Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Portland Restaurant: Harlow

What: Harlow
Where: 3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Honeys Heart: Betty Bowl 

When my friend from college, Sofi, and her husband, Esteban, came to town this summer with her new gluten-free diet, one I definitely don't subscribe to, I knew that Portland would have her back. Most places offer GF options on their menu, but I decided it was the perfect opportunity to wander SE Hawthorne and try fully GF and pretty much vegan, Harlow, the sister restaurant to Prasad in the Pearl.

I have been to Prasad with my sister - healthy people visiting equals me eating healthier apparently - and knew that Harlow offered many of the same items; bowls, soups, greens, brunch options on the weekends, and fresh juice, plus wine, cocktails, and GF beer.

We decided to be super healthy and each started with a fresh-squeezed juice. I think these could technically be meal replacements, due to their healthy ingredients and price, but oh well. Esteban and I went for the Ruby ($6) with grapefruit, carrot, beet, and ginger while Sofi opted for one with celery, that tasted mostly like celery water. If you're going to spend the $6, I would go for the juices with a bit more robust veggies. 

We snuck in right at the end of brunch and Esteban took advantage by ordering the Mercy Blues ($12.50 with avocado). I think one misconception of being GF, vegetarian, or vegan is that you'll never be full, but this was a pretty substantial dish!

Sofi and I decided to share the Betty Bowl with avocado ($11.50) and Hawthorne Mac ($7.50). The bowls are the way to go here I think. Lots of veggies, delicious sauces, and overall very satisfying. We got this with quinoa, but you could also go for brown rice.

So I completely understand that vegan people should have a mac alternative, and this really wasn't bad. It was actually pretty good. It was made with quinoa pasta and Daya cheese - which is a cheese substitute made out of the root of a vegetable - and I was surprisingly not offended. When push comes to shove though, I'm going with a mac n cheese with REAL cheese. I just am.

Harlow is a great place for healthy, and satisfying, brunch, lunch, or dinner. I should probably go more often...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Portland Restaurant: Swift & Union

What: Swift & Union
Where: 8103 N. Denver Avenue
Honeys Heart: Swift Burger, I guess

Kel and I have written before about how important it is for us to always be truthful about our experiences. That includes when PR companies invite us to tastings and when we really, really want to like a place.

Swift & Union is one of those places that I really, really wanted to like. It's not often that Eater covers the opening of a restaurant in our part of town, so Doug and I were pretty excited to give Swift & Union a try.

We've visited on three different occasions in the last couple of months: first, for dinner on their opening day, then with Kelly and Adam for a double date, and finally for happy hour at the bar. The overall verdict: ehhhh, it's fine.

On our first visit, Doug had the Swift Burger ($13) with bacon jam, lettuce, and aged cheddar on a brioche bun and I tried the Fish & Chips ($15). Doug really enjoyed his burger but my fish and chips were cold by the time they got to our table (opening night thing, I'm sure) and the fish had an odd bitter aftertaste (not an opening night thing?).

It's never fair to judge a place so soon after they've opened though (unless, of course, a PR company invites you to), so we knew we needed to give it another shot. 

Our second visit came a few weeks later with Kelly and Adam. Swift & Union's cocktails sounded pretty tasty so Kel and I gave them a shot. I tried the Derby Hound ($7) with vodka, grapefruit, lavender bitters, and campari and Kelly went with the Rose Garden Party ($8) made with gin, aperol, lemon, simple syrup, sparkling wine, and basil. I expected mine to be a glorified greyhound and for Kel's, we expected a savory, refreshing drink.

Kel and I never send back drinks. Never. (Okay, actually, we do at Elephant's sometimes but that's because we know the bartender and he should know what we like by now.) Usually we just drink whatever it is (cuz alcohol) and get on with our lives. But my drink was probably one of the worst cocktails I've ever been served. There was no sense of balance, just GRAPEFRUIT!!! and LAVENDER BITTERS!!! Whoever made that drink could not have tasted it before it was served. Kel's drink was not nearly as bad but it was definitely made with way, way too much simple syrup. So we sent them back for glasses of rosé instead... and felt terrible about it the whole rest of the meal. But really, those cocktails were not okay.

For food, I ordered the Salmon Burger ($13) with sweet corn relish, lettuce, aoili on ciabatta; Kel had the Lamb Burger ($13) with apricot, mint, shallots, goat cheese, red pepper coulis, and lettuce; and the boys had Swift Burgers. I thought my burger was on the small side for $13 but it wasn't bad and I think everyone else enjoyed their burgers. So overall, terrible drinks + okay burgers = meh, yet again.

We decided to give it one more try, this time for small plates at the bar. Happy Hour is served from 4-6pm. HH drinks include $1 off draft beers and select wines and a $5 rotating cocktail. I was not going to take my chances with a cocktail again so wine it was!

Me: What's your happy hour wine?
Bartender: Uh, what?
Me: It says you offer a happy hour wine
Bartender: Which one does the menu say?
Me: It doesn't. 
Bartender: Oh. Uhh....

Off to a great start, people! After we figured out the wine situation, Doug and I ordered the happy hour Beef Tips ($) with wild mushrooms and a sesame ginger glaze and the Corn Fritters ($3) with jalapeno honey.

I do not know what they did to them, but I've never experienced such rubbery mushrooms before. Not good. The beef tips themselves were fine though and I liked the corn fritters even though Doug thought they were a bit bland. At least the plating was nice?

So to conclude... I'm sad. I wanted to like Swift & Union so much but after three tries, everything was just okay at best, and really, really bad at worst. My advice: If you're going to go, order a burger and a beer and you should be safe.

Friday, August 28, 2015

5 in 5: Victoria Bar, Eb & Bean, The Green Room, Pollo Norte, and Broth Bar

I really, really want to devote a full post to each of these spots, but its been summer and work is busy and we just moved into our new house and blah blah, you understand.

Here's the drill: 5 spots, described in 5 words. (Plus a bit of info about the occasion because obvs you want more details.)

Victoria Bar (Not to be confused with Victory Bar)

The Occasion: Laid back dinner and drinks with the Bowlsby's.
The Five: Decent Southern dishes and cocktails.

Eb & Bean

The Occasion: I finally decided to give this place a try after rolling my eyes at the menu and the high prices.
The Five: Move over, Salt & Straw.

The Green Room

The Occasion: The second stop on a recent downtown pub crawl (Shift Drinks coverage coming soon).
The Five: Don't expect MWL's outstanding service.

Pollo Norte

The Occasion: Double date with some old college friends.
The Five: Cheap, tasty family-style dinner.

Broth Bar 

The Occasion: Blogger preview.
The Five: I just don't get it.*

*Neither did Portland Monthly or Portland Mercury. Check out Pomo's Q&A with Broth Bar's owner here and The Merc's snarky review here

Want to read more half-assed posts? Here's some other 5 in 5's:

Friday, August 14, 2015

Portland Restaurant: Hamlet

9.12.15 Update: 
Co-owner Ryan Magarian invited us back to Hamlet for another try after reading our initial review. We sampled the Melon vs. Meat and Endless Midnight cocktails for a second time and were happy to find that when made with a more experienced hand, the flavors, though still nuanced, were much more enjoyable.

Ryan also let us play a round of his bartender's choice game. He asks your favorite drink plus a random, spur-of-the-moment question (Katie's was "Who's your favorite male actor?"). Her answers: a southside and Chris Pine. Ryan delivered The Monarch which is basically all our favorite cocktail ingredients combined: gin, St. Germain, mint, and lemon. Well, done Ryan! Thanks for inviting us back- we're glad we gave Hamlet another shot!

What: Hamlet
Where: 232 NW 12th Ave
Honey's Heart: Giving second chances  

Katie and I try our best to keep up with the Portland food scene and often know of places and have them on our list for a few weeks before we're actually able to coordinate our schedules and get there. That was the case with Hamlet, the new project for Cathy Whims, Ryan Magarian, and Kurt Huffman.

After a Children's Cancer Association event, we stopped by Hamlet for a drink and snack to share. Hamlet has a great location in the Pearl next to an old favorite from our college days, Vault. Tuesday after Memorial Day weekend (whoa this post is old), the restaurant was fairly quiet and we took a seat at the bar.

We started with two cocktails- Melon vs. Meat made with gin, lemon juice, honeydew juice, orange bitters, and prosciutto, and Endless Midnight made with pisco, green chartreuse, blackberries, lime juice, simple syrup, and an egg white.

It seemed interesting at first that the exact cocktail recipes were printed on the menu (we could steal these and make them at home!), but after being generally underwhelmed by our drinks, we decided maybe it wasn't such a risky move. The Melon vs. Meat was reminiscent of diluted honeydew water while the other shockingly had very little flavor at all despite its bevy of ingredients.

For food, we turned to the selection of pig. I love some ham, prosciutto, speck, I'm all for it, but after our spendy weekend in Vancouver, BC, we weren't looking to spend $16+ on some ham to share, so we went for the $8 ham and salted butter sandwich.

Not that it wasn't good, and sometimes the most basic combo is also the most satisfying, but we felt like we could have made this and picnicked in the park with some rosé for a fraction of the cost.

The warm (hot) olives ($5) were good, but not special enough to compensate for our otherwise disappointing stop by Hamlet. Sorry Cathy, we won't be back.