vacation to go on when the day is right. You want to get them on your side? Outline your argument with the vim and vigor of a Perry Mason/Saul Goodman/Ally McBeal as to why your international jet-setting dream is the best. That means spend some time researching. You want to go to Tuscany and drink wine? August is too hot, propose an October sip-a-thon nestled into a countryside vineyard that also boasts fluffy sheep. Or maybe the Japanese Garden naturally pushes you towards Kyoto to see the world-renowned cherry blossoms. You’ve only got about a two-week window to get that nature explosion right, so read on up.
Seal the deal post-walk by making a trip-inspired meal together. Have that shopping list ready for your Spanish paella or maybe pad thai ingredients and pop into World Foods
on your way down the hill. The grocer is locally owned by the Attar family you already know and love for their Lebanese home cooking at Ya Hala
, and is the perfect place to stock up on items for cooking a romantic dinner together. You can find things like Moroccan lemon preserves or bottles of Brazilian Bode Amarela — tiny boba-sized balls of yellow pepper marinated in vinegar — to make your sweetheart something special as you hash out who will get the window seat on the long flight. (Pro-tip: this is not the time to try to invoke dibs.)
Bagels, Brunch, Battleground Galactica
A surefire soothing salve for all of 2020 can be narrowed down to a single word: carbs. Be that watching someone get the coveted Paul Hollywood handshake on The Great British Bake Off
or scoring one of Lovely Fifty Fifty
’s wood-fired pizzas. I say, chase that feeling with a winter brunch outing. Wait for a morning where the downpour eases to a trickle or takes a break altogether (don’t fret, it’ll happen!) and head out of your house with a thermos of coffee to Bernstein’s Bagels
on N. Russell. You can either grab breakfast sammies for the road or extend the joy by getting a dozen of their daily hand-rolled and boiled beauties. (Might I humbly suggest the everything bagel with their house-made Mama Lil’s schmear for a petite party in your mouth?)
Now hop on I-5 for a 40ish-minute jaunt north to Battle Ground Lake. A fun fact on this baby is it’s technically a crater lake (though not the
Crater Lake). In the summer the little lake within a tiny volcano makes for a great, if not frenzied, swimming hole attracting sunbathers, unicorn floaty crews, fisher folks after the trout, and squealing kiddos. But in the off months, you can claim one of the little picnic table nooks dotting the shore with ease. Lay out your fresh bagels, pour that hot coffee, and breathe in the fresh air. (Obviously, you can level up the brunch as you desire. You’d be surprised how a bunch of grapes can make things feel fancy). Enjoy the sounds of the lapping lake snuggled up under a blanket and attempt to tackle the Sunday Times
crossword together (a true relationship challenge). Turns out isolation isn’t so bad when you have a view like this.
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is the senior editor for Portland Monthly
, Oregon’s number-one-selling magazine. She is a well-known personality in the community, often seen judging drag queen pageants, sitting on several advisory boards, chatting through live television segments, emceeing fundraising galas, performing at storytelling events, and even hosting her own quarterly series, Fashion in Film
, at the historic Hollywood Theatre.
Together Eden and her husband, Ashod Simonian
, run the activism-based nail polish company Claws Out, which has included collaborations with the Portland Trail Blazers and Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. They've also coauthored The Portland Book of Dates
— a guidebook to the best adventures, escapes, and secret spots in and around Oregon. Both projects are a natural extension of their adventurous, overextended lifestyle, bringing together Eden’s passion for style and words and Ashod’s artistic skill. They’ve been married since 2017 and work from their slightly creaky 100-year-old house in Portland’s Alberta Arts District with their three bossy cats: Daphne, Foxglove, and Ruby.