Hump Day: Weekend Birthday Cake, Drinks & Dinner at Departure

Cava, Dig a Pony
Cava, Dig a Pony

It was my big 3-1 birthday on Saturday, September 7th (shared with the talented man behind the charismatic Benjamin Linus, Michael Emerson) and I have to say, I enjoyed the time much more than anticipated. I was swamped with prep for Monday’s Speakeasy night and didn’t have much time to spare or interest in doing much. There were cheeses to culture! Dozens upon dozens of mini tart shells to bake! Why, Great Northern beans to cook, heirloom tomatoes to smoke, various mushrooms and herbs to roast for pâté, and so on.

Frankly, it was rather nice keeping my focus elsewhere. Last year, I made a point of leaving the country on principle alone for the hoopla around the big 3-0, but this year, I didn’t make a celebratory plan. I wasn’t in a funk, I’m feeling comfortable leaving my twenties behind — I just didn’t really see the need to celebrate when I was so preoccupied, and really, could find a cause for sparkling wine on another evening.

Then, this surprise cake happened and it quickly unfolded into an exciting, bustling weekend. 


J. Legume’s first-ever cake: Coconut Layer Cake, Chloe’s Vegan Desserts

It was so lovely & heartwarming, yet controversial, being a Chloe recipe and not one of Isa’s. Oh, J. Legume, you rebel.

The following night, I agreed to meet a small gathering of close friends for what is known as culturally recognized as ‘birthday drinks’. See above. For lunch on my actual birthday, I took a break from making those aforementioned ginger pecan tart bases to run some errands and fit in a quick lunch. No shock here, I headed for Thai noodles.

Colorful Pad Kee Mao lunch, My Thai Bistro

Photo via Instagram (@jdfunks)

J. Legume and I did have casual but special plans to go out to dinner with our friend Katie Jayne who was in town that evening,  at a ridiculously not-casual-at-all spot. I forgot that even in Portland (and not just at brunch) things like waiting for a table happen, which was on top the ridiculous clientele, or should I say…it wasn’t really my scene for a Saturday night, which sure, was annoying, but in some retrospective, birthday way, A-OK to realize is officially not for me. Regardless of cursing the weekend downtown, 15th floor hotel restaurant scene and our silly lack of a required reservation, we staked out some patio seating (and two hours later, upon finishing, were notified of a table clearing inside, ba da bum) and had such a fantastic meal. It was my birthday after all, so I could have stormed out dramatically or patiently waited with a glass of sparkling wine in my head once again, and I’m glad we did.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re looking for an impressive vegan meal in Portland, put Departure on your damn list (and I don’t know, put on some shiny heels and knock off shades or something if you want to fit in).

My birthday cake baker and beautiful partner, impatiently awaiting dinner.

First up: This dish was so good in such an almost surreal way: Wok-fired brussels sprouts with chili, lime & mint

Already with another damnnnn: The sweet & juicy Korean BBQ Tempeh Buns with spicy slaw. 

Is there an echo in here?

The Sweet Potato Tempura Roll. Very celebratory spread here.

Sweet Potato Tempura rollz, close-up

Our second-to-last course, the Wok-fired Salt & Pepper Tempeh with chili, ginger & nutritional yeast….aka food that makes my heart beat. 

As if the first tempeh dish here didn’t make me say it already, this one has to: This is how to prepare tempeh!

But wait, there’s more…

Thanks to J. Legume for capturing this fun photo and choosing this dish: the glorious, cooked-at-your-table Bibimbap with koshihikari rice, kimchee, vegetables, gochujang & shredded nori


Which makes me extra stoked that I just happened to start my very first batch of kimchi over the weekend with a cabbage that needed some action.

Thank you, thank you, birthday dinner

The view of Thao playing Pioneer Square below from Departure’s patio

Was the crowd better or worse due to Thao at Musicfest NW playing in Pioneer Square below? I don’t know…besides one dude that tried to chat me up at the balcony as I took these photos (uh, I still got it?), no one seemed remotely interested as some club tunes played from the outside bar. Go figure.

J. Legume, myself & Katie Jayne (the two of us being the PPK class of 2000, minus one special member we missed so) taking the elevator back down

The Nines

More on the Speakeasy evening and a possible return of the all too short-lived Hump Day grilled cheese tradition soon enough…


  1. The food at Departure is so insanely ridiculously good, and the scene so insanely ridiculously bad….it’s just too much to bear! I have tried to recreate the wok fried brussels sprouts and the salt and pepper tempeh numerous times at home but I’m still not quite there…

  2. I want to eat the bbq tempeh buns and hang out with you both every day. Perhaps I should start looking for jobs in Portland……..

  3. I’m so jealous of your birthday dinner at Departure because its the best ever birthday place. Next time I go I’m going to dress up like one of those girls that go there (where do they even come from?)! Happy birthday xoxoxo

  4. Departure is my favorite, I have spent my last two birthdays there, and later this month will be my third!

    those brussels sprouts and that sushi roll are my favorites.

    happy happy, K

  5. First of all, those buns! I’ve had something similar at Franchia, but those look pretty great.

    Next, I’ve only ever had bibimbap at Hangawi, so it’s especially nice to see it in the light of day!

    Finally, great elevator shot. Happy birthday!

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