Splurge-worthy Cacao to open No. 2

by:  L.E. BASKOW, Cacao’s chocolate shop on Southwest 13th Avenue just off Burnside Street soon will be joined by a minicafe at the Heathman Hotel.

My wedding band is a $12 silver ring that I bought on a beach in Mexico. I've never purchased a new car, and my 2002 Toyota Sienna is pretty shabby. The automatic door is broken and the visor for the front passenger seat is missing. I don't own a flat-screen TV. And I picked up the sneakers I work out in a couple of years ago for $35 at Costco.

I can afford nicer things, but I don't care about jewelry, cars, television sets or shoes.

When I splurge, I splurge on food and drink. And that's why, for me, a trip to Cacao (414 S.W. 13th Ave., 503-241-0656, www.cacaodrinkchocolate.com) is like another woman's trip to a fancy shoe store.

Cacao is a small boutique chocolate shop that looks like it might have been lifted straight from SoHo in New York City and deposited, ever so lightly, on Southwest 13th Avenue just south of Burnside Street and the Pearl District in Portland.

Inside Cacao, tables, shelves and counters are covered with neat displays of chocolate bars and handmade chocolates from all over the world.

You'll find chocolate imported from as far away as Spain, France, Madagascar and Argentina. Seattle, San Francisco and, of course, Portland are represented, too.

With bars from French chocolatiers Pralus and Michel Cluizel, and Xocolatl de Davíd, made in Portland, plus wonderfully rich drinking chocolate served by the shot, a chocolate lover who steps into Cacao feels like a squirrel who has fallen into a barrel of walnuts.

Jesse Manis and Aubrey Lindley opened Cacao in September 2006. And now they're opening a second location in the Heathman Hotel (1001 S.W. Broadway) in May. 'We're hoping May 1,' Manis says, ' but it's not set in stone.'

The Cacao 'annex,' as Manis refers to the new location, will be smaller than the original shop with just 300 square feet.

The selection will be slightly reduced with a focus on beverages and high-end gifts. There'll be a small standing bar where guests can sip chocolate, which also will be available to go.

'We're opening a second location sooner than we anticipated, but it was a great offer. The location is a perfect match, ideal. We couldn't pass it up,' Manis says.

It will be hard for Heathman guests to pass up, too.

As for me, my latest shopping excursion to Cacao was pretty restrained. I bought two solid milk chocolate Easter bunnies from Fran's in Seattle. Wrapped in pretty, pale green foil with matching ribbons, they'll be perfect for my kids' Easter baskets.

And at $8 each, the two only cost $4 more than my wedding band. A steal.

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Speaking of Easter and chocolate, Pix Pâtisserie (3402 S.E. Division St., 503-232-4407; 3901 N. Williams Ave., 503-282-6539; 3731 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., 503-236-4760) is having Easter egg hunts at all three Pix locations on Easter Sunday, March 23.

As soon as the stores open (9 a.m. on Williams, 10 a.m. at the other two locations), the hunt is on for 50 hidden eggs.

Each egg is filled with a 'golden ticket' worth up to $50 in Pix treats. Only one egg per person; all ages are welcome.

On Saturday, March 29, the Hawthorne Boulevard location of Pix will close its doors for good.

The spot opened in 2004 as Bar Pastiche, co-owned by Pix's Cheryl Wakerhauser and Navarre's John Taboada. When Bar Pastiche closed in 2006, Wakerhauser decided to open a third Pix Pâtisserie there.

Apparently, three was one too many. Stop by the Hawthorne Boulevard location starting at 7 p.m. Friday, March 28, for a closing party with specially priced Pix treats and glasses of champagne.

Visit www.pixpatisserie.com for information.

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West-side fans of Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine (3135 N.E. Broadway, 503-281-8337) no longer will have to cross the river to get their fix.

Another location of Sweet Basil is set to open at the end of this month in the spot on Northwest Glisan Street, which formerly (and briefly) housed the Caribbean-style restaurant Callaloo.

The new location of Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine (1639 N.W. Glisan St., 503-473-8758) will have the same menu as the Broadway restaurant.

Supree and Amy Smithynunta, the nice couple who have owned and operated Sweet Basil on Broadway for eight years, will divide their time between the two restaurants.

Why open another location? 'We've got nothing else to do. No, actually, we have three kids. We need to think about their college funds,' Supree Smithynunta said, laughing.

Expect the restaurant, which will have a full bar, to open by Saturday, March 29. It will be open for lunch and dinner.

Visit www.sweetbasilor.com for more.

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