Tuesday, December 29, 2009

DIY Happy Hour: Mulled Wine

posted by Katie

Last year, my mom and I made Hot Apple Pie drinks for Christmas. They were okay, but this year we decided to go in a different direction and try our hand at mulled wine.

Mulled wine is basically warmed sangria with a few extra spices thrown it. The following recipe is based off Ina Garten's recipe with a few minor changes (most notably, no star anise because we couldn't find any). Since the recipe calls for a whole bottle of wine and my family are pretty light drinkers, we had leftovers which we just put in the fridge and reheated in a saucepan a few days later. That worked nicely since the few extra days in the fridge strengthened the added flavors. Leftover mulled wine can also be enjoyed cold if that's more your style.

What You'll Need:

- 1 bottle of red wine (we used Cabernet Sauvignon)
- 4 cups of apple cider
- 1/4 cup of honey
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 orange, zested and juiced
- 3 oranges for garnish

Step One:

Combine wine, cider, honey, cinnamon, zest and juice in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

Step Two:

Once mixture is boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Step Three:

While wine is simmering, cut oranges for garnishes.

Step Four:

Pour wine through a strainer to remove spices and zest.

Step Five:

Pour wine into glasses and add orange garnishes.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Portland Happy Hour: Typhoon

Posted by Kelly

Adam and I have wandered by Typhoon on NW 23rd many times and noticed their sign promoting happy hour from 4 to 6pm and recently decided to check it out. The portions were good, but the pad thai ($5) just wasn't Thai Ginger's. We also order the spring rolls ($2.95) which we liked and the calamari ($5) which was also good, but not the best in town. I was a little hungry still so we tried the Miang Kum ($2.95), which was very interesting combining lime, chewy ginger, crunchy things, on a spinach leaf that you just rolled up and popped in your mouth, but it was also very spicy! Typhoon also offfered beer and wine specials, I opted for a $4 glass of the house white, nothing great.

I've had better food there so maybe it was just an off night, but I don't think it will be on my list of happy hours to return to.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Portland: Dragonfish Asian Cafe

Posted by Kelly

So sushi is one of those foods that I begin to crave and it won't go away until I have some. Thankfully after about of month of suggesting sushi, I finally got some at Dragonfish Asian Cafe* happy hour on the corner of SW Park and Taylor.

Sofi, Grete and I arrived first, all initially walking left once going inside the doors and being told by the Dragonfish restaurant bartender that happy hour was across the lobby in the Dragonfish lounge. We decided he probably gets that a lot, poor guy.

First, we ordered drinks. Grete had beer, Sofi enjoyed a warm and delicious Peppermint Patty seasonal cocktail ($8), and I tried the $5 Lemongrass Lime Rickey made with lemongrass infused vodka and served on the rocks. I think Sofi made the best choice, but how can you really go wrong with hot chocolate and alcohol? The Lemongrass Lime Rickey was good, but weak and not very flavorful. Katie came just before happy hour ended at 6 and ordered some tea to warm herself up! It's been SO cold! (Though I'm sure Katie is colder in Boston)

The sushi was great, though I am still a Mio fan, perhaps out of habit after living in North Portland and having that be the closest sushi destination.

We ordered Inari ($1.95), a salmon nigiri ($3) and smelt, two orders of the smoked salmon roll, the spicy tuna roll, and the california roll, and one order of the crunchy crab roll. Two orders of potstickers also made the cut, with 4 of us and only 3 potstickers per order we obviously had to get two. Sofi also had miso soup ($2), which she said was good and for only $2, why not?

We orderd quite a bit off the happy hour menu, but discovered at the end that it's actually not an exceptional deal. The spicy tuna roll was $4 on happy hour, but you only get a half order (4 rolls) and on the regular menu a roll of 8 is $9. So by the time we ordered two orders, we really only saved $1. Still a savings, but not one that makes you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. The california roll is a better deal being only $2.75 for 4, whereas it's $8 on the regular menu. If you are hungry for half a roll and miso soup or postickers, than the happy hour is a deal. Definitely a central spot to meet people on the Park blocks and the wait staff was very friendly, Grete and our waiter bonded over Virginia and Sofi definitely got a shoulder pat for making such exceptional sushi choices.

Of course I forgot my camera again so thank you Grete's iPhone for the pics!

* heads up, their online happy hour menu is not accurate

Thursday, December 10, 2009

DIY Happy Hour: Cranberry Margaritas

Posted by Katie

Margaritas are a happy hour honey favorite and my parents' drink of choice too. So when my mom found a recipe for Cranberry Margaritas in Sunset Magazine, she suggested that we try out the recipe when I was home for Thanksgiving.

Sunset's recipe is for blended margaritas which are unacceptable in most cases, so we had to do a bit of tweaking to make them the more superior on-the-rocks variety.

Ready to find out how to make these festive and yummy drinks?

What You'll Need:

- 3/4 cup of tequila
- 1/2 cup Cointreau or Triple Sec
- 1 1/4 cups cranberry juice cocktail
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (6oz) of fresh or frozen cranberries
- 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
- ice

This will make 3-4 margaritas.

Step 1: Wash the cranberries.
Duh. But check out this photo where I was trying to go all Bakerella. I think I need more practice. Or maybe cuter backgrounds and a reeeeeally nice camera.

Step 2: Blend
cranberries, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 1/4 cups cranberry juice, and 3/4 cup lime juice
 How many drinks are you making? 4? Set aside 12 cranberries for garnish. Throw the rest of the cranberries into the blender with the sugar, cranberry juice and lime juice.

Step 3: Sugar rim time!
Pour some sugar onto a flat plate. Run the lime rind (that you didn't throw away yet, right?) around the rim of the glasses. Place the rims in the sugar and gently twist them to make sure the whole rim gets covered.

So pretty!

Step Four: Add tequila to cranberry mixture
Pour the tequila into the blended cranberry mixture. This recipe calls for 3/4 cup of tequila but we wouldn't judge if you wanted to up that a bit. Stir.

Step Five: Pour over ice
Place ice in cups and pour margarita mixture into the glasses. Careful of the rim!

Step Six:  Add a "Cointreau floater"
This was my dad's contribution. Use a spoon to gently "float" the Cointreau on top of the margarita mixture. Or you can just put the Cointreau in when you put the tequila in.

Step Seven: Garnish
Sunset says to use toothpicks but we didn't have any so my mom found some twigs in the backyard to serve as the skewers for the cranberries. (Don't worry, we washed them.) We decided they give these drinks a nice rustic look.

Slide the cranberries (3 is a good number) onto the toothpicks/twigs/whatever you can find, and place them on the edge of the glasses.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Boston: The Nutcracker, Cuffs and Post 390

posted by Katie

Let me start off by saying that if you don't know about Groupon yet, you should probably get acquainted with it asap.

Groupon is a website that uses "collective buying power" to provide its customers with great deals on everything from dinner at a local restaurant to massages at the hippest salon in town. Sounds great right? And it's super easy to use. Every day, Groupon posts a new deal. For example, today's deal in Boston was $15 for $35 worth of Indian Food at Kashmir. Each deal has a minimum amount of people who must buy the coupon in order for the deal to be on. So for today, 150 people had to buy the groupon before it went into effect. If your Groupon deal is on, then Groupon emails you instructions for how to redeem your coupon and you're done.

For Groupon's Boston deals, click here

And for Groupon's Portland site, click here

I first heard about Groupon from my friend Sara, who emailed me that Groupon was offering %50 off tickets to see the Boston Ballet's Nutcracker. So down for that...and luckily so was my roommate Shannon.

We bought that Groupon back in October, so by the time December rolled around, we were both really excited to go to the ballet (note our fancy outfits).

The Nutcracker is performed at the Boston Opera House which is just beautiful.

And Shannon and I were surprised to find out that we had really good seats.

Or so we thought...The couple behind us was noticeably tipsy and talked loudly throughout the First Act despite the fact that everyone around them (myself included) kept turning to flash them dirty looks every few minutes. When that was obviously not working, the guy next me politely asked them if they could stop talking until intermission. Well, that just set them off, and the tipsy man leaned over and loudly said "fuck you" while flipping the guy next to me the bird.

Um, hi. Are we at a football game or the ballet?!? Too bad bad the Opera House doesn't have an obnoxious fan hotline like they do at football stadiums...

Thankfully, the noisy couple did not return after intermission and other than that little distraction, I really enjoyed the Boston Ballet's take on the Nutcracker. I have only ever seen the San Francisco Ballet's version but I really like how the Boston Ballet incorporated so many of their students into the performance. I wish I had a video to show you of the little kid who played the black sheep in the pastoral scene. Beyond adorable.

Since we were all dressed up in our Nutcracker finery, Shannon and I decided to make a night of it and hit the town when the show was over.

happy hour honeys hint: if you're already out and about and don't have access to internet to look up where to go, hit up the concierge stand at a nearby hotel. Act like you're a paying guest and you'll be treated to all the free info you want!

The concierge at the Westin recommend that Shannon and I try the Back Bay Hotel (formerly Jurys Boston Hotel) if we were looking for a classy bar with good drinks and yummy appetizers. The Irish bar at Back Bay is called Cuffs and the place was packed with a late-20s-and-over crowd. Shannon and I were a bit disappointed to find that most of the drinks on the menu were at least $13, which seemed like a lot when all the menu items were $11+ too. We decided to split the flatbread margarita pizza for $11 and Shannon got a beer ($6) and I got a glass of Riesling ($9). The pizza was totally bland and to be honest, I'm always happier with a cocktail in hand rather than wine, so Cuffs was really not doing it for us.

The concierge had also recommend Post 390, which was right down the street, so we headed there next. Having only opened its doors in early October, Post is apparantly one of the new hotspots in town. Like Cuffs, it definitely had an older vibe (right when we walked in, I heard a women bragging about being a cougar...), and it was way more packed than Cuffs.

After wrangling at seat at the bar, Shannon and I both opted for a No. 39 ($11) with Milagro Silver Tequila, Cointreau, fresh grapefruit juice and house smoked sea salt.

Now, if you know Kel and me, or if you read our blog often, you know we are avid followers of the school of if you order it, you finish it. No matter how much it tastes like shampoo (shout out to Teardrop Lounge in Portland!).

Well, I just could not finish my No. 39. The smoked sea salt completely overpowered the other components of the drink and I could only get down about half of my drink before I decided it wasn't worth it.

But since the No. 39 was the only drink Shannon and I tried at Post, I can't write the place off completely. But if I do go back again, I will definitely be ordering something else!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Portland Happy Hour: Romo's Latin Quarter

Posted by Kelly

For years Romo's on SE Hawthorne was one of my grandparents favorite spots. I went there multiple times with them and always enjoyed their food, but unfortunately was too young to drink the margaritas. Romo's moved over to 7915 SE Stark about a year ago and was renamed Romo's Latin Quarter. We have attempted to stop in for lunch or dinner on multiple occasions but there has always been a "Closed" sign on the door. This is probably our fault due to our lack of research on Romo's limited dinner only hours (5-9pm, weekends til 10pm), closed Mondays. As a consequence of our lack of timing it has been a while since I've been Romo's so when they asked happy hour honeys to come by and let them know what we thought I was excited to finally go!

I showed up at 5pm with that nights happy hour accomplice Adam, just as Romo's was opening, to be sure to have the full hour to take advantage of the happy hour menu that ends at 6. I ordered a house margarita ($4.50) and Adam ordered the berry margarita ($5.50)...which happened to be strawberry that day, Adam's favorite! We sipped on these while enjoying complimentary chips and salsa, and deciding what we should share from the food menu. The margaritas are great, strong, and good sized, made with a secret recipe that they won't give away! I asked as we were leaving what they make them with, but the waitress wasn't about to give me any hints. They are more of a classic margarita than the one at Elephants made with fresh lime, lemon, and orange juice that I love, but they hit the spot in a different way and I would definitely recommend getting one (or two)!

The happy hour menu isn't very big and doesn't have some of my favorite things like chimichangas, fajita, or any kind of Romo's special which is kind of a bummer, but the basics are always good too. We decided to order the Green Chile Chicken Burrito ($4), the Chips and Guacamole ($3), a Shredded Beef Taco and a Chicken Taco ($1.50) to share....so basically one of every thing!

Our favorites were probably the guacamole and the green chile chicken burrito. The guac tasted fresh and the green sauce was spicy but not overwhelming.

Both tacos were good, but kind of dry and lacking any type of sauce or real flavor. I will probably return, but unless the happy hour is spruced up I'd probably skip it for something off their regular menu, except the margaritas. I'll gladly enjoy a couple of those!

Bonus: Romo's was offering a complimentary Chocolate Nutty Mousse Cake last week if you asked for...so of course we did. It was pretty delicious, but Adam ate most of it while I enjoyed another margarita. Be sure to check out Romo's website or twitter for the special they're offering that week!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Portland Happy Hour: Southpark Seafood Grill and Wine Bar

Posted by Kelly

One great result of having friends that live in a different area of downtown is that I go to happy hours in a different part of town. Even though I do this anyway, it offers extra motivation! Last night Katie B, Sofi, Greg, and I went to happy hour at Southpark Seafood Grill and Wine Bar on the corner of SW Salmon and 9th just a few blocks from Sofi and Katie's apartment.

We met at 5:30 after Katie got off work and had enough time to order what we wanted during the happy hour which ends at 6pm. Of course we started with wine. Sofi, Katie and I arrived at different times and each ordered a glass of Sangria (red, $4) off the happy hour menu. Realizing we all wanted the same thing we ordered a carafe of the sangria next ($10). The sangria was great, especially the apples that had been soaking it. Yum!

For food we ordered a 1/2 dozen oysters ($9) and calamari ($4) off the happy hour menu, and the Southpark Burger ($10.75) which came with white cheddar and pomme frites and the Brick Oven Pizza of the Day ($11). The pizza involved lots of delicious things...I remember potatoes, goat cheese, and bacon maybe?

Sorry, my cheeseburger pic won't rotate!

There were two types of oysters, three of each. I liked one type, but the other I was not a fan of, but oysters aren't really my thing anyway. I would recommend them if you're an oyster fan though! Greg ordered the calamari and seemed to enjoy it, he also had two glasses of the house white.

Off the wine bar menu there was a greater selection of delicious dishes, their regular menu also looked impressive but slightly expensive due to the fresh seafood and local ingredients. We loved the burger, but how can you go wrong really? Between the sangria, oysters, burger, and complimentary bread (olive, delish!) we were too full to finish our pizza so we had it boxed to go. Bad news though, none of us remembered to grab it!

The menu features the highlights of the season and the seafood is delivered daily. You are sure to find a wine to match your meal off of the 130-bottle wine list. The list features wines from Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, and Greece in addition to Pacific Northwest wines. Not a wine person? No worries, Southpark also offers local microbrews and premium liquor. The staff was pleasant, provided great service, and seemed very knowledgeable in regard to the menu and wine pairings.

Enjoy their happy hour daily from 3 to 6pm and their Wine Bar Menu every day after 3pm. If nothing else I think it's worth a stop for a glass of sangria!