The hazelnut, as any good Oregonian knows, is our state nut. But when roasted hazelnuts are combined with skim milk and a hint of cocoa, our humble state nut is elevated to [cue the Angels] the chocolaty hazelnut spread known as Nutella.
According to some, however, "Nutella is more than just a 'chocolaty hazelnut spread,' it is a way of life."
The single word conjures up fond memories of childhood and travel for folks around the globe. Here in Portland, Nutella is a key ingredient for the dozens of creperies, waffle carts and cafes where neighbors flock to enjoy the 70-year-old creation of Pietro Ferrero. And, since today is the fourth annual passing of World Nutella Day, there's no better place than Portland to sate your Nutella craving.
Why Nutella? The question, according to Sara Rosso and Michelle Fabio, the creators of World Nutella Day, is more like, ‘Why not?’ Rosso, an American writer who spends most of her time in Italy, fell in love with the creamy spread and couldn’t, for the life of her, understand why no day of celebration existed for Nutella. Thus World Nutella Day was born in 2007.
While no Portland restaurants are officially celebrating World Nutella Day, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn't. We've put together a list of neighborhood spots where you can indulge. If we missed your favorite, please add it in the comment section!
North Lombard between North Denver and North Greeley (in the Videorama parking lot)
Corner of N Mississippi and NE Fremont (behind the chain link fence)
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Kerns neighbor Morgan Tisdale dives into Flavour Spot's Black Forest Crepe
Even at 7 a.m. on a rainy Wednesday morning, Flavour Spot, the tiny shack located in the parking lot of Videorama on Lombard Street, maintains a line of customers at least three deep waiting for Dutch-style waffles. The most common ingredient requested? Nutella, of course. The Fifth Avenue waffle is folded with Nutella and peanut butter while the Black Forest (no ham included) waffle is flush with raspberry jam and Nutella. It’s hard to know which one to order, considering that peanut butter and jam are both so perfect. Flavour Spot regular Janine Gregory offers this solution:
“Buy both, unfold them and slap them together so your two waffle-tacos become one waffle-sandwich,” Gregory said. “Just be prepared for stares and a stomach ache.”
1011 NW 16th Avenue
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In Portland, ‘crepe’ is synonymous with Le Happy—the tiny, cozy creperie that's occupied a sunshine yellow building on NW 16th (at NW Lovejoy) since 2000. While the building's exterior is bright and cheery, a peek inside reveals a dark and mysteriously romantic atmosphere. The Poe-esque interior isn't eerie, but comforting, like New Year's Eve with a first date—slightly weird (complete with a disco ball) but oh so right.
Le Happy's sweet crepes, made with a house made batter of white and wheat flours, are simple and clean in flavor. Any Nutella filled crepe is a safe bet. Le PNBC folds peanut butter, Nutella and semi-sweet chocolate in a crepe that’s topped with a generous—and much needed—dollop of fresh whipped cream. The additional richness of the semi-sweet chocolate acts like a steroid for the peanut butter and Nutella duo, cranking up the richness to near-deadly levels. A non death-by-crepe choice at Le Happy is the Strawberry Nutella, which combines Nutella, whipped cream and strawberries (fresh when in season, compote when they aren’t) for an all together tangy yet sweet experience.
Vivace Coffeehouse & Creperie
1400 NW 23rd Avenue
The Victorian-house-turned-creperie lures passersby with the warm aroma of freshly ground Stumptown coffee beans, but it's the crepes that makes them raving fans. The laid back atmosphere is reminiscent of a university commons hall; a bit funky, with mismatched furniture, chipped paint and lots of people hanging around. The baristas at the front counter add to the mix; their affability and charm welcome diners with a freshly caffeinated hello. Their skills as coffee makers are strong; they can make soy milk foam up with the thick creaminess that's usually reserved for whole milk. While the coffee is beyond delicious (easily top three on the block), the crepes are the real stand outs at Vivace.
Vivace offers both sweet and savory crepes, made from a buckwheat (savory) or white/wheat flour mixture (sweet) batter. The menu of more than 20 tried and true crepe recipes, provides more than enough options for crepe connoisseurs. Nutella commands the sweet crepe menu, showing up in no fewer than three combinations. For an incredibly sweet treat, ask for a dollop of vanilla ice cream. The warmth of the crispy crepe melts the ice cream, making for a deliciously ooey gooey puddle of cream, hazelnut and chocolate.
The Grilled Cheese Grill
1027 NE Alberta Street
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The Jaime is served up at The Grilled Cheese Grill
The Grilled Cheese Grill might not, from its namesake, seem like the go-to joint for your Nutella fix. True, the school bus-converted-restaurant specializes in the childhood staple, but takes the typical American cheese and margarine sandwich up many, many notches. The Jaime ($5.50), for example, showcases grilled cinnamon swirl bread stuffed with creamy mascarpone cheese, grilled banana and Nutella. The grilled banana adds an unexpected sweetly smoked caramel note to the seemingly odd combination of mascarpone cheese and Nutella. Yet, between two buttery slices of simultaneously fluffy and dense cinnamon swirl bread, the tangy mascarpone and the rich hazelnut spread are a heavenly combination.
Corner of SE Hawthorne and SE 12th
The corner of SE 12th Ave and Hawthorne Street has gained national attention as a food cart mecca. Part of the corner’s entourage includes Perierra Creperie. Described oh-so-aptly by The New York Times as “a music thumping crepe wagon,” Perierra serves up paper-thin crepes the size of flattened basketballs.
For $5, a Nutella and banana crepe is enough to feed about three people, maybe two if you find yourself during the late night/early morning hours that Perierra stays open. The crepe is perhaps one of the best in the city; unbelievably thin yet sustainable enough to develop a crispy shell that can withstand the very generous portions of banana piled in with the Nutella – I’m guessing that the three of us who shared a crepe consumed a full banana apiece.
The only drawback to Perierra? It can be a downer if the night is cold and wet.
8409 SE Division Street
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Mojo Crepes: home of The Mojo
If folded Dutch waffles or grilled sandwiches aren’t far enough outside of the Nutella-filled box, head up to SE 84th and Division, the home of Mojo Crepes. Mojo Crepes is a small shanty that takes a Japanese street vendor approach to selling crepes, “taking the formality of eating crepes down about five notches,” the owner says.
At Mojo, crepes are served in cone-shapped wrappers, then filled with hot gooey toppings and cold rich ice cream. The Mo, The Jo and The Mojo all serve up Nutella and vanilla ice cream with banana (the Mo) or strawberry (the Jo). Refuse to make a decision between the two and opt for the The Mojo which combines freshly sliced bananas with sugary strawberry compote.
Happy Sparrow Cafe
3001 SE Belmont Street
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In lieu of bar-hopping tonight, go Nutella-hopping on Belmont instead; the southeast Portland street is chock full of Nutella-nooks. Head out early to Happy Sparrow Café for a kolache. A Czech treat, the warm Nutella-filled kolache ($1.95) is five or six bites of sinful yeasty, doughy, chocolatey heaven. The thick yeasty taste of the dough is undeniably delicious and prominent when paired with the thick smack of chocolate and hazelnut. Prepare yourself with napkins, a cup of cold milk and an extra $1.95. Just like a Lays potato chip, I’ll bet you can’t eat just one.
Pied Cow Coffeehouse
3244 SE Belmont Street
If you’re checking out the Belmont scene later, head out to Pied Cow Coffeehouse. A wine bar meets coffee house meets hookah lounge, Pied Cow serves one of the coolest Nutella dishes available in Portland, mainly because it’s on fire: bananas, Nutella and fire give the Nutella-slathered crepe an instantly smoky and caramel-flavored burst of energy. While you’ll find Nutella and banana at nearly every creperie, Pied Cow’s flaming presentation is definitely worth the money you’ll shell out for it.