the cheese plate—but wait, there’s more!

You probably can’t read the lettering at the very top of the sign, but it says, “locally sourced. seasonally inspired. meat-free.” I like all of those things.

But The Cheese Plate? So vegetarian. Sure, but they’ve got a bunch of vegan stuff too. Really good vegan stuff. You know, not just because they need “the vegan option” for survival in Portland. (And for their dairy offerings, they do patronize tiny, local farms that they have personally vetted—I’m still not going to eat them, but there you go.)

And the couple who runs the joint is one you want to support. These are my friends, which is more of a qualification than a disclaimer—I’m not the easiest person to form a relationship with. This entire family is just lovely and vibrant, and they are willing to push themselves to bring joy to the world. (Sorry if I just planted that song in your head.)

They create dishes for you to enjoy. To eat with friends. This isn’t grab-n-eat-while-you-drive grub. Here, let me show you!

I haven’t photographed or tried the vegan sandwich—I know I should. I always stick with the picnic plate, which has options including spicy-n-nutty popcorn, Pacific Nortwest kale chips, and…

Michele, you ate potato salad? Yeah, I did, and I’ll do it again. But only with corn and truffle oil. The creaminess is very light in this. It doesn’t coat your mouth until you can find a suitably acidic beverage to cut the grease.

Simple and refreshing: watermelon with ginger salt. I remember being horrified by some old uncle who salted his watermelon…I’ve gotta believe this is different and I wasn’t just being a snotty kid, ’cause this is super good.

These are refrigerator pickles, which means they’re less than a week old, so they’re very sharp. The vegetables and flavors are always changing: This one is cauliflower with onion, fennel, and bell pepper. I’ve also had their beet pickles, with ginger and cilantro. Crisp and delightful.

And finally, my “desert island” food: mushroom kale pâté. I’m not kidding when I say I could eat this every day.

In true Portland fashion, this is all handmade, small-batch stuff. Why would you bother going to a food cart that didn’t change up the flavor of its lemonade on a regular basis?

Oh, and you can get their spreads to go! They sell their homemade crackers and some vegan spreads (including my own true love, the pâté). It’s OK if you have to look up “fromage fort.” I didn’t know what it was before trying it. It’s a melty spread originally developed to use up old bits of leftover cheeses. I can tell you the vegan version, at least, is very creamy and tangy. A little too creamy and tangy for me—but that just usually means it’s a lot like the nonvegan version.

So if you’re up Alberta way, at the corner of 23rd, stop by. If you’re super lucky, Nick and Carina’s 5-year-old son will be there and he will guess (very loudly) if you’re a car, bike, or person. Then you can go two doors down and get a lavender snickerdoodle or vegan soft-serve ice cream at Back to Eden!

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