Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kel's Golden Birthday: DIY Champagne Bar

At my job, Alumni Reunion Weekend is a pretty big deal and I have to plan on being on campus basically the entire weekend. Unfortunately, Reunion always falls on the last full weekend in June aka, Kelly's birthday weekend. Very sad, indeed.

Last year, I made Kel and all our friends come to the Reunion BBQ which of course eventually led to Tic Tacs at the T-room (should I be proud or embarrassed that the bartender recognized me even though I hadn't been there in 5 years??).

This year, Kel understandably opted out of spending her bday weekend at our alma mater, so we celebrated a week early with cocktails and snacks at her and Adam's place followed by karaoke at Voicebox.

The Drinks
Birthdays call for a little something special so instead of choosing one cocktail to make, I decided to set up a champagne bar with three different options that people could mix themselves.

The three options were:

French 75
- 1oz Gin
- .5oz Lemon Juice
- .5oz Simple Syrup
- Champagne

Rhubarb Sparkler
- 1oz Rhubarb Simple Syrup
- Champagne

Champagne Cocktail
- Sugar Cube
- Dash of Bitters
- Champagne

This was relatively easy to put together since you're just buying all the ingredients with the exception of the rhubarb simple syrup (recipe here), regular simple syrup, and fresh lemon juice.

I think if I did it again, I would choose something different than the Champagne Cocktail. Bowlsby was the only one who tried it and unlike the other two cocktails, you couldn't mix and match its ingredients with the others to create your own cocktail (gin + lemon juice + rhubarb syrup + champagne = much deliciousness). Maybe something like a Bellini would have worked better?

The Food
All credit goes to Doug on this one since he made the food. Kel requested lemon bars and caprese skewers to which we added watermelon & feta bites, fresh fruit (no one ate that), and Kel's and my current favorite Trader Joe's cheese & cracker combination: syrah-soaked Toscana cheese with fig & olive crisps (this has eclipsed our previous favorite: 1000 Day Gouda with rosemary crackers, in case you were wondering).

The Decor
Kel's house is super cute already so there wasn't much work to do here. I made the drink and food signs using this fun free font and gold polka dot washi tape, and added some flowers and a gold banner I bought at my favorite crafty store, Collage, to fancy it up. Easy!

It also makes a difference to put all your champagne bar ingredients in cute containers like the mini milk bottles we used for the simple syrup and lemon juice and the carafe for the rhubarb syrup.

Kel has a huge glassware collection so she set out an assortment of champagne flutes for everyone to choose from. This worked well for keeping track of whose drink was whose- which is especially important for Kel and me since we tend to lose track of our drinks every five minutes or so.

The Karaoke
One of the funnest nights Kel and I have ever had was a spontaneous hour or so of private karaoke at Voicebox after an impromptu Wednesday night bar crawl down 23rd and 21st a few years ago (Kel took care of the singing and I was in charge of back-up dancing and it was the best). Since then, we regularly think "let's go to Voicebox!" after a few too many drinks at Kel's. That plan never works though because Voicebox is either a) closed by that point in the night or b) already booked.

To ensure we didn't run into the same problem, I made a reservation through Voicebox's online system a week prior. Piece of cake!

Note: A tray of Voicebox's Jello shots is that much better when served by Bowlsby.

Cheers to a great bday, Kel!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Vancouver, BC Trip: Gastown & Downtown

Katie filled you in on part of our Memorial Day weekend in Vancouver, BC and covered most of our favorite spots, but these are still worth mentioning and checking out if you're in the right part of town!

Before we dive into the eating and drinking, on day two we rented bikes and cycled the seawall. Look how good we are at biking. Those Revocycle classes are paying off! This was definitely a fun activity and a good break from our otherwise food and alcohol-filled itinerary! 

What: The Diamond
Where: 6 Powell Street, Vancouver, BC
Honeys Heart: The Athenian

Our first night in Vancouver meant walking from Chinatown to Gastown, one of Vancouver's most historic neighborhoods with a mix of old and new with lots of trendy nightlife. After an extremely sketchy block of East Hastings Street, we made it to The Diamond. While we waited for a table, we went in this little side bar off of the main room that had a more limited menu and a sort of 80s/90s, minimal vibe. Katie and I wanted fancy cocktails off the menu in the other room and oddly they didn't cross over so we waited while Adam and Doug got started.

Once in the main room, the cocktails were organized by boozy, refreshing, delicate, proper, notorious, and overlooked. Under the boozy category (surprise, surprise) I chose The Athenian ($11) with an olive oil washed gin, rosemary, roasted pinenut, and Bianco vermouth. This is the second olive oil gin cocktail I've had, the other was at P.R.E.A.M., and I really liked both. This was one of my favorite cocktails we had in Vancouver.

From the "notorious" category Katie chose the Felix London Dry Gin ($11) that was a lovely combination of London dry gin, maraschino, lemon, violet, and sparkling wine.

Once Doug and Adam finished in the small bar, they joined us and Adam was drawn to The Tokyo Drift with Geikkekan sake, blanco tequila, watermelon juice, and apricot liqueur. It was a little sweet, so pretty much up Adam's alley, but also refreshing and juicy!

What: Peckinpah BBQ
Where: 2 Water Street, Vancouver, BC
Honeys Heart: 

After The Diamond, we headed to a recommended restaurant down the main street, checking out the steam clock on our way which shows off every quarter hour with whistling and shooting steam from its five whistles. Our intended destination looked pretty good, but the menu was a little pricey with main dishes ranging from $18 to $30, so instead we turned back to a BBQ spot we passed by a few blocks earlier. Adam and Katie got the pulled pork sammie, while I chose the beef brisket sammie because I'm suddenly a brisket fan. Doug varied from the group and ordered the rib ends which looked pretty delish. It was definitely a better price point, but to be honest, it was no Smokehouse 21.  Before we left Adam had to try to fried Oreos with vanilla ice cream off the special board. Personally, I prefer a regular Oreo, but it was fun to try.

What: Alibi Room
Where: 157 Alexander St, Vancouver, BC
Honeys Heart:

Before heading back to our Chinatown apartment, we made one last stop at the Alibi Room, and per our standard for the night we waited for about 10 minutes. Who knew Vancouver, BC was such a happening place? After being seated, Katie and Doug got another beer, Adam chose the highest alcohol content cider, and after much debate (I struggle with my beerducation), I settled on a rosé. The space was warm with an exposed brick wall with wood tables and accent pieces, similar to most places we went in this area. Our waiter seemed pretty over his job, but it was overall a nice stop with a pretty big beer selection if you're looking to please both beer and non-beer drinkers.

What: Meat & Bread
Where: 1033 West Pender St, Vancouver, BC 
Honeys Heart: Vego Sandwich 

On our way out of town, we tried the last spot on our list: Meat & Bread. We stopped downtown and were a little early so we walked around their convention center with a green roof lookout point (where there were def snipers, there must have been someone special coming by...) and checked out the sculptures and sea planes.

Meat & Bread opened at 11am and we were almost the first in the door. They have their signature porchetta sandwich as well as a corned beef, vego, and daily special. Adam, Doug, and I went for the prochetta, while Katie opted for the vego. I liked Katie's more, but the pork was perfectly roasted with little crispy bits. In hindsight, I wish I had tried the special which was a greek-style lamb sandwich. I would definitely recommend this for lunch, it would also be awesome to get to go and eat at the waterfront on a nice day.

Our international (so fancy) Memorial Day weekend was a success! I think the only place we went that we really didn't like (besides Portland Craft) was a pizza place for a late night bite, Uncle Fatih's. It was legitimately bad and there were so many sesame seeds on it. Hard to mess up pizza, but they did it. There were a few places we would have liked to check out like Granville Market, Earnest Ice Cream, and Brassneck Brewery, but all-in-all we had some pretty awesome food and drinks!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Portland Restaurant: Accanto

What: Accanto
Where: 2838 SE Belmont Street
Honeys Heart: Buckwheat Crepes

For the past three years, my sister Sarah has flown from NYC to Portland to run the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon, and of course to see me. It is a tradition for us spectators to have "first breakfast" while we watch her run and then all head to brunch after. Usually Sarah's friend Isabel (we missed you!) takes part in the fun, but this year our parents were in town and Sarah's boyfriend Jon joined her from NYC. With a group of six to coordinate, I thought it best to make reservations and Accanto's brunch menu had the best variety for our group.

According to their website "Accanto is all about fresh, seasonal Italian food, wine and cocktails. Simple yet sophisticated, with the warmth and welcome of a true neighborhood corner café." I would say this is a pretty accurate description of the flavors and feel.

Of course we started with cocktails. Sarah earned us all a drink, right? (Thanks, sister!) While she went for the Morning-Groni ($7) with gin, Campari, grapefruit, and sweet vermouth, I opted for the bubbly breakfast cocktail special. A combo of St Germain, bubbles, citrus, and bitters drew me in. Adam threw a curve ball and ordered a green chartreuse cocktail which isn't on their website so I can't remember all the ingredients, but overall the three of us were happy.

The other three in our party ordered the Belmont Bloody ($7) with a serrano chile infused vodka and after seeing all those veggies and that crispy fried prosciutto, I questioned my original choice. It was pretty spicy though... but you just can't really beat how a bloody mary also doubles as a pre-brunch snack.

To get started, we ordered the Ricotta Donuts ($6) sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with lemon curd, which might be my favorite sweet treat spread.

Dad went for the Duck Hash ($15) which somehow, even though I was sitting next to him, I didn't steal a bite of, but the combination of asparagus, green garlic, potatoes, poached eggs, duck, and hollandaise looked pretty delicious and seemed to satisfy.

Jon and I, who had been making similar dining decisions throughout the weekend (great minds...), both opted for the Buckwheat Crepes ($14) with spring vegetables- which on that day included peas and mushrooms, gruyere, sunny eggs, prosciutto, and a side salad. I might be biased, but we made the best decision.

After some serious contemplation, Adam finally settled on the Smoked Pork Biscuit ($12) with cheesy eggs, smoked pork loin, bacon, and red onion jam served with potatoes. Their buttermilk biscuits have a perfect crispy edge and soft, flaky middle. I may have ordered one as a side too.

Mom ordered the omelette off the special's board, which I also didn't try. What the heck?! But Sarah did and they both seemed pretty happy with the cheesy, veggie combo.

Sarah's option is last because it's the least exciting, but still noteworthy because those biscuits are so dang good. A Buttermilk Biscuit ($5) with honey butter and jam is definitely meant to be paired with other sides to make a meal. Sarah decided to combine that with two poached eggs ($4) and call it good.

Their dinner menu also looks worth checking out. We'll be back!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Vancouver, BC Trip: Chinatown & Mount Pleasant

This past Memorial Day weekend, Kelly, Adam, Doug, and I decided to take a trip to Vancouver, BC. Vancouver fit perfectly with our requirements for the weekend: within driving distance, somewhere most of us hadn't been before, and somewhere fun. The fact that we would technically be traveling internationally was a plus too.

In this post, I'll cover the spots we visited in Chinatown (where we stayed) and in Mount Pleasant, and in our next post Kel will tell you all about our adventures in Gastown and Downtown. 

What: Bestie
Where: 105 E Pender Street, Chinatown
Honeys Heart: Pretzel Board and Curry Fries 

Bestie was our absolute favorite spot in Vancouver.

It's located in Chinatown, one of the most weirdly dichotomous neighborhoods I've ever visited. Vancouver's Chinatown is one of the largest in North America, but recently it's also become a hot spot for hipster-friendly restaurants and boutiques. That means that squeezed in among traditional Chinese bakeries and markets, you'll find stores specializing in designer footwearspecialty coffee roasters, and Bestie- a tiny, minimalist currywurst spot.

We started with the Pretzel Board which includes a warm pretzel, stinky cheese sauce, three different mustards and "pickled n' cured delights".

We also tried the Currywurst which is sausage and fries topped with curried ketchup, house mayo, and green onions. It was equally as delicious.

Bestie's local beers come served in 12 or 24-ounce white ceramic steins. Fun!

On the more traditional side of things, we grabbed some snacks in the form of steam buns at Chinatown's New Town Bakery. We each chose different kinds but they were all good, surprisingly filling, and very cheap compared to the rest of the food we had in Vancouver. Win-win!

We also had lots of fun on our Mount Pleasant Bar Crawl. We stopped at a bunch of places, but our favorites were 33 Acres Brewing Company, The Cascade Room, and El Camino's.

What: 33 Acres Brewing Company
Where: 15 W 8th Avenue, Mount Pleasant
Honeys Heart: Beer and cider and coffee! 

Since Doug served as our tour guide all weekend (thank you, Doug!), it was a no-brainer that we'd stop at at least one brewery. It was between Brassneck Brewery and 33 Acres and 33 Acres looked like it had a cooler design element to it, so that was our spot.

Much like Bestie, 33 Acres had the minimalist thing down pat.

Doug and I split a taster tray- our favorites were 33 Acres of Sunshine and 33 Acres of Ocean - and Kelly and Adam tried the 33 Acres of CID3R.

We ended up stopping back by 33 Acres the next morning for coffee for us and a six-pack to take home for Joe as thank you for watching Dexter.

How pumped do you think they were when they figured out that the 33 thing not only works for B33R but for COFF33 too? My guess is pretty pumped.

Most of our little group didn't take advantage of this (can you guess who did?), but 33 Acres also serves snacks from a bunch of other well-known Vancouver spots including Earnest Ice Cream, Bestie, and Cartems Donuterie. (If you guessed Adam had a doughnut from Cartems, you win! It was delicious and I wish I got my own.)

What: The Cascade Room
Where: 2616 Main Street, Mount Pleasant
When: HH Sun-Thurs 5-7pm 
Honeys Heart: Happy Hour Sangria 

We wondered into The Cascade Room right in time for happy hour- lucky us! But before we went full bore with a happy hour Pitcher of Sangria, we decided to get a little fancy and order off the bar's extensive classic cocktail menu.

Kel and I chose one of my favorite drinks, The Aviation, and Adam went with an Old Fashioned.

We also had some delicious Mac & Cheese made with three cheeses and the most amazing herb cashew crust (why hasn't anyone else thought of that!).

What: El Camino's
Where: 3250 Main Street, Mount Pleasant
Honeys Heart: Bocadillo Sunday 

Before the rest of us could even sit down (what were we doing?), Doug made the very smart decision to take advantage of "Bocadillo Sunday" which includes a sandwich and pint of beer for $12 (a pretty good deal in pricey Vancouver). We all split Doug's Carne Guisada Bocadillo (sorry, Doug!) made with braised beef shortrib, caramelized onions, chimichurri, manchego cheese, and arugula.

This was probably our second favorite dish of the trip after the Prezel Board at Bestie.

El Camino's also had some pretty good Margaritas and Mojitos.

And turns out The Cascade Room and El Camino's are owned by the same restaurant group. No wonder we liked both so much!

One place to definitely skip on your own Mount Pleasant Bar Crawl: Portland Craft. We thought it would be funny to visit this Portland-themed bar, but really it was just super expensive with terrible service. If I wanted all that, I would have just stayed in Portland and gone to Lincoln!