Saturday, December 26, 2020

New Normal: Touchless Window Shopping


One of my favorite stationary stores in Portland - 11/11 - closed its physical location due to the pandemic. With such a reduction in foot traffic due to quarantine, loss of customers from the co-working spaces nearby, and the inability to host its many social events, this cute little store could not make it at its former location. 

I was sad when I heard they moved online, but felt a small sense of relief when I heard they returned in pandemic-proof physical form: a touch-less window store. 

Now in downtown Portland, you can see this pretty display of 11/11's best selling items. By scanning a barcode, you can pull up the item list on your phone and order them to be delivered to your house right there. I am so happy to see small businesses innovate during this difficult time, and I can't wait for their physical shop to return. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Lockdown 2.0 Scramble Week

In mid-November the  state of Oregon announced a "two week pause" which halted events and reduced the capacity of in-door dining. Then that "pause" became a "four-week freeze" which banned in-door and out-door dining and closed spas, gyms, and other "non-essential" businesses. In this state of Oregon this also means no bars will open because we can't have cocktails to-go. 

At least this time we knew what was coming, so the week before we scrambled to visit some of our favorite places while we still could. 

First on the list was Eem. Coincidentally, this is also one of the last restaurants we ate at right before the first lockdown in March. It is a small restaurants and I remember we sat so close to other patrons I could smell the food at their table. I leaned over and asked my partner "Should we really be here?" The food was great but we both felt kind of weird for eating out during a looming pandemic. That was March 13th. The first lockdown because March 17th, and Eem, which had never offered to-go options, wouldn't start offering takeout and delivery until August. 

We had eaten Eem's food a few times at home during the lockdown, but once the initial restrictions were lifted we were excited to try the heated private cabanas we had heard so much about. They were every bit as wonderful as we imagined. 

Inside the cabana was a personal fireplace that felt so intimate and cozy. I ordered a cocktail because I knew it would be my last chance, and I indulged on curry, papaya salad, and braised pork belly. 

The second place on our hit-list was Tropicale. I had been there before in August with a friend as a first-pandemic dining experience, and it was magical. I hoped to relive some of that magic, but unfortunately I was too late. Though they had an amazing outdoor cabana, they were already done with dine-in and not serving any cocktails. 

So my partner and I ordered a virgin Pina Colada to go and had their fantastic food on our porch at home. I will be back for a real cocktail once the restrictions are lifted. 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Here We Go Again: Lockdown 2.0

 Almost as soon as I thought things were starting to get better, when restrictions seemed to be loosening and I felt more and more comfortable going out, the city of Portland went right back into lockdown. 

Just the week before, I had done the two things I was most looking forward to post-pandemic: Olympus Spa and Proud Mary. 

Olympus Spa is a Korean Spa with locations in Tacoma and Lynwood, just south and north of Seattle. Ever since my first trip there in 2016, I have fallen in love with that place and try to go every time I am in Seattle. Unfortunately I didn't make it there before the lockdown in March, and I was dreaming of going ever since. 

After eight months of closure, finally in October they announced they would reopen with a myriad of restrictions: 50% capacity reduction, appointment only, had to wear a mask at all times (even in the pools), temperature check at the door, signed consent form, everything sanitized, etc. But I didn't care - I wanted to go. So on a Thursday I called them up and booked the earliest appointment for Monday. I took off work and drove 3 hours north just for a day at the spa. 

It was amazing. Even though my mask got wet. Even though breathing through a wet mask made me feel like I was being waterboarded. I still got to go in all the heated pools, savor the dry sauna, enjoy a decadent lunch at their Korean restaurant, hang out in the heated rooms, and get a full body scrub. And even better, I got to do it all with my best friend. 

On the way back from Seattle I also got to check out a new cafe in the area: Olympia Roasters. We went to their flagship store in Olympia which is usually packed. 

Emboldened by my success at the spa, I booked long-awaited reservations at the newly opening dining hall of Proud Mary. In December of last year I had taken a dear friend from Japan to Proud Mary and had been savoring their  flat white and toast with scrambled eggs ever since. During the lockdown Proud Mary was offering takeout and delivery, but not their flat white and  toast with scrambled eggs. So I waited and waited and finally made reservations and had my first in-door dining experience since March. 

Again, it was wonderful. The food and flat white were exactly as I remembered. We even sat at the exact same table I sat at with my friend a year ago. I also appreciated the reduced capacity and 6-ft distance from other diners because the place was packed and I felt like I had a lot more space and privacy than before. 

I was lucky to have these two incredible experiences before lockdown 2.0. Now Olympus Spa is closed again, and Proud Mary is back to takeout only. I am sad that this joy did not last, but grateful that I got to experience it while I could. 

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