I’m in Portland! Land of chunky spectacle, Dansko clog, Patagonia puffer jacket wearing peoples and a hundred funky, fancy, food carty restaurants to explore. First one: Ken’s Artisan Pizza. To celebrate Gabey’s eleventh birthday we ventured to this packed little pizza place, lauded as the best pizza in P-town. The entire kitchen operation is right there in the open, slightly sweaty kitchen folk packing hotel containers with soon-to-be pizza toppings and dodging spinning wheels of pizza dough in front of a big ol’ blazing wood-fired pizza oven, the ground scattered with errant bits of prosciutto and kindling.

After a not so long wait our four much-anticipated pizzas showed up; two margheritas, a soppressata, and a fennel sausage. All thin and bubbly and a little deliciously burnt around the edges, tasting of Italy, the charred crust and the milky mozzarella reminding me of little cobbley plazas and dark waiters, their arms loaded with piping hot pizzas. The margherita was of course topped with the traditional simple tomato schmear, dots of stretchy snow white mozzarella, and wrinkled basil. The soppressata a margherita plus thick, chewy, house-made sopressata, spicy slices of something infinitely better than pepperoni.

The last pie topped with that classic base again, this time alongside fennel-heavy sausage and soft onions, the fire engine red and fuego hot Calabrian chilies on the side in a tiny, inconspicuous little bowl, inviting you to pile on some of the enticingly crimson bits and burn the inside of your mouth out. Then a delightfully citrusy Caesar with gigantic croutons, ordered out of neighbor envy. Then a second Caesar, for we loved it so. And then, so full and content we could hardly bear it, we managed to order a dessert to top off the birthday dinner; butter pecan ice cream that tasted of straight fresh heavy cream, dotted with the occasionally sugary pecan crunch, layered with soft sweet caramel, topped a generous dollop of airy whipped cream, a couple perfect pecans, and a birthday candle.