MY BIRTHDAY FOOD AND COCKTAIL CRAWL IN PORTLAND

HOW DOES ONE CELEBRATE HER BIRTHDAY ON A WEEKDAY... LET ME SHOW YOU HOW!

My birthday rolled around at the beginning of May and, as tradition would have it, I took a whole day to be selfish; doing all of the very things that make me happy  -outside of time with my little family.

So what kind of trouble would I get myself into for my birthday ?

Let me start by telling you I love a day off in the middle of the week, better than a weekend. So, naturally, as my birthday fell on a Tuesday I took the whole day off. This meant so many great things: little to no wait for highly coveted seats at top Portland places (which do not take reservations), no added costs of hiring a sitter since my child was at daycare, little to no traffic while hopping about town, and, a FULL day to myself at my leisure, THE BEST!

Before this wonderful day arrived I made a list or two of the restaurants and things I really wanted to do. Through much deliberation and I was able to sort my day out by timeline and location. I wrote out a Birthday Girl itinerary and woke up in the best mood as I had prepared myself a full day of eating, drinking, and general happy moments!

As luck would have it, I could only reach one gal pal to meet for breakfast but I still had a great day spent mostly alone. 

In true fashion I kick-started the day by getting a good sweat session in at the gym at a leisurely pace -which is uncommon since I only have 40 minutes most mornings- and promptly sat on the sofa -still smelly and hot from post gym bliss- and enjoyed my morning coffee. After a long shower I was ready to start birthday funday as planned:


Sweedeedee is a cute little shop in NE Portland that gives off massive Scandinavian vibes. This breakfast and lunch spot is always a weekend hit -with the lines to prove it-, and they make an insanely sweet pie that is often raved about. Leave it to me to make use of a weekday to conquer this place -instead of waiting with the throngs on a weekend.  

Ordered: breakfast sandwich on a biscuit, cornmeal cakes, and a slice of salted honey pie!

  • 10:30a coffee to go at Proud Mary

After my hearty and savory-sweet breakfast at Sweedeedee I needed to cut through the sugar and grease with a nice cup of coffee so I took a quick drive up to Proud Mary Coffee, a fine breakfast cafe and coffee shop with quite a huge following on the weekends. I ordered a cup of coffee to go expecting to head home and rest up for an hour. That was until I found myself driving pass confetti lined streets. I pulled my car over and realized it was petal confetti from all of the bloomed cherry blossoms. The sidewalks and some streets were lined heavily, it was a beautiful sight, so naturally, I had to document it. 

Spring is such a beautiful time of year in Portland. The contrasting splash of spring colors breaks up the grey skies and brightens up the dull weather.

  • 1 p.m. House Spirits Distillery Tour

One of the greatest things about Portland is we have zero shortage of fine artisans within close proximity who are perfecting their craft and graciously sharing it with us all much like House Spirits Distillery does, a local distillery located in SE Portland offering distilling tours right where production of their award-winning spirits are made. All spirits are small batch made and ethically sourced and here is where you can find made-from-scratch Krogstad Aquavit, Volstead Vodka, Casa Magdalena Rum, and many limited release spirits. The staff is incredibly helpful and very happy to explain the process, from the grain to the barrel, and the tours are a real behind the scenes glimpse into the productions of small batch spirits. 

House Spirits Distillery offers daily tours of the largest whiskey distillery in Oregon. Each tour is $20 per person and includes a spirit flight and a taste of House Spirits' whiskey wash.  

  • Weekday Tours available at the top of every hour, starting at 1p
  • Weekend Tours available at 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays
  • 2:30p time to soak up the booze at  Maurice.

After tasting numerous samples of House Spirits Distillery spirits I had a wee bit of time to kill so I concluded that the most fitting of ways to burn some time was to enjoy delightful pastry treats and bites from Maurice, a cute Scandinavian luncheon shop in Downtown. 

As a huge supporter of variety and treating one's self, I had to order an assortment of bites like Chef Kristen's Smorbord De Jour which featured cottage cheese, rhubarb, greens, and peaches. Then, I moved on to more of her sweet offerings like the creamy and velvety smooth Black Pepper Cheesecake, the most creamy bite to spread across the roof of your mouth -in all the cheesecake bites you have ever tried. If I had the words to describe it so eloquently I would. better yet, just imagine sweet whipped butter melting into toast and that is this cheesecake. Lastly, I tried the Bird Seed Coconut Tea Cake, served warm and topped with a generous dollop of fresh butter and a golden pour of honey. Crunchy and nuttier than a squirrel turd but, absolutely tasty, make this a priority when you visit. that is, if she doesn't sell out. 

  • 4p. Happy Hour at Departure with my food baes

With a whole day to myself, a babysitter on deck, and no time card to punch-out on I set myself up on a happy hour date with some of my favorite girlfriends. The destination, Departure. Departure is the ultra-hip restaurant on the 15th floor inside the of the swanky Nines Hotel. The restaurant is run by executive chef Gregory Gourdet, a Top Chef season 12 contestant and a beloved participant in Portland's local food festival Feast Portland. Departure's cuisine is pan-asian and does it ever satisfy the need for a variety of Asian dishes, tropical desserts and cocktails. Departure is the place to go for stunning views of Portland's cityscape and asian fusion bites. 

Ordered: Half of the Happy Hour Menu and a birthday dessert. Departure is an amazing place to eat for anyone with diet restrictions, they are vegan, gluten-free, diary-free, and vegetarian friendly! 

This last adventure of the night was a delicious spanish-inspired dinner at Bar Casa Vale, one of my favorite go-to spots for wood-fired seafood, tapas, and gin and tonics served in goblets. 


Well, there you have it. A full day of eating and drinking on a weekday. I know, I could have crammed way more fun adventures into my day but since I go to the gym extra early (6a) I knew it was going to be a very long day, plus, add having to put a kid to bed before going out to my last destination and that amounts to a even longer day on my feet. I was just a happy kid to do most of everything I wanted to do and even got some downtime in with my main squeeze. Below are the remaining things that made the list but not the cut for the day.

Great weekday birthday alternatives:

  • Kennedy Soaking Pools
  • Knot Springs
  • Brunch at Tasty n Alder
  • Spend an afternoon hitting balls at Top Golf
  • Food cart crawl through downtown
  • Dessert crawl down SE 28th (There is a lot of soft serve and desserts right on this street).
  • Coffee crawl through SE Portland.

MY ULTIMATE PORTLAND DINING GUIDE 2018

MY ULTIMATE PORTLAND DINING GUIDE

Portland, Oregon, where there is no shortage of tattoos, donuts, strip clubs, bike lanes, brunch lines, food carts, and breweries. This town is filled to the brim with everything a trip away needs: walkability, bike and car-share programs, reliable public transportation, high-class hotels, and a great assortment of home-sharing options. And, while you're here you should take advantage of our close proximity to the Oregon coast and mountains (Mt. Hood & St. Helens), our daily music offerings at various fun venues ( Mississippi Studios, Doug Fir, and the Landmark Saloon), and our fresh and local produce found at one of the many neighborhood farmers' markets. So, if you've suddenly found yourself planning a trip to one of the greatest foodie cities there is then, let it be known, there is no greater compliment than to give my input on where you should eat and drink and how to do it like a local around the streets of Portland. So here you have it, my most accurate list of places I frequent or recommend wholeheartedly! 

Just to note: Portland is divided into four quadrants, well, technically five, but for the sake of it all being easy to follow along I've broken it down into the general four: Northeast, Southeast, Northwest, Southwest. The city is bisected by the Willamette River and further divided by Burnside.  Enjoy!

NORTHEAST 

Northeast Portland, East of the Willamette River, North of Burnside and my favorite side of town. I have lived in the NE square for over six years and I have never loved another district quite like Mississippi Ave. where close range pub crawling, patio cocktail drinking, oddity shopping, and eating all exist. Here's my recommendations for when you find yourself on the Northeast side of Portland. 

Pizza: Lovely's Fifty Fifty, Life of Pie, Pizza Jerk 

Coffee: Hot Pot, Kopi Coffee

Sweets: Pip's Donuts, Eb and Bean Frozen Yogurt

Breakfast: Tasty n Sons, Interurban, The Bad Habit Room, Broder Nord

Lunch: Cedo's, Mee-Sen Thai, Gueros

Dinner: Pok Pok Noi, Ox, Toro Bravo

Happy Hour: Tasty n Sons

Cocktails: The Box Social, Victoria Bar, Interurban

Beer: Ex Novo, 

Late Night: La Taq

Instagram Hot Spots: 180 Xurros, Salt n Straw, Tea Bar


SOUTHEAST:

To the East of the Willamette and to the south of Burnside is a wonderful wonderful food mecca filled with some of the hippest neighborhoods on the global radar, including Hawthorne, Belmont, Division, and Mount Tabor. Aside form my neighborhood in NE this is my most frequented side of town. 

Pizza: Apizza Scholls, Ranch Pizza inside of Poisons Rainbow

Coffee: Tov Coffee, Crema

Sweets: Cheese and Crack

Breakfast: Trinket, Tannery Bar, HunnyMilk

Lunch: Cheese n Crack snack shop, Nongs Khao Man Gai, Meat Cheese and Bread

Food Carts: Kim Jong Grillin, Chicken n Guns, The Bivy

Happy Hour: Bar Casa Vale, Nostrana 

Cocktails: Sapphire Lounge, Tannery Bar, 

Beer: Base Camp Brewery, Wayfinder Beer, Loyal Legion

Dinner: Bar Casa Vale, Kachka, Trifecta Tavern

Instagram Hot Spots: Tusk, Doe Donuts, Cheese n Crack, 


NORTHWEST:

One of my favorite streets in Northwest is the lengthy, yet congested 23rd Avenue. The street is decked with numerous eateries, coffee shops of both local and national fame, clothing shops, and skincare lines. And, when you get tired of exploring the storefronts there are plenty of local parks to relax at while enjoying some coffee or take away. 

Pizza: Oven & Shaker

Coffee: Commissary, Nossa, 

Sweets: Papa Haydn

Breakfast: Olympia Provisions NW, Isabel, Irving Street Kitchen

Lunch: Boke Bowl, Tilt

Dinner: Olympia Provisions NW, Mediterranean Exploration Co, Andina

Happy Hour: Oven and Shaker, Serrato

Cocktails: Tear Drop Lounge, The Fireside, The Waiting Room

Beer: Breakside Pub & Brewery, 10 Barrel Brewing


SOUTHWEST

To the east of the Willamette River and to the South of Burnside, the Southwest area is my least explored area of Portland and quite possibly one of my most loathed parts due to parking. Nevertheless I do have some gems and favorite spots to recommend should you be staying or enjoying this side of town.

Pizza: Nel Centro

Coffee: Kiosko

Sweets: Blue Star Donuts, Departure

Breakfast: Imperial, Tasty n Alder

Lunch: Quick Fish Poke, Pine Street Market, Alder Street Food Carts

Dinner: Ringside Steak House, Fogo De Chao

Happy Hour: Imperial, Ringside Fishhouse, Nel Centro, Departure

Cocktails: Driftwood Room inside of Hotel Deluxe, JackKnife, Barlow

Beer: Bailey's Taproom 

Late Night: Luc Lac

Instagram Hot Spots: Blue Star Donuts, Tasty n Alder, Departure


And there you have it, a lengthy list of all of my favorite coffee shops, brunch spots, breweries and more throughout the four quadrants of Portland. If you've asked me for places to eat and drink at while in visiting Portland then you've possible heard of these places in my list of recommendations


BUEN PROVECHO!

MY STRATEGIES FOR CONQUERING PORTLAND DINING MONTH 2018

MY STRATEGIES FOR CONQUERING PORTLAND DINING MONTH 2018!

Portland Dining Month returns for it's 9th year with a few newbies on the lineup! Portland dining month presented by Travel Portland is already live and on day five with over 120 participating restaurants, including some local favorites and a few newbies to the group.  If you've not cruised the line-up this year then head over to www.travelportland.com to scroll through all of the amazing pre-fixe three-course options available all month long for $33 dollars. 

Since it's inception in 2009, Portland food lovers have enjoyed dining across the city during the month of March while enjoy three-course-meals at a discounted price. For me, and many others, this is the time of year when we get to pull out our Portland restaurant bucket lists and hit all of the places I've been wanting to indulge in, at a delicious deal.

New to 2018 Portland Dining Month's lineup is Feastly. Feastly is the highly sought-after dining pop-up experience featuring local and global chefs connecting curious dinners with a pop-up dining experience.  Feastly Portland and its community of chefs will throw Portland Dining Month pop-up meals in their dedicated space and through venues around town. For a full list of participating Feasty chefs, menus, and locations visit www.eatfeastly.com/pdxdiningmonth. The Feastly chefs participating in this years' dining month represent a diverse range of cuisines like Guamanian, Ethiopian, Turkish, Filipino, Puerto Rican, and Nigerian cuisines. Another fun reason to eat through Feastly is some chefs will be serving vegan and paleo dinners, which is perfect for those with dietary restrictions. 

Also new to the 2018 roster are participating restaurants like Bistro Agnes, Southfork, and Alto Bajo. And, of course, some of my standby dining month favorites like Aviary, Little Bird, and Departure.

The full list of participating restaurants is available at www.travelportland.com/dining-month/. And, one important reason why we dine is for the participation with Oregon Food Bank. For every reservation made through the OpenTable links on the Travel portland website a donation will be made to the Oregon Food Bank's hunger-relief efforts. Do not skip this detail and reserve your table using those links!

And, in case you didn't catch my post and recap of last year's Portland Dining Month dishes head back to that post to see what a fun treat you can be in for. continue reading to learn about my strategy to sift through all of the overwhelming options of Portland Dining Month. 

MY PORTLAND DINING MONTH STRATEGY

2018's Portland Dining Month will be my 4th year participating, and every year since, I have discovered new strategies and tips on how to navigate my way through the menus, the restaurants, and the values. Now, I want to share it with you. The following steps are the very ones I take to cut through the overwhelming list of participants and how I maximize my time and money. These are the things I look for:

Who has been on my "to try" list?:

  • Pull out that never-ending list of restaurants you've had on your phone and cross-reference the entire Portland Dining Month lineup and note which establishments on that list are participating. If ever there was a great time to go for it and dine out, March is the month!

  • Now, if a restaurant strikes your interest and isn't on your list, by all means, write it down. The next few steps will help us discover if this is the month to go try.

  • Some of those restaurants that are on my "to-try" food list are Olympia Oyster Bar, Jack Rabbit, Bistro Agnes, Laurelhurst Market, Jacqueline, Cabezon, Renata, and lucky me, they are all participating in this years' lineup.

Take note of menus with multiple options:

  • This has got to be my favorite part of dining month; multiple options per course. Some restaurants have fun with dining month and allow dinners to make between two and three choices for all three courses. This means one thing, you must bring all of your adventurous dining companions. Bar Casa Vale, one of my favorite restaurants, is offering up a menu featuring two choices between all three courses with items normally found on their menu. Since the items are familiar you can easily slice through a good chunk of their standard menu options with plates like papas bravas or salt cod fritters, citrus salad or kohlrabi, albondigas or fideos. Or, since we're talking multiple choices a place like Farm House Thai Kitchen, one I have not been to, is also offering multiple choices for the second and third courses, and an additional fourth course. This would be the absolute best time to try a little of everything and learn more about the food!

  • Always bring friends that are willing to share or even split the courses. This is the best part of having foodie friends and having course choices. More ways to try it all without the dreaded commitment to a lone dish.

  • Another perk about choices, the second option tends to be a vegetarian-friendly course. A few restaurants follow the veggie-friendly courses including Departure who always offers choices for herbivores and carnivores alike, as well as The Woodsman Tavern (offering two choices on the second entree), Taqueria Nueve, Serrato, Nel Centro, and Renata.

Check who is really producing a deal:

  • This is the heavy work, but it must be done. In order to fully maximize dining month you have got to see who is really putting out the best bargain. I like to do this by reading the menu offerings and comparing the price points to the listed menu prices. Now, this doesn't always work for every restaurant. Some places will be offering special dining month menus so the items offered will not be listed on their website menu. But, remember, $33 is still a little steep when you consider that it's the price-per-head and that's not including cocktails and tip, so make your dining month is worth it. And, if you get a menu with listed prices online and the math just barely makes $34, skip it You're better off going at a time outside of dining month and enjoying the entire menu's offerings.

  • $33 for three-courses sounds like a deal up front but, beware of those places that already offer deals throughout the week, some even better than dining month. I'm looking at you "Monday dinner/ cheap eats."

  • This year's amazing deals that have caught my eye are Fogo De Chao, Ecliptic brewing (where you leave with a $10 gift card, bringing your total to far below $33 once you cash that card back in), Jack Rabit (where the main course covers $30 on the menu), and Headwaters where the main entree's price point does not fall below $18 and the desserts are no less than $9.

Last, and certainly not least, Who is offering the best dessert?

  • Dessert is one of my favorite parts of dining out. whether it be classics like creme brûlée, a hot fudge sundae, or, even, a savory cheese board. Nothing excites me like a treat after finishing a meal. So, with that said, I do like a third course to be a treat course. Now there are a few exceptions like Yakuza, Olympia Oyster Bar, Buckman Public House, where instead of offering a sweet finish have turned course number three into an additional entree. This sounds like an even better deal for those who do not like sweets. Now if you want to know who has the keys to my dessert-loving heart then know that Laurelhurst Market is doing a great job of starting a relationship with their Dulce de Leche semifreddo with roasted banana, chocolate and hazelnuts -just take my wallet and cash savings account; Lechon is dishing out all of the smooth love vibes with a chocolate mousse tart with mango puree, raspberry and quinoa brittle -yep, just going to put my entire dinner in the fridge and go straight for dessert; and then there is Olympia Provisions massaging my heart with a Chocolate peanut butter parfait with creme fraiche and honey-roasted peanuts - Dairy Queen nostalgia with a grown ass attitude; and The Waiting Room is just tossing rose petals on my sheets with this Butterscotch cremeux with caramel, Jacobson sea salt, and Cashew streusel -I think it's safe to say I am in a full blown relationship with all of these desserts now.

  • I will not break or give a second thought to restaurants offering up pot de creme's -a dessert that requires roughly four ingredients, a blender, and refrigeration. I want the words brulee, brittle, streusel, chocolate shavings, coconut ash, passion fruit, and crust to fall somewhere on the dessert description. If you aren't playing, I ain't paying.

Now that we've narrowed down our list where will you be dining?

And, did you know I'm hosting a G I V E A W A Y ? Yep, Head to my Instagram Page @Maxenestrail and follow the requirements to enter and win dinner with me on behalf of Travel Portland!

Remember to book your tables using the the Open Table links on the Travel Portland page to help benefit our community. 


disclosure: I was have been invited to participate in Portland Dining Month 2018 on behalf of my friends at Travel Portland.  Part of my participation involves receiving dining vouchers for personal use and for hosting a giveaway! This post was at my own discretion and not in exchange for a positive review. All opinions shared are my own.

SPANISH INSPIRED WEEKEND BRUNCH AT BAR CASA VALE

Bar Casa Vale

215 SE 9th Ave.

Portland, OR 97214

www.barcasavale.com

Weekend Brunch: Satruday + Sunday 10a -3p

Closed all day Monday

Week day Dinner: 5p - midnight. Friday: 4p - midnight.

Saturday: 10a - midnight. Sunday: 10a -10p

SPANISH-INSPIRED BRUNCH AT BAR CASA VALE

Portland's favorite place for colossal sized Gin + Tonic's, an assortment of sherry and fortified wines, tapas, and wood-fired raciones is now offering Spanish-inspired brunch starting Saturday, February 10th.

Located near the busy bar and restaurant heavy area of SE portland is Bar Casa Vale, easy to miss and hard to find but the extra effort to locate is rewarded with delicious toothsome dishes and boozy cocktails. The space is beautiful, sun-filled, cozy, and a real breath of fresh air while most places are shrouded in dim lighting. Interested in just a drink, hop on a bar stool and sit amongst like-minded company. Want to dine al fresco but covered from the elements, perfect, head to their patio seating near their wood burning fire pit. 

This past weekend I attended a media brunch preview of Bar Casa Vale's new morning offerings, and I wish I could have stayed put all day. The menu is sheer perfection; from the boozy brunch cocktails to the artisanal toast offerings,  no plate was left uncleaned. If you're in the mood for a traditional breakfast you're check out the wrong spot. At BCV you will certainly not find a short stack of pancakes with bacon or a carafe of o.j. to build your own mimosa's. Instead, you will find hearty cuts of bread hiding underneath toppings like Chicken Liver and Pistachio with chocolate, warm cazuela's filled with drippy hearty bites, and please order that warm Cinnamon roll doused with a sweet tangy tangerine curd, it's everything familiar about brunch but better. 

Scroll below to see a few of the dishes I sampled:

Brunch Cocktails: Sparkling Sangria with cava, white port, and citrus in the background, and Agua de Valencia with gin, vodka, citrus, and cava. Both drinks carried citrus notes, ice, and, of course, booze. A perfect balance for all of the savory dishes we were about to try.

Warm Cinnamon Roll: Fluffy, yeasty, topped with tangerine curd and chocolate shavings.

Chicken Liver Toast with thinly sliced apple, endive, parsley, and browned butter. This is one huge hunk of toast and possibly one of my favorite dishes I had tried from their brunch menu. For pete's sake the plate comes with a steak knife, this toast means business!

Chocolate Toast: Crunchy, yet fluffy bread topped with pistachio butter, a generous dose of chocolate and olive oil. This toast isn't your basic coffee shop toast, t

Fried Chicken with churros, honey, and manchego, and chocolate toast with a nice sprinkling of flakey sea salt. 

If seeking a hearty toothsome dish do not skip any of the Cauela's, specifically the Rotisserie Lamb Cazuela baked with artichoke, chickpea, topped with salsa verde, and poached eggs. Have a hangover and need something hearty to fill your stomach, then order a Cazuela. Served piping hot and fresh from the hearth, these round dishes come with perfectly poached eggs, ready to rip and spill open  at the slightest tug. The only thing missing was crusty bread to mop it all up. 

Aside from Bar Casa Vale's Brunch menu is their hearth-centric dinner plates featuring Charred Octopus, Grilled Spot Prawns, and my personal favorite, the Lamb Cazuela. If only in the mood for cocktails and a few small bites, this is your spot. The bar program features many cocktails with a new twist like the PX Old Fashion with Mt. Gay Rum, Pedro Ximenez, and Angostura. And, there are plenty of small plates known as Tapas and Pintxos to nibble one while enjoying your libations. 

What dish are you excited to try?


disclosure: I was invited to attend a media preview of Bar Casa Vale's newly launched brunch offerings. While there I received complimentary cocktails and plates of my choosing. My invite was not in exchange for a positive review, all opinions shared are my own.