Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Portland Restaurant: P.R.E.A.M.

What: P.R.E.A.M.
Where: 2131 SE 11th Ave
Honeys Heart: Black Garlic Knots & the pizza

What does P.R.E.A.M. stand for? Obvs, Pizza Rules Everything Around Me. 

Our first experience with P.R.E.A.M. was at Ned Ludd during Nicholas Ford and Brandon Gomez's Monday night takeover of the restaurant. It was awesome and we were excited to learn this duo found a permanent home for their hip-hop pizza pop-up.

Adam and I signed up to test out P.R.E.A.M.'s new spot during their week of prix fixe preview dinners. The dinners must have gone well (we certainly thought ours did!) because P.R.E.A.M. is now open in the old Tennessee Red's space and I am already eager to return. The new look is all thanks to hands-on work by Nicholas and Brandon and their team. They built the bars, painted the walls, hung records, and even broke down part of the outside wall to get the massive pizza oven in place. As anticipated, there was loud 80's rap playing and as I scanned the bar, people were bopping their heads and singing along to the lyrics. The wait staff was energetic and Brandon and Nicholas were in the heat of it.

Brandon, who also serves as house bartender, was hustling behind the bar and when I asked what was his favorite of their gin cocktails, he urged me to try the Olive Oil Gibson ($10) with gin, dolin genepy, and olive oil, since no one had it yet that night. As promised, the drink was delicious and the olive oil added a little pop towards the end.

Adam started with a Root Beer Flip ($10) with bourbon, Blackstrap rum, egg, cream, and root beer. Smooth, creamy, and ultra satisfying. This is how I might end my meal (with a dessert of course). 

Since we were there for a preview dinner, we had set food options and the waiter gave us the menu rundown. Structured like any good rap song, the menu includes an Intro (apps), Verse (salads), Hook (polenta), Chorus (pizza), and Outro (dessert).

First up, Parmesan Chips with herb cream and Black Garlic Knots with puttanesca. You can't really go wrong with either of these, but I would be happy to pop into P.R.E.A.M. just for some of these black garlic knots.

Next up: salads, and both of them were great. If I had to choose a favorite it would be Yesterday's Bread. For this salad, some of the vegetables, like the radish, were left with their greens. Those veggies plus cooked carrots and other thinly sliced spring vegetables were combined with bread and a honey-balsamic dressing, I just wish there had been more, even though the portion was perfectly reasonable! The Mixed Greens with sunflower and oat crumb, red onion vinaigrette, and feta was also fantastic.

For the hook, we had to pick between two polenta dishes and opted for the Short Rib with pickled condimento and spinach. The meat on this hearty dish just fell apart. It sounded like they will have different variations of polenta dishes which I'm looking forward to exploring. It's not something I cook, ever, and sometimes I feel indifferent about it, but with the right topping and sauce I see the appeal, similarly to that of a well-prepared shrimp and grits.

Now to the heart of P.R.E.A.M.! We were supposed to pick one of the three pizzas, but opted to a buy a second too. First choice, the Pork Meatball with escarole, veloute, and crumbs. A veloute sauce is a simple sauce made with chicken stock and butter and while Adam typically prefers a red sauce on pizza, this was amazing. A perfect example of how less can be more.

Our pizza addition included the Fontina with provolone, mozzarella, garlic, and oregano. The sauce on top of the cheese was unique, but since on a pie this simple the sauce is in many ways the star of the dish, it was a good choice. The pizzas were also served with some dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan to sprinkle on top. Mmmmm.

Time for another drink. This round we went for the house-bottled cocktails including the Craig 'N' Cola ($10) with bourbon, P.R.E.A.M. cola and the Pink Flamingo ($11) with Ransom old tom gin, Campari, St. Germain, maraschino, and lemon. Normally both of these would be a little concerning to me having so many ingredients on the sweet side, but these were strong and well-balanced. 

We never wanted this meal to end and it was all happening too fast, but before long it was dessert time and we got to try the Cannoli with ricotta and cacao nibs and Olive Oil Cake with creme anglaise and almond brittle. The cacao nibs are dehydrated and made here locally to have a very concentrated amount of cacao and the cannoli wrap is a wonton. This dessert was good, but I think I would have preferred a different type of wrap. If you are looking for a sweet finish this wouldn't be it.

The Olive Oil Cake was our definite favorite with an awesome balance of dense, savory cake, sweet anglaise, and a fruit chutney on top. Even though we were pretty full, we made room for this.

Brandon said the full menu will include eight pizzas and six salads, alongside other intros and hooks. After sitting at the bar all night watching Nicholas jamming around that pizza oven, we went over to tell him how awesome it was and accidentally walked away without our leftovers which resulted in the only downside of the night. The preview meal was an awesome teaser of what P.R.E.A.M. has to offer and now that it's open I don't have to keep dreaming of our lost leftovers, I can just go back!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Portland Restaurant: Bang Bang

What: Bang Bang
Where: 4727 NE Fremont
When: Wednesday - Monday 5pm - 12am
Honeys Heart: Curry

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents on NE Fremont as a child, which meant hitting up neighborhood staples like the Alameda Cafe, Staniches, McPeet's, or Perry's (miss the lemon drops so much!). Recently, food destinations like Smallwares; Bang Bang; and Batter, Griddle, and Drinkery are popping up on Fremont and it's a bit of a game changer for the street.

Katie and I made our way to Bang Bang a couple weeks ago. Bang Bang serves Thai drinking food- food that is saturated with flavor, be it spicy, rich, sweet, etc, because it is meant to be enjoyed with drinks that will dilute the flavors. The spot boasts an extensive late night menu after 10pm but our 5pm arrival meant we were much too early to take advantage of it (are we getting old?!). We were the third table seated, but before long there was a couple and their baby sitting next to us, and the remaining tables filled up shortly after.

Of course we started with cocktails. I had the Chef's Reward ($8) with Monopolowa, Campari, grapefruit juice, and Jacobsen Sea Salt, while Katie enjoyed a White Negroni ($8) with Aria Gin, Suze, and Cocci Americano.

Our waiter recommended three dishes between the two of us, but we opted for one starter and one curry and felt that was a pretty perfect portion. The Green Papaya Salad ($8) had herbs, tamarind, and veggies. The papaya strips were really long and there was a generous amount of dressing, which means Katie and I made a bit of a mess, but both of us were okay with this salad.

For our main dish, we went with our waiters favorite, the Green Curry ($15) with a tea-cured egg, rau ram sausage, pork belly, cilantro, yam, long beans, and coconut rice. I had read reviews of how there were a lot of flavors happening in Bang Bang's dishes- too many, perhaps- and I can totally understand that feeling, but personally, I liked this!

There was a mix up in the kitchen so our curry took a long time and we were offered a dessert on the house, so obviously we ordered another cocktail. We got two Bang Bang Old Fashioned's ($9) which was strong, but good mix of bourbon, house-made cardamom bitters, sugar, and orange peel. Katie and I are doing such a good job drinking bourbon, and finding there are a lot of a cocktails we really like! 

For our complimentary dessert we chose the Thai Tea Cake ($7) which sounded like it would hit the spot with an almond crumble, galangal ice cream, and sweet lime. Unfortunately, the cake was mushy thanks to the Thai tea and the "sweet lime" sauce, which we mostly avoided, had an odd earthy flavor. The ice cream was good, but the overall texture on the plate was just not satisfying. 

I think if I lived in the NE Fremont neighborhood I might head to Bang Bang more often. Next up on the NE Fremont list is Batter, Griddle, and Drinkery inspired by the late night menu at the Original Hotcake House. The perk: it's a place to not only get your much needed late night waffle fix, but you can get cocktails too! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Craft Brewers Conference 2015- Where to Drink this Week (April 14-17)

This week, Portland gets to show off our beer-crazed city to the rest of the country during the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC).

This yearly conference gives over 11,000 brewing industry professionals the chance to partake in a week of brewing events, networking, collaborating, and, of course, enjoying each other's creations. The CBC itself is a closed event but don't worry- there are still lots of events that those of us not in the craft beer industry can be a part of!

 Here's where resident HHH beer expert Doug suggests drinking this week:

Tuesday: Founders Brewing Tap Takeover at Bailey's The Upper Lip

Bailey's annex bar will be pouring KBS, Founders' very rare and highly sought-after bourbon aged stout. Released for only one week out of the year in Grand Rapids, MI, this stout scores a 100 on Beer Advocate and a world ranking of #14. Is it all hype? Portland finally gets a chance to find out.
Tuesday, April 14 from 4-10pm at Bailey's The Upper Lip (720 SW Ankeny St.) 

Wednesday: Sour and Wild Invitational at Cascade Brewing Barrel House

No craft beer week is complete without checking out a few sour beers- and there is no better place to do so than Cascade, one of the top sour beer breweries in the world. This week-long event has gathered together some of the biggest names in the sour beer world. The lineup will change throughout the week but highlights include Almanac, Jester King, The Bruery, The Rare Barrel, Wicked Weed, and, of course, Cascade.
April 14-16 from 3-11pm, April 17 from 3pm-midnight, and April 18 from noon to midnight at Cascade Brewing Barrel House (939 SE Belmont St.). Cash only. Free entry.

Thursday: The Drinking Lot

Bailey's produces one of the most unique and exciting events of the week with this pop-up beer garden. With an ever-changing line-up, a giant tented area for drinking, and local food carts, this will be a popular place to hang out near the conference. Thursday will be special with a tap list that includes Kalamazoo's Bell's Brewery, one of the oldest craft breweries in the country.
April 14-18 from noon-10pm at the (usually) empty lot at 419 E Burnside. 21+ and cash only. 

Friday: Pioneers of Craft Beer at Horse Brass Pub

Finish the week with a pint at Portland's original craft beer bar while rubbing elbows with some of the biggest names of industry- The Widmer Brothers, Deschutes founder Gary Fish, and Ken Grossman from Sierra Nevada, just to name a few. It's a chance to try a catalog of beers that helped shape the country's beer scene with the brewers who created them.
April 17 from 6-9pm at Horse Brass Pub (4534 SE Belmont St.). No cover.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Portland Restaurant: Chizu

What: Chizu
Where: 1126 SW Alder
Honeys Heart: Cheese Omakase

I've been a big fan of Cheese Bar since Doug and I first visited a few years ago. Cheese Bar is owned by beloved Portland cheesemonger Steve Jones, so we always feel like we're in good hands there. The only problem? Cheese Bar is way out on SE 60th and Belmont- quite the trek for us NW folks.

That's why we were so happy to hear that Steve was opening a sister shop to Cheese Bar right next to Multnomah Whiskey Library.

We stopped by Chizu last week after our Portland Dining Month dinner at Departure (yeah we're fatties, don't judge!) and while there were definitely some newly-opened kinks to work out, we were mostly impressed with Steve's new Japanese-inspired spot.

Chizu's menu features about 30 different cheeses as well as other snacks, beer, wine, and sake. You can order your cheese a la carte (1 oz portions run $3-$6) or opt for the omakase.

With the omakase option, you choose how much you want to spend (we went with $20), and the Chizu staff will put together a plate based on your preferences. We told them that we weren't afraid of stinky cheeses and they nailed it. We ended up was a varied selection of cheeses that were all delicious, with plenty of crostinis, dried berries, and nuts too. Just don't ask me what the cheeses were because I don't remember.

As far as those little kinks, I think they'll figure them out as they get a little more experience. When we walked in, the music was so low that the place was practically silent- not the most inviting atmosphere to walk into. The door to Multnomah Whiskey Library also bangs pretty loudly when people go in and out and it echos through Chizu, especially with that music so low, so that's something they might want to remedy too.

But overall, we'll be back! I'm thinking a cheese omakase plate from Chizu followed by a few small plates at Clyde Common and then a nightcap at Kask would basically be my ideal night. Doug? Kelly? Anybody down?