Monday, November 30, 2009

DIY: Lemon Drop Martini

Posted by Kelly

Our days in the dorms resulted in many a horrible cocktail concoction...

Leslie and I in our dorm room Sophomore year
undoubtedly drinking room temperature vodka and juice when we moved into our house in North Portland it was time to create something delicious! Lemon Drop Martini's became one of our go to cocktails throughout college when we were feeling classy and preparing for a great night, or when we just needed a tasty drink to take our minds off the pile of homework ahead of us.

Leslie and I, Junior year, sipping on tasty lemon drops!

The recipe is easy and sure to impress.

Lemon Drop Martini Recipe:
1 1/2 oz Vodka (Plain or Citrus)
1 oz Triple Sec

1 oz Lemon Juice
Simple syrup to taste, about a spoonful

You will need:
Juicer (electric, old school, or we've used our hands, a spoon...whatever gets the juice out!)

Martini Shaker

Start by making simple syrup. This is easy, and you can make extra to put in a glass container and store in the refrigerator for future creations. I like to make the mixture using approximately 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. This way the syrup is thicker and I use less of it. Heat 1 cup water, add 1.5 to 2 cups of sugar and let the sugar dissolve completely. Allow it to cool and store the extra.

Next juice your lemons, quantity will depend on how many drinks you're making and how juicy your lemons are.

In your martini shaker, for 1 drink (double for 2), combine ice, 1 1/2 oz of vodka (for affordable plain vodka I prefer Monopolowa, for citrus anything goes, we've used Burnetts, Smirnoff, Absolut, Sky....use your favorite) 1 oz Triple Sec (also use your judgment, but some have more alcohol content than others, just saying) 1 oz lemon juice, and a spoonful of simple syrup.


Pour into sugared rim martini glass. Garnish with a small slice of lemon peel or a lemon twist.


Photos of a handful of other Lemon Drop Martini worthy occasions...

Leslie's 21st Birthday!

Jenna comes to visit!

A night out downtown!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Boston: Daisy Buchanan's

posted by Katie

When we first moved to Boston, my roommate Shannon and I saw a lot of each other, but now that she's busy working two jobs and I have school, my internship, and work, we can sometimes go days without catching up or even seeing each other.

These last couple of weeks have been crazy, especially for Shannon, so we decided to take advantage of her Monday night off and meet up for happy hour after I was done with work.

One of our favorite places to go is Newbury Street, which I like to think of as a mix of NW 23rd St. in Portland and Santana Row in San Jose. Think tree-lined streets with restaurants, some cute and affordable stores, and then some super expensive ones too.

Daisy Buchanan's is located on the corner of Newbury and Fairfield and though I hear it's pretty poppin' on Thursdays and during the weekend, it was nearly empty when we got there around 6pm. The place definitely has a dive-y vibe complete with a funky smell, but hey, that's part of it's charm right?

The food at Daisy's is pretty cheap anyway so that makes the happy hour prices even better. Shannon and I decided to go with the bruschetta di pomadori ($2), the onion rings ($2) (which are quickly rising to the top of my list of favorite guilty pleasures...shoot), and the hamburger ($4.50). Since Shannon's a beer drinker, I decided to follow her lead. She ordered a bud ($4) and I went with a PBR ($3).

Shannon and I were expecting the bruschetta to be small pieces of baguette topped with some tomatoes and instead we got two huge slices of bread heaped with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Good, but I probably wouldn't order it again. The hamburger was tasty, and the onion rings, while a bit on the salty side, were nice and crispy.

I think my favorite part of our Daisy's experience, however, was our waitress. She reminded me of my friend Emi: cute and sweet, but a little spacey. When she came to get our dishes she asked how the food was and I answered that it was good. She replied "Oh really? I've never had it. But that's good. I'm glad you liked it." Um, okay....

Daisy's happy hour is one of the longest I've seen: 3:30-7pm Mon-Fri. Not fine dining but as long as you know that going in, you'll be fine.

Sip on This!: Literary Edition
(sorry, it's the English major in me)

I think it's safe to say that whoever named Daisy Buchanan's was most likely a fan of F. Scott's Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald relied heavily on his own life experiences to create his characters and Daisy Buchanan is believed to have been inspired by Fitzgerald's own youthful romance with Chicago heiress Ginevra King.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Boston Restaurant: The Fireplace

posted by Katie
Last week was just one of those weeks. But we all know that fortunately there is a cure for such things and that is drinks and dessert at a classy restaurant.

Katie H. mentioned a few weeks ago that she had really good sangria at a place just up the road from her at Washington Square (yep, Boston has one of those too. Not a mall though.) While I may not be the best at remembering certain details (I think my roommate will kill me if she has to remind me one more time that she spent 1st semester sophomore year in Australia), any mention of good drinks goes on memory lockdown. The original plan had been to get drinks with a few people at Sunset Bar & Grill but when that fell through, a good sangria place sounded like the perfect substitute.

The Fireplace is a cozy little restaurant which, as you might have guessed, features a big fireplace that is right next to the bar. Katie and I also appreciated the big drapes around the door that keep the draft out, just like the ones at Mint (what I wouldn’t give for a Bella and bowl of sweet potato fries…).

Once we finally got a seat on the bar (more on that later), we decided to each get a drink and a dessert. Katie’s my kind of girl, no wimpy sharing one dessert for the two of us. Love it.

To drink, Katie ordered the Mulled Wine ($9) which was served hot in wine glass with a cinnamon stick. I went for the Honeyed Capirinha ($9) with Leblond Cachaca (Brazilian rum), raw local honey, and freshly muddled limes. Katie’s wine was delicious and the warmth and spice of the drink made it a perfect choice for a chilly night. My drink was good too, but definitely more of a refreshing summer drink. Going with the mulled wine (or sangria) next time for sure.

All of the desserts on the menu looked good, but we agreed to try the more seasonal choices to keep with the fall spirit. Katie ordered the Cranberry Pear Crisp ($8) with brown sugar oat crumble & cinnamon ice cream. We both liked it best when the ice cream got a little meltier and mixed with the fruit filling. I went with the Pumpkin Whoopie Pie ($8) with pumpkin seed brittle & pomegranate sauce. It actually came with two little whoopee pies and was absolutely scrumptious. The crunch of the pumpkin seed brittle was the perfect complement to the creamy filling and luxurious pumpkin cake.

The only downside of The Fireplace was the iffy service. Katie and I arrived around 10pm, but were told by the hostess that the tables were reserved for dinner service only. That’s understandable, but the restaurant was closing in an hour, there were multiple tables open and we were there for dessert, not just drinks. After standing by the door for a good 15 minutes, and awkwardly being approached by the hostess again because she did not recognize us from 5 minutes earlier…, the hostess finally decided she could seat us but we’d have to order our drinks ourselves from the bar. Luckily, by that point, a couple was leaving the bar so we had a place to sit. We also weren’t too sure about the bartender. I think we might have had a bit of a Kelly on our hands but maybe he had been having one of those weeks too so I’ll hold off on judgment for now…

Friday, November 20, 2009

Portland Happy Hour: Red Star Tavern

Posted by Kelly

If you are downtown doing holiday shopping and looking for an affordable bit to eat and maybe a post-shop drink, head over to Red Star Tavern on the corner of SW 5th and Alder. Rachel and I barely racked up a $25 bill after both having three glasses of the red wine happy hour special ($3) each, the chicken tacos, and the nacho fries. Pretty great deal!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Portland Happy Hour: Clyde Common

Posted by Kelly

Clyde Common, which opened in 2007 by Nate Tilden and Matt Piacentini who were aiming for a European style tavern, has been on my "Happy Hour To Do" list for quite a while and last Friday night I finally got to try it out with Katie B, Sofi, and Grete. We met at 5:30pm just in time to enjoy their happy hour which ends at 6pm.

The bar was packed, so we were happily seated at one of the long community style tables which are spread out across the main floor. Upstairs are individual tables, but the group setting offers a unique and potentially entertaining experience. The four of us sat at the end of a table, unfortunately next to a lovely couple that were engaged in their own conversation. The restaurant's floor to ceiling windows and candle lit tables create nice ambiance, while the open kitchen offers a sneak peak into the kitchen activities.

First we ordered $5 drinks off the happy hour menu. I chose a Charley Horse, made with Monopolowa vodka, orange juice, Averna Amaro, and raw ginger syrup, served up. Initially I couldn't decide if I liked it, but as I sipped the flavor grew on me and I ended up really loving the raw ginger. Katie and Sofi both ordered The Dissident, a Becherovka, house-made tonic water, and lime drink served over ice. The Becherovka gave the drink a very herbal, clove-like flavor. Both drinks ended up reminding me of the holidays, which I love! Grete ordered a beer that I cannot pronounce the name of, but is featured in the photograph below. I need to sharpen up on my beer knowledge!

Off the happy hour food menu, Sofi and I split the hamburger sandwich ($6, added cheddar cheese $1) and the grilled onion, goat cheese, pesto pressed sandwich ($6). Grete and Katie each got the hamburger as well, though Grete ordered bacon and blue cheese on hers, good call! Since the hamburgers come solo we also ordered french fries with harissa ($3) for the table. The hamburger was served with a unique tart, jam spread that at first we were all quite opposed to, but after trying it on a couple bits we realized Chef Jason Barwikowski knows what he's doing. According to the Clyde Common website, Chef Jason draws inspiration from domestic and foreign cooking traditions, while also turning to farmers and ranchers who provide the restaurant with local ingredients. I assumed he developed this hamburger jam spread, but it may have been sous-chefs Chris DiMinno or Erin Williams who assist with menu development and management.

Enjoy Clyde Common happy hour Monday through Friday from 3 to 6pm and Monday through Saturday from 11 to close. There is a $3 minimum beverage order per person, but they have an extensive wine, beer, and liquor list to help your with this request.

Sip on This!
According to Becherovka's website, Becherovka is an original Czech liquor. It is produced in Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) in the West Bohemia. As an herbal bitters it is flavored with aniseed, cinnamon, and approximately 32 other herbs, though it's full recipe is still kept secret and only two people in the world know the right ingredients and herbs used in production. Traditionally the liquor was often used to aid in digestion, in addition to being used as a home remedy for arthritis and as an emetic. Its lovers prefer to enjoy it pure and ice cold, but thanks to the dynamic growth in popularity of mixed drinks it can be also found in various cocktails, the most popular of which is called a Beton where it is mixed with tonic water. Its alcohol content is 38% ABV (76 proof).

Boston: Grendel's Den

posted by Katie
photos by Nico

The few times I’ve talked happy hour with people in Boston, Grendel’s Den in Cambridge always comes up as a recommendation. Last week, for some reason, my Wednesday night class was switched to Tuesday night, so Katie H., Nico and I took advantage of the situation and headed out for Grendel’s 9-11:30pm late night happy hour.

As per the law, there are no discounted drinks at Grendel’s but all the food is half-off. That’s right, ALL the food. We’re not talkin some whimpy little appetizer menu, we’re talkin the whole thing.

Grendel’s menu includes soups, salads, sandwiches, heartier entrees and, of course, the obligatory appetizer menu. Katie H. had already eaten but Nico and I were hungry so he went for the California Burger with jack cheese and guacamole ($3.35) and I tried the Barley Risotto with butternut squash, arugula, rosemary, parmesan & feta cheese ($3.35). The risotto was a special and they took some liberties with it, adding peas (which I like) and mushrooms (which Nico took care of), but the peas at least were a welcome addition and the risotto itself was very creamy and delicious, pretty much the perfect fall dinner.

Since we were celebrating the fact that our class was over and done with earlier in the week than usual, we decided to have some drinks too. Katie H. went with a Hurricane ($5.50) and Nico ordered the French 47 ($6.50), which is named after a hard-hitting WWI artillery piece and consists of Beefeater Gin, lemon, simple syrup & a float of champagne. Fancy. I decided to go with the Cucumber Lime Vesper ($8) which seemed a little over-priced until it came with its own miniature shaker which allowed me to refill my martini glass two times after the waiter’s initial pour. Nice.

Around the time Nico and I were finishing up with our meals, Bryan joined us and he decided to try the spicy shrimp appetizer ($4), and really, they’re not kidding around when it comes to the kick those puppies have. Luckily, Bryan had his pitcher of Grendel’s delicious sangria ($10) to help cool things down. Never one to turn down the opportunity to try more food, I convinced everyone that we should get an appetizer for the rest of us too so Bryan wouldn’t feel alone eating his shrimp. We decided on the Spinach, Artichoke and Snow Crab Dip for ($3.50). Maybe I was fuller from the risotto than I thought, but the dip was way too rich for me. All cheese and not much spinach or artichoke (which I think is the best part).

We all agreed we need to go back to Grendel’s soon not only for the cheap and (mostly) delicious food, but also for the laid back atmosphere, the novelty of being out and about in Cambridge and, in Nico's words, the "particularly enjoyable" sangria. Plus, after a good hour of running around the Harvard area looking for our bus, we finally figured out where to pick it up. Definitely a “know we’ll know for next time” experience….

Grendel's Half-Price hours are from 5-7:30pm every evening and from 9-11:30 pm Sun-Thurs. You must purchase a minimum of $3 per person to qualify for half price food. And be sure to get there earlier rather than later; the bar is small and tends to fill up quickly when there's half-price food going on.

Sip on This!

The sign outside of Grendel's says "Est. 1271". They explain on their site that "people frequently wonder why this seemingly impossible date is posted. The truth is that we were established in 1971, and there was an error in printing. We decided to run with it, since the medieval date actually evokes the period during which "Beowulf" was written, the classic of early modern English literature from which our name was taken. Beowulf is a hero who slays an ogre named Grendel, who terrorized a great mead hall. We figured, Grendel may have been an hideous ogre, but he knew a good mead hall when he saw one."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Boston: The Regal Beagle

posted by Katie

I'm a little embarrassed to report that I've been in Boston for a good 2 months now and still have yet to go to a happy hour here. I did, however, meet some friends for drinks and appetizers at a newly opened restaurant on Friday and so even though it wasn't technically a happy hour, there were food and drinks involved so I'm going with it.

The Regal Beagle opened last Tuesday and is a welcome addition to Coolidge Corner as the bar scene previously consisted of the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse and...well, that was about it. I didn't catch the reference on my own, but if you are for some reason a Three's Company buff, you might recognize the name as the gang's favorite hangout. Yes, that is where owners Chris Tocchio and Kristian Deyesso (who also own Church in the Fenway) got the name, but other than that, the restaurant has no connection to the show.

The Beagle, with its red damask walls and low lighting, might feel a little fussy when you walk in, but the perky staff definitely lends the restaurant a more laid-back atmosphere than you would guess at first glance.

Katie H. and I arrived before everyone else so we decided to start off with cocktails ($9-$10) and the pumpkin hummus dip ($4). While the drinks were strong (always a plus), the other flavors in the cocktails were weak, which was a bit disappointing. I'm hoping that since we went so soon after the Beagle opened, the bartenders are still getting the hang of things. I thought the pumpkin hummus was bland as well. Strike two.

Not long after our drinks arrived, we were joined by the rest of our party. Sara and Tom went for cocktails while Bryan and Luke opted for beer (boring).

photo by Nicolas Torres Pardo

We decided to stick to the appetizer menu for the most part as the entrees are a little pricey, especially for us grad students (we're talking in the $18-22 range). Sara, Tom, Katie and I all tried the tempura sweet potato fries ($5) which were much thicker than expected but were quite tasty.

photo by Nicolas Torres Pardo

Katie and I also split the mac n cheese ($12). It had a nice flavor to it but it was also one of those stringy types of mac n cheese while I prefer the creamy sort. Still good though.

photo by Nicolas Torres Pardo

Nico ordered the caesar salad ($7) which he pronounced "good" and Bryan and Luke chose the dates stuffed with gorgonzola cheese and wrapped in bacon ($4). The boys were pretty generous when it came to sharing the dates and I can see why. Those things are delicious but so rich that you really only want to have one. Definitely more of a "let's get it for the table" item.

Oh yeah, there was some olive ($4) action going on too...

While most of the food was pretty good, I have to say I was a little disappointed with the Beagle. I think I was hoping that it would be my Boston version of Kelly's Elephants in Portland in that it would be a nearby go-to spot for ridiculously good appetizers and innovative and tasty drinks. In reality, however, it was the company I was with that made the night, not the food and drinks. Nonetheless, I am giving The Beagle the benefit of the doubt and plan to try it again in a couple of weeks to see if things have changed for the better after it's been open for awhile. Plus, there were some very tempting-looking desserts that we didn't get to, so I think that also warrants a second trip.

Portland Happy Hour: Branch, A Whiskey Bar

Posted by Kelly

The last time my Aunt Polly and I went to 50 Plates we asked about her fav waiter/bartender Evan. To our surprise he had recently left to work at a new restaurant on NE Alberta and 29th. Branch a whiskey bar was opened two months ago by Andrew Finkelman, formerly of both 50 Plates and the Alberta Street Oyster Bar. He brought with him Chef Larry Tavernetti and our waiter Evan.

The happy hour, from 5 to 7, offers $5 glasses of house red and white wine, $3 well drinks, discounted beers and $2 off all appetizers and their house ground burger, with house bacon. Ben and Adam joined Polly and I and both ordered the burger. It was was a thick, fresh tasting burger with the option of cheddar or swiss cheese. Polly and I shared the "neighborhood special" written on the black board by the bar. Today it was a fall salad, a baked pasta, squash, and kale dish, and a glass of house wine, we chose white. The best part was the squash in the baked pasta, so good! Finally, for food, we ordered the white bean puree which was good but nothing special.

For drinks the boys had happy hour priced PBR ($1.50 pint) with a good glass of whiskey. This is a whiskey bar after all so someone had to order it and it wasn't going to be me! Andrew, with a vast knowledge of whiskey, was able to lead Adam to a nice whiskey selection of Corner Creek ($8) while Ben went for the Booker's ($12). Polly stuck to their house white, the Altozano ($6), which was great. While I chose to test the cocktail menu and order "The Beet Goes On" ($7), a combination of beet infused vodka, lemon juice, and sugar served up. I wouldn't say that it was better than the Ruby at Mint or the beet drink Kelly made at Elephant's, but it was very enjoyable and I wouldn't hesitate to order it again. Finally, my last drink was made by Evan and is known as an Aviator. I did like this gin, maraschino liquor, and lemon juice drink, but I probably would not order it again.

Branch offers great drinks, a wide variety of whiskey, an $8 happy hour burger which isn't expensive when paired with a $1.50 PBR and a baseball game (the Yankee's were playing that night). The atmosphere is great and the staff is friendly, but there is no exceptional happy hour deal. Regardless I would definitely check it out if you are ever on Alberta, remember to check the black board for specials!

Read more from Andrew here!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Portland Happy Hour: The Alameda Cafe

Posted by Kelly

It is obvious that the happy hour trend is spreading and Portland restaurants are all over it. Recently I went with my grandparents - Mimi and Papa - and Adam to one of their regular dinner spots and to my surprise it was happy hour time. The Alameda Cafe recently started offering a daily happy hour from 4 to 6pm.

The food menu's cheap eats include sweet potato fries, pretty tasty and made with real sweet potatoes instead of yams, chicken skewers with a Mediterranean salad (very good), soup, chorizo sliders, and caesar salad. For their drinks they focus on traditional cocktails for $5-$5.50, listed on their menu with a description of the drinks origin. They also offer discounted beer and wine. If nothing on the happy hour menu is quite hitting the spot, they have a great dinner menu as well. I would highly recommend the scallops ($9) listed under the appetizers!

Portland Happy Hour: Mint Revisited

Posted by Kelly
Last Sunday Mary, Adam, and I hit up Mint's all night happy hour and I was reminded why I used to go there every Wednesday night! Great drinks and the BEST sweet potato fries. Delish!

Sunday and Wednesday are all night happy hours which include $6 drinks, sweet potato fries ($3.50), calamari ($6), spicy caesar salad ($6), lamb burger ($8), and daily soup ($4). Change it up and try their Avocado Daiquiri ($6) or go for some of my favorite drinks: Bella, 816, Ad Lib, Guava Cosmo, Ruby...really you can't go wrong.

Photos by Adam Tenuta