Jen Davison
It's coming. You don't want to admit it in these last mad days of holiday mall-hopping bliss, but another rainy Portland winter is already here. And when it doesn't rain, you can still look forward to the sun going down at three o'clock. Yeah, you could escape to the local watering hole, and not come out until May. But happily, there are a few places that will sooth your seasonal distress, put the sunshine back in your shoes, and turn your frown into an upside down rainbow.

Peanut Butter and Ellie's

1325 NE Fremont Street, 282-1783
Just try to stay crabby after saying "Fruitie Patootie." At PB&E, Portland's preeminent cafe for kids, you can't help but get in a good mood. The adorable wall paintings of Ellie the Elephant by local artist Rob Bartel will excite the tykes. There's colored chalk in tin watering cans on your table so you--er, I mean, your kids--can doodle on the chalk boards while you wait for your Johnny Applecheese (grilled Tilamook cheddar and apples; $5.95), Chickabilly chicken salad sandwich ($6.50), or Gooey G.O.R.P. sandwich (grilled peanut butter, raisins, and chocolate chips; $5.95). No kids? No problem. Kids and kids-at-heart are equally welcome.

Pix Patisserie
3402 SE Division, 232-4407

Cheryl Wakerhauser is the hardest working gal in chaud business. When she's not conducting instructional dessert-making "magic shows," or co-opening the new Bar Pastiche next to Hawthorne's Pastaworks, she's brainstorming on Pix's dessert-themed events, like Dessert Dim Sum. Her French-inspired creations are this side of brilliant, including the Aphrodite (chocolate shell filled with cherries, and cherry and chocolate mousses; $5.50), and a pear rosemary tart ($4.74). Like hot chocolate? Pix takes it to a whole new level with the chocolate chaud (pronounced like "show"; $4), steamed milk and molten ganache that you mix together at your table like a Mayan king.

Portland Classical Chinese Garden
127 NW 3rd Ave, 228-8131

The Sung-style garden on the edge of China Town also has a teahouse within, run by the Tao of Tea folks. Feel your melancholy melt away over an exotic cup of Lu Mudan ($4) or Wulu ($5), and munch on goodies like red bean Mooncake topped with bright red wolfberries ($6), dried kumquats, or Five Treasures Come Knocking ($6), a sampling of seasonal snacks like lotus seeds, dates, and chestnuts. Be prepared to pay the seven dollar admission to the garden, even if you're just going to the tea room. But if you want to escape from the ultimate bad day, there's no place better.

Salvador Molly's
1523 SW Sunset Blvd, 293-1790; 3350 SE Morrison, 234-0896

Molly's caribbean-colored walls and self-proclaimed "pirate cookin'" whisk you from the mainland to a Spring break state of mind. Its claim to fame is its Great Balls of Fire ($7), a serving of habañero fritters that will earn your photo a spot on their wall of fame if you finish every bite. If you're not made of asbestos, try the Kahlua pork with mojo (a traditional Cuban citrus-based sauce), or jerk chicken. Wash it down with a guava smoothie ($3.95), and wonder why you're here and not in Barbados.

Staccato Gelato
232 NE 28th Ave, 231-7100

Staccato was among Portland's first gelato shops, and it gels perfectly with this city's cherished neighborhood vibe. They recently expanded their space, but the bright, funky interior--a design that must be inspired by the opening to the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon--remains. They've also expanded their menu of treats. Yes, you can get a small scoop of pumpkin, peppermint stick, or the unbelievably good brown sugar and pecan gelato ($2.10). And now, try a homemade donut in inventive flavors like cardamom, orange coconut, or... Guinness-maple?! Cannoli are available everyday ($3.00), and zeppoli on Saturdays. Pizzelle next?