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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.


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