Alma Rose Rhodochrosite (Hillsboro, OR)

One of the most unusual crystal specimens I’ve ever seen on display is the Alma Rose rhodochrosite at the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals in Hillsboro. This extravagantly beautiful specimen boasts five large rhodochrosite crystals, speckled with yellowish calcite deposits. Almost pure MnCO3, they have a deep pink, almost cherry-reddish coloring and are shaped like tilted rectangles (rhombohedrons). It sits innocuously, protected by a glass case, in the basement of the house originally occupied by Richard and Helen Rice, who were avid rock collectors. The ranch-style house is listed on the National Registry for Historic Places and considered the Northwest’s finest rock and mineral museum.

Alma Rose’s companion, the Alma King, both mined from the Sweet Home Mine in Alma, Colorado, resides in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and is the largest known sample, almost perfect in its rhombohedric symmetry.

Alma Rose

Alma Rose

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Floored by a Mexican Market in Hillsboro

Once in a long while, you stumble across a store so phenomenal that it takes your breath away.

After lunch at Taqueria Hermanos Ochoa’s, four of us were trying to kill some time before the start of Star Trek: Into Darkness at a multiplex. There used to be a market attached to Ochoa’s, but it had shuttered its doors. We searched for another on foot and noticed the sign for one only a block away. The storefront didn’t reveal anything unusual; the roofline listed carniceria, taqueria, panaderia, pasteleria, among others. But as soon as we stepped inside and started to browse, it became clear that this had to be the most complete Latino market we had ever seen. That a Mexican market should be located in Hillsboro is not so unusual when you consider that there is a large Latino community here. What is unusual is its size and completeness that rivals anything expected to be found in Mexico or California.

Let me start with the meat counter. There were the usual meats and seafood, but also chorizos and seasoned and marinated chicken and pork cuts ready to cook, such as adobadas (chile-vinegar marinade) and slices ready for al pastor rotisserie cooking. The cheese section carried a considerable variety of Mexican cheeses. The cooked meat counter had pollo asado, fried fish, roasted ribs, different styles of chicarrones, chiles rellenos, barbacoa, carnitas, and more. There were assorted salsas, too: salsa roja, salsa verde, pico de gallo, one made with avocado, even a salsa for making your own molcajete.

The end caps had an enormous selection of tortillas and the inner aisles offered all manner of canned, jarred and bottled Latino products you can think of (and some that you’ve probably never seen).

The bakery was well stocked with bolilloschurrospan dulce, all of which you can bag yourself.

While summer will bring many more items, the produce section was still filled with tropical fruits, chiles and other vegetables.

In case all this got you salivating, a café inside sold things you could either take out or eat inside. The menu included tacos, quesadillas, flautas, burritos, tortas and tostadas. Tubs of cut-up fruits were also for sale, as was a variety of aguas frescas.

As I stood in line to make my purchases, I looked up and noticed the ceiling covered with piñatas of all kinds. Walking away from the market, all four of us were awestruck at what we had seen and experienced.

Supermercados Mexico
970 SE Oak St
Hillsboro, OR 97123

Lunch at Taqueria Hermanos Ochoa’s (Hillsboro, OR)

In this fifth largest city of Oregon whose major employer is Intel, among other high-tech companies, almost one fourth of the population is Hispanic. It’s not surprising, therefore, that a commercial district has developed in the city’s southeast portion to serve this demographic. One of the most popular Mexican restaurants is Taqueria Hermanos Ochoa’s that has been in operation since at least 2009.

It’s difficult to miss. On approach, the L-shaped building immediately catches your eye, dressed in vivid colors of tomato, mustard and canary yellow. Inside, the dining area is very cramped, one entire wall covered in numbered pictures of the menu items. Choosing was difficult because of the large variety from which to choose. You can also order meats by the pound, such as carnitas and barbacoa. The special-of-the-day was printed on a sheet of paper on the order counter. For beverages, you can pick from a variety of beers, all iced in a bucket at the counter, or a good range of Mexican sodas. There is also a salsa bar.

We had lunch with another couple who joined us for a short stay in Portland.

The order of tasty barbacoa was generous with tender, stewed chunks of beef and accompanied not only by rice and beans, but guacamole, chile toreado, shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes and sautéed bell peppers and onions.

Barbacoa plate

Barbbacoa plate

Tender and crispy on the outside, the carnitas was both stewed and fried, a very good version. The same ingredients as the barbacoa plate accompanied the pork, with the addition of diced cactus. The refried beans of both were generously sprinkled with cotija cheese.

Carnitas plate

Carnitas plate

This is the first time in a long time my wife and I had fried tacos (tacos dorados). Four crispy tortilla shells were filled with carnitas, then squirted on top with sour cream and cotija cheese. For extra flavor, the carnitas in the tacos and in the plate above were mixed with lardoons of chicharrones (pork skin).

Tacos dorados

Tacos dorados

Another way to order tacos is individually, as we did with a diced chicken filling. Unlike the fried tacos, these were served with double soft corn tortillas.

Chicken taquitos

Chicken taquitos

The food here is very good and authentic, what you would expect in service of the large Latino population in the city.

Tip: Don’t miss this supermercado only a couple blocks away. You won’t regret it.

Taqueria Hermanos Ochoa’s
943 SE Oak St
Hillsboro, OR 97123