Thursday, December 27, 2012

Portland Restaurant: Ox

What: Ox
Where: 2225 NE MLK
Honeys Heart: Asado Argentino for 2

Doug had this brilliant idea that maybe if we stopped going to so many happy hours all the time, we could actually save up for a nice non-happy hour meal once in a while. Which is how we ended up at Ox.

If you follow the Portland restaurant scene at all, you already know that Ox is this year's darling (see this recent Eater post for proof). And after dining there, I can see why.

Doug and I were lucky enough to score a seat around the grill, giving us a close look at Ox's specialty: Argentinian-style wood-fired meats.

Our seats confirmed that ordering the Asado Argentino for 2, essentially a meat sampler platter, was a good idea. 

Each platter comes with grilled short ribs, house chorizo, blood sausage, skirt steak, and sweetbreads, plus fried potatoes and a green salad.

I'm not a huge meat eater outside of my occasional burger cravings, so I was a little intimated by the sight of all that meat. Hopefully Doug was hungry? But a few bites in, I realized that when meat is this good, it's definitely something I can get behind.  

Doug and I both thought the chorizo was some of the best we've ever had. The skirt steak came in second place for me while Doug loved the short ribs.

With all the meat plus potatoes and salad, there was more than enough food for the two of us and we had a good amount of leftovers to take home.

But that also might have been because we ate too much of the delicious house bread with chimichurri...

Or because we also decided we needed to try an empanada.

We went with the beef, green olive, and raisin option. I loved it and would be plenty happy going back for one of these and drink. At $5 each, that's about as close as you're going to get to happy hour Ox and I'll take it!

We also were treated with complimentary cups of creamy mushroom soup. A gift from the kitchen (even if every diner gets one) always makes a meal so much more special.

And of course, we also had to try some cocktails.

For me, the Girl from Ipanema made with pisco, Combier Peche (peach liqueur), lime and honey. For Doug, Shipwreck with bourbon, rum, lime, mint and Angostura Bitters. Both were delicious and complimented the food well.

Hopefully we'll be back at Ox soon- there were some amazing-smelling pieces of lamb with burning rosemary coming off the grill that I'd love to try!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Portland Bar: Ambonnay Champagne Bar

Portland Bar: Ambonnay
Where: 107 SE Washington Street
When: Mon-Thurs 5-10pm, Fri-Sat 5-11pm, Sun 1-7pm

Ambonnay takes up a small corner in an industrial office building in Southeast that is also home to Olympic Provisions east side location. The small bar feels grander with tall ceilings, concrete walls, copper accents, mirrors and dim lighting. Unfortunately my horrible phone photos in the dark bar aren't doing it justice. I promise, I will stop doing this! 

I love me a glass of champagne, so when Dana suggested we try Portland's first champagne bar that serves nothing but bubbly I thought it would be a great opportunity to have some girl time while expanding my palette. Cooks Brut for $5.99 at Fred Meyer might get me by for some casual mimosas or a French 75, but in general I don't have a lot of experience with champagne or other sparkling wines - with exception of some tasty Prosecco I have had with Rachel.

We went back and forth between splitting a bottle, of which they offer over 50 options, or just going for a glass and finally opted to each try a different type so we could explore more of the menu. At $12-14 a pop we were only going to be having one glass each.

We enjoyed all three that we tried. Dana's rose was a bit sweet for us, but still tasty, and the other two were crisp and light. Though we only had drinks this visit they do offer a cheese plate ($12), truffle popcorn ($4) and olives ($4) and on their website you can find information about events at Ambonnay and their sister business Red Slate Wine Co.

This would be a great place to kick off a celebratory night, but not a bar I could afford to frequent. If I had some extra bubbly money in my budget I would really love to spend some time sampling and learning about many more of these sparkling wines!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Portland Happy Hour: The Hazel Room

So you know when you find this new restaurant/coffee shop that you just love, and you can't wait to blog about it, and you say to your co-blogger "I am seriously coming here every week," but then 15 minutes later your phone gets swiped by some high school hoodlums at said restaurant/coffee shop? It really puts a damper on things. Even when your server gives you a cookie on the house.

But even so, I still want to blog about The Hazel Room because I still think it's pretty awesome.

What: The Hazel Room
Where: 3279 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
When: HH 4-7pm daily, all day Sunday
Honeys Heart: $5 bacon and egg breakfast sandwich (served all day)

I was introduced to The Hazel Room by my friend Sarah Flan whose friend owns the super cute Mag Big boutique next door. The Hazel Room has been open for a little over a year, but they just recently expanded their coffee, tea, and sandwich menu to include coffee and tea cocktails and breakfast options that are served all day long.

Happy hour is served from 4-7pm daily and all day Sunday with $1 off all drinks. There are no food happy hour options but the $5 Bacon and Egg Breakfast Sandwich is delicious and pretty cheap so no complaints here.

The biscuit with marionberry jam is definitely what makes this breakfast sandwich stand out from your regular ole' run-of-the-mill egg sandwich. So good!

My favorite tea cocktail/the only one I've ever tried is the Pumpkin Chai Warmer ($7) which is spiked with bourbon.

This is essentially the perfect fall/winter cocktail in my book. Kel and I usually don't go for bourbon, but in this case, it complements the pumpkin chai so well that both of us were totally okay with it. And don't you love that they serve it in those pretty little teacups?

Kel has tried the Spanish Coffee ($7) too and noted that it's quite strong. Love when restaurants don't get skimpy with the alcohol!

So yeah, it really did suck that my phone got stolen here, but the place is so cute and the food and drinks are so good that I know I won't be able to stay away for long!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Portland Restaurant: Slowburger

Obviously Katie and I are fans of the Ocean micro-restaurant complex on NE Glisan and 24th. After this review of Slowburger and Pie Spot I think we'll have covered everything that's open there to date. As a quick wrap up: we're big fans of 24th and Meatballs and Katie and Doug definitely liked Uno Mas, but would pass on Basa Basa.

Also, before we get started. I obviously need to quit taking photos on my phone in dark restaurants, sorry about the quality of these!

What: Slowburger
Where: The Ocean, NE 24th and Glisan
Honeys Heart: The number "two"

Slow Bar on SE Grand and Washington is the original home of the "Slowburger." This funky, skatery, divey, but also awesome little corner bar features a to-die-for burger that I had with Rachel, my friend and former boss, a few years ago. I have meant to take Adam there since, as he might be the biggest burger fan I know, but we've never made it. When I heard that owner Rob Hemmerling opened Slowburger it seemed like the perfect alternative. Check out a new restaurant, but with the guarantee of great food. 

Slowburger offers five burger. Three regulars, one veggie and one seasonal. You can check out the menu here.

Adam went for the number two ($8) with a 1/2 pound of Painted Hills natural beef, chipotle cheddar, caramalized onions, Tails and Trotters smoked bacon, iceberg lettuce and slow sauce on a Grand Central brioche bun. This was my favorite of the two we tried and they're huge. We really didn't each need one!

I chose the seasonal ($8) to mix things up which featured a red pepper spread, white cheddar, slaw, and other things I can't remember. Also a great option, but when we return I would go with the number two over this. Looking back I should have ordered the other two burgers on the menu in their 3oz minis ($3.50) so that we could have tried them all. Oh well, next time!

As if two 1/2 pound burgers wouldn't be enough food we also shared the onion rings ($3) which were pretty delish. Our next visit will probably need to include an order of the sea salt fries with stinky cheese (Sm $4, Lg $5) though.

Overall, if you're looking for a filling and delicious burger this place won't dissapoint. They also have beer and wine options, or you can even fill up a growler!

Our dinner was awesome, but with the Pie Spot food cart just around the corner we couldn't skip dessert.

What:Pie Spot
Where: The Ocean, NE 24th and Glisan
When: Wed-Sun 12-8pm, Closed Mon/Tues

I scrounged through my purse for $3.50 so that Adam and I could take an Apple Crumble Pie Hole to go and warm it up later that night. I loved how it smelled and tasted like the holidays. I'm definitely a pie person over any other kind of sweet so this was my kind of dessert!

So if you haven't gotten the message yet, basically we're saying that you should go check out these restaurants! I asked Adam this difficult question as we drove away "would you go for 24th and Meatballs or Slowburger?" Too hard to choose.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

5 in 5: Uno Mas, Two Tarts, Cafe Castagna, Dove Vivi, and Basa Basa

Alright guys, there were some complaints (from Doug) about my last 5 in 5 and how some of my descriptions are confusing or don't give a complete enough picture of the restaurant. But really, you should be fine with it (Doug) because if I don't do these quickie posts, this blog will sit sad and alone for much longer periods of time and no one wants that... 

Uno Mas
Occasion: We loved 24th and Meatballs so we wanted to give another Ocean restaurant a chance.
The Five: Cheap and super tasty tacos.

Two Tarts
Occasion: My parents were in town so obvs sweets were a must.
The Five: Lemon bars: good. Macarons: eh.

Cafe Castagna
Occasion: We'd heard very good things about their happy hour burger. 
The Five: Amazing burger, awesome bartender.*

Dove Vivi
Occasion: We've been conducting our own informal Portland pizza-off.
The Five: Corn pizza. Do it now.

Basa Basa:
Occasion: Another Ocean restaurant
The Five: Stick to meatballs and tacos.

*Had to write a little more our bartender at Castagna as he was so friendly and knowledgeable. Definitely a great guy to chat with. He usually only works weekends but we were happy we managed to catch him on a rare weekday!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Portland Restaurant: PaaDee

The November issue of Portland Monthly Best Restaurants 2012 came out recently and of course it made me want to try a new restaurant, or ten. I finally picked PaaDee to be my first PM recommendation, figuring a restaurant that's name literally means "to bring good things" can't be bad for a Friday date night. Also, it's the same people behind Kinara, which I like, and Mee Sen, which I've been meaning to try.

Working with a tight budget, I am only commission after all, we decided to keep our date night affordable. Luckily one of our favorite theaters, Laurelhurst Theater on Burnside, only charges $4 for tickets and $16 for a bottle of wine, which of course I only get when I'm sharing. We decided to see Safety Not Guaranteed and follow that with PaaDee's 9pm happy hour. 

What: PaaDee
Where: 6 SE 28th Ave
When: 5 - 6:30pm and Last Hour

We ended up arriving early, but that was okay since there were many items on the regular menu I was happy to try. We (really just me) didn't want to wait for happy hour to order a drink, so I went ahead and chose A Taste of 27 ($9) with Oregon vodka, guava, Luxardo Maraschino, lemon, rock candy syrup, plum bitters and soda. It was really a well balanced cocktail. A little sweeter than what I might typically order, but I still enjoyed it.

Off the regular menu we ordered the Gra prao muu grob ($12) which was a super tasty combination of pork belly, basil, chili, and green beans that we added the fried farm egg ($1) to. The pork belly was crispy and the green beans had crunch. I really liked this dish and would definitely order it again.

Once the clock struck nine Adam selected a happy hour Sunrose Derby ($6) with Four Roses bourbon, Dolin Rouge, triple sec, lime, rock candy syrup and mint leaf. He was impressed, and even I was happy with a sip or two of this bourbon delight.

Even though our main dish was a great size and we probably could have called it good, we had to order off the happy hour menu. I mean, it's what we came for, right?

We chose the Tom Yum Goong ($5) and the Squid Skewers ($2). The hot and sour soup with prawns and mushrooms was excellent and on a cold fall night, which this was, I would highly recommend this. The Squid Skewers ($2) were okay. They had a spicy sauce on them, but were just slightly more chewy than I had hoped for.

Finally, we went with the Pak Kee Mao Pak ($5) with sauteed rice noodles and veggies. This noodle dish was a great deal and the portion was generous. Don't forget to squeeze the lime on top!

Overall the night was a success! We even ended this night with leftovers, which was nice since  most of our meal was happy hour prices and portions. From Adam's seat he spotted a fellow diners ramen dish and couldn't stop staring. It was slightly embarrassing, but I would have to agree that it looked AMAZING. I'm already planning our next movie/dining date night.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beer Tour in Fort Collins: New Belgium, Big Beaver, Odell, Funkwerks, and Mayor of Old Town

A few weekends ago, Doug and I flew to Denver to visit Leslie and Ian in Fort Collins. Originally, we had planned to attend the Great American Beer Festival with them in Denver, but when tickets sold out within a matter of minutes, we had to let go of that part of the plan. It actually turned just fine in the end because during our two days in Fort Collins and two days in Denver, we somehow managed to sample 76 different beers between the four of us. Yeah. That's a lot beer.

Let's recap Fort Collins. Denver to follow!  

Day 1 in Fort Collins: 

1) Hike Horsetooth Mountain

2) Beer Tour at New Belgium Brewing

Doug and I agreed that this is one of the best beer tours we've ever been on. The tour was free, our tour guide was incredibly entertaining and knowledgeable (Warm your sour glass with your hands before drinking! Beer should be aerated too- enjoy that foam!), and we got to sample five different beers over the course of the tour, including the rare La Folie, a sour brown ale.

Favorite Beers:  La Folie, Cocoa Mole Ale, Tart Lychee, and Shift

3) Burgers and beers for dinner at Choice City

This deli/restaurant had a great selection of local beers and their hamburgers were really tasty. Doug's Choice City burger was the clear winner. Its made with a patty of bacon, irish chedder and buffalo all ground together and then topped with grilled balsamic onions and red pepper aoili. So good! 

Day 2 in Fort Collins:

1) Brunch at Snooze

Let's be clear: Ft. Collins and Denver are not foodie-friendly cities. I have never seen so many chain restaurants in one place in my life. Even Snooze is a local chain. But it was pretty good so Doug and I decided to be ok with that.

2) Beer Tasting at Big Beaver Brewing Co.

Big Beaver is obviously aiming to scandalize with their beer names (Black Curly's- really?) and their beer widely varied in terms of quality, but we certainly appreciated their generosity. Free samplers for CU students, Free Pint Fridays, and $1 pint specials. Definitely down for that. 

Favorite Beers: Whiskey Dick Stout and Bust-A-Nut Brown
Avoid!:  Sweet-n-Sour Booty and Wonder Wiener Wheat

3) Beer Tasting at Odell Brewing Company

Every single beer we tried at Odell was good, if not excellent. No joke. This is Doug's new Official Favorite Brewery, so that's a pretty big deal. The only sad thing is that Odell is not yet available in Oregon. Boo. Hoping it gets here soon!

Favorite Beers: St. Lupulin, IPA, Cutthroat Porter, and Isolation Ale

4) Beer Tasting at Funkwerks

Funkwerks is a saison-focused brewery, so not really my thing. Doug thought their beer was interesting, but was a bit average following the amazing beers we had at Odell. But Funkwerks did win Best Small Brewing Company and Best Saison at the Great American Beer Festival this year so maybe don't listen to us?

5) More Beer at Mayor of Old Town

Mayor of Old Town has over 100 local beers on tap. It was a great stop because we were able to sample some beers from local breweries that we weren't able to make it to like Longmont's Left Hand, Boulder's Avery, and Loveland's Grimm Brothers.

Our trip to Ft. Collins also included some quality time spent with this little lady:

June is such a cutie-pie!

Stay-tuned for a recap of the Denver leg of our trip including: Doug is too hungover to drink more beer, Leslie & Ian's first sake bombs, and "rocky mountain oyster" stout.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

2012 Pumpkin Beer Tasting: Elysian's Blight for the Win

A few weekends ago, Doug and Joe decided to host a pumpkin beer tasting at our apartment. Being the over-achievers that they are, they managed to wrangle up 10 different pumpkin beers for us to try. Allie, Allison, and Anna chipped in too!

The six of us sampled the beers one-at-a-time, individually giving each a rating of 1 to 5 with 5 being "pumpkin deliciousness all over my mouth" and 1 being "I can't drink this even though I know it's alcohol".

From most delicious to least, here are our combined results!

#1 Elysian Blight Pumpkin Ale (Seattle) 

Part of Elysian's 12 Beers of the Apocalypse series, this pumpkin ale earned the top spot thanks to its flavor combination of pumpkin, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Would work all the way through the holiday season really.

#2 Elysian Great Pumpkin Ale (Seattle) 

More pumpkin forward than the Blight, Elysian's Great Pumpkin came in 2nd place. Elysian makes this ale by putting roasted pumpkin seeds in the mash and adding pumpkin to the mash, kettle, and fermenter. Think "pumpkin pie" and that's the flavor of this strong beer.

#3 Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale (Maine) 

Pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon flavors abound in this very drinkable wheat ale. Yum!

#4 Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin (Maine) 

A special edition pumpkin ale from Shipyard that we didn't think was quite as good as the regular seasonal Pumpkinhead.

#5 Pike Harlot's Harvest Pumpkin Ale (Seattle) 

Organic pumpkin puree and brown sugar were used to create this dark ale. Plus, as Doug pointed out, the label is pretty entertaining.

#6 Epic Fermentation without Representation Imperial Pumpkin Porter (Salt Lake City) 

This beer was my favorite and Doug's second favorite so I'm sad to see it so far down on our group's list. It has chocolaty porterness with easily recognizable, but not overpowering, pumpkin flavors. A great balance of the two. Definitely recommend giving this one a shot! 

#7 Laurelwood Stingy Jack Pumpkin Ale (Portland)

Most of us were not huge fans of this amber ale, but I liked it. Made with a roasted whole pumpkin and pumpkin puree. Doug says he thought this was a little harsh but would likely age to be more mellow.

#8 Uinta Punk'n Harvest Ale (Salt Lake City) 

This beer got a collective "no thanks" from the group. Too sweet with its vanilla and honey overload. We still have 4 bottles of this in the fridge and Doug won't even touch it (which says a lot!).

#9 Oakshire Big Black Jack Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter (Eugene) 

 Chocolate + stout = very little room for any pumpkin flavor. A good stout on its own but didn't pass the pumpkin beer test.

#10 Uinta Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin (Salt Lake City) 

The beer left over when all the others were gone? This one. Props to Uinta for being the only oak-aged pumpkin beer we found, but really, this stuff is no good.

Disagree with our results? Have a pumpkin beer that you love? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Portland Happy Hour Update: The Bent Brick

Any new venture usually has trial periods and lessons learned of what does and doesn't work. That means that the happy hours we blog about change and evolve as the restaurant receives feedback and brainstorms new concepts. These can be changes we feel are good and bad. Luckily, the recent change at The Bent Brick is a good one! (We think).

Katie tried The Bent Brick in early August and wasn't impressed by their happy hour. You can read her full post here. We returned with their PR team and tried their regular menu which we both enjoyed, though that didn't change Katie's initial conclusion that their HH isn't that great and doesn't represent what their menu offers.

Thanks to Eat Beat's round up of top food news, we got an update that "The Bent Brick has launched a new happy hour chef's choice trio special every day from 5 to 6:30 pm. In addition to $5 glasses of wine, $3 beers, and $5 cocktails, the $25 chef's choice special will feature three modern small plates from chef Will Preisch. The happy hour menu is still home to several $3 bar snacks, like smoked salmon poofs and pickle or ham plates."

Here are some pictures from our last visit and with these changes we will likely give it another try!

 country ham, honey mustard ($5)

 cod poofs ($5)

 padron poppers ($5)

 green and romano bean salad ($10) liked the addition of plums!

 prosciutto wrapped romaine and fried pickles

 custard with crab

 pork belly and loin ($23)

 candies ($2.50 each)