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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Portland, Oregon - It's Been Awhile Old Friend

It has officially been two years since I spent time in my hometown, the City of Roses.  When planning trips to Portland, my friends always ask me what all the good places are to go and I continually remind them that the last time I lived here I was 18, taking a full course load, and super boring.  So, I decided this trip, my cousins would have to treat me like a tourist and take me to all the hot spots.

Monday, November 25, 2014
Thanks to the West Coast time change I was up bright and early at 6am PST in order to work from home on New York time.  Cost of this choice?  One beautiful sunrise.

With less than a month until Yacht Week BVI (oh, yes that blog post is coming your way in 2014), I have been hitting the gym like a crazy person (yes even during the week of Fatgiving).  My parents had three day passes to the Stafford Hills Club in Tualatin, a convenient 15 minute drive from our house.  The club is GREAT!  The staff was very welcoming, the locker rooms were clean and well-stocked with towels, soap, hairdryers, etc, and the gym itself was huge with tons of machines and lots of floor space for stretching and core strengthening.  I was highly recommend this place.  Here is a link to their video tour.

After punishing myself for an hour and a half, the family headed to Zeppo for dinner with one of my high school pals and his parents.  We started off with the Risotto Cakes stuffed with goat cheese and finished with a roasted red pepper/pesto sauce topped with balsamic glaze.  These were SO good.  When you broke them in half with your fork the warm goat cheese just oozed out.  The sweetness of the red pepper paired perfectly with the tart pesto and the balsamic.  We ordered three additional plates of them because they were so good.  For my main course I had the lamb special which was also done well but they forgot about it so I ate after everyone else was done.  WHOOPS.

From there my friend, my brother, my bro's girlfriend and I hopped in the car and drove the Fremont area of Portland to check out a basement bar called Dean's Scene.  The best way to describe this place is play-by-play once we parked the car.  First off, we parked the car on a residential street with no sign of a bar anywhere... just rows on rows of houses.  We walked up to 4714 NE Fremont St,
Portland, OR 97213, which was just one more of these residential houses plopped on the sidewalk.  My brother boldly walks around the side of the house, down the driveway, passed the owner's parked cars, into the backyard, up to the back door and promptly turns the knob.  I'm just waiting for us to be greeted by a shotgun.  Instead the door opens and we find ourselves at the top of a short staircase leading into a basement that is completely transformed into an underground bar.

Upon walking into the "bar" there is a little box for you to deposit your $10 cash in order to have access to 7-8 home brews that are on tap throughout the bar.  Yup, that's right, drink as much as you want for $10... well until they run out.  We were greeted by Dean, an old dude with a gray ponytail and 2-3 front teeth who immediately gives us the rundown on the beers that range from winter ales to porters to specialty brews.  Dean led us over to a glass case filled with glasses from around the world in all shapes and sizes for us to choose from.  We then spent the next few hours tasting the different beers, seeing a beer that Dean has been aging since 1985 (apparently beer ages well), and shooting the sh*t with the locals who hang out here all the time.  There were even some brownies on sale for $5 each in case you get hungry.

Literally so Oregon.  I loved it.  It was only a couple people on that Monday night but apparently it can get pretty crowded so you never know what you'll be in for.  Dean only opens the place Mon, Wed, Fri and Sat from 6:30 pm - 11 pm so make sure you don't show up on the wrong day!  One of the coolest places I've been in a long time.

Tuesday, November 26, 2014

Up again bright and early for Work-From-Home Part II.  My client calls worked up a healthy appetite but Yakkt Week Workout dictated I must engage in some type of activity first so I convinced my dad to go on a bike ride with me.  From our family home in West Linn there is an amazing bike ride to George Rogers park in downtown Lake Oswego (the next town over).  It's all along the Willamette River and the day was just beautiful (albeit freezing cold).  It's about 5 miles round-trip is it was easy but refreshing.

We got back from the bike ride just in time for our appointment at Threat Dynamics.  From their website...

Real Guns. Real Recoil. No Live Ammunition.

Using the most cutting edge technology currently available; here at Threat Dynamics our Firearms Training Simulators offer you all the fun, realism, and training benefits of shooting without the cost or safety factor of live ammunition. Never before has this been offered to the civilian market.

So basically us "civilians" were given real Glock 17 pistols that had been reconfigured to shoot fake "bullets" of CO2 with the same kickback you'd get from firing real bullets.  They put us in two different setups where we went through simulations of situations where you would have to use a firearm from being threatened in an empty parking lot at night to being part of a convenience store shooting to acting as a police officer in a raid.  It was AWESOME.  Super realistic and the simulator responds to your voice commands and movements.  It was also only $50 a person for an hour of fun which is way cheaper than you would ever be able to get from shooting live ammunition on a range.  I desperately want to go back.  I took tons of videos which isn't allowed so most of them I won't post but they did give me the go-ahead to show the one below.  To be fair, on one of my other rounds I got a perfect score... too bad Dad didn't get that one on camera!

The rest of the night was spent drinking extremely expensive wine with my parents before passing out early.

Wednesday, November 27, 2014

Since yesterday was father-daughter day, today my mom and I spent the whole afternoon together.  We woke up early to hit the gym and then headed downtown for some holiday shopping.  Northwest 23rd Street is one of my favorite areas of downtown Portland, probably because I spent most of my highschool times wandering from Kornblatt's Bagels to Escape to New York pizza (oh the irony) to Coffee Time on 21st.  But no establishment on 23rd is as famous and beloved by me as Papa Haydn's.

This restaurant has some of the best desserts you will ever taste and great food as well.  I used to go here for my birthday dinner every year.  This time around I ordered the beet and pear salad because I didn't have much of an appetite unfortunately.  The salad was good but not the best thing I've had there.  If only they had pasta on the lunch menu!!!  Anyways, I've been here 2,3486,923,102 times.  Try it. Love it.

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After some grueling shopping on 23rd where I bought a bunch of stuff from Brooklyn Portland, my mom and I were pretty thirsty and had an hour to kill so we ended up at Tasty n Alder, a bar/restaurant up the street from Jake's Famous Crawfish where we were scheduled to meet my dad and his parents for Fatsgiving Part I.  This place was packed with people who all looked like they were having a great time.  My mom and I luckily snagged the only two empty seats at the bar.  I ordered a Rum Daisy with smith and cross rum, angostura bitters, grenadine, mint, lime, and ginger.  It was too sweet and gingery so I could barely drink all of it since my stomach felt sick from it.  But I would still give this place a try because the atmosphere was awesome and the food looked really good.  I'd hate to let one drink ruin that so I'll hit this place up again when I'm back.
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A little tipsy, Mom and I walked down the street to Jake's Famous Crawfish to meet up with my dad, my bro and grandparents.  Gotta love my family's apparent disinterest in my life considering 99.99% of this menu is SHELLFISH to which I am fatally allergic.  I ended up getting the Wild Ahi Tuna prepared blackened and rare with ginger and wasabi.  It came with a veggie nori roll and a cucumber salad.  The rub on the tuna was WAY too hot and totally detracted from the taste of the fish.  The cucumber salad has a sauce on it that was way too pickled.  So pretty much I ate the nori roll which tasted like... you guessed it... vegetables.  Not impressed.  Meanwhile I watched everyone around me taking down massive amounts of shellfish and murmuring about how good it was.  Great.  Needless to say this is not my type of place especially when you added in the old people decor.  The one thing I will say is our waitress was very nice and patient.

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After dinner it was "Cousins Night," the annual night of debauchery that my nine male cousins and I indulge in during family holidays.  Wrangling nine males between the ages of 23-31 years is a very difficult task especially when I had to connect with my Australian friend who had just flown in to spend the next two days with the fam.  Finally we all managed to make it to Paddy's where I tried three beers before I found one I liked.  This place was standard Irish pub.  Boring! We got the f-ck outta there.

Next up was Rontoms in NE Portland.  This is my kinda place.  So hipster with its "industrial district" address, sassy bartenders, and pointless .net website.  The indoor area is just one giant room with huge wooden beams and steel everywhere.  Around back is a huge backyard area complete with wood-burning fireplace and picnic tables.  And to top it all off the drinks are DAMN GOOD and they have free concerts on Sunday nights.  I just finished reading a sampling of Yelp reviews and am cracking up because they are all right and STILL I like this place.  But yes, you must be a hipster.  I will be back.

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After partying our butts off at Rontoms, I knew there was only one place that would make my night complete.  Drawing from my post concert high school days, we arrived at the Hot Cake House on SW Powell.  Open 24 hours, you used to give an extra dollar for your hotcakes to pay for the bouncer at the door because this place can get rowdy.  I came here on Halloween once and it was like walking in a weird Pulp Fiction style horror movie.  This time it was pretty standard drunken late night diner and boy did we pound down some hotcakes.  Just as good and as cheap as I remember.  A feast for four for $35.  Take that New York.

Thursday, November 28, 2014

I've never been one for bikes unless I'm crashing them into things but I was up and about on the same bike ride from the other day.  I have no idea what was going on with the weather this trip.  Late November and clear blue skies?  WTF?  Amazing.  My Aussie pal and I hit the pavement all the way to George Rogers and then rewarded ourselves with some relaxation riverside with some ducks.  A great way to start off Fatsgiving Day.

Back at the house, we wiped the sweat from our brows and parked the bikes only to be bamboozled into a leisurely hike through Mary S. Young park with the parents.  Turns out the hike was more badass then I expected.  I was definitely warm by the end of it!  And plenty hungry for the night's festivities...

Fatsgiving was just that...FAT.  I ate so much that I had to roll myself to and from the homemade bar (read: laundry room) to pour myself more whiskey cokes.  The cousins were starting to get restless and began dropping off one by one.  Aussie pal, bro, Lil Bit (my only female cousin-ish) and I were the only ones with any stamina so we headed back to SE Portland to Dig a Pony.  

This bar seemed a little slow at first (granted it was Fatsgiving) but eventually started picking up as hipsters got their dance on.  It's a pretty cool place.  I "dig" it, pun intended.  We didn't stay long though because this was my last night and I had to go to my favorite bar in Portland.. The Doug Fir.

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Doug Fir usually has music but because it was Fatsgiving it was pretty empty.  The three of us (Lil Bit had wandered at this point) kind of just wanted to cuddle with each other by a big fire and drink Spanish coffees.  Doug Fir's Spanish coffees are SO good.  Probably the best I've had.  They are strong and the whipped cream on top seems to be mixed with melted marshmallows.  And they sugar the rim which I love.  

Photo Credit: Doug Fir Website

These two hipster girls starting talking to us and we convinced them that we worked at the Bronx Zoo (Aussie worked with the penguins and I ran the reptile exhibit).  One of the girls asked what "running the reptile exhibit" meant?  Did I tuck them in at night?  Aussie acted super indignant saying "Have you ever tried to tuck a spider into bed? Are you crazy?"  They didn't even bother to ask my bro what he did.  I told him he should say he puts on makeup and entertains little kids for money.  He gave me a weird look and I said, "A clown??"  He dissolved in giggles.  The fireplace eventually lulled us into a stupor so we finally said goodbye bar and went home to bed.

Friday, November 29, 2014

Sad!  My last day and I for the first time ever I wasn't ready to leave.  We decided on Meriwether's for brunch and I ordered the fish n chips because they don't actually serve brunch.  The fish was a little too thickly breaded for my taste but the fish inside was good.  And the coleslaw was too creamy.  But the Spanish coffees (clearly I was on a kick this trip) were almost as good as Doug Fir.  It was a very lovely meal with some of my favorite people.  Our waiter was very patient and the restaurant itself is an old renovated house so it felt cozy.  I liked this place although I don't know that I loved it so much I need to go back.  Great spot for a bridal shower, date with the grams or family brunch.

Photo Credit: Meriwether's Website


My mom and I spent the remainder of the day doing more shopping... on Black Friday EEEEEEKKK.  It was NOT my idea.  Finally I convinced her to give in to the crowds and get the hell out.  We escaped to the top of the Nines Hotel to their restaurant/bar, Departure.  It was a little austere and "hotel bar" for my tastes but the outside roof had amazing views of Pioneer Square (the main shopping area in downtown Portland).  We ordered a bunch of little tapas plates while we watched them prepare for the Holiday Tree lighting in the square.  The food was beautifully presented and very good.  I was honestly pretty impressed.  The staff was polite although not necessarily friendly and they had heaters on the roof which was nice.  A good plate for a casual drink or first date.  I'd come back.


Monday, November 18, 2013

NYC Blog Post - 11.18.2013

I've been traipsing all over Manhattan....just can't be contained!


Colicchio and Sons
This place is right across the street from work and yet the only time I've ever been in here was for a quick round of drinks back when I first moved to NYC.  A coworker of mine and I decided to hit it up for lunch.  I had the pork chop which was huge!  It was perfectly cooked and sent me straight in food coma.  The wait staff was very friendly and the place is modern, light and well-decorated.  I would definitely come back!  A great lunch spot for work.

Photo Credit: Colicchio Website

Rocket Pig
Just had this for lunch today.  Biggest sandwich ever.  So delicious.  Think ciabatta bread with thickly sliced pork, apple chutney and then I covered it in coleslaw.  I only made it halfway through the sandwich before gifting it to a coworker reluctantly... I knew I should keep tupperware at work!!!  I would totally split one of these next time... especially at $14 a pop.  A liiiittle steep.


This place is right across the street from me and has intrigued me for the past few months.  I had a great glass of rose on their back patio when the weather was still nice so when my friend stopped by for an impromptu dinner this seemed like the perfect option.  It was super crowded and yet the host worked it to find us a table without much of a wait.  Our waiter was SO charming and walked us through the menu with gusto.  I ordered the pasta special as my main dish and the Crocchette di ricotta e tonno (creamy and crunchy tuna and ricotta croquettes with arugula salad and balsamic reduction) which was one of the best dishes I've had in awhile.  I would 100% recommend this place for a date or an intimate dinner with a friend since it's quiet enough for a good conversation without being "dead."

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Kelly's Sports Bar
Why have I not been here before?  It's down the street from me, it's a HOCKEY bar, and some of the best buffalo wings I've ever had.  I went there this Saturday to watch the USC game.  It's super small and was very crowded but our group of five were still able to find a seat or two.  Love this place.  Definitely going back.

Photo Credit: Kelly's Website

La Palapa
Went here for brunch last Sunday and was honestly really let down.  I've passed it a couple times and the street view is SO cute.  Then I end up eating there and my enchiladas were terrible.  Looking around the table, nothing else looked particularly good either.  The staff was really nice but I definitely won't be back.

Photo Credit: La Palapa Website

One and One
I've been here for beers on a weeknight before but had no idea how crazy it gets late night on the weekends.  A crew of us (mostly guys) rolled in here at 2am this last Saturday and had no problem getting into the debaucherous downstairs dance floor where we danced for a couple hours to nostalgic 90s hiphop classics.  I'll be back.

Pie Face
NYC welcomes one of the best Australian meat pie chains around.  I scored a BBQ pulled pork pie yesterday for my Sunday lunch after hitting up the movie theater.  A tiny bit on the sweet side but a delicious pie that was nice and hot.  I'd be down to try a few more flavors before I make a final decision on this one.

What IS this place?!?!  I have no idea whose idea it was to go here (late night on a Friday) but I LOVE it.  The bar has the coolest interior design and was pumping with people and dancey music.  100% will be back.

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ABC Cocina
ABC Kitchen being my tried and try favorite restaurant in NYC, I jumped on the chance to try ABC Cocina when my mom was in town the other weekend.  I brought two of my friends along for brunch (2:30pm was the only available time on that Sunday) and we murdered the menu.  We tried SO many things:
  • Guacamole with Sungold tomato salsa and warm crunchy tortilla chips - the guacamole was surprisingly spicy and the chips were nice and hot.  Delicious.
  • Jamon Iberico de Bellota - Iberico ham has been a favorite dish of mine since spending most of a summer traipsing through Spain.  Anytime I can find it in America, which isn't often, I always order it.  Even when it is stupid expensive.  I'm just a "nut" for this nutty ham.
  • Raw shaved brussel sprout salad - eh boring
  • Gooey spicy ham and cheese fritters - these were so crunchy and salty and cheesy... mmm.
  • Sweet market pepper and potato empanadas with lemon yogurt - too potatoey
  • Field green empanadas and tomato jam - These empanadas were much better!  The tomato jam was just sweet enough.
  • Arroz con pollo, crackling skin and lemon zest - we were completely stuffed by the time this showed up so lucky little ole me stole it home as a leftover.  It was just as good the next day as I'm assuming it would've been that day.
  • We ordered the flan for dessert based on a friend's recommendation and I have to say it.was.terrible.  I hate flan.  I still hate flan.
  • Torrentes with lime and rosemary cocktail - This is quite possibly the best cocktail I have ever had.  It was refreshing and tangy and even a little spicy.  I would go back JUST for this drink.
Photo Credit: ABC Cocina


My first time sitting down to eat in Eataly and I was pleasantly surprised by my meal.  I started with the Roasted Beets with Hazelnuts, Goat Cheese and Black Truffle Vinaigrette.  The beets were ripe and large and there was plenty of goat cheese.  I followed that with the Vesuvio with Spigariello and Sweet Italian Sausage Ragu which was nice and hot when it arrived.  The pasta was perfectly cooked, clearly fresh, and covered in just the right amount of sauce.  It was a lovely dinner.  I highly recommend as a place for a client dinner or parents.


Another one of those hit-myself-upside-the-head obvious restaurants I should've hit up by now.  Since visiting this place for the first time two weeks ago I've been three times.  I absolutely love it.  It's a tiny hole-in-the-wall with enough seating for maybe ten people but the chill atmosphere and hiphop beats make it one of a kind.  I highly recommend the Chairman Bao (Braised All Natural Berkshire Pork Belly Served with: crushed peanut, cilantro, Haus Relish, and Taiwanese red sugar) and the Birdhaus Bao (All Natural Fried Chicken Brined 24 hours and served with Haus Seasoning Salt, cilantro, crushed peanuts, and Taiwanese red sugar).  You may even run into me here.  Great for grab and go but there is a credit card minimum so beware.

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Hill and Bay
I managed to buy tickets to Ender's Game for the wrong day which then turned into the wrong time.  So we found ourselves an hour early for the movie and searching for something near the theater that didn't look like a cesspool.  Hill and Bay was like the bright light at the end of the tunnel.  We spent the next hour housing ciders, sliders and mac n cheese.  The pulled pork and roasted pepper/goat cheese sliders were delicious although a little small.  The mac n cheese left much to be desired as it was super cheesy with ZERO taste.  Gross.  Cool place... won't be back unless I find myself in a similar movie situation but didn't dislike it!

Photo Credit: Yas E. on


Marc Forgione
Another one that I've been dying to go to but needed a good excuse (hello, Mom in town).  She and I feasted on a variety of the small plates such as:
  • Kampachi Tartare, Avocado, Sechuan Buttons, Toasted Pinenuts, Saratoga Chips
  • Octopus, White Beans, Cranberry Salsa Verde, Irwin Farms Baby Arugula
  • Foie Gras and Bread Service, Summer Berries, Toma’s Wild Edibles
Everything was superb.  The Kampachi came with a little bud (for lack of a better term) that you swirl around on your tongue to numb it before you eat the kampachi.  This allows your mouth to really take in all the specific tastes of the fish.  It was crazy.  I wanted to order another one!  The wait staff was great, although they did take my mom's wine glass before she was finished (bad move with that lady).  Overall, it was a delightful evening and is the perfect spot for an anniversary, parent dinner or group of girlfriends.


The Clarkson
This is a favorite spot of one of my coworkers so we decided to make a pitstop on our way to Houston Hall on a random Thursday.  The place came across as a little austere for my tastes but we sat at the bar and the bartender was great.  He made me a specialty drink and it was so good I had him write down what was in it.  He wanted to think up a name for it so we suggested the "Laurel" since he was looking for something Roman.  I really liked this place.  I'd definitely come back.  Good spot for coworkers or a first date.
  • Whiskey Rye
  • Thai and cayenne pepper infused maple syrup
  • Lemon juice
  • Egg white
  • Slow gin
  • Thyme garnish

Photo Credit: Clarkson Website