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.

PORTLAND DINING MONTH 2017

Five more days, five, count them! That's five days left to take advantage of over 120 incredibly discounted dining opportunities available across Portland during Portland Dining Month 2017.

Portland Dining Month, now in its eighth year, is winding down to the last five days to get your eat on as we approach the end of March. If you still don't know what PDM is, allow me to break it down some more; basically, March is the best month for food lovers and curious dinners throughout the city to enjoy a three-course meal for $29. For the past eight years March has been the month to head out to a new -participating- portland area restaurant or swing by a trusty standby to enjoy a three-course prix fixe dinner offered for only $29 -an incredibly discounted deal.

Head to portlanddiningmonth.com to find a full list of participating restaurants and read the menu options available as the guesswork has been taken away from wondering who might have the type of meal you seek- since the PDM menu offerings are posted to salivate over! And, if just heading out to eat at a discount isn't enough to move you, here's two extra things to make PDM extra awesome: 

  1. These are not just some hole in the wall greasy dinners or chain restaurants that offer weekly coupons in the Sunday prints. Some participating restaurants are beyond local news reviews and have national recognition, with some restaurants even having highly sought after James Beard Award nominations, finalists, and winners.
  2. If going to dinner at your favorite restaurant isn't enough of a reason to participate in Portland Dining Month how about knowing that portland dining month has partnered up with the oregon food bank. for every reservation made online through portlanddiningmonth.com links a donation is made to the hunger-relief organization. the oregon food bank collects and distributes food among oregon and our neighbors in clark county, washington. not only does the ofb fight hunger but also works to uncover the root causes of hunger by offering nutrition education, strengthening local food systems and advocating for hunger relief at the local and federal level, visit www.oregonfoodbank.org to learn more!

  3. For the past three years I've been an active diner during Portland Dining Month, usually hitting a restaurant a week. Although PDM is the time to try new restaurants there are two that always land as top choices among my list of places; Aviary and Little Bird Bistro. My yearly strategy for sorting through all of the restaurant menu's is to look at restaurants that have been sitting in my 'places-to-try' queue and then comb through some of my standby favorite PDM participating restaurants. After writing up a little list of places that I am inspired to try for the month I then go through and re-read the menu's carefully. I like places that offer a choice for all courses, and, of course, those who offer the best looking desserts! Places that offer a choice with each course is huge, especially when dining with a friend or friends. More people means more plate options and the possibility of even sharing -the whole reason of having friends, right! And, as far as the dessert portion goes this is the most important decision to make with all of the PDM menu's, which place has the best sounding dessert. Any place can whip up a quick pot de creme or dish up a scoop of ice cream with a hot fudge drizzle, so when a restaurant goes the extra mile to make a special dessert land on their PDM menu I go bananas over it. Think about this, when was the last time you actually had room for dessert when dining out? I hardly, if ever, do. So when I go out for PDm I can justify ordering dessert as it's right there, part of my courses, and how am I going to dismiss my third course? Nope, won't do it!

After I square away those dining logistics I then set up reservations using the portlanddiningmonth.com website and start inviting friends to join me, let's just say I have yet to take issue with finding dining companions.

Below are my three dining month adventures:


stop #3 AVIARY

This isn't my first time dining at Aviary, I've dined here twice for PDM and again for dinner outside of dining month. In terms of 'bang for your buck', dining month is the best time to test Aviary's offerings as the plates run a bit steep and might not be as fulfilling as a barbeque meal, but the combination of flavors and textures are meant to dazzle your tastebuds.

Drinks are not included in the PDM menu but make a great addition to the experience.

The dining area is light filled and allows for fresh air when the weather is warm and the big windows are open.

First course:

  • Steamed Manila Clams with sherry, guanciale, sugar snap peas and coriander

*my dining companion and i both ordered the first course*

Second course options (above):

  • Lamb Two Ways with roasted leg and hoisin-glazed belly, taro tots, scallion and water chestnut gremolata
  • Pan Seared Tasmanian Sea Trout Yuzu with fennel, tamarind and savoy cabbage *my favorite dish from our entire meal*

Third course choices:

  • Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with espresso ice cream and passion fruit
  • Coconut Tapioca with mango sorbed and caramel cremeux *a close second*

Departure offered two choices for each of the three courses and each dish was delicious in it's own savory asian influenced and prepared way. 

above photos:

  • First course: Chicken Tom Kha Soup with coconut milk, mushroom, galangal, and makrut lime
  • Second course: Beef Noodles with shiitake, chili, and yu choi
  • Third course: Coconut Ash Chocolate Cake with marionberry and coconut caramel ice cream
  • First course: Roasted Cauliflower and Snow Peas with charred lemongrass, chilies, and puffed wild rice
  • Second course: Shrimp and Long Bean Prik Khing Curry with white rice
  • Third course: Frozen Passion Fruit Mouse with kumquat, calamansi, and almond crumble *my favorite dish of the six i tried!*

stop #1 La Moule

La Moule did not offer choices for the courses so the following dishes are what was offered on their dining month menu:

  • First course: Crispy Bay Shrimp Wedge with snap peas, radish, bacon, with a dill 'ranchovy' dressing. *my favorite of the three courses*
  • Second course: Manhattan Moules with Penn Cove Mussels, tomato, garlic, new potato, celery seed and oyster crackers
  • Third course: Chocolate Pot de Creme with hazelnut brittle, frangelicio chantilly cream and candied orange zest.

 

Although I have visited three participating restaurants I still have one more to go, my last stop, The Hairy Lobster! I'm looking forward to some fried chicken and sticky toffee pudding!


disclosure: I was invited to participate in Portland Dining Month on behalf of my friends at Travel Portland.  I received a complimentary meal at Aviary, a place of my choosing, for myself and a guest. I've eaten at Aviary numerous times on my own dime and will continue to look forward to their portland dining month menu every year!


BUEN PROVECHO!