Monday, October 26, 2009

Portland Happy Hour: West Cafe

Posted by Kelly

Although we have all grown to love the internet and all that it has to offer, we are sometimes reminded about the things that it cannot tell us... Friday night I was going to meet some friends at happy hour and had the task (once again thanks to the blog) of choosing were we should go. I knew I wanted to try Clyde Common, which I plan to do soon, but while I perused the internet looking for happy hours, times, menus, drink specials...I came across West Cafe's website. I asked Sofi and Katie B if they had ever been there, they hadn't, and we decided to try it.

Arriving at 6pm, since their happy hour lasts until 7pm, we sat in a booth by the window of this small cafe. The happy hour consists of $1 off food, beer, and wine from the bar menu. We each ordered a glass of chardonnay, while Laura went for a mojito. For food we decided to share the quesadilla, portobello mushroom sandwich, 1/2 steamed artichoke, and coriander chicken skewers.

The quesadilla was good because it was a tortilla with black beans and cheese served with a pineapple salsa, but I felt like I could have made it myself.

The portobello mushroom sandwich served on a foccacia was quite tasty, but the side salad didn't float our boat.
All of us were looking forward to the steamed artichoke, but I think all ended up slightly disappointed by the slightly understeamed 1/2 artichoke with a drab dipping sauce.

Finally the skewers, served with plain but probably healthy vegetable rice, were tender, but overwhelmed by their sauce.

The wine was good. We ordered another glass.

Now you might be wondering what the internet didn't tell us about West Cafe. It did not tell us what we quickly realized...we would be BY FAR the youngest people in the restaurant. The cafe stayed consistently busy and obviously caters to a 60+ age group. I don't think the waiter had checked id's in a while cause he seemed slightly lost searching for our DOB's.

Maybe I should have known since West Cafe plays live Jazz Saturday nights, but still closes at 10pm like it does all other days of the week, except Sunday when it's only open 10-2pm for brunch. But otherwise there was little indication that we were venturing into a restaurant designed for people a few years our senior. Now don't get me wrong, we didn't mind. I regularly go to dinner with people of all ages. My grandparents, though they are extraordinarily hip, my parents, their friends, aunts, uncles, etc... but I don't usually find myself somewhere that I feel slightly out of place in. I'll be back in 40 years if it's still around...maybe.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Portland Happy Hour: Wild Abandon Revisited

Posted by Kelly

Adam came home from a former Rose Festival co-worker's birthday recently and gave me Rachel Trice's card, President of PUNCH, dedicated to event marketing and pr. He told me she wanted to know more about Happy Hour Honeys' blog and that he thought I'd really enjoy talking with her. We emailed and decided it would be appropriate to meet at a happy hour. I chose Wild Abandon on SE Belmont and 25th, remembering my vow to return after going last October with all of my college roomies pre-Latin dance class.

Arriving at 5:15ish with plenty of happy hour left we ordered their Goat Cheese Torta ($8) and drinks to start. I had a lemon drop ($5) and Rachel tried a Pinot ($5). Still chatting and snacking on the plate of goat cheese with pesto and whole cloves of garlic served with grilled bread, we decided to order round 2 of drinks. The waiter, providing consistent attention, wandered over multiple times before we decided to order round 3 of drinks and the Shrimp Mazatlan ($5, shrimp cooked with peppers and onions served with polenta cakes)...I said in the first post about Wild Abandon that I wanted to try it next time and I'm glad we did.

While swapping stories and showing each other pictures of our puppies on our phones, we asked for dinner menus. Perfect, a fellow happy hour-er that (like Katie and I) orders more than one drink and one happy hour dish! We chose to share the Surf and Turf ($19) and order round 4, why not? Wild Abandon's surf and turf featured steak and scallops served with garlic mashed potatoes and grean beans. The meat and scallops were cooked perfectly, and who doesn't love some garlic mashed potatoes? I would highly recommend this entree...and if you share that plus a happy hour item you're sure to be full, with your taste buds satisfied, and your wallet not too stretched.

I would definitely recommend putting Wild Abandon on your list of happy hours to attend in SE. You'll be glad you did, not only for the food but the unique atmosphere using a variety of hanging lamps to provide a dim lighting in the small, thin building. And Adam was right, Rachel and I hit it off and had a great night!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Portland: The Honeys Reunite for a Happy Hour Marathon

Posted by Katie & Kelly

Recently friends from college got married in Harrisburg, OR giving Katie a great excuse to come to Portland for a reunion of UP friends. It was also a great excuse for some delicious happy hours. Making the most of her last night in Portland, we decided to hit up four happy hours: Andina, Blue Hour, Elephants, and North 45.

Andina, a new bar for both of us, specializes in Peruvian style food, with an array of tapas on their bar menu. For happy hour food they offer kebabs of chicken, lamb, and beef, but with a full night of happy hours ahead of us we decided to just settle for a drink. At first we both gravitated to a vodka drink called the Tortuga, but our waitress recommended two other unique drinks and we followed her suggestion. Our drink orders fell under their "Novoandina Cocktails" category. Katie ordered their Atardecer Porteno, a honey vodka, guava, and fresh juice cocktail with a float of port and I ordered the Sacsayhuaman which involved a habanero vodka with passion fruit (half the spice for me). We were definitely happy we ventured outside our comfort zone as these were both great drinks! The Port floating in the Atardecer Porteno offered layers of flavors that unfolded throughout the beverage while the spice in the Sacsayhuaman was wonderfully complimented by the passion fruit.

Blue Hour, a first for Katie, was next on our list. Their bar offers a great vibe with their black and white interior. Unfortunately they didn't have the happy hour vodka and house roasted plum liquor drink that Katie and I were planning on ordering so the bartender offered us Sidecars for the same price. We said okay not really realizing those were made with brandy. We may be venturing out from vodka to gin, but we're not onto brandy quite yet. The drink tasted fine, though it was pretty tiny, but thanks to the bartender for making an effort. Finally ready for a snack we ordered their cheese plate and fried chick peas. Not sure I would order the chick peas again, though they were interesting to try and the cheese was good (cause it was cheese and we love cheese). Please note: when sitting at the bar, beware of people trying to strike up conversation over and over and over. And watch out for the three-legged stools. They tip quite easily as a fellow patron found out.

Finally we were off to Elephant's, a favorite of ours. After our appetizer at Blue Hour, we were ready for some real food. We met up with Adam who ordered their aardvark chicken strips (his fav) and a Rosemary's Baby, while Katie and I shared their margarita foccacia pizza and a new addition to the menu, garlic fries. Starting out with our old standby, the Three Citrus Margarita, we then ventured to some other great drink specials. We ordered Emlits (cucumber muddled with lime, gin, and mint) which were quite delicious and an immediate favorite. Those were followed by new drinks for us, a Negroni and a Corpse Reviver.

A Negroni is usually 1 part gin, 1 part sweet vermouth, and 1 part bitters, traditionally Campari, making it a deep orangy color, which I thought made a very festive-looking Halloween drink. Kel's Corpse Reviver probably had something like gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc and lemon juice. Let's just say that it was probably good that these were our 5th drinks of night (wow, sounds bad when you put it that way...) because they were hard to get down even with the tipsy factor. We have to thank Steve though (Kel's fav bartender) for attempting to broaden our horizons and being gentleman enough to pretend our silly stories were amusing. Thanks Steve!

By that time of the evening, Elephants was closing up shop, but Kel and I weren't quite ready to go home so we hopped over to North 45 for some margaritas and their new 3 sliders plate. Interesting display, don't ya think?

After that, it was off bed since we had to get up for my early flight back to Boston the next morning.

Kel and Katie Reunion: Round 3
So, I'm sure you're all wondering when the next Happy Hour Honeys reunion will be and for a while it was looking like it wouldn't be until May (way too far away). Luckily, Kel is visiting family in Bakersfield for Christmas and since I will be home in San Jose then too, you can bet that a 3hr 50min drive is not enough to keep us drinking separately. Anyone know any good happy hours in the Bakersfield area?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Portland: New Happy Hour Laws?

Posted by Kelly

Yesterday the OLCC announced that they will possibly be revamping their 24 year old laws regarding happy hour advertising, originally created to stop binge drinking. Currently the law allows advertising on the restaurants property, and of course limitations don't apply to food discount advertising. This has become harder and harder to enforce with the boom in social media causing restaurants to begin advertising discounts through Twitter, Facebook, and blogs paired with an economy forcing restaurants to promote specials in order to increase customers.

The OLCC is acknowledging that the laws are outdated and is considering allowing advertisements off property as long as they don't advertise specific prices. Under this new law a restuarant could advertise "discounted drink specials" or "cheap margaritas," but they would not be legally able to promote "$5 margaritas." This process takes 4 to 6 months so the decision won't be made until 2010. I wonder if they will have more success enforcing no prices on the ads rather than no off site advertising?

Interesting how Portland (Oregon) is possibly adopting more lax happy hour laws at the same time Massachussets is transitioning to stricter ones...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Portland: Love this Bartender

Posted by Kelly

The Portland marathon was on Sunday meaning sober September (plus a few days of October) has officially ended and Mary and I are back in training (of a different kind). We celebrated our accomplishment and return to alcohol at Elephants Delicatessen. I've been craving a margarita since August 31st when I last had one (at Elephants of course) and lucky for us, Steve was our bartender.

Elephant's bar has two bartenders, Kelly and Steve, mentioned in my first Elephants post in April as being slightly condescending. Now you might think that since Kelly and I share the same first name he may be my favorite, but you would be wrong. Between making fun of Katie's and my slight tipsiness after two margaritas, commenting on my tendency to order three margaritas every time I'm at Elephants in front of Katie's mom, and not putting adorable orange, lime, and lemon pinwheels in my three citrus margarita, bartender Kelly has slowly but surely rubbed me the wrong way. Don't worry though, Steve makes up for it. Not only does Steve put the pretty fruit pinwheels in my margaritas, he offers lessons on gin (he is responsible for converting me from a strict vodka drinker) and makes sitting at the bar fun and entertaining.

Last Monday Adam, Mary and I arrived promptly at 5pm for the beginning of their happy hour, which lasts until 7pm, and ordered 3 three citrus margaritas. Our drinks were accompanied by happy hour food orders of aardvark chicken strips and fondue, as well as a crispy cheesy quesadilla from the grill. Since we have been out of the game a while we decided we should venture from the usual and try some of the other signature cocktails, and we're glad we did! We followed our margaritas with an Emlit, a cucumber muddled beverage with lime juice, mint, and gin served up, and Rosemary's Baby that delightfully combined gin, peach liqueur, rosemary, and lemon juice topped off with champagne. As Adam said, he'd like to marry that drink. We were so impressed with Rosemary's Baby that we order another while we enjoyed our homemade Ding Dong, oatmeal cookie, and chocolate chip cookie.

Finally we decided we should call it quits OR order a celebratory shot! We went the celebratory shot route and challenged Steve to create an awesome concoction that maximized alcohol content and tastiness. He definitely did just that! Our shot combined house made watermelon vodka...thanks to Kelly, it was good, I'll give him that...and fresh blended raspberries, delicious.

Is it wrong that Mary and I went back the next night?

Mary and I definitely went back the next night and enjoyed another margarita, which was my fifth after having attended happy hour at Oba! and 50 Plates. Kelly made a surprise appearance and I was just tipsy enough to tell him why he maybe wasn't my favorite Elephants bartender, which resulted in an opportunity for him to prove me wrong.

So I showed up at Elephants for the third time this week on Thursday where Kelly rivaled Perry's on Fremont for the best lemon drop (I just LOVE Perry's though), but won me over with a raspberry, beet, ginger, vodka cocktail. It was fabulous. While I sat at the bar I listened to Kelly's regular clients rave about his drink making and he remembered almost everyone's name who had been to his bar before, pretty impressive. Kelly and I may have started off on the wrong foot, but I will admit he is a great bartender and he sure knows how to create a delicious cocktail. You definitely can't go wrong at Elephant's bar!

Portland Happy Hour: Urban Farmer

Posted by Kelly

The historical Meier + Frank building on SW Morrison (and SW 5th) off of Portland's Pioneer Square was renovated and re-opened in October 2008 as The Nines luxury hotel. The top floor houses a restaurant and bar called Departure (featured in an earlier post) and floor 8 became home to Urban Farmer, a self proclaimed modern steakhouse.

Recently my friend Katie Burgess and I ventured to this mid-level atrium and sat at the "happy hour table" in the middle of the bar. Discounted food is available from 4 to 6pm at this table, but unfortunately drinks remain full price. It was still my "sober September" so I passed on a beverage, but Katie ordered the Farmer #3, a $9 martini with vodka, lemon juice, and St. Germaine. Tasty, and strong...good thing since it was spendy.

Before we even had a chance to explore the menu we were approached by Urban Farmer's very own "cheese head" Brandon, pushing a cheese cart with a selection of eight cheeses and eight sauces. Brandon offered a short lesson on each type of cheese, a couple tastings, and proceeded to convince us to get a customized cheese plate.

We thought we made it clear that we wanted a small plate which cost $5, but apparently our attempts to get a couple different kinds of cheeses for $5 didn't work, because we ended up with three different cheeses for $15. Though it was a little more than we had planned on spending for our cheese plate, I'm not going to was kinda worth it. If you love cheese, which we do! On the far left was a brie with blueberry and arugula sauces. The middle is a goat cheese with a blue cheese type mold on the outside, paired with truffle honey and marcona almonds. Finally we had a shaved Parmesan type cheese (?) with a delicious sauce. They were all SO good!

We definitely didn't let our $15 cheese plate and Katie's $9 martini stop us from ordering off the happy hour menu as well. Finally we had a chance to look it over and ordered a pulled pork on cornbread slider ($4), a beef slider ($5), and a garlic, white bean, and spinach cold dip with grilled pita ($5). Since we ordered sliders we also had to order the fries ($4).

The sliders were great, with generous portions of meat and unique buns. The dip was good but not a must have, and the fries were a great addition to our order!

Urban Farmer is not a cheap happy hour with big portions. It's not an everyday after work happy hour to enjoy with friends or co-workers. It doesn't have an enticing drink special, or a great steal on it's menu, but if you are looking for a unique experience, awesome fries, really tasty pairings, and some great cheese, this is definitely worth a visit!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Boston: Love this Bartender

Posted by Katie

My 23rd birthday was a few weekends ago which might have been a pretty sad event thanks to the lack of girlfriends in Boston situation (working on it...), but luckily Nick was in town and he took me out. I had done a little sleuthing and Drink kept coming up again and again as one of the best bars in Boston. That sounded good to me so we silver-lined it to the waterfront. Drink is kind of tricky to find because there's no big sign and it's actually underneath another bar, but its not too hard to spot if you know where you're going.

So the deal with Drink is that they have 3 different sections to the bar: 1800s, prohibition era, and modern. Nick and I grabbed the first open seat at the bar and that happened to be in the 1800s section. There are no cocktail menus at Drink, you simply a) already know what you want and order that or b) tell the bartender what you like and she will whip up something pretty amazing. At least that's what happened to us.

Nick and I were lucky enough to be served by Josey Packard, a bartender known for her hard shake (it's impressive, believe us) and her love and knowledge of classic cocktails. Over the course of the evening, we learned that Josey bartended in San Francisco at Alembic Bar before returning to Boston to work at Drink. Too bad for SF because Josey makes a mean drink and we were happy to take advantage of her skills.

My new go-to when I'm not feeling like being cheap is a lemon drop, otherwise it's a vodka tonic for me. I explained this to Josey and she said that gin is really just favored vodka and that makes it infinitely superior to the plain old stuff that I usually drink. Though I've had gin before and not really liked it, I gave Josey the benefit of the doubt and she whipped me up a Pegu (gin, cointreau, lime juice, bitters) Not the best drink I've ever had but pretty darn good.

For round two I mentioned that I also like mojitos. Josey recommended a Southside (basically a mojito with gin). Absolutely delicious.

Probably should have stopped there because not only does Josey make a tasty drink, she makes a strong one, but it was my birthday so I figured why not? Josey suggested a champagne cocktail to mark the occasion and poured me a French 45 (champagne, gin, blue curacao). Very elegant, very good. That one definitely sent me over the edge though.

All and all, Nick and I had a great time and I think we owe that to Josey because she not only poured a good drink but was also friendly and fun to chat with.

I'm planning on going back to Drink and trying the prohibition and modern sections, though I think I'll probably be tempted to head to Josey's section again because she's just so damn good at what she does.