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)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Seattle Happy Hours: El Chupacabra and BluWater Bistro

Jenna and Michael moved back to Seattle in late July and I finally was able to visit last weekend! Their apartment is so cute and within walking distance of great restaurants and bars.

After Jen finished up work on Friday we walked to El Chupacabra in need of some margaritas. Though teaching 6th graders is rewarding and selling ads can be exciting, by Friday evening we had earned ourselves a happy hour!

What: El Chupacabra
Where: 6711 Greenwood Ave N., Seattle
When: HH 4 - 6pm, 10 -12am

After a 10 minute walk from their apartment we arrived by just before happy hour ended and snatched a table on their patio, hoping to enjoy one of the last dry NW weekends. Our waiter was friendly, as was the rest of the rest of the staff who all rocked unique attire. The restaurant was self described as a "punk rock cantina" and I would say that the vibe did sort of reflect that.

Off the happy hour menu we selected the Carnitas Tacos and the Black Bean Taquitos. I can't remember the prices, but both were under $4 I think. The drinks at El Chupacabra aren't discounted during happy hour, but the regular prices are decent so it wasn't a deal breaker. For $6 each we went with a house margarita and a tequila and grapefruit juice (which does have a formal name). I think our first choice would be to just go for the classic house margarita.

My top happy hour pick would have to be the black bean taquitos. It was a nice alternative to classic chicken and the outside was crisp without cracking all over like some can when they're too crunchy. A couple friends joined us later and the taco salad looked pretty great as well! Definitely a relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff and free wifi, which could be handy if we had work to do!

What: BluWater Bisto
Where: 7900 East Greenlake Drive N., Seattle
When: HH 4 - 6pm, 10pm - close

Saturday morning we started our day with lattes, truffles from Chocolati and a walk around Greenlake. I'm so glad I visited before the weather turned rainy, because this was perhaps the best start to a day I have had in a while. My salted milk chocolate caramel was delicious!

After an afternoon of lounging and catching up we walked back towards Greenlake for a great happy hour at BluWater Bistro. We, of course, started with the $4 house chardonnay which was cheaper by the glass than buying the bottle.

There were so many great sounding dishes, but we finally narrowed it down to the Ahi Poke ($8) with cubed ahi, cucumber and taro chips, the Seviche ($7) and the Flat Bread Plate ($7). The seviche was a generous serving of halibut, scallops, and bay shrimp with a cilantro-citrus marinade, house made chips, and guacamole. I'm so glad we ordered it!

I was surprised by how amazing the flat bread plate was. I would strongly recommend ordering this! The bread is crispy, drizzled with a balsalmic reduction and surrounded by four topping options. Though the cambozola cheese and marinated peppers were awesome, I was really digging the olive tapenade and roasted elephant garlic. 

Jen has also had the Jerk Chicken Satay ($7) and Crab Wontons ($8) which she said are pretty great as well! Seems like you can go wrong here! We'll be back during another visit I'm sure.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Portland (Mini) Restaurant: 24th and Meatballs

I try to be a fairly forgiving person because, ya know, I was raised Catholic and all that ish but sometimes people do stuff that is really hard to forgive.

For example, one time Kelly (yes, Kelly of this very blog) went to the new meatball place in town WITHOUT ME.

Yeah, you read that right. She tried 24th and Meatballs without me and, probably most hurtful of all, she doesn't even feel bad about it.

In fact, I think she only agreed to go back with me because she was so tired of me bitching about her obviously major indiscretion. That or the meatballs were delicious and she wanted more.

Whatever. Let's talk meatballs.

What: 24th and Meatballs
Where:"The Ocean", 2341 NE Glisan 
Honeys Heart: Meatballs (obvs)
24th and Meatballs is one of several micro-restaurants located on the corner of NE 24th and Glisan. Their focus is, you guessed it, meatballs.

There are four kinds of meatballs to choose from: Classic Italian, Pork Piccante, Chicken Parmesan, and Vegan and four sauces: Tomato Basil, Creamy Cheesy, Spicy Pork, and Hazelnut Arugula Pesto.

The first time Kelly went, aka the time she stomped on my heart, she tried an array of sliders and suggested I follow suit.

Sliders go for $2.50 each and you can order any combo of meatball and sauce. I went with italian & tomato basil, pork piccante & spicy pork, and chicken parm & pesto.

I loved them all. Would have appreciated them all being served on the same plate... but that seems like a minor detail compared to delicious flavors of these meatballs. Kelly tried the creamy cheese on one of her sliders and wished they had been more generous with the sauce, so perhaps stick to the 3 other sauces when going the sliders route.

Doug and I had eaten at Luce a few nights before and as it had not satiated his pasta hankering (Luce = small portions), he opted for House Made Rigatoni + Meatballs ($8).

I might have complained that the pasta was not adequately drained resulting in watered-down sauce (evident at the bottom of the bowl in the photo above), but Doug was quite happy with his dish. 

Adam went big and decided on a Hero ($8.50). That's three meatballs, sauce, and cheese on a primo roll baked in the oven. 

Look at that cheesy, meaty goodness. Adam, you are a smart man. 

I should also mention that Kel and I had some pretty tasty house wine ($5 per glass) and Adam and Doug both ordered the Kool Aid of The Day, a steal at $1.

And, because Adam's hero took extra super long to get out, we also got to try the Famous Waffle Balls ($4) on the house.

The waffle balls usually only come with one sauce but we got to try all three: chocolate, dulce de leche and seasonal berry. The berry was definitely the group favorite but double-dipping in different sauces was fun too. 

The four of us agreed that the delicious meatballs and playful atmosphere (they certainly are proud of that slogan) made 24th and Meatballs one of our new favorite spots. We'll definitely be back!